It was a real shocker, because I always thought I was pretty healthy. But the Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) says the hundreds of books I read as a child were toxic, and have even taken steps to ensure that those sinister Garth Williams illustrated, peanut-butter-stained hard-covered islands of escapist bliss that I grew up on are incarcerated and ransomed at about $300 each
Although lead in ink was phased out in the late 1970s, there’s no date certain when it was abandoned altogether. Consequently, the Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) deems any children’s book printed prior to 1986 to be potentially toxic and thus unfit for library circulation, the Goodwill store, or your neighbor’s garage sale.
According to the CPSC: “[T]he Commission has tested older books and found books printed in the 1970s and earlier that exceed the lead limits. The retroactive applicability of the lead limits creates problems for libraries and used book stores because some older books were printed with inks containing lead in excess of the new lead content limits.”
However, the actual risk of lead exposure from older books ranks only about 0.5 on a scale of one to 10, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Nonetheless, the CPSC has urged libraries to put older children’s books in storage until they can be tested for lead toxicity—at a cost of $300 to $500 each.
All I can say is that if books were toxic prior to 1986, we must be a sickly lot indeed. I'm surprised we haven't been taken over by the Russians or Puerto Rico or something by now. Seriously, what are the symptoms of lead poisoning? Because you would think they'd been epidemic for centuries if this latest incarnation of busybody book burners is to be believed.
On the other hand, if it can be proved that lead poisoning causes adults to band together in alphabet-soup government offices and engage in hysterical paranoia over harmless levels of heavy metals in random inanimate objects, I will admit that perhaps there really is a problem.
Not likely though, but I have an idea that might secure an early release for Laura and the others… infect them with something that actually is dangerous to children, like the AIDS virus. Guaranteed those books will not only be back in school libraries ASAP, but kids will be encouraged to read them — as long as they wear gloves or course.