They've been around forever, and if your 5 year-old nephew is anything like mine then I'm betting he's got gobs of them winding their way through the living room and out into the hall But just over a week ago Thomas & Friends released a recall for about 1.5 million of the wooden toys due to the presence of lead in the bright red or yellow paint on them. In a recent column for the New York Times, Christian Warren, an expert on the history of lead poisoning points out that The Product Safety Commission is constantly issuing recalls of lead-tainted children's products, but that they're usually cheap one's that lack a distinctive brand name or following. Thomas & Friends are a much different story, as the cost can be anywhere from $10 to $70 bucks a pop to satisfy that nephew's craving, and the people who buy them are generally very much aware of the dangers of exposing their kids to contaminants of any kind. He goes on to point out that despite the outcry over this particular product, lead usage around the world is quite prevalent even though the U.S. has done a pretty good job of cleaning up the problem internally, and that to really rid the world's children of lead related health issues we're going to need a much broader framework that incorporates all nations to pull it off. Now I won't hold my breath waiting for that to happen, but before you suspect that the U.S. based company who owns the brand (RC2 Corp.) actually knew anything about the issue it seems that the Chinese manufacturer went ahead on their own and substituted highly leaded pigments for at least a portion of the lead-free paint the corporation specified in a bid to cut costs. So check out the toy box to see if any of Thomas's "friends" listed here and pictured above need to find their way back to the RC2 corporation, who promises to replace them with another one at no cost to you besides the serious amount of crying you may well have to endure... Though that may present a great opportunity to talk to the toys "owner" about making the difficult decisions that can have long-term benefits for both ourselves and the environment.