Harry Potter, Diego and Thomas the Train are not characters you'd think could make kids sick, but thousands of such branded toys have been banned for violating U.S. lead standards. And that's just the tip of the leadberg.
Other sources of contamination are dust from lead paint (on windowsills and hands), metal kids' jewelry (really risky!), painted decorations made outside the U.S., and kids' paint sets (check the labels).
Now studies indicate that kids' exposure to residue from leaded gasoline exhaust (it's been out of your tank for almost 30 years) that settled into soil and permeated urban neighborhoods promotes aggression and violence as adults. Add these behavioral problems to the list of symptoms from prolonged contact: reduced IQ, slowed growth, behavior and attention problems, and kidney and hearing disorders.
Clearly, lead poisoning is still a problem - especially for kids 6 or younger - but it's preventable. What can you do to keep your child safe?
Minimize exposure to lead in soil. Have a veggie garden? Make soil 30 percent compost to reduce bioavailability of lead. Remove outer leaves from leafy crops, and wash all leafy greens in a 1 percent vinegar or 1/2 percent soap solution.
Minimize exposure from paint. About 42 million homes in the U.S. have lead paint. Get a home testing kit (only about $10) and check anywhere there's peeling or cracking paint. For advice on safe removal, call the National Lead Information Center at 800-424-LEAD.
Minimize exposure from toys. Beware of imported painted toys for young kids. To check on all recalled ones, visit www.health.ny.gov/environmental/lead/recalls.
© 2012 Michael Roizen, M.D. and Mehmet Oz, M.D.
Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.