Dr. Shirley Joslin, a pediatrician with the Midlothian Baylor Family Medical Center is offering advice and re-assurance to parents who fear their children may have been exposed to lead contaminants allegedly discovered in toys made in China.
“Lead poisoning happens very gradually over a period of years and was more prevalent prior to 1970 when children would often chew on toys and other items which contained lead paint,” Joslin said. “But it was at that time that lead was removed from paints and, since then, the number of cases of lead levels in children have steadily declined.”
She suggests that parents check all toys that were purchased recently, especially Mattel and Fisher Price toys, some of which have been recalled.
“Toddlers are especially susceptible to lead exposure for at least three reasons,” she said. “First of all, because their blood-brain barriers are not fully developed, making them more susceptible to lead poisoning; also because they often put things in their mouths; and finally, it’s really tough getting a toddler, who has become attached to the lead contaminated toy to part with it.”
Joslin listed several items that are suspected of being lead-contaminated.
“Be especially cautious with ceramics and hand-painted products, especially from third world countries,” she said. “Do not cook in any of those vessels until you are thoroughly certain there is no lead-based paint in them. Make sure you know the source of those items which are suspect.”
Common symptoms in a child who has been exposed to lead include irritability and they can also be lethargic, she said, noting also, “It has been observed that the IQ drops in cases where the lead count is high in the bloodstream.”
Another source of possible lead exposure is found in dust at industries where parents of small children work, she said. “They may come home with lead dust in their clothes and this can cause exposure to the child.”
Joslin said lead contamination isn’t as much of a concern for adults.
“It’s not as much as in children because the blood-brain-barrier of an adult is much more intact and developed than that of a small child, so therefore it is not as dangerous to adults as it is to small children who are still developing,” she said. “The blood-brain-barrier helps to prevent substances like lead to transfer across from the bloodstream to the brain.
“Children are more likely to absorb substances through their blood-brain-barrier,” she said. “That is why adults are not as susceptible to lead contamination as children.”
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends a blood screening for children between the ages of 1 and 3, and Joslin notes also, “There is plenty of information on the Internet as well.”
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