Arizona health officials issued a warning that the world's most popular casino chips are contaminated with high levels of lead. Paulson brand gaming chips found in 3 of every 4 casinos are manufactured and distributed by Gaming Partners International Corp. of Las Vegas. A sample of Paulson chips were tested by a private laboratory and all had excessive surface lead while half of the sample exceeded the federal limits for lead by more than 160 times. A separate random group of Paulson chips were tested and all exceeded the federal lead limits from a minimum of 4 times allowed up to one of the chips from a Las Vegas casino going completely off the charts with a 45% total lead content.
Gaming Partners International Corp. Chief Executive Gerard Charlier issued a statement saying, "...it objected to any implication its chips could pose a health hazard when used as designed."
Lead typically enters the body through inhalation (breathing airborne particles) or ingestion (swallowing). Most forms of lead cannot get through unbroken skin (leaded gasoline is an exception). Handling lead contaminated items such as poker chips will result in lead particles being on the hands and the lead can then enter the body when eating, touching your nose or mouth or rubbing your eyes. If you smoke lead can be transfered to the cigarette from the fingers and inhaled deep into the lungs with the smoke. Additionally, people that spend time handling chips know they become rounded and worn down from use and this process of degradation produces particles that can be inhaled or ingested.
Lead is especially harmful to children so extra precautions should be exercised if you are around kids after handling any of the contaminated Paulson chips. High end Paulson chip sets are sold for use in home games so consider keeping them away from the kids. The health hazards of lead exposure are well documented and readily available from many government and industry sources.