Jewish World Review Sept. 18, 2007 / 6 Tishrei 5768
Recalls: What to do next
By Vicki Lee Parker
http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | (MCT) Most parents shuddered at the news over the past few months that millions of toys thought to be tainted with lead and other toxic metals had been recalled.
The latest came Sept. 4, when Mattel recalled about 800,000 toys, including 675,000 accessories for Barbie dolls.
Many parents are unnerved by the cost and headaches associated with determining whether their child is in danger of lead poisoning.
Certainly, when it comes to our children's safety, price is not the first thing to consider. But a number of parents in Philadelphia have sued, saying Mattel should pay for blood tests and lead-test kits.
I applaud their effort, but given the speed at which the wheels of justice spin, I doubt parents will wait to see what a judge has to say about it.
When it comes to our children, especially toddlers, it's easy to overreact. But don't, said Dr. Courtney Mann, director of WakeMed Children's Emergency Department in Raleigh, N.C.
"Since chronic lead poisoning typically requires long, regular exposures, parents should not panic if their child has been playing occasionally with a toy recalled due to lead paint," she said.
However, lead poisoning can be serious. Lead is a heavy metal that, when ingested by children, can cause developmental delays and behavior problems. In cases involving acute, large amounts, lead can cause seizures, or even death.
Mann said that younger children, especially those 3 years old and under, are more at risk of lead poisoning.
"The younger you are, the more susceptible your brain is to the toxins found in lead," she said. Still, if an older child has played with one of the recalled toys, parents should call their doctors to determine whether a blood-lead test is necessary, Mann said.
Symptoms of lead poisoning include irritability, loss of appetite, weight loss, sluggishness, abdominal pain, vomiting and constipation.
Metal magnets are just as dangerous. Tiny magnets have become common in toys, helping children to dress little dolls and build structures. When these magnets fall off a toy, small children might put them in their mouths. If several are swallowed, the tiny magnets are strong enough to twist little intestines into a knot. If you suspect that has happened, take your child to the hospital immediately.
Even if you don't feel your child is in immediate danger, you should check to see whether you own any recalled toys. To get a list of recalls, go to the Consumer Product Safety Commission at www.cpsc.gov. You can also check www.recalls.gov and www.mattel.com.
If you have some of these toys and you suspect your child has been exposed to lead, contact your pediatrician. Consumers should take the recalled toys away from children and contact Mattel at (800) 916-4997 or www.service.mattel.com to find out how to return or dispose of the product. Most pediatricians will treat it as a regular doctor's visit and might charge for a quick blood test. Check with your doctor and insurer to find out what's covered.
For peace of mind, some parents might decide to take the extra step of testing all of a child's toys for lead and other toxins. The U.S. Health and Human Services Department, however, doesn't recommend home tests, because they can sometimes be unreliable. If you get a positive reading from a home test, remove the toy from your child's play area and contact your doctor.
Home testing can also be costly and time-consuming.
I called four local before finding a test at Ace Hardware & Home Center in Cary, N.C. The salesman said the $7.99 kit can test toys until one tests positive. He also said that he had only one package left and wasn't sure when the next shipment would be in.
Many companies sell lead testing for toys online. To help parents sort through the differences, The Wall Street Journal tested several kits. To see what it found, go to www.wsj.com and type "testing toys for lead" in the search field and select the story by that name from Aug. 30.
Once you complete your testing and your child is safe, be sure to hold on to your receipts; perhaps Mattel will decide to pay for the lead tests after all. If not, and the judge allows a lawsuit against Mattel to move forward, you might eventually be able to join a class-action lawsuit and get a refund on recalled toys.
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Vicki Lee Parker is a columnist for The News & Observer. Comment by clicking here.
Do your homework before home repairs
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