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Lead Poisoning - in toys, paint, lipstick
Lead Poisoning

Lead poses a significant health risk.  Be mindful of recent warnings about lead—it is found in many things, from vinyl baby bibs and the paint on name-brand toys, to the water in the Spokane River. 

Studies show that childhood exposure to lead can damage a child's brain, kidneys and other organs, cause learning problems, reduce intelligence, impair hearing, cause hyperactivity and/or attention deficit disorder, and is associated with nervous system problems. High levels in the blood can cause coma, convulsions and death. 

  • Lead and Children.  There is no safe level of blood lead in young children.  Lead poisoning is detected through a blood test.  Poisoning is defined as 5 micrograms of lead per deciliter of blood.  Elevated lead in the blood of children 6 and younger can lead to anemia, behavioral problems, learning disabilities, a lower IQ, brain damage, and in some cases, death.  (Christopher Portier, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, May 2012)

    Usually, children who get lead poisoning live in old homes.  They pick up paint chips or dust and put it in their mouth.  Children have also picked up lead poisoning from soil contaminated by old leaded gasoline, and from dust tracked in from industrial work sites.

    There is not a threshold for older children or adults, although pregnant women should have blood lead levels below 5 micrograms to protect the developing fetus.  Most cases in adults come from manufacturing jobs or hobbies.
       (CDC report, May 2012) 

  • Lead in Lipstick.  A recent study shows that many lipsticks (which do not list lead as an ingredient) contain detectable levels of lead, a proven toxin in humans.  Lead can lead to many health problems.  To learn which brands are lead-free, visit http://safecosmetics.org.   
  • Lead in Paint.   A paint chip the size of your fingernail which is ingested by a 2-year old is enough to kill the child.  The sale of lead-based paint was banned in 1978.  Although homes built before 1978 should be tested for lead paint, homes built prior to 1950 are considered the most likely places for lead paint contamination, especially if the old paint is allowed to chip and peel.  Lead paint may be painted over to seal the lead beneath a safe coating.  Landlords, building owners and property management companies are compelled by law to tell people about existing lead-paint risks and how to protect children.  EPA and HUD have established a “Tips and Complaints” hotline (800-424-LEAD) for anyone seeking information about lead-based paint, lead poisoning, or for individuals who wish to report any alleged violations of the disclosure rule.

    Homeowners with children younger than 6, and landlords who rent to low-income families, may be able to get as much as $13,000 reimbursed per home when they remove lead paint.

    For more information, call (509) 755-7544 or visit Lead Safe Spokane Program Housing at

     ("Program promotes lead paint removal," The Spokesman-Review, January 10, 2013) 

  • Lead in Toys.  Many toys have been coated with paint containing lead. Protect children’s health by learning about recalls for toys that could be harmful.  Washington State now requires toys sold in our State to be free of lead; however, there may be existing toys in our homes which are covered with lead paint. 
  • The risk of lead exposure has been mapped out across all 50 states.  Spokane County's risk of lead exposure score is 10, the highest risk.  Risk layers are from 1 to 10, on being the lowest risk.  This score doesn't mean children will get lead poisoning.  It means there is a greater risk for lead exposure.  (The Washington State Department of Health report, KHQ Saturday Morning, April 9, 2016) 

  • There are about 75 million homes across the country built before 1980, meaning they’re most likely to contain some lead plumbing. That's more than half of the country’s housing units, according to the Census Bureau.

    Since 2012, nearly 2,000 water systems across all 50 states
    have found elevated lead levels in tap water samples, a public health concern that requires them to notify customers and take action. Search or click the map to find systems in your area. The map table shows the state / name of the water system; the county it serves; the range of lead levels over 15 parts per billion in samples that triggered an action status, and total action-level tests over the period.   SOURCE: USA TODAY analysis of EPA’s Safe Drinking Water Information System (SDWIS) database.   (USA Today Network investigation, 2016, http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/2016/03/11/nearly-2000-water-systems-fail-lead-tests/81220466/

    The EPA estimates that about 90,000 public schools and half a million child-care facilities are not regulated under the Safe Drinking Water Act because they depend on water sources such as municipal utilities expected to test their own water. That means parents have no assurance lead isn't seeping into children's water from a school building’s pipes, solder or fixtures.(USA Today Network investigation 2016, http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2016/03/17/drinking-water-lead-schools-day-cares/81220916/)
Additional Resources

Protecting Consumers - Keep your family Safe.
Consumer products and Medical dangers.
Defective, unsafe, or harmful goods or products,
Baby/children products, drugs, medical devices,
household chemicals, televisions, furniture, gun safety....  

Dangerous Toy List.  View this list and a toy safety report every Christmas at http://uspirg.org/issues/toy-safety  (U. S. Public Interest Group).  

Fischer-Price and Mattel toys.  Toys with lead paint hazard can be viewed at http://service.mattel.com/us/recall.asp 

Healthy Toys.  View a list of hundreds of toys tested for lead, arsenic, mercury, bromine, cadmium, etc. at   http://healthytoys.org.  Babies and young children are the most vulnerable populations because their brains and bodies are still developing, and because they frequently put toys into their mouths. 

National Lead Information Center, 1-800-424-5323
National Research Center for Women and Families

Toxic Chemicals.  View information in the state of Washington:

U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.  View products that could be harmful to children and families (from toys to chairs and drinking glasses), at http://cpsc.gov/.   Parents may also sign up to receive email alerts from this agency.   1-800-638-2772.  

Washington State Dept. of Health