icon-arrow-down icon icon-arrow-fill-down icon icon-arrow-next icon icon-arrow-prev icon icon-tag-close icon
Is it safe to let baby suck on car keys?
Q: I was in the supermarket the other day, and I saw a mum give her baby her key ring so the baby could suck on the keys. Is this dangerous?
Giselle Costa Mesa
A: It can be dangerous to give a baby keys to play with and suck on. Unfortunately, most parents don’t know this. They give their babies key rings and keys to play with because they’re always at hand, and babies enjoy their jangling sound, sparkling appearance and easy-to-grasp size.

But home and car keys made of brass typically contain approximately 2 percent lead, since it makes them easier to cut. (Keys made of steel, nickel/silver, aluminum or chrome-plate typically contain lower levels of lead.) When a baby handles brass keys or puts them in her mouth, she can be exposed to dangerous amounts of lead. Young children are most susceptible to lead poisoning, which can cause serious delays in their growth and learning. For this reason, they should never be allowed to play with metal keys. Only plastic toys keys are safe.

Adults, especially pregnant women, should also beware of the danger of lead in brass keys. Handling keys can leave adults with dangerous levels of lead on their hands. It’s important to wash your hands after handling keys and before preparing food, eating, applying makeup or handling a baby. It’s also advised to avoid keeping food, gum or candy in your pocket or purse with your keys. In addition, you can place plastic or rubber covers over the heads of the keys to reduce your contact with the lead.

Karen Sokal-Gutierrez M.D., M.P.H. Pediatrician