Saturday, January 24, 2009

Are Children's Books Health Hazzards?

We've all heard about the dangerous toys imported into this country from China - along with the Chinese-manufactured pet food that seems to have killed more than a few U.S. pets a few weeks ago.

Now parents have to worry that the storybooks they hope will inspire their children to become lifetime readers may be as toxic as those Chinese toys. Libraries and bookstores across the country seem to be faced with the possibility that they will have to clear their shelves of books aimed at readers under 12-years old until those books can be checked for toxic lead paints and plastic.

According to the Mercury News:
That little-known consequence of a law passed to protect kids from tainted toys has librarians and publishers lobbying furiously for an exemption before it takes effect Feb. 10. Without a reprieve, San Jose library officials say they could be forced to close their children's sections and send off all 700,000 volumes in them for safety testing.
Congress passed the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act in August to protect kids from exposure to lead and plastic. The law followed the discovery of lead paint in imported toy trains and mounting health concerns about baby bottles and toys containing phthalates, used to make some plastics more flexible.

Lawyers for the Consumer Product Safety Commission told publishers in a recent opinion that the law covers children's books as well as toys and applies retroactively to include library collections. All books aimed at kids under 12, the commission said, need to be tested to ensure they don't exceed the new lead and phthalate limits.

Although publishers presented the commission with evidence they say proves books don't pose any of the health risks to children that the law intended to address, the agency has yet to be convinced.
Applying this law retroactively to libraries and bookstores seems to me to be an impossible burden despite the fact that so many little ones keep their books in their mouths as much as they keep them in their hands. This is a tricky question but the word "overkill" does come to mind pretty quickly.


  1. My daughter never put her teeth on books, even at that young, young age. I can't imagine that a child ever died of doing such, have there been any incidents of that?

  2. I read this too, Sam and I gagged. Come on! What next!?!??! *laughs* Things keep getting weirder and weirder in our country when it comes to literature and "protecting" children!

  3. They don't call this a "nanny state" for nothing, Wendy. And I'm afraid it's going to get a whole lot worse under the new administration.

  4. Jeanne, I seriously doubt that anyone has ever died from "licking" a book...I wonder if brain damage is a possibility?

    Actually, the whole concept here just seems ridiculous to me.

  5. It's not about death from licking toys or books. It's about slow, toxic poisoning from everything we touch. Lead poisoning isn't a secret thing - we know it lowers IQ, is toxic to the kidneys and blood formation, and is a carcinogen (among other things?).

    Formaldehyde, arsenic, lead, phthalates.. it's on/in just about everything and some things worse than others, and it's causing damage to our children's bodies (they cannot process poisons like we can).

    It's not a joke or an overkill, unfortunately. As a mom of 4, a children's writer AND a recycled wool toy maker, this affects me greatly.. the new law is sweeping and HUGE and needs to be handled WAY better. But the GOAL is to save the health of our nation.

  6. Gina, I understand the seriousness of lead poisoning, especially as it pertains to children.

    However, I do think it is overkill to expect libraries and bookstores to clear their shelves, ship everything someplace for testing, and at some point in the distant future restock their shelves.

    It makes more sense to me to apply this law toward future library purchases, placing the burden on book publishers or importers, not on public libraries, forcing them to close their doors to children.

    I do hope they find a reasonable way to enforce this law. It's a great idea, no dobut - just one, though, that administered by the wrong people will cause a lot of unnecessary chaos.

  7. Oh absolutely - as I mentioned, it's being handled wrong.

    On February 10th, thousands upon thousands of small shops, book store, cloth diaper makers, and more will be shut down....and we don't need to be. Unless we can test every product going out the door for lead.

    There was an issue with consignment/Goodwill shops they already cleared up (at first, the law stated that NO clothes made before 02/10/09 could be resold).

    As far as the books, they can perhaps institute a compliance law over a period of time so that libraries and used book shops won't be devastated. I don't know, but I do know they didn't think this through.

  8. Looks like the libraries got a one-year reprieve, Gina. Hopefully, someone can come up with a plan that makes sense but, if they are truly worried about old library books, how in the world can they go a whole year without doing something?