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The Truth about Lead: Part 2

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Continued from The Truth about Lead, PAGE 1.

The recall caused an uproar. It was the major health hazard of the moment. But the uproar was short-lived and--in hindsight--the attention on Thomas was somewhat random. The Thomas recall was just one of 31 recalls published by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) in June 2007. 

The CPSC Web site lists more than 200 lead-related recalls since 2001--with the vast majority in 2007 and 2008. In 2007 alone, more than 9 million toys were recalled for lead, including:

•1.5 million Thomas units

•1.5 million Fisher Price toys (among them Dora the Explorer and Sesame Street characters Big Bird and Elmo). 

•Many other items on the list were even less well-publicized, including pajamas, jewelry, key chains, art sets, figurines, helmets and puzzles. Thomas was just the tip of the iceberg.

The lead debate peaked and died quickly. Just two months later, the public turned its attention to the dangers of bisphenol A in baby bottles and other plastics. Within weeks of the initial Thomas commotion, lead was already long forgotten by the general public.

But the Thomas recall inspired a tremendous amount of renewed (albeit short-lived) concern over heavy metal poisonings. Lead--at least in this country--was until then considered a thing of the past. The days of leaded gasoline and leaded paints were long gone. 

The worry that this recall generated was legitimate because:

Lead has been shown to cause neurologic disease, learning and attention issues and loss of IQ points in children. But did the Thomas recall warrant such distress? Did the exposure to lead in the Thomas engines (and other lead-tainted toys) represent even a fraction of what we were exposed to as children? And does this limited exposure really represent something dangerous?

For Dr. Cara's bottom line on lead, click here for PAGE 3

Dr. Cara Natterson, author of Your Toddler: Head To Toe is a pediatrician and mother of 2. To buy a copy of her book, click here. She is currently working on the forthcoming book entitled Dangerous or Safe?

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