SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska

 

State Health Officials Warn of Unsafe Levels
of Lead in Children's Toys Distributed by Libraries

 

August 12, 2006
Saturday AM


Ketchikan, Alaska - Bendable dog and cat toys given away at many public libraries this summer might contain unsafe levels of lead. Thursday state health officials in the Department of Health and Social Services issued a consumer health alert regarding the toys, which were distributed as part of a statewide summer reading program at public libraries throughout Alaska, and in at least 30 other states nationwide.

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In Ketchikan, the Pets and Pals Summer Reading Club and Bark About Books Read Aloud Club ran from June 3, 2006 through Aug. 1, 2006 with approximately 430 Ketchikan children participating. Judith L. Anglin of the Ketchikan Public Library said the 4-inch bendable toys, which are the subject of the recall, were awarded as prizes for listening to 15 books. "Prizes are often traded and exchanged between children so we encourage all parents to look for these toys and turn them in at the library. We will send them to the State Library for proper disposal," said Anglin.

The rubbery toys are roughly four inches long, with round heads and long bendable arms and legs. They come in various colors. The toys are stamped "Made in China" on the back of the head, and "China" on the back of the body. In recent tests run on three of these toys, lead levels ranged from 0.24 to 0.4 percent lead. The Code of Federal Regulations stipulates that lead may constitute no more than 0.06 percent of the weight of the paint applied to a toy.

According to state health officials the main risk posed by these toys is the possibility that children might chew on them and swallow part of the toy, and thereby absorb unsafe amounts of lead into the bloodstream. The toys are not hazardous to touch. Young children, infants, and developing fetuses are at greatest risk of lead poisoning because their bodies absorb more lead and their brains and bodies are still developing.

"We are currently unaware of any children in Alaska who have become ill or who have elevated lead concentrations because of the toys," said Dr. Joe McLaughlin, Medical Epidemiologist with the Alaska Division of Public Health. Since prolonged exposure to lead in young children has been associated with lifelong learning disabilities and behavioral disorders, he encourages parents to consult with a healthcare provider if they think their child has swallowed any portion of the toys.

According to state officials, approximately 2,400 toys were obtained by about 72 libraries in Alaska. It is not known how many toys may have already been given away to children. The company that supplies the toys to libraries, Highsmith Inc., has issued a voluntary recall of the product.

"Librarians involved in the summer reading program are appalled to think that something they distributed might pose a risk to the children they serve, so we notified the health department and the libraries involved right away. We really hope parents will search their children's toy boxes and return these toys to their local library as soon as possible," said Sue Sherif, School Library/Youth Services Coordinator for the Alaska State
Library.

State public health officials advise parents whose children have the toys to return them to the library where they were obtained.

 

Sources:

Ketchikan Public Library

Alaska Department of Health and Social Services

 

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