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DHS news release

Aug. 9, 2006


General contact: Bonnie Widerburg, 971-673-1282
Technical contact: Richard Leiker, 971-673-0434

Health officials warn parents: Bendable toys pose lead hazard

Public health officials in the Oregon Department of Human Services are alerting parents that bendable toys given to children as summer reading program incentives pose a potential health hazard.

The toys are a bendable dog and cat, each about four inches long, given to children by public libraries.

Tests conducted by the Indiana Department of Health found that the toys contained .4 percent and .24 percent lead. The maximum federal allowable level is .06 percent, said Richard Leiker, environmental toxicology manager in the DHS Public Health Division.

"These toys are a potential health hazard and children should not be handling them," said Leiker. "A particular concern is that because of the toys' small size and shape, children may put them in their mouths and suck or chew on them."

If parents have seen a child chewing or sucking on one of the toys, Leiker advises they contact their health care provider and arrange for a test to determine lead level in blood.

Leiker also recommended that if parents discover these toys in their home, they either return them to their local library or dispose of them in the household trash.

At least 25 libraries across Oregon purchased the toys from Highsmith, a company that supplies incentives, prizes and other materials to libraries participating in a national summer reading program, Leiker said.

A list of libraries that ordered these items, as well as information about the DHS lead-poisoning prevention program, is available on the DHS public health Web site.

Deschutes Public Library became aware of the issue Monday after the state of Indiana issued a health alert. The Deschutes Public Library issued a news release and notified other libraries via e-mail.

Even small amounts of lead can harm anyone who puts lead-containing products in their mouth or breathes lead dust. It is especially dangerous to children because it can slow growth and development. Exposure to lead paint dust from older homes is the most common cause of lead poisoning, but lead also may be found in other products, Leiker said.

The Oregon Leadline, 800-368-5060, is a free telephone information service for parents and others who are concerned about lead hazards in their home and want to know how to make their home lead-safe.