Aug. 2, 2007 -- Kids are in no immediate danger from the lead-painted Fisher-Price toys recalled today, health experts say. But it is vitally important to get rid of the toys right away.
The recall affects nearly a million Fisher-Price toys sold for $5 to $40 across the U.S. from May to August 2007. The toys included popular Sesame Street and Dora the Explorer characters. All of the toys were made in China.
Prolonged mouthing of the toys, for hours at a time over several days, could give kids a significant lead exposure. Chewing the toys could increase the exposure. Simply touching the toys is not a problem, as lead cannot be absorbed through the skin.
If parents don't get rid of the toys, the problem increases as the paint on the toys ages and comes off more easily. Do not burn the toys, as lead fumes can be inhaled.
"Parents need to know it is not an acute problem if a kid just touches and plays with one of these toys," John Benitez, MD, director of the Lawrence Poison and Drug Information Center at the University of Rochester, N.Y., tells WebMD. "But if a child sits and chews on the toy for weeks and months and absorbs the lead from the paint, that becomes a risk."
That is also the opinion of Robert J. Geller, MD, medical director of the Georgia Poison Center, chief of pediatrics at Atlanta's Grady Health System, and associate professor of pediatrics at Emory University School of Medicine.
"If the child is playing with the toy, not chewing on it or sucking on it, it is not a danger," Geller tells WebMD. "The risk is the paint being eaten in some way, or creating dust from the toy as from sanding it. Just scraping the toy along the sidewalk is not an issue."
Lead poisoning occurs when toxic levels of lead build up in the body. Because the body is slow to get rid of lead, the poisonous metal can build up in the body with repeated exposures over time.
"For most American children, their lead level is far below the level that causes rapid onset of symptoms," Geller says. "The average American child's lead blood level is a 2 or a 3, and the level of acute effects is around 50."
Geller and Benitez say children who ingest dangerous levels of lead don't usually show symptoms right away. Over time, a child with high lead levels may complain of tiredness and bellyache. Eventually, school performance declines.
Parents worried about whether their child has a high lead level can get a simple, inexpensive blood test from their pediatrician. Test results usually come back within two days, Geller says.
"The reason for concern is there is no good level of lead in the body," Geller says. "Over the long term, persisting lead levels contribute to worse school performance. So we want to eliminate all the sources of lead exposure we can."
Parents should act immediately to return the toys. Fisher-Price is offering a voucher for a safe replacement toy of the same value.
A spokesman for the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission says the agency is investigating whether criminal charges will be brought.
"This is a situation where Fisher-Price brought into this country a banned hazardous product," Scott Wolfson tells WebMD. "For 30 years, there has been a ban on lead accessible on children's toys. What we are concerned about is prolonged exposure of young children from mouthing the surface paint of these toys, which could lead to lead poisoning."
"The law is clear," Wolfson says. "Children should not be potentially at risk of lead exposure."
Any parent who suspects that the toys have injured their child should call the CPSC hotline at (800) 638-2772.
Fisher-Price is owned by Mattel Inc. In a news release, Mattel says it is conducting its own investigation into how its own standards were violated.
"We apologize to everyone affected by this recall, especially those who bought the toys in question," Robert A. Eckert, chairman and chief executive officer of Mattel, says in the news release. "We realize that parents trust us with what is most precious to them -- their children. And we also recognize that trust is earned. Our goal is to correct this problem, improve our systems, and maintain the trust of the families that have allowed us to be part of their lives by acting responsibly and quickly to address their concerns."
Mattel has its own recall hotline: (800) 916-4498.
List of Recalled Toys
The recalled toys were sold separately or as parts of sets. All of the toys are marked with "Fisher-Price."
Here is the list of toys included in the recall, along with their product numbers:
33662 Elmo Light Up Musical Pal
33664 Big Bird Light Up Musical Pal
39038 Elmo Tub Sub
87946 Elmo Keyboard
90609 Elmo Collectible
90612 Zoe Collectible
90614 Big Bird Collectible
93068 Elmo Boom Box
93307 Press N Go Elmo
93492 Cookie Saxophone
93615 Splash Tub Puzzle
B7554 Count To Beat Elmo
B7987 Elmo In The Giggle Box
B9620 Dora's Talking House
C6908 Dora, Backpack, Perrito Figure Pack
C6909 Diego Figure Pack
C6911 Boots, Tico Figure Pack
G5112 Sing With Elmo's Greatest Hits
H2943 Grow With Me Elmo Sprinkler
H3344 Birthday Dora
H5570 Elmo & Pals (Elmo, Zoe, Bigbird)
H4628 Water Fun Tote
H8237 Blue 3 Pack Figures In Tube
H9124 Chef Dora
H9186 Giggle Grabber Ernie
J0338 Diego Talking Field Journal
J0344 Go Diego Go Deep Sea Rescue
J0346 Go Diego Go Talking Rescue 4 X 4
J5936 Giggle Grabber Chef Cookie Monster
J6537 Sesame Street Giggle Toolbelt
J6763 Royal Boots And Tico
J7983 Sesame Street Tub Pots & Pans
J9692 Dora's Talking Pony Place
K3414 Diego - Talking Gadget Belt
K3580 Fairytale Adventure Dora
K4140 Toucan Motorcycle Rescue
L3194 Surprise Inside Diego Eggs
L3488 Sesame Street Birthday Figure Pack
L3507 Sesame Street - Super Boom Box
L5202 Birthday Dora
L8905 Pablo & Pals
M0352 Dora Figures Diego & Bear
M0527 Sesame Street Giggle Doodler
M2051 Lets Go Rescue Center
33663 Ernie Light Up Musical Pal
34658 Elmo Stacking Rings
39054 Sesame Street Shape Sorter
90267 Ernie Splashin' Fun Trike
90611 Cookie Collectible
90613 Ernie Collectible
90745 Construction Playset
93107 Action Fire Engine
93308 Rev & Go Cookie Monster
93493 Elmo's Guitar
93780 Music And Lights Phone
B7888 Shake, Giggle & Roll
B7989 Silly Parts Talking Elmo
C6910 Swiper Figure Pack
G3825 Dora Talking Vamonos Van
G9717 Giggle Doodler
H3343 Cousin Daisy
H5569 Elmo & Pals (Elmo, Cookie, Ernie)
H4187 Dora Figures In Tube
H8236 Dora 3 Pack Figures In Tube
H8238 Sponge Bob 3 Pack Figures In Tube
H9125 Bedtime Dora
H9188 Giggle Grabber Oscar The Grouch
J0343 Go Diego Go Antarctic Rescue
J0345 Go Diego Go Mountain Rescue
J5935 Giggle Grabber Soccer Elmo
J6762 Queen Mami
J6765 Prince Diego
J9518 Sesame Street Giggle Drill
K0617 Twins Nursery
K3571 Go Diego Go Mobile Rescue Unit
K4139 Go Diego Go Dinosaur Rescue
L0305 Dora Figure
L3215 Sesame Street Elmo Jack-In-The-Box
L5813 Diego Tub Trike
M0351 Dora Figures Dora & Kitty
M0524 Go Diego Go Talking Gadget
M0732 Dora's Talking House
M2052 Fairytale Castle