The rubbery toys are roughly four inches long, with round heads and long bendable arms and legs. They come in various colors. The toys are stamped "Made in China" on the back of the head, and "China" on the back of the body. In recent tests run on three of these toys, lead levels ranged from 0.24 to 0.4 percent lead. The Code of Federal Regulations stipulates that lead may constitute no more than 0.06 percent of the weight of the paint applied to a toy.
The main risk posed by these toys is the possibility that children might chew on them and swallow part of the toy, and thereby absorb unsafe amounts of lead into the bloodstream. The toys are not hazardous to touch. Young children, infants, and developing fetuses are at greatest risk of lead poisoning because their bodies absorb more lead and their brains and bodies are still developing.
"We are currently unaware of any children in Alaska who have become ill or who have elevated lead concentrations because of the toys," said Dr. Joe McLaughlin, Medical Epidemiologist with the Alaska Division of Public Health. Since prolonged exposure to lead in young children has been associated with lifelong learning disabilities and behavioral disorders, he encourages parents to consult with a healthcare provider if they think their child has swallowed any portion of the toys.
Approximately 2,400 toys were obtained by about 72 libraries in Alaska. It is not known how many toys may have already been given away to children. The company that supplies the toys to libraries, Highsmith Inc., has issued a voluntary recall of the product.
"Librarians involved in the summer reading program are appalled to think that something they distributed might pose a risk to the children they serve, so we notified the health department and the libraries involved right away. We really hope parents will search their children's toy boxes and return these toys to their local library as soon as possible," said Sue Sherif, School Library/Youth Services Coordinator for the Alaska State Library.
State public health officials advise parents whose children have the toys to return them to the library where they were obtained. Local libraries will either return the toys to Highsmith Inc. or send them to a central collection facility for safe disposal.
For more information on the hazards of lead, please visit: