Concentration of lead in imported plastic toys, safety to children and associated factors in Lusaka city, Zambia
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Lead poisoning has been a constant public health concern because children absorb more lead compared to adults. The resulting health effects are irreversible and include decreased cognitive functions development and death. Lead exposure to children is in various ways and one of the ways is use of toys contaminated with lead. The allowable international standards for Lead in plastic toys is 90 ppm and this study established levels ranged from 0.001 to 2,100 ppm. The study used an analytical cross-sectional design in which 108 toys were collected from 18 randomly selected stores in Lusaka City. The toys were subjected to X-ray Fluorescence using Nilton gun machine to determine lead concentration. Stata version 12.0 was used for statistical analysis. Bivariate regression was used to test for association between independent and dependent variables at P < 0.05. Toys with lead levels above the recommended international standard of 90 ppm constituted 18.5% (20) of the total sample while 81.5% (88) toys had lead concentration within the standard. The concentration of lead had a median of 0.001 ppm and (IQR 0.001 – 60.5 ppm). Toys for children above the age of 2 years had higher lead levels of 105 ppm compared to those for children below 2 years with levels of 9.75 ppm. Toys in the midrange cost category of 16 -25 ZMK had higher levels of 232.5 ppm compared to toys in the low and high cost category of 2-15 and 36-190 ZMK. Lead levels were high in multi coloured toys (102 ppm) compared to the mean for single colours Toys of animal shape had higher lead levels of 105.5 ppm compared to toys in the miscellaneous and repetitive shape categories which had 90 and 0.001 ppm respectively. However, the association between these factors (colour, type, cost, child age category of the toy) and the concentration of lead in the toys was not statistically significant with P > 0.05. This study established that 18.5% of the toys were above the acceptable limit of lead, with some toys having lead levels 23 times higher than the internationally acceptable standard of 90ppm. There is therefore urgent need for regulatory bodies (ZEMA and ZABS) to develop standards and policy on lead in toys to ensure protection of children from lead poisoning.
The University of Zambia