29 July 2005

High lead levels in toys

Alarmingly high levels of lead in paint have been traced to children's toys, the Medical Research Council (MRC) said on Thursday.

Alarmingly high levels of lead in paint have been traced to children's toys, according to the Medical Research Council (MRC).

"In some instances, lead concentration reached levels several hundred times that allowed by international standards," said Angela Mathee, leader of the MRC research team that made the discovery.

Adverse effects of lead exposure well established
"It has been well established that lead causes reductions in IQ scores, shortened concentration spans, hyperactivity and learning difficulties in children, even when the lead is present at very low levels in the blood," she said.

"Another cause for concern is that high lead levels were found in the paint on toys such as building blocks and puzzles, which are widely used by children in their homes and at pre-school institutions," she said.

Young children at particular risk
The research team's report also read that young children were at particular risk, since they are known to place toys and other objects into their mouths, and may swallow lead-based paint chips in the process.

Meanwhile, the Department of Health said it was working closely with the MRC and the South African Paint Manufacturers Association (Sapma) to create awareness on the dangers of the harmful practice of adding lead to household paint.

The efforts also involved urging manufacturers to adhere to the industry's Code of Practice, the Department said.

"The Code prevents the selling of toxic household paint from retail outlets and their use in applications that may put children's health at risk.

"Consumers are also advised to seek safety assurances from suppliers to ensure that enamel paint products they purchase do not contain lead."

The Department said the highest levels of lead had been found in yellows, reds, greens and orange-coloured paints. – (Sapa) Visit our Enviro Health Centre for more information.




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