Reporter's Notes: Playing with Lead

Artificial Turf. Credit: Anthony V. ThompsonIt's easy to get scared. You look around the Oakland office of the Center for Environmental Health, and lead is everywhere. Piles of toys that are loaded with lead. Lunch boxes and kids' backpacks that have tested positive for high levels of lead. Samples of artificial turf.

And that's just the beginning. Lead has been found in venetian blinds, in pens, in the glaze of ceramic cups and bowls. It has been found in imported candies. And one Mexican folk remedy to cure stomachaches has landed a number of children in the hospital recently – a packet of powder that is almost entirely lead.

Since the effects of lead are cumulative, all those points of contamination add up.

Children's developing brains and central nervous systems are most susceptible to damage from ingesting lead. That's why a new federal standard for lead in children's products was recently put in place. And that's why the Center for Environmental Health, for one, focuses on products that come in contact with children on a daily basis.

The amount of lead in artificial turf, by itself, is unlikely to cause lead poisoning. And the same is true for the amount of lead found in lunch boxes, or in children's jewelry. But medical experts say that if kids play on artificial turf in the morning, distractedly put a charm bracelet in their mouths during class, and eat food from a lunch box with lead embedded in the vinyl – then those kids are at risk for lead impairment, such as a loss of IQ points, a sign of brain damage. For more, listen to the QUEST Radio story, or check our photos below.


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