08/15/07 — Toy recall widens

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Toy recall widens

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on August 15, 2007 1:46 PM

Parents concerned their children might have gotten hold of one of the toys on a nationwide recall list can find help right here at home.

But the first step, local childcare providers say, is to destroy any potentially dangerous toy.

Health officials say Wayne County has a good system in place to address potential problems with lead in children.

Wayne County ranks first in the state with blood lead testing among Medicaid children, testing 84.3 percent, said James Roosen, Health Director, adding that it ranks third in the state for testing all children.

"Medicaid are probably the most high risk -- may live in poverty, substandard housing," he said.

Once a child is identified with elevated blood levels, a specialist from the Health Department visits the home to identify the source of the problem, Roosen said. Typically, it has not been found to originate from toys.

The problem with toys, though, is that young children tend to put objects in their mouths and lead-laden things tend to have a sweet taste, he said.

Don Magoon, executive director of Smart Start, said Roosen helped his staff get the word out about the recall when the first one came three weeks ago.

"It's a huge issue. I hate to see this kind of thing happening but when you take (manufacturing) off-shore, you lose control."

Smart Start also receives regular communication from the Consumer Product Safety Commission and in turn conveys pertinent information to area daycare centers, he said.

Entities such as the Health Department and Goldsboro Pediatrics do a lot of lead screening for children of Wayne County. Fortunately, Magoon said, findings have been traditionally low.

"You have to do a lot to get lead in your bloodstream," he explained. "Generally they would have to break through the paint on those toys. ... Of course, kids put things in their mouths, so that's a problem."

Dr. David Tayloe of Goldsboro Pediatrics says his office does not see that many instances of high concentrations of lead in the bloodstream. That might be attributed to the proactive stance taken by the state years ago, providing universal lead screening.

"We screen all our 12-month-olds and 24-month-olds for toxicity," he said. "It's very easy to do the screen."

Describing the "pin prick" as being a quick way to assess, he said any time there are elevated levels of lead found, the child is immediately treated.

While his office rarely sees a child in that category, Tayloe said that on Monday it did happen.

The child, he said, "puts everything in his mouth." After test results came back indicating a problem, the family was referred to the hospital, Tayloe said.

Educating the public is important, he said, and so is the recall.

"We're probably not doing enough to get the message out that these toys here been recalled, but on the other hand, every one of our children between 12 and 24 months are getting blood screens," he said. "We do have that safety net that we're screening them all."

Magoon said recalling toys is a costly proposition.

"So far, we haven't found any of the things that are on the recall list in our lending library," he said, noting that his staff has been instructed to pull anything on the recall list from daycare centers.

The problem now lies with public reaction.

"One of my fears is that people that are paying attention will either throw the toys away or put them in a toy bin and donate them. Underprivileged kids would get them and think they're great," he said.

"I would encourage people to either send them back to Mattel or whoever else, or physically destroy them."

He also advised parents to consult the list of recall toys and abide by its directive.

"If they don't have Internet access, go to the library and print off the list or we could print it for them. I would be glad to do that for kids' safety," he said.

As for parents struggling with how to explain to their children why their favorite toys are being taken away, Kim Best, community services coordinator with Smart Start, offered several options.

"Parenting magazine suggests for parents who need to take toys away from their child, not to let your child see you throw his valued toy away," she said. "If your child is a baby, take the toy away while he is occupied and he may never know the difference. If your child is a toddler, because they sometimes are attached to certain toys, try distracting your child with a different toy, activity or treat before you take the specific toy away.

"If your child is older, try one of these suggestions that you feel will work best for your child. ....have the toy disappear while your child is away from home or sleeping, and if your child is upset by the disappearance of the favorite toy, you may need to find a suitable replacement toy."

Depending on the age, Ms. Best said, discussion might be another option.

"Talk with your child about the toy being dangerous and that it needs to go away," she said. "Being part of the disposal of the toy is another option ... Some children might feel better if they help pack the toy up and go with you to the post office to mail it back to the manufacturer.

"Of course, it would be great if the manufacturer offered a replacement toy and the child will have something to look forward to in the coming weeks."

After disposing of the toy, Ms. Best said parents might consider contacting their pediatrician and requesting an X-ray exam if there is a chance the child might have swallowed any part of the toy or loose magnet.