Lead is poisonous: swallow enough and it can kill a child. And it is insidious: swallow the tiniest amount, and it can permanently damage the brain.
That's why decades ago the government moved to ban the use of lead in gasoline and paint, and why extensive federal, state and local health programs are in place to guide citizens who may be living in older housing, to test children for lead poisoning and to eliminate exposures once they have been identified.
And yet dime-store jewelry like charm necklaces can contain enough lead to kill, and the use of lead in these toys is unregulated, according to a story in today's USA Today. Guidelines help the government negotiate voluntary recalls with manufacturers -- that's it.
For the first time, the Consumer Product Safety Commission now is planning to impose rules that limit how much lead can leach out from jewelry. The rules are modeled on California's 2006 law on lead jewelry, and set limits similar to what governs paint and other toys. Critics have a laundry list of concerns with the new rule, which they say is too weak to adequately protect children.
It's good news that the government is finally acting, but children have been dying from this stuff for years, and uncounted many have likely been poisoned. Their IQs may be lower. They may not reach as far in life as they would have.
In other words, the cost of inaction is as unacceptable as it is incalculable.
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