Toddler Toys, Toxic Homes and is it Going to Goodwill?

08/16/2007 04:01 pm ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

The past few days have seen a buzz of news activity about the toys coming from China containing toxic lead paint. Most parents think that they will be able to tell if their child has been exposed by looking at them -- wrong! You cannot smell, taste or feel lead in the air -- and if your child has a lot of oral behavior, such as placing toys in their mouth or teething on stair pilasters or window sills, you could have more sources of lead in your home environment than you realize.

Lead is a neurotoxin that can affect the brain, resulting in a lower IQ, poor memory and attention, decreased motor skills, and issues with self control and aggression. It is estimated that over 300,000 children have elevated levels of lead -- and the damage can be done without any external effects, until extreme exposure which can cause mental retardation, coma or death.

And why are children affected so much? Below the age of six, their bodies are sponges because the blood-brain barrier is not fully developed, thus allowing over 50 percent of the lead they ingest to be absorbed into the body versus 10 percent absorption for adults. The only person who can confirm that your child is not affected by an elevated level of lead is your pediatrician.

The Facts

Paints with lead were banned in 1978, but it remains on the walls, windows, trim and doors of over 20 million homes. The most common place for lead in an older home is in the window casing -- which will create lead dust for years whenever the window is opened or closed. Or on the window or door trim.

Watch the Vintage Products

* Many parents think that "vintage toys" are cute -- but they are meant for adults and not for a toddler. Children play with toys by putting them in their mouth or eating from their fingers after playing with toys -- all sources to leach lead into their bodies.

* Hand-me-down cribs made before the ban on lead paint can be a huge health hazard.

The Biggest Question No One is Asking?

The biggest question no one has asked relates to disposal of these lead tainted products -- where are they going to go?

My biggest fear is that parents will throw them into the trash and they will go to the landfill where the paints and toxins will leach back into the food supply through surface groundwater. According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, lead-painted toys fall under a category of items that need to be destroyed or properly disposed of...and they should not be exported for resale. Let's hope that someone doesn't get the bright idea that Goodwill (which serves underprivileged U.S. children) or children in a Third World country deserve 'new' toys!