skip navigation , health centers and clinics , search , accessibility statement , Página en español ,
Contra Costa Health Services
contact us

Topics > Healthy Outlook > Hazardous Lead Can Lurk in Surprising Places

Hazardous Lead Can Lurk in Surprising Places

Published by Contra Costa Times

Posted on Fri., Oct. 03, 2007
By Joanne Genêt, MLS, PA and Gail Doyle

THE ALARMING number of recalled lead-containing toys and lunchboxes remind us that that we need to be vigilant to protect children from lead.

Lead can be where we least expect it.

The state Department of Public Health has recalled lead-contaminated lunchboxes that had been distributed as part of its Eat 5 (fruits and vegetables) a Day campaign and the Consumer Product Safety Commission has recalled more than 2 million toys contaminated by lead.

Individually, a toy or a lunchbox may not pose a serious threat, but lead from multiple sources can add up to a significant total body "burden" of lead.

Young children who normally touch and taste everything are most at risk. Lead can permanently damage a young child's developing brain and nervous system, which can result in learning and behavior problems in their future.

Common sources of lead

Children are usually poisoned by lead that gets into the body through the mouth. House dust that is contaminated by old lead-based paint, found in homes built before 1978, is the most common source.

To safeguard against this, parents need to remember to remodel and repair homes using lead-safe work practices. Other potential sources of lead in the home are toys, lunchboxes, jewelry, fishing sinkers, older vinyl miniblinds, and some ceramics.

These household items can be tested for lead using an inexpensive test kit available at hardware and paint stores. This test, while not completely accurate, can often give an indication of lead in an item.

What can parents do?

Lead-poisoned children usually don't look sick. The only way to know for sure is to get a blood test for lead. This is usually done at a child's regular 1- and 2-year checkups, but can be done at any age.

Parents should talk with their doctor if they are worried about lead. The impacts of lead poisoning can be reduced - but only if you know it's there.

Keep aware of recalls of toys and other children's products for lead and other safety issues. Remove the recalled items from your children and dispose of them safely.

Most recalled toys can be returned to the manufacturer for a refund or replacement. Return the CDPH lunchboxes to the agency where you got them. If you choose to throw recalled items away, wrap them so that other children do not pick them up.

There are drop-off sites for toys and lunchboxes located at the Contra Costa Lead Poisoning Prevention Project (LPPP) office or any Contra Costa supervisor's office. Drop-off sites are open during business hours (8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday). Drop-off sites locations are:

  • LPPP, 597 Center Ave., Martinez; call 866-349-5323
  • District 1 Supervisor John Gioia, 11780 San Pablo Ave., Suite D, El Cerrito; call 510-374-3231
  • District 2 Supervisor Gayle Uilkema, 651 Pine St., Room 108A, Martinez; call 925-335-1046
  • District 3 Supervisor Mary Piepho, 309 Diablo Road, Danville; call 925-820-8683; or 1200 Central Blvd., Suite B, Brentwood; call 925-240-7260
  • District 4 Supervisor Susan Bonilla, 2151 Salvio St., Suite R, Concord; call 925-521-7100
  • District 5 Supervisor Federal Glover, 315 E. Leland Road, Pittsburg; call 925-427-8138

For more information on the lunchbox and toy recalls, lead poisoning prevention, and blood lead testing, visit the LPPP Web site at or call 866-349-5323.

The CDPH lunchbox warning can be found at

Joanne Genêt is the manager of the Lead Poisoning Prevention Project of Contra Costa Health Services; Gail Doyle is the project's health educator.

Contra Costa County home page