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Alameda County, CA,

Larry Brooks
Healthy Homes Department
Including the Lead Poisoning Prevention Program

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Possible Sources of Lead


Lead is a well known hazard. Children may be exposed to lead from toys that have been made in other countries and then imported into the country, or from antique toys and collectibles passed down through generations. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) issues recalls of toys that could potentially expose children to lead.

Lead may be used in two aspects of toy manufacturing.

Paint: Lead may be found in the paint on toys. Lead paint was banned for use in house paint, on products marketed to children, and dishes or cookware in the United States in 1978; however, it is still widely used in other countries and may be found in imported toys. It may also be found on older toys made in the United States before the ban in 1978.

Plastic: Lead may also be used in plastic toys to stabilize the plastic molecules from heat. It makes the plastic more flexible and softens the plastic so that it can go back to its original shape. The use of lead in plastics has not been banned. When the plastic is exposed to sunlight, air, and detergents the chemical bond between the lead and plastics breaks down and forms a dust.

How your child may be exposed.

Lead is invisible to the naked eye and has no smell. Children may be exposed to lead from consumer products through normal hand-to-mouth activity. As part of normal development, young children often place their toys, fingers, and other objects in their mouth, which puts them in contact with the lead paint or dust.

How to test a toy for lead.

The only accurate way to test a toy for lead is by a certified laboratory. Do-it-yourself kits are available at your local hardware store. However, these kits do not indicate whether the toys are safe.

What to do if you are concerned about your child's exposure.
If you have any reason to suspect that your child has been exposed to lead remove the toy from your child. Your child's health care provider can help you decide whether to perform a blood test to see if your child has an elevated blood lead level. A blood lead test is the only way you can tell

If your child has an elevated lead level. Most children with elevated blood lead levels have no symptoms. The health care provider can recommend treatment if your child has been exposed to lead.

How to obtain more information about recalls
The CPSC asks that parents search their children's toys for items that have been recalled and take them away from children immediately. Photos and descriptions of recalled toys can be found by visiting the CPSC ( website or 1-800-638-2772.

Lead in Toy Jewelry
If you have concerns about Lead in Toy Jewelry see for information from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Toys and Jewelry Disposal
Toy and jewelry recalls have been continuing. The Alameda County Lead Poisoning Prevention Program (ACLPPP), in conjunction with Alameda County Public Health Department (ACPHD), offers practical tips to parents and caregivers concerned about the proliferation of lead contaminated toys, jewelry, and accessories. Included are safe ways for parents and others to dispose of potentially contaminated items.

The Lead Toy Recall, What You Can Do
The Alameda County Lead Poisoning Prevention Program and Public Health offer these suggestions for parents concerned about their children's possible exposure to lead.

The Alameda County Lead Poisoning Prevention Program and Public Health offer these suggestions for parents concerned about their children's possible exposure to lead.

  1. Do not purchase toys or jewelry from vending machines.
  2. Do not purchase or exchange recycled older painted toys from flea markets, garage sales, internet auctions, etc.
  3. Get your child tested to determine his or her level of lead exposure. Blood testing is the only reliable way to determine whether your child has been poisoned.
  4. Remember: Chemical tests such as lead check swabs are considered unreliable. Parents shouldn't rely on lead check swabs to determine whether to keep or dispose of the toys that are not on the recall list.
  5. Comprehensive information on lead and ACLPPP services are available online at or via the program's Public Information Line at 510-567-8280.

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