I'm a bit out of my dollar store bailiwick here but feel compelled to report on an investigation that the Toronto Star Newspaper did on lead levels found in toys throughout the Greater Toronto Area.

Apparently, dangerously high levels of lead were found in toys, knick-knacks and costume jewelery at retailers both big and small. The Star used two types of high-tech tests to discover lead in things like a baby pacifier sold at a dollar store, a Hannah Montana bracelet, found at a Wal-mart, and even in part of the costume of a stuffed toy bought at a souvenir shop in the airport.

At a toy store called Animal Crackers, a jewelery kit billed as lead-free was far from it. An anchor-shaped pendant in the kit had nearly double the legal limit for lead and the necklace clasp tested at 150 times the limit. When confronted with the facts, the store owner immediately trashed the remaining jewelery kits that were still on display. As an independent store owner, he says he can't afford to have everything he sells tested and says that job belongs to the government. Dangerous products should never be allowed into the country but, evidently, our so-called safeguards have more play in them than a swinging door.

Typical symptoms of lead poisoning include irritability, a drop in IQ and poor school performance and can easily be confused with other ailments, even by doctors. Mouthing a lead-laced toy repeatedly or swallowing a heavily leaded item could bring on a range of symptoms from a prolonged period of vomiting, diarrhea and cramping and, possibly, death, although thankfully, the latter has been a rare occurrence.

Yes, most of these leaded items come from China, as did the tainted pet food and other unsafe products. So when do we stop accepting these things into the country? There's nothing like putting out the unwelcome mat to get manufacturers to clean up their respective acts.

Marlene Alexander is a freelance writer and dollar store diva. She writes ideas and tips for decorating using only items from the dollar store.


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