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Finger paints containing lead and other elements

Finger paints
Finger paints are popular with young children as they are easy to use. Some finger paints contain lead or other potentially dangerous elements, however, and parents and carers should be aware of the risks when children come into contact with these.

Finger paints are, as the name suggests, paints that children can play with using their hands and fingers. 
Because children apply finger paints with their hands, they are quite likely to absorb or ingest substantial amounts of the paint. This is why finger paints can easily expose children to various harmful elements, including lead. It is therefore important that they are free of poisonous elements that could harm children.

See also Toys with lead and other elements.

Dangerous elements

The elements in finger paints that are known to be most harmful, at certain levels,  to children are:

  • antimony
  • arsenic
  • barium
  • cadmium
  • chromium
  • lead
  • mercury
  • selenium.

Lead and other elements can cause harm when consumed, inhaled or absorbed through the skin. Children can absorb up to 60 per cent of the lead they’re exposed to.

Young children often place toys in their mouth to explore them by sucking, mouthing and chewing on them, so they are especially vulnerable to dangerous elements in finger paints and other toys.

If children consume finger paints containing lead, or if they inhale lead or absorb it through their skin, they can suffer significant and sometimes permanent damage to their physical and mental health. In some cases, they can die.

Children can suffer similar serious health problems when exposed to any of the seven other elements listed previously.

Mandatory Standards

Mandatory Standards

The mandatory standard for toys and finger paints containing lead and other elements came into effect on 1 January 2010.


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