Toy recall fuels concern over lead poisoning in children

The recall by toy manufacturer Mattel of millions of Chinese-made toys containing lead paint and small, powerful magnets has turned the spotlight back onto lead poisoning in children.

Even though lead exposure in Americans has fallen since the 1970s to an all-time low, experts say the major source of lead exposure among children is lead-based paint and lead-contaminated dust in deteriorating buildings and not ingesting paint from toys.

Nevertheless the CDC has urged parents worried that their children may have ingested lead paint on toys to get them tested for lead levels in their blood and say there is no acceptable level of lead exposure for a child.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says as many as 310,000 U.S. children ages 1 to 5 have high levels of the toxin in their blood.

Giant U.S. toy company Mattel announced its second major recall in a month of Chinese-made toys containing lead paint, and also recalled millions of toys made with small, powerful magnets that pose a threat if swallowed by children.

Lead presents more of a danger to children than adults because it can harm the developing brain, causing among other things, a lower IQ, learning disabilities and behavioral problems.

Though a single large dose can cause a medical emergency, experts say it is more common for lead poisoning to build up gradually after repeated exposure to miniscule amounts.

They say the risk to children playing with the toys is low and a child would have to eat pieces of paint to be exposed but it is possible some may have done so and it could take some time before any problem is apparent because of the gradual nature of lead poisoning.

Symptoms of lead poisoning can include irritability, low appetite, lethargy, constipation, abdominal pain, learning problems, weight loss and vomiting and parents are advised to talk to their doctors about whether their child should be tested.

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