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August 4, 2000

Lead Hazard Identified in Key Chains Distributed at Colorado Rockies Game

Source:  Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment

DENVER – The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment has issued a warning about the hazards of lead, which can be found in every day items such as key chains.

The warning came after the announcement by the Denver Department of Environmental Health and the Colorado Rockies on Thursday, Aug. 3, about high lead levels found in promotional key chains that were distributed at a 1998 Rockies game.

State Health Department lead experts urged individuals to refrain from giving young children key chains to play with to reduce the potential risk of lead poisoning. Coloradans also can call the State Health Department’s Lead Poisoning Prevention Program at 1-800-886-7689 if they have questions about a possible lead-based product or lead poisoning and testing.

The key chains containing lead were identified by the Denver Department of Environmental Health during an investigation of elevated blood-lead levels in a child treated by a private physician. Anyone who has one of the key chains, which feature a small metal baseball mitt, should keep them out of reach of any child six years of age or younger.

According to the Denver Department of Environmental Health the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission is currently conducting an investigation to determine if the key chains were distributed nationally.

Jane E. Norton, executive director of State Health Department, said, "This is an unfortunate reminder of lead hazards that can be found in every day products. It’s disheartening when a common item such as a key chain can be harmful to a young child."

Terry Tiller Taylor, director of the State Health Department’s Lead Poisoning Prevention Program, said that lead is considered a hazardous substance and that children six years of age and younger are most at risk for lead poisoning, especially toddlers, because they tend to put objects in their mouths.

"Not every key chain, key or product contains lead, but, when in doubt, take necessary precautions and keep items that you suspect might contain lead out of a child’s reach," Tiller Taylor said.

"Individuals also should wash their hands thoroughly before picking up or playing with a child as lead can be transferred to the child from an individual’s hands if they were handling an object that might contain lead."

Explaining that a child with an elevated blood lead level of 10-micrograms per deciliter or above needs follow up and repeated screening, Tiller-Taylor emphasized, "Children with elevated blood lead levels can suffer from learning disabilities, slowed mental development, hearing problems and stunted growth. Because lead accumulates in the body, exposure to even small amounts of lead can contribute to the overall blood lead levels and increases the risk of adverse health effects."

Other possible sources of lead exposure include:

  • Imported plastic mini-blinds

  • Cultural medicines including: Greta, Azarcon and Aylooah

  • Painted kitchen utensils

  • Cosmetics: Surma and Kohl, which are chalks found in eyeliners

  • Old toys painted with lead paint

  • Curtain weights

  • Antique dolls

  • Lead bullets

  • Burning of lead painted wood

  • Batteries

  • Bathtub glazes

  • Dirt

  • Leaded crystal glassware

  • Pool cue chalk

  • Imported ceramic/pottery dishes

  • Lead Solder

  • Colored inks (comics)

  • Plastic coatings on electrical wires

  • Colored foil seals on wine bottles

  • Some candy wrappers

  • Tamarindo jam pots (glaze)

Tiller Taylor said, "Parents and care givers should make certain that children do not mouth any objects not specifically intended for that purpose."

State health officials also noted that children adopted from foreign orphanages should be tested for lead.

Another product that has been identified as a source of lead exposure in children is lead-based paint.

Tiller Taylor added, "People also need to know the dangers of ingesting or inhaling dust from lead-based paint. It's important that people also understand that lead dust is just as toxic and that it is the age of the home that determines if lead is present, not the cost, or the income of the occupants."

A common myth exists that lead-based paint is found only in public housing or in apartments and homes rented by low-income families. "If a home was built before 1978, no matter what neighborhood it's located in, it most likely has some lead-based paint," Tiller-Taylor said.

The Colorado State Health Department provided the following tips for individuals who think their home might have high levels of lead:

  • Have young children tested by their health provider for lead poisoning, even if they seem healthy;

  • Wash children's hands often, especially before meals;

  • Wash children's pacifiers, bottles, and toys frequently;

  • Do not use dry sandpaper, dry scrapers, or a heat torch on painted surfaces that may contain lead;

  • Keep floors, window sills and other surfaces clean;

  • Make certain that children eat nutritious meals high in iron, calcium and vitamin C;

  • Wipe off shoes or remove them before entering the house;

  • Do not try to remove lead-based paint yourself. Use a professional, when possible.

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