Special Alert: Serious Lead Poisoning Hazard

The Poison Post TM Urgent Health Alert - Lead Poisoning
March 2006

Serious Lead Poisoning Hazard and Product Recall


A four year old boy died of lead poisoning on February 22, 2006 after swallowing a heart-shaped charm from a bracelet that came with a pair of Reebok childrenís shoes. Severe swelling in his brain led to his death; he had vomiting, listlessness and other symptoms before he had seizures and stopped breathing.

Tests showed that this charm contained more than 99 percent lead. Although it has been recalled, 300,000 were distributed and an unknown number remain in peopleís homes.


Other small metal jewelry items intended for children, but containing lead, have been recalled in recent months.

Lead is easily absorbed into a childís bloodstream. Its most dangerous effects are on the nervous system. The rapid, dramatic effects experienced by this young boy are unusual, but even low levels of lead can cause learning and behavior problems, hearing loss, and lowered IQ. Early symptoms are not specific for lead and can include stomach upset, decreased appetite, fatigue and irritability.

The most common sources of lead poisoning in children are paint, water, ceramics, some imported cosmetics (e.g. kohl eye liner), and some imported foods (recently, candies from Mexico). Mouthing or swallowing lead items such as jewelry, old toy soldiers, fishing weights, bullets, and drapery weights can lead to the sudden onset of lead poisoning, as happened with the young boy above.

Any child at risk for lead poisoning can be tested by a pediatrician or clinic. There are treatments for lead poisoning, but they are most effective if they are given early.

Prevention is the key to avoiding dangers of lead poisoning. Parents can follow these steps:

  • If your home was built before 1980, the paint may contain lead. Any peeling, flaking, or powdered paint may cause lead poisoning in a child and should be professionally evaluated. Your county health department can help.
  • If your home has old water pipes, they may be a source of lead. Water can be tested for lead content. If there is any uncertainty, run the water for a few minutes after itís been standing (for example, overnight) before using for cooking or drinking.
  • Ceramics, especially imported ceramics, and crystal can contain lead and if so, should not be used for food or beverages. Home test kits are available at hardware stores.
  • Small metal objects should NOT be used as toys for young children both because of the choking hazard and the risk of lead poisoning. Such toys intended for older children must be kept out of sight and reach of younger children.

For more information about the recall of this charm, go to http://www.cpsc.gov/cpscpub/prerel/prh tml06/06119.html or call 800-638-2772. Reebok has information at 800-994-6260.

For more information about recalls, including other jewelry found to contain lead, go to http://www.cpsc.gov/cpscpub/prerel/cate gory/child.html or call 800-638-2772.

For extensive information about preventing lead poisoning from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, go to http://www.cdc.gov/nceh/lead/p ublications/prevleadpoisoning.pdf.

If you have questions about lead poisoning or the symptoms of lead poisoning, call your poison center at 1-800-222-1222. The experts at the National Capital Poison Center are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

This alert does not replace our usual quarterly enewsletter. Special editions of The Poison Post will be sent to you when/if critical poison prevention news arises.

Subscribe to The Poison Post, a free quarterly, electronic newsletter about Poison Help! Enter your email address and click 'Join' below.
Copyright 2010, The National Capital Poison Center.  All Rights Reserved.
email: poisonpost@poison.org
phone: (202) 362-3867 (admin line)