Old Wives' Tales
Radio & TV
Toxin du jour
Claim: Some brands of sidewalk chalk have contained high levels of lead.
Example: [Collected via e-mail, March 2007]
Origins: This e-mailed alert began circulating on the Internet in March 2007. While we don't yet know the specific product referenced in the letter (the manufacturer wasn't named), there was indeed a recall of certain brands of sidewalk chalk in 2003 because they were found to contain excessive amounts of lead.
In 2003, voluntary recalls were issued by both Target and
Given that there does not appear to be a current Consumer Products and Safety Commission alert about sidewalk chalk, there is reason to believe the March 2007
As to why this matter is of note, while exposure to lead presents a hazard to all, it poses an especial danger to children. Additional care must be taken to limit their exposure to it.
Lead poisoning can reportedly lower intelligence, cause mental retardation, memory problems, depression, fatigue, hyperactivity, aggression, hearing loss, liver or kidney damage, osteoporosis, high blood pressure and anemia. Very high levels can damage the nervous system, kidneys and major organs and even result in seizures or death. It can also lead to infertility in men and cause spontaneous abortion in women. In the final stages of lead poisoning, the victim experiences convulsions, paralysis, blindness, delusions, and then coma. People can and have died of lead
In times long past, lead was to be found in numerous everyday items, including cisterns and aquaducts, pottery, pans, hair dyes, cosmetics, and medical nostrums. Toy soldiers were cast in it. Port wine was protected by it. Church roofs were covered with it. The presence of lead in everyday life has since been considerably reduced and our bodies are far less riddled with this deadly substance than were those of our ancestors, but this element will likely always be part of our surroundings and of us.
The two major sources of lead poisoning in the United States have been lead-based paint, which was restricted in 1978, and leaded gasoline, which was phased out in the early 1990s. However, lead is still found in paint manufactured before 1978, in soil and dust (particularly next to busy roads or factories), in some imported or handmade pottery and tableware, and in imported home remedies and cosmetics.
Yet most of the lead we take in comes from our diet. "The average daily diet probably contains more than
Because lead is a naturally-occurring element found in the soil, it does manage to get into things. Care therefore has to be taken by manufacturers to detect its presence in goods destined for consumer use. Various lead-laden gewgaws and foodstuffs do arrive on the market, however, especially among goods produced in other parts of the world and imported to the U.S. In 2004, California's attorney general sued dozens of companies that make or sell imported candies containing lead, and in 2005 the California Department of Health Services urged consumers to stay away from candy produced in Mexico that contained tamarind or chili powder after tests found possible lead contamination in those edibles. In 1994 an outbreak of lead poisoning in Hungary was traced to the use of that element by an unscrupulous or unknowing manufacturer as a colorant in paprika.
Barbara "get the lead out" Mikkelson
Last updated: 2 April 2007
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