Warning for shoppers heading for Puerto Rico: Federal agents seize toys with high lead-content

POSTED: 12/30/14 12:13 AM

GREAT BAY – Puerto Rican authorities have seized hazardous toys from nine stores and a warehouse.  The toys were imported from China for sale in Puerto Rico. Many families and friends form the North Eastern Caribbean islands including Sint Maarten, Saba and St. Eustatius travel to Puerto Rico to do their holiday shopping which includes toys for their kids, Soualiga Newsday reports.

The toys have a high content of lead.  The lead was found in the toy’s paint, plastic and cloths.

Lead poisoning has devastating health consequences, in particular for children, with childhood lead exposure estimated to contribute to 600 000 new cases of children with intellectual disabilities every year. Overall, 99% of children affected by high exposure to lead live in low- and middle-income countries, says the World Health Organization (WHO).

Lead paint is a major source of potential lead poisoning for young children. It may be found in the home, on toys, furniture and on other objects. Decaying lead paint on walls, furniture and other interior surfaces creates lead-contaminated dust in the home that young children easily ingest. Mouthing lead-painted toys and other objects also exposes young children to lead. The sweet taste of lead paint means that some children even pick off and swallow small chips of paint.

Holiday shoppers will now have to check the toys to see if they were manufactured in China.  The warehouse searched recently is owned by Farmacias Caridad.  Back in August and September, toys were seized by the authorities from shipping containers that arrived at the port.  The toys were seized under the Federal Hazardous Substance Act and Consumer Product Safety regulation.

The multi-agency raid was carried out by the United States Immigration & Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HIS), the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC).

“Lead poisoning remains one of the most important environmental health concerns for children globally, and lead paint is a major flashpoint for children’s potential lead poisoning,” says Dr Maria Neira, WHO Director for Public Health and Environment. “The good news is that exposure to lead paint can be entirely stopped through a range of measures to restrict the production and use of lead paint.”

It is estimated that 143,000 deaths per year result from lead poisoning and lead paint is a major contributor to this. Its use creates a health problem for many years into the future. Even in countries that have banned leaded paint decades previously, such paint continues to be a source of exposure until it is finally stripped and replaced. The cost of replacing lead paint means that people living in older, poorly-maintained housing are particularly at risk, and this disproportionately affects economically-deprived communities.

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