Stories tagged lead poisoning

Oct
03
2007

Lately it seems like no newscast is complete without a story about a recall of toys that could be lead-poisoning risks to kids. We get the details of what toys are impacted, but we rarely get the details on how they’re dangerous. Do you know the threats lead-tainted toys pose to kids’ health?

Tasty, but possibly dangerous: The US government has banned or limited lead in consumer products—like children’s jewelry or paint on toys—but toys made in other countries may not meet US safety standards. (Photo courtesy Tim Brown, via Flickr)
Tasty, but possibly dangerous: The US government has banned or limited lead in consumer products—like children’s jewelry or paint on toys—but toys made in other countries may not meet US safety standards. (Photo courtesy Tim Brown, via Flickr)

Is lead really a big problem?
The CDC estimates that 890,000 US children between the ages of one and five have high levels of lead in their blood. Small children put toys, fingers, and other objects in their mouths—and expose themselves to lead paint and dust if there’s any present. Lead is invisible and has no smell. And most children with elevated blood lead levels have no symptoms. The only way to tell if a child has been exposed is to have his or her blood tested. Small amounts of lead can cause brain and nervous system damage, slowed growth, or hearing problems. Larger amounts can cause kidney damage, coma, or even death.

Caregivers should be especially careful of toys made in other countries and imported into the US, and antique toys and collectibles passed down through generations.

A bigger worry: Despite all the hype over lead-contaminated toys, lead dust is a bigger risk for kids. Before 1978, lead-based paint was used in many homes. When the paint is disturbed—through daily wear-and-tear or remodeling projects—lead dust gets created. And kids eat or breathe in the dust. (Photo courtesy Geekly, via Flickr)
A bigger worry: Despite all the hype over lead-contaminated toys, lead dust is a bigger risk for kids. Before 1978, lead-based paint was used in many homes. When the paint is disturbed—through daily wear-and-tear or remodeling projects—lead dust gets created. And kids eat or breathe in the dust. (Photo courtesy Geekly, via Flickr)

What can you do?

  • The Consumer Protection Safety Council encourages frequent checks for toy recalls. Parents should immediately dispose of recalled toys. (Photos and descriptions of recalled toys can be found at http://www.cpsc.gov or call 1-800-638-2772.)
  • Just dispose of suspect toys. Only a certified laboratory can accurately test a toy for lead. Do-it-yourself kits are available, but they don’t indicate how much lead is present and their reliability at detecting low levels of lead hasn’t been determined. Don't donate recalled toys or put them out at the curb; destroy them instead.
  • Wash your child’s hands frequently to help reduce exposure.
Aug
28
2007

Metal musician: This statue of Ludwig Von Beethoven in his hometown of Bonn, Germany, remembers the great composer. New research is showing that he might have died from medical treatments containing high levels of lead. (Flickr photo by Gauis Caecilius)
Metal musician: This statue of Ludwig Von Beethoven in his hometown of Bonn, Germany, remembers the great composer. New research is showing that he might have died from medical treatments containing high levels of lead. (Flickr photo by Gauis Caecilius)
Beethoven may have had a good ear for music, but he might have had bad judgment when it came to selecting a doctor.

Further forensic tests on hair samples of the classical music giant are showing that he received unusually high levels of lead in his system over the final one-third of a year of his life. And researchers think that lead likely came from treatments from his doctor.

Several years ago, CSI-type studies of Beethoven’s hair and bones revealed that he died of lead poisoning. But new findings this year, based on further samplings of his hair, show that he had huge spikes in lead levels in his system following visits from his doctor.

At the end of his life, Beethoven was suffering from cirrhosis of the liver and other abdominal ailments. To treat him for the stomach ailments, Beethoven’s doctor would repeatedly puncture the abdominal cavity and then seal up the wound with a lead-laced poultice.

Even back in the early 1800s, medical professionals knew lead was a dangerous element to the body. But it was believed that the low dosages in the stomach treatments were non-poisonous for someone in Beethoven’s state. What the doctor’s didn’t know was that the composer’s liver was already reeling from high levels of lead that he consumed in wines and water that he had drank earlier in his life. In effect, the final treatments were just making the problem worse.

My editorial comment: The one thing we can be sure about was that Beethoven wasn’t playing with toys made in China at the time of his death.