Lead occurs naturally in the environment and has many industrial uses. However, even small amounts of lead can be hazardous to human health. Everyone is exposed to trace amounts of lead through air, soil, household dust, food, drinking water, and various consumer products.
Although the levels of lead in the environment have decreased significantly since the late 1970’s, exposure to even small amounts of lead can be harmful, especially to infants, young children, and pregnant women. Symptoms of short term exposure to low levels of lead include anemia, appetite loss, abdominal pain, fatigue, sleeplessness, and irritability. Continued excessive exposure, as in an industrial setting, can lead to kidney damage.
Lead dust is especially dangerous to infants and young children, because they tend to put things in their mouths and their breathing zone is closer to the floor level. Lead dust can be generated within homes, especially older homes that use lead-based paint. The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has estimated that heavily leaded paint was used in approximately two-thirds of the homes constructed in the
Toys that have been made in other countries and then imported into the U.S. or antique toys and collectibles passed down through generations put children at risk for lead exposure. To reduce these risks, 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. It is still widely used in other countries and therefore can still be found on imported toys. It may also be found on older toys made in the United States before the ban.
Plastic: The use of lead in plastics has not been banned. It softens the plastic and makes it more flexible so that it can go back to its original shape. It may also be used in plastic toys to stabilize molecules from heat. When the plastic is exposed to substances such as sunlight, air, and detergents the chemical bond between the lead and plastics breaks down and forms a dust.
Lead is invisible to the naked eye and has no smell. Children may be exposed to it from consumer products through normal hand-to-mouth activity, which is part of their normal development. They often place toys, fingers, and other objects in their mouth, exposing themselves to lead paint or dust.
Only a certified laboratory, like Micro Air, Inc., can accurately test a toy for lead. Although do-it-yourself kits are available, they do not indicate how much lead is present and their reliability at detecting low levels of lead has not been determined.
It is very important to remember that only professionals trained in the hazardous materials removal should remove lead-based paint. Consumers should not attempt to remove lead-based paint. The first step in the elimination of lead-based paint hazards in homes is proper identification of where lead contaminated paint or dust exists.
Method of Analysis: Innov-X Systems, Alpha Series Model # 4000 Spectrum Analyzer
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