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Group Wants Vintage Books Off Shelves

by The Kid's Doctor Staff

You might want to think twice about giving your child an heirloom from that you have saved from your childhood. The Consumer Products Safety Commission says vintage, dog-eared copies of some books could be hazardous to your children.

The CPSC is urging the nation’s libraries to take children’s books printed before 1986 off their shelves while the federal agency investigates whether the ink contains unsafe levels of lead. However, few, if any, libraries are complying and many librarians are ridiculing the recommendation as alarmist. Even the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says any danger from lead in children’s books is slight.

“We’re talking about tens of millions of copies of children’s books that are perfectly safe. I wish a reasonable, rational person would just say, ‘This is stupid. What are we doing?’” said Emily Sheketoff, executive director of the American Library Association’s Washington office.

A federal law passed in the summer of 2008 and effective February 10, 2009 bans lead beyond minute levels in most products intended for children 12 or younger. It was passed after a string of toy recalls. The CPSD is interpreting the law to include books.

CPSC spokesman Scott Wolfson said libraries can safely lend any children’s book printed in 1986 or later, by which time a growing body of regulations had removed lead from printer’s ink. But he said the commission must still study the lead content in books printed before 1986. The CPSD delayed until 2010 the lead testing required as part of the law.

Until the testing is done, Wolfson said the nation’s more than 116,000 public and school libraries “should take steps to ensure that the children aren’t accessing these books.” “Steps can be taken to put them in an area on hold until the Consumer Products Safety Commission can give further guidance.”

But Jay Dempsey, a health communications specialist at the CDC, said lead-based ink in children’s books poses little danger. “If that child were to actually start mouthing the book, as some children put everything in their mouths, that’s where the concern would be,” Dempsey said. “But on a scare of one to 10, this is like a 0.5 level of concern.”

Lead poisoning has been linked to irreversible learning disabilities and behavioral problems.

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