The US Consumer Product Safety Commission and toy company RC2 Corp have announced a recall of 1.5 million various Thomas and Friends wooden railway toys because they could contain dangerous amounts of lead. The lead is in the paint the toys are coated with and if ingested by young children it could make them seriously ill.

Consumers who have bought these toys should stop using them unless they are told otherwise by the authorities.

The toys affected are listed below. They are wooden vehicles, buildings and other parts for the Thomas and Friends train set which has the logo "Thomas & Friends Wooden Railway" in the top left hand corner of the package.

The manufacturing code is on the bottom of the product or inside the battery cover. Those marked with WJ or AZ are NOT included in this recall, says the announcement.

The toys that could contain poisonous amounts of lead in their surface paint are:
  • Red James Engine & Red James' # 5 Coal Tender.
  • Red Lights & Sounds James Engine & Red James' #5 Lights & Sounds Coal Tender.
  • James with Team Colors Engine & James with Team Colors #5 Coal Tender.
  • Red Skarloey Engine.
  • Brown & Yellow Old Slow Coach.
  • Red Hook & Ladder Truck & Red Water Tanker Truck.
  • Red Musical Caboose.
  • Red Sodor Line Caboose.
  • Red Coal Car labeled "2006 Day Out With Thomas" on the Side.
  • Red Baggage Car.
  • Red Holiday Caboose.
  • Red "Sodor Mail" Car.
  • Red Fire Brigade Truck.
  • Red Fire Brigade Train.
  • Deluxe Sodor Fire Station.
  • Red Coal Car.
  • Yellow Box Car.
  • Red Stop Sign.
  • Yellow Railroad Crossing Sign.
  • Yellow "Sodor Cargo Company" Cargo Piece.
  • Smelting Yard.
  • Ice Cream Factory.
Children are more vulnerable to lead poisoning than adults. Lead poisoning causes vomiting, diarrhea, convulsions, anemia, loss of appetite, abdominal pain, constipation, irritability, fatigue, constipation, difficulty sleeping, headaches and coma. It can be fatal.

There have been no reports of illness or injury so far.

The toys, which have been retailed throughout the US (and 90,000 in Canada) since the beginning of 2005 and sell for between 10 and 70 US dollars are made in China.

This product recall comes in the wake of several other health scares in the US involving imports from China, including pet food contaminated with melamine and toothpaste contaminated with DEG.

Consumers should take any of these toys away from children and they can contact the manufacturer for a replacement toy.

The recall hotlines are (US numbers): Firm's Recall Hotline: (866) 725-4407; CPSC Recall Hotline: (800) 638-2772.

Lead poisoning is a bigger threat to children than one might think. According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 1 million US children under 5 have high levels of lead in their blood, and more than 20 per cent of African American children living in old houses built before 1946 have high levels of lead in their blood.

Other sources of lead that children can be exposed to include: house paints, soil and dirt (especially near busy streets), drinking water (from old lead pipes) and a large range of other products, especially those coated with lead based paints such as imported window blinds. Take for instance a fisherman's lead sinker; it could be a fascinating play object that finds its way inadvertently into the pocket of a small child.

Lead poisoning can be subtle and many children do not show physical symptoms. The CDC now recommends children living in high risk areas should be screened.

Dangers and sources of lead exposure for children (US National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences).

Written by: Catharine Paddock
Writer: Medical News Today