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Lead in Toys

By John Schulte                                                                                                                                        February 5, 2018

When I was growing up, there was lead in the paint on the walls which surrounded me in my house and in school. Some kids licked the walls and survived to tell the tale.

For jollies, we used to shoot bent paperclips into the acoustic tile and practically ate the asbestos which fell from the ceiling. After school, us boys would ride our bikes home and run out onto the freeway construction zone and play among all the backhoes and heavy machines. It was great. It was paradise.

When we got tired of playing in the dirty work area, we'd go back and play with our Major Matt Mason or G.I. Joe action figures. We relished in the way things worked, so Major Matt would get his limbs bent back and forth rapidly to get them to snap-off, exposing a hard and lethal wire frame — a metal armature running through the Major kept him heroically stiff and action pliable. With good hard play, the Major would lose his paint detailing, too. Where that lead paint went I never knew. I know I did not put the Major in my mouth. Maybe going to Catholic School helped me sort out stuff like that.

Truthfully, I probably tasted some lead toys at a much earlier age and decided it wasn't very smart to do so. Perhaps I lost a brain cell or two. But somehow, I knew that Communion wafers were okay and that lead painted toys were not okay. Why can't kids learn that today? Where have we failed? We have raised boys who are afraid to play on the freeway as it's being built.

As I think back on when this trend started, it was shortly after society started acknowledging and condemning promiscuous behavior at the same time. Kids today are mixed up: they don't know if they are coming or going. They are taught to say no to drugs, but then see their parents or teachers indulging in them. Should we allow our kids explore the wilderness of youth — to teach them all kinds of subtle stuff.

I remember being able to buy caustic chemicals for my chemistry set at the local drugstore — by myself, no I.D., as a minor! Now as an adult, I can't even buy an antihistamine without having to go to the counter to ask the pharmacist, show my driver's license, and leave a thumbprint. No lead in toys opened the door to no phthalates in plastic. Can anyone even pronounce phthalates?

Some safety measures make sense: it’s smart to have seat belts, for instance. I remember being bounced around in the back of a Jeep in the Sixties on a road trip to Cleveland. That wasn’t a safe way to travel. And my Guardian Angel worked overtime on that trip, because Lake Eerie was ablaze from petroleum floating on the surface. So I’m not anti-safety. But isn’t a little lead exposure inevitable? No lead in baby toys, of course. But if it’s in our dolls and action figures — you know, big kid toys — kids can be taught and learn not to put those toys in their mouths. The world would be a better, safer place, then. I can practically taste it.

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Lead in Toys

When I was growing up, there was lead in the paint on the walls which surrounded me in my house and in school. Some kids licked the walls and survived to tell the tale... More