Written by Doctor G

Tiny Lead Exposure: Worth the Worry?

Mini-Me’s very own suitcase that we bought this summer has been recalled because of lead content in the design on the surface of the case. She’s four, and she might be devastated when I tell her it has to be returned. Is it really that big of a deal? We have checked our tap water, we generally avoid toys that have paint that can chip, and we wash our hands before eating (most of the time). What would be the path of exposure with this kind of item and is it really necessary to eliminate every single lead exposure risk in our lives?

– Krysten from Cali

So there is a medical question here and a parenting question.

Medical issue first.

You will never find a doctor (myself included) that can bring herself to say “Go ahead and keep that known lead exposure in your child’s life.” We’re just not wired that way. That said, tiny amounts of lead exposure in a child who’s grown out of the oral phase (meaning a kid who doesn’t put everything in her mouth anymore) may not add up to a noticeable effect. You know your child, the item and how much she may or may not ingest – it is ok to leaven the scare culture around us with some common sense.

Two words of caution about my words of decreasing caution: 1. Do you have younger kids? If so, ditch the suitcase. 2. Are you willing to put a four- or five-year-old through another lead test? That is blood work and most kids resist it pretty loudly.

Now the parenting issue.

If you can afford to replace the suitcase, this is a pretty low-cost way to teach some resilience. Sometimes possessions are lost or taken away, not because we’ve done something wrong, just because there is a good reason. Your daughter can get some practice in managing her disappointment, and you get to know that the lead exposures you’re not aware of are not being compounded by a lead exposure you are aware of.

How do you teach your kids to manage their own disappointments? Any examples out there?

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3 thoughts on “Tiny Lead Exposure: Worth the Worry?”

  1. Follow-up: Mini-Me was just fine with it. She has asked to see the suitcase before I return it. She said she wanted a replacement suitcase that was “rainbow”. We found one online in less than ten minutes.

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