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Did You Know? Hidden Lead

Hidden Lead: Play Jewelry, Candle Wicks, Vinyl Lunch Boxes, Curtain Weights and More

Many Americans are aware that homes built before 1978 may contain lead-based paint. But other sources of lead include costume or play jewelry, vinyl lunch boxes, older candles that may have leaded wicks, and more. Children are particularly susceptible to the brain-damaging effects of lead, because of their frequent hand-to-mouth activity and rapid development. When in doubt, check a suspect item with an at-home lead-test kit available at hardware stores, or simply avoid these products.

Certain vinyl lunch boxes imported from China may contain lead. Avoid them when possible, and instead buy cloth bags, metal or hard plastic lunch boxes. If you have a vinyl lunch box, check it for lead using an inexpensive, home lead-test kit. To view information from the FDA on vinyl lunch boxes.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission banned the sale of leaded candle wicks as of October 2003. If you have older candles at home, make sure the wicks are lead-free. Avoid older candles with wicks containing a metal thread, or core. Safe alternatives to lead-core wicks include zinc, synthetic fibers, cotton and paper. Currently, candles that use a metallic core in the wick most likely contain zinc, but check with the manufacturer or retailer if you are unsure. For more information, see www.cpsc.gov (Press Release # 03-105, April 7, 2003)
Be aware that metal weights in curtains, draperies, and shower curtain hems may be lead. Remove them, or make sure that the lead pieces cannot come out of the hem.
Be aware of keys (which can contain small amounts of lead), pewter figurines, lead sinkers for fishing, lead soldiers and other collectible figurines.
Colored newsprint, including comic books, may contain lead.
Colored food wrappers (ink printed on plastic bags) may contain lead, so do not reuse them.
Older ceramic dishes, and imported dishes, may contain lead.
Only purchase makeup that lists all ingredients on the label, and make sure lead is not present. Avoid imported eyeliner and imported face paint for children.
Pre-1980s plumbing systems may contain lead, so have your home water checked for lead if in doubt. Always let water run for 30 seconds to flush pipes when they have not been used for several hours, and be sure to use only cold water for cooking and drinking.


Birds of Spring Show Mercury Contamination
A report from the National Wildlife Federation found that all 178 woodland birds tested in New York State showed unusually high levels of mercury in their blood and feathers. The findings strongly suggest that contamination of this toxic substance has spread wider in the environment than previously estimated. Mercury contamination in water and fish has been well documented, but this study for the first time shows contamination in birds that do not live near water and do not consume fish. For more information on the findings of biologist David C. Evers of the Biodiversity Research Institute.

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