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Holiday Wish List: Toys that Won’t Poison Children

November 16, 2007

Boston, MA – As parents start to scan catalogs and store shelves for presents this holiday shopping season, many are left wondering which toys are safe. Federal regulations ban products with high levels of lead paint, but as recent recalls have shown, many toys are not tested before they're put on the merchants' shelves. Doctor John Graef, former head of the Boston Children's Hospital Lead and Toxicology Program, says parents should change their shopping habits -- if they haven't already.

"It's common sense. If there is a product which is painted, it should be suspect. They should really have affirmative confirmation that there's no lead in it rather than wondering if there is or isn't."

High lead levels are most often found in paint, but scientists say harmful traces also can be found on plastic products. That's why the Massachusetts Department of Health is proposing a regulation to ban toy jewelry products with high levels of lead. Concerned parents and doctors will attend a hearing on that potential regulation today, and their view is that it's not strong enough. They want the ban applied to all children's products containing lead, a list that includes some bath toys, bibs and lunchboxes.

Graef helped get the state's first lead law passed in 1971, which banned high levels of lead in paint. He adds there's more to be done, but little has been accomplished since then.

"I think that it's too bad that this is coming around yet again. One wonders when we'll get the message and stop putting our children in jeopardy."

Graefe says if a parent is worried about lead exposure, they should have their children tested. In lead poisoning, he says there are rarely any physical signs or symptoms.

Kevin Clay/Eric Mack, Public News Service - MA