Monday, March 30, 2009

Toxic Books?

A possible new danger has been detected in those beloved children's classics, any published before 1985. The possible danger cited — lead in the ink used for the printed word.

The danger isn't a clear and present one. Nonetheless, Congress has taken action to ban the books.

From this article in the Washington Post "Health" section:
Rachel Merrill, mother of three, was holding innocuous-seeming contraband in her hand at an Arlington Goodwill store earlier this month: a 1971 edition of "Little House on the Prairie." This copy of the children's classic had just become illegal to resell because of concerns that some old books contain lead in their ink.

Legislation passed by Congress last August in response to fears of lead-tainted toys imported from China went into effect last month. Consumer groups and safety advocates have praised it for its far-reaching protections. But libraries and book resellers such as Goodwill are worried about one small part of the law: a ban on distributing children's books printed before 1985.

According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, the agency charged with enforcing the act, lead in the books' inks could make its way into the mouths of little kids. Goodwill is calling for a change in the legislation even as it clears its shelves to comply, and libraries are worried they could be the next ones scrubbing their shelves.


Implementation of the new law has libraries and secondhand bookstores reeling. Although they could pay to have each old book tested, the cost ($300 to $600 a book, according to the American Library Association) makes that impractical.

The [Consumer Product Safety Commission] has advised libraries not to circulate old books while the agency reviews the situation....

"We're talking about tens of millions of books," said Emily Sheketoff, executive director of the Washington office of the American Library Association....
Of course, in order for children to suffer the deleterious effects of lead poisoning, they have to ingest the toxic element. The last time I checked, (1) children do not generally lick the pages of books, and (2) parents are responsible for keeping possibly dangerous items away from their toddler's prying hands and hungry mouths. Furthermore, I've never known of one single case of lead poisoning stemming from traces of lead in the printed word. Has anyone? In fact, according to this article:
Could a vintage, dog-eared copy of “The Cat in the Hat” or “Where the Wild Things Are” be hazardous to your children?

Probably not, according to the nation’s premier medical sleuths, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The CDC statement likely means that not one documented case of lead poisoing can be traced to the ink in children's classics.

The above-cited Washington Post article also states that the possibility of lead poisoning from the ink on the pages of older books is one of some controversy and dispute:
Scientists are emphatic that lead, which was common in paints before its use was banned in 1978, poses a threat to the neural development of small children. But they disagree about whether there is enough in the ink in children's books to warrant concern....

"On the scale of concerns to have about lead, this is very clearly not a high priority," said Ellen Silbergeld, a MacArthur scholar and professor of public health at Johns Hopkins University who is considered one of the leading experts on lead poisoning.

"It doesn't take a tremendous amount of intelligence to figure out what the highest-risk sources of lead are," Silbergeld said. "...I think this is just absurd, and I think it's disingenuous." She said that toys, poorly made jewelry and other trinkets were cause for much more alarm.
Nevertheless, in typical bureaucratic fashion, the federal government is barreling ahead with purging bookshelves of these children's classics. After all, Congress has so mandated.

The same kind of idiocy as we see in this nonsense with fussing and fuming over what likely amounts to no danger whatsoever also afflicts those in charge of various governmental oversights, both present and proposed. Today's Americans as a whole, however, continue to want more government intervention in all aspects of our lives — all "for our own good," of course. Thus, we see another example of governmental bureaucracy going too far and participaing in yet another wild goose chase.

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posted by Always On Watch @ 3/30/2009 09:00:00 PM