Young children are most at risk from lead. Lead exposure can affect a child's mental and physical development. If you suspect that your child has been exposed to a toy containing lead, remove the toy immediately and contact your doctor for advice.
Lead is a naturally occurring heavy metal, often used in industry. It can be dispersed widely in the environment through contamination of water, dust, soil, and some paints.
Lead can affect anybody, but children under five years of age are at greater risk because they tend to put their hands or other objects into their mouths; they absorb more ingested lead than adults; and their brains are still at developing stage so they are more sensitive to the effects of lead.
Lead may be found in the paint on some toys. While Australian standards limit the amount of lead permissible in materials used to make and paint children's toys, some imported toys may present a risk. A significant proportion of toys sold in Australia are imported from other countries.
Also very old toys and cots with the original paint may contain unsafe levels of lead.
Lead can enter human body by inhalation or ingestion. It can affect almost every organ and system in the body. The symptoms of lead exposure depend on how long and what amount is ingested or inhaled by children. As lead poisoning often occurs without obvious symptoms, it can go unrecognised.
Lead exposure in childhood can cause behaviour and attention problems, learning difficulties and cognitive losses. It may also affect physical growth, blood cell development and the functioning of the kidneys.
Lead ingested by pregnant women can pass through the placenta and affect babies.
The following suggestions can reduce your child's lead exposure.
Children who have dietary deficiencies in iron, calcium, and vitamin C are more susceptible to harm from lead exposure. Iron-sufficient diets discourage absorption of lead. Calcium competes with lead and can inhibit its absorption. Vitamin C may increase excretion by the kidneys.
If you suspect that your child has been exposed to lead, contact your doctor or your local Public Health Unit.
Further information can be obtained from your local public health unit. In NSW call 1300 066 055 to talk to your local Public Health Unit.