CHARLESTON -- If you are a parent, guardian, babysitter or even a passer-by then you know that children are notorious for constantly putting things into their mouths whether it is food, a toy, or even dirt.

An immediate concern is usually that the child will choke on whatever they have naively chosen to put into their mouth. However, The West Virginia Attorney General's office now warns parents and guardians of a different concern: lead poisoning.

Many of our children's favorite toys unfortunately contain dangerous levels of lead, and their use should be monitored. The most common and serious threat to youngsters are toys and children's jewelry. It is also important to keep our children's hands clean because they can also be exposed to lead poisoning by handling toys and then putting their hands in their mouths.

Don't throw out your children's favorite toys just yet. The West Virginia Attorney General's office encourages parents and guardians to look for signs of lead in their children's toys and jewelry.

Parents and guardians are urged to be wary of dull, grey looking metal pieces that feel heavy for their size as these may be a thin veneer of paint, colored metal or plastic covering the lead. Toys and jewelry which leave a grey mark when rubbed on a sheet of paper may also contain lead. Toys that come in bright colors, particularly orange and red should also be avoided or allowed only under supervision.

It is also important that parents and guardians pay close attention to toys which are bendable or made of soft plastic because lead may have been used as a softness stabilizer. Finally, metal toy jewelry sold in vending machines, while extremely appealing to children, should be avoided.

Lead poisoning negatively affects a child's health and future. Lead is known to interfere with brain development and can lead to behavioral problems as well as a reduction in I.Q. If you worry that your child has already been exposed to lead, see your health care provider immediately. There is no symptom solely indicative of lead poisoning, but some symptoms may include a loss in appetite, abdominal pain, constipation, fatigue, sleeplessness, irritability and headache.

For a list of toys and jewelry that have been recalled due to lead content, visit the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) Web site at or visit the Web site of the West Virginia Attorney General's office at Look for "recalled products" and "product recalls" respectively.

If your child has swallowed or come into oral contact with any of these recalled items or any other item containing lead, please contact the West Virginia Poison Control Center toll-free at 1-800-222-1222.

McGraw is West Virginia's Attorney General.

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