Recently, the Oakland, California Center for Environmental Health tested 250 children’s items for sale in large retail outlets and found that seven of them exceeded federal lead levels. Lead has been a very useful metal for millennia — its chemical symbol, Pb, and our word plumbing both come from the Latin word for soft metals (plumbum).
What is Lead?
Lead was indeed universally used in plumbing and in a multitude of other things, many of which still use it, such as building construction, bullets, pewter, radiation shields, and solder. It is one of the “heavy metals”, named for their atomic weight — a vaguely-defined subgroup of metals that also includes mercury, plutonium, iron, copper, and zinc, for example.
Although some would like to call this group the “toxic metals”, living things actually need some of them, such as iron and zinc, and would suffer ill-health without them. But others are well-known to be toxic, such as mercury and lead.
Lead has often been found in the water supply, usually because the plumbing contains lead, which leaches into the water. It does not occur in nature by itself, but in a mineral form in ore — rock that contains a mix of metals — silver, copper and zinc, in this case. These are usually mined together.
Lead can damage the nervous system, including the brain, especially in children. It builds up in the system, becoming increasingly toxic. Typically it is ingested, as in the well-publicized instance of small children eating flakes of lead paint in old buildings. Lead has been banned from paint manufacturing.
When gasoline contained lead it was absorbed by the skin if you got gas on your hand while using the pump or filling your snow blower. We have eliminated that toxic route. Lead can also be inhaled but usually this occurs only with those who work in a lead-related job.
Once lead enters the body, it builds up in the teeth and bones. If there is any calcium stress such as osteoporosis, pregnancy, or breastfeeding, or a deficiency of calcium, it can be released into the bloodstream and will harm a fetus as its nervous system develops.
Lead in Toys With Barbie and Disney Logos
The seven products recently found to contain lead include:
- Barbie Bike Flair Accessory Kit
- Disney Tinkerbell Water Lily necklace
- Dora the Explorer Activity Tote
The others were children’s shoes, a poncho and a boys’ belt. They are being sold at TJ Maxx, Sears, Target, and Wal-Mart. The products have been sent to a non-advocacy laboratory for further testing and possible confirmation of their lead levels.
Mattel, which makes the Barbie dolls, has said it licensed the Barbie name to Bell Sports for that bike accessory kit and did not make the kit or sell it. Bell has said it was an older product that tested as safe in 2007, when there were many lead recalls, but in 2008 a stricter lead level law was passed by Congress. The Bell spokesman stated that Bell did not know the kit was still being sold.
Similarly, Disney has said that the Tinkerbell necklace tested as safe by its licensee, Playmates Toys. The Consumer Product Safety Commission regulates toys, among thousands of other products, and is investigating this matter.
With Christmas approaching it is wise to keep yourself informed about defective products, especially children’s toys. The manufacturing company can be held liable for any harm caused and you can read more on our Product Liability page. Please contact our Mobile, Alabama office today if you would like a free consultation.