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CDC Report And Chinese Toys Give New Ammunition To Low Level Lead Poisoning Cases

Jan 28, 2008
Lead poisoning of young children is a well established public health concern. Most publicity in the past has focused on the hazards of lead based paint that was used extensively until the late 1960s and early 1970s in houses and apartments. Young children ingesting Paint chips, dust from lead paint, and soils containing lead paint dust are known to cause significant cognitive and neurological deficits.

More recently reports of high lead content in children's toys manufactured in China have added another source of lead to be worried about. Children chewing on toys or chips or dust from such toys, can have the same effect as exposure to chips and dust from lead based paint used in homes.

Now a newly issued report by the United States Center for Disease Control ("CDC") will raise the concerns about lead poisoning even higher.

The CDC Advisory Committee on Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention ("ACCLPP") issued a report that gives added support to claims that blood lead levels ("BLL") below 10 g/dL are harmful to young children. The report was published in the November issue of the journal "Pediatrics."

The report itself does not present original new study results on the health effects of low blood lead levels but rather presents findings of a review of other studies and data and followed up on a 2005 report of an ACCLPP workgroup that concluded that there was a statistically significant inverse relationship between blood lead levels and cognitive ability even when there was no overt, or obvious effects on the child.

The report does note difficulties in getting accurate BLL readings at such low levels and the margins of testing errors can be significant. It also acknowledges that BLL is only one of many factors affecting a young child's cognitive development.

Nevertheless, this report will provide more legal and scientific ammunition to claimants asserting that there is no safe blood lead level or threshold of exposure below which is safe. For many years, claimants and defendants in suits, and their hired experts, have been battling over how much exposure, how long the exposure must be, what level of lead in blood is sufficient to have caused harm. This report will likely be used by claimants to support lawsuits involving low blood lead levels and may spur more new lawsuits against more property owners with buildings that have or had lead paint even where the condition of the lead paint is good and where previous testing showed low but measurable levels of lead in the dust and soil.

Now with evidence of high lead levels in imported children's toys, manufacturers, distributors and retailers who have sold those toys may face greater liability risks and more lawsuits.

The CDC report also concludes that there is no currently effective treatment to reduce BLL's that are below 10 ug/dL. Thus, may also help claimants prove that these conditions are permanent.

As the science develops in this area, more litigation is bound to follow. In addition, federal and state regulators may tighten existing standards and increase enforcement of existing lead based paint hazard reduction laws.
About the Author
Randall Phillips is the Principal of Provizer and Phillips, P.C. of Bingham Farms, Mi; http://www.provizer-phillips.com; 248-642-0444; rphillips@p-ppc.com. His practice focuses on complex litigation such as toxic tort, environmental, professional liability, construction, and insurance coverage litigation
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