Having spent some 25 years researching and consulting on the lead issue — whether paint, gasoline or toys — it is heartening to see that the United States is watching out for our children whose lives could be impacted by this toxic metal.
With that said, we should realize that lead has provided and continues to provide many benefits to our society.
For example, lead paint is still used on bridges and ocean-going vessels because of its durability. In studies of homes where lead paint is present, it is not the sole source of lead exposure to children, given the impact of leaded gasoline consumption.
The unfortunate property of lead is its persistence in the environment. It is neither removed by natural processes nor broken down to some harmless chemical by biologic organisms. The problems with children and their toys, as well as some adults, is the exposure via the mouth. Young children are often orally fixated, so they put toys in their mouth and gnaw on them, thereby ingesting lead at relatively high levels. Adults should evaluate their sources of chocolate to determine the lead content.
With regard to the politics of this situation, it is interesting to note that the United States has learned, after many years, that lead in gasoline or toys presents an exposure to the public that is not acceptable. However, if we "suggest" the alternative of eliminating leaded gasoline or lead in toys other countries, the United States will be admonished in some areas. We have been there and know the results.
— Richard W. Hurst, Ph.D., Thousand Oaks