Lead Testing

By: Rachel Pierce
By: Rachel Pierce

The Johnsons were very concerned when their pediatrician told them she'd detected worrisome lead levels in the blood of Coen and his older sister, Nora, even after the old paint had been removed from their house. A specialist assessed their home for possible sources of lead and several of the children's toys screened positive.

"There were some plastic bocks that my daughter played with. There was a belt from a pair of her jeans, " said mother Christine Johnson. "A soccer ball and another pair of shoes, the paint that was on the shoes."

Consumer Reports also screened several items from the Johnsons' home for lead. And Consumer Reports' chemist ran lab tests to determine total lead levels. A wagon wheel had high levels.

The Johnsons say Coen loved to turn the wagon on its side and make the wheel spin.

Consumer Reports says lead is more widespread than you may think. Its tests found lead at various levels in a variety of products, including jewelry, dishware, children's tea sets, vinyl backpacks, and other toys.

While not all these products have the same level of risk, Consumer Reports says things children play with shouldn't contain lead.

The tests found lead on the surface of the cuff of a toy blood pressure monitor in worrisome amounts. It's part of the Fisher-Price Medical Kit. Consumer Reports recommends that parents take the toy away.

Consumer Reports tested kits designed to help parents detect lead in their homes. Though none of the kits are foolproof, the type with swabs proved easier to use. They're supposed to change color when lead is present on the surface.

But Bob Tiernan says "These test kits are not good for detecting lead embedded below the surface. But we did find three that are useful for detecting lead that's on the surface of items such as toys, ceramic dishware, vinyls, and plastics."

They're two versions of the Lead Check Household Lead Test Kit, as well as the Lead Inspector Premium Lead Test Kit. Consumer Reports says the Lead Inspector is also helpful for checking painted metal jewelry.

As for the Johnsons, although they can't know for sure what caused the lead in their children's blood, the levels dropped after they removed the toys and other items that screened positive.

The Environmental Protection Agency recommends all children be tested for lead exposure at ages one and two.

And whether you have children or not, Consumer Reports recommends having your house evaluated for lead if it was built before 1978. Up until then lead was often used in paint and is a common cause of lead poisoning.

For other tips go to www.centerforhealthyhousing.org.

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