Parents Report: Lead Astray

It's not just old paint that's poisonous -- this toxic metal can be in water and soil, as well as in a scary number of children's products.

The Lowdown on Lead

Girl biting on necklace

Alexandra Grablewski

When 4-year-old Riley Jackson started having behavior problems in preschool, his teacher suggested he get checked for lead poisoning. His mother, Maija, was stunned when the blood test showed that Riley's lead level was indeed very high -- and she frantically tried to pinpoint the cause. The Jacksons' Baltimore home, built in 1980, showed no traces of the poison, and Riley's older brother was lead-free too. But Riley loved to put jewelry and small toys in his mouth -- and his parents finally discovered that there was lead in one of his favorite beaded chain necklaces.

Lead is one of the biggest environmental hazards for kids. More than 310,000 American children ages 6 and under have been diagnosed with lead poisoning, which can cause lasting learning and behavior problems. And as the Jacksons learned, your child could be at risk even if there's no lead paint in your home. In the past few years, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has increased its testing of kids' jewelry, toys, and even products like sidewalk chalk -- and recalls have skyrocketed. The dangerous products were almost all manufactured in China and India, where safety oversight is lax. This year alone, the CPSC has issued 27 different lead-related recalls for kids' products, including 1.5 million Thomas & Friends Wooden Railway toys in June, and 17 jewelry recalls. Leaded jewelry is particularly dangerous because kids tend to put it in their mouth. In fact, a 4-year-old boy in Minnesota died of lead poisoning last year after swallowing a charm, which Reebok gave away with some of its sneakers.

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