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3 Surprising Sources of Lead Exposure for Children

Last month we explored the drawbacks and problems associated with DIY lead testing kits, and mentioned that lead was commonly added to paint before the Canadian government officially banned it in 1976.

Although lead is commonly found in paint, it can also be found indoors and outdoors in our soil, water, dust, various foods, household products and even the air itself. Lead can naturally linger in and around any environments, surfaces or structures built and finished prior to that time, and it’s also added to various newly manufactured products that are then introduced to the consumer market.

In short, lead can be found in a lot of different places!

In light of that and in light of the fact that children are most susceptible to the effects of lead exposure, it’s helpful to look at some of the surprising places or products where they might be exposed to it.


Toys and Art Supplies

The presence of lead in children’s toys (and the resulting product recalls) frequently makes the news, especially since toys are often mass-produced in countries where lead-based paint is still used.

Lead in toys is a common concern because lead exposure can occur with any items or pieces of items that a baby or child may be licking, chewing, sucking on or swallowing. And as parents know, this can happen quite frequently with kids and their toys!

However, you may be surprised to learn that the use of lead-based paint on toys sold in Canada is not illegal under the Canadian Hazardous Products Act.

However, Health Canada states that: “Most toy manufacturers voluntarily conform to European Standards which limit the amount of extractable lead in toys to 90 ppm.” [source]

In addition to children’s toys, art supplies like pencils, wax crayons, chalk and paints, inks or dyes can all also contain lead.


How to Help Protect Your Children against this Potential Hazard:

Check government sites for notice of recalls, such as Health Canada’s Consumer Product Recalls: Advisories, Warnings and Recalls page.

Read and become familiar with Health Canada’s Industry Guide to Health Canada’s Safety Requirements for Children’s Toys and Related Products, 2012.

Don’t leave children unattended with these toys or art materials and aim to limit exposure to 1-2 hours per week per Health Canada’s recommendation.

Keep old toys out of the reach of young children. Be especially vigilant with any toys that have chipped, peeling or disintegrating paint.

When purchasing newly manufactured toys, consider buying toys manufactured in Canada rather than toys made and imported from other countries. In addition, look for toy labels that specifically state that the toy has been tested for lead and conforms to applicable Canadian standards.


Playgrounds or Play Structures

In addition to indoor household exposure, children can also be exposed to lead via outdoor playground equipment or play structures built before the mid-1970s.

Lead exposure for children can come from both the existing paint on the playground structures or from the soil itself.

As old lead-laced paint is exposed to the natural elements and begins to break down, it can subsequently contaminate the ground, soil or sand beneath it. Therefore, both the old playground equipment and the play grounds themselves can be a potential source of lead exposure for children.


How to Help Protect Your Children against this Potential Hazard:

If your child regularly plays on old playground equipment, contact your local municipality to find out when his or her favourite play structure or equipment was built. This will provide some information about the age of the structure and its potential use of lead paint.

The surrounding soil can also be tested for its lead content to provide more conclusive information about possible lead contamination.


Artificial Turf or Sports Fields

Does your children spend a lot of time or play sports on artificial turf. You may be surprised to learn that this ground covering can also be a potential source of lead exposure for them.

The State of New Jersey conducted an investigation on artificial turf and found that numerous samples contained very high levels of lead.

A 2009 Quebec-based study, entitled “Chemicals In Outdoor Artificial Turf: A health risk for users?” also examined the presence of lead, various volatile and semi-volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and carcinogenic and non-carcinogenic compounds in the materials used for artificial turf manufacturing.

If you’re looking for an in-depth article on this topic, check out our previous article on “Lead in Astro Turf”.


How to Help Protect Your Children against this Potential Hazard:

You may wish to consider limiting or eliminating your child’s exposure to artificial turf. Especially if the turf is old, in poor condition or exposed to weather. Opt for play on natural surfaces whenever possible.

If avoiding artificial turf isn’t possible, follow the New Jersey Department of Health’s recommendations to ensure your children and their clothing are washed promptly after spending time on artificial turf. It is especially important to ensure your child’s face and hands are washed well before eating. Other experts also recommend keeping water bottles off the ground.


Have a question about indoor or outdoor lead exposure? Contact the lead testing experts to get your questions answered. Call us for your free phone consultation at 416-575-6111.

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