Vintage children's books could be pulled from public libraries due to possible lead content.Submitted by alwayssimon on Tue, 03/17/2009 - 16:03
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Could a vintage, dog-eared copy of "The Cat in the Hat" or "Where the Wild Things Are" be hazardous to your children?
The Consumer Product Safety Commission has raised that possibility in 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.
Few, if any, libraries are complying, and many librarians are ridiculing the recommendation as alarmist. Even the nation's premier medical sleuths, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, say 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.
Lead poisoning has been linked to irreversible learning disabilities and behavioral problems.
A federal law passed last summer and effective Feb. 10 bans lead beyond minute levels in most products intended for children 12 or younger. It was passed after a string of toy recalls. The CPSC 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 the commission still must study the lead content in books printed before 1986. The CPSC delayed until next year the lead testing required as part of the law.
Until the testing is done, the nation's more than 116,000 public and school libraries "should take steps to ensure that the children aren't accessing those books," Wolfson said. "Steps can be taken to put them in an area on hold until the Consumer Product Safety Commission can give further guidance."