Christmas is Nearly Here - Beware of Dangerous Children's Products

Recently, Excelligence Learning Corporation, which conducts business as Discount School Supply, has agreed to pay a hefty penalty for repeatedly importing children's products that contain a high level of lead. The California company agreed to the settlement after the Consumer Product Safety Commission made allegations in a civil action that the company knowingly imported and marketed dangerous products. The allegations stated that the company imported more than 33,000 units of children's products, over a seven year period, which contained dangerously high levels of lead paint. The allegations maintained that the importation of these products violated the federal lead paint ban. While the company agreed to pay the settlement, it denied that it knowingly violated the federal paint ban, which is intended in part to prevent the importation of products with dangerous lead levels.

The list of improperly imported products include shaving paint brushes, giant measuring charts, and play mats, all of which were to be handled and used by children on a daily basis. Even low levels of lead can cause major damage to infants and children, which is why this news regarding the school supply company is particularly disturbing. Indeed, minimal levels of lead can pose a serious threat to the central nervous system. Lead toxicity in a child's system has been determined to not only impair school performance, but to also to seriously affect cognitive functioning into early adulthood. It is especially disheartening to learn that a child's performance in school, and life in general, can be severely disrupted and impacted by the very supplies that are provided in the academic setting. According to the New England Journal of Medicine, presence of lead toxicity has been proven to impair academic success, including causing a much greater likelihood to fail to graduate from high school, lower class standing, more frequent absenteeism, extensive reading skills impairment, and deficits in vocabulary, motor skills, and hand-eye coordination. Clearly, this is a serious issue.

The symptoms of lead poisoning include: stomach pain, headaches, vomiting, confusion and disorientation, muscle weakness, seizures, hair loss and anemia (a low red blood cell count). High levels of lead can also cause kidney and bone marrow damage. The most common cause of lead poisoning comes from old paint. While lead paint has not been used in house paint since 1978, many older homes and apartments still have lead pain on their walls. Children, especially toddlers, often experiment by placing things in their mouth. Children can get lead poisoning by chewing on pieces of peeling paint that contain lead. Additionally, some companies continue to use lead paint. Some toy companies have even been found to recently be using lead paint, but these are usually imported products that were manufactured abroad.

It is good to know that the Consumer Product Safety Commission is continuing to crack-down on rogue companies that either use or import products that contain lead paint. As consumers, however, we need to be aware of the risks associated with purchasing imported products from countries that do not have such a regulatory body. To be sure, there are products, which contain lead paint, that have likely slipped through the cracks and continue to be sold in our stores. With Christmas around the corner, please pay special attention to the toys that you purchase for your children and immediately seek help from a physician if you suspect that your child has consumed lead paint or is exhibiting any of the symptoms of lead poisoning. Lead poisoning can be diagnosed with a blood test and can be treated. This warning comes on the heels of another report, prepared by Good Guide, which suggests that the popular Zhu Zhu pet toys contain dangerously high levels of tin and antimony. In the global economy, we are likely to see more and more products hitting our shelves from foreign lands. We each need to make sure that the toys and supplies we give to our children are free from dangerous contaminates.

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