Books Contain Toxic Levels of Lead in Seattle Library



Local Seattle, Washington investigative reporters have allegedly found books in the children’s section of the city’s main library that contain lead. The team tested 18 books using a test with easy-to-read results. Two of the books contained high levels of lead. To make sure the readings were accurate they also had an independent certified lab do detailed chemical analysis on the books. The lab not only found the lead in the books, but said the levels were two-and-a-half times higher than their detection limit.

New federal laws go into effect this year targeting toys with lead in them, and that includes children’s books. The federal law states that in two years toys and books with 100 parts per million may not be sold or distributed in the US. The Consumer Product Safety Commission says products containing lead levels over 300 parts per million are considered hazardous. The books taken from the library and tested contained 456 and 546 parts per million.

The American Library Association has said in the past that there is no lead in any children’s book in any of the 16,000 branches across the country. When confronted with the news that two books in Seattle contain unsafe levels of lead, executive Emily Sheketoff said, “If there is a potential threat to children we want to know about it. But we’re not in a position to take tens of millions of books off the shelf and replace then, if you could even test them.” The ALA has been lobbying for a blanket exemption to testing for lead. As with most things in life, it’s a question of money. Dr. Bruce Lanphear, a former member of the United States EPA lead advisory panel says that before libraries are given an exemption, they’d better figure out the percentage of books that have lead in them and could be potentially dangerous.

The two books, Poems of Childhood and Japanese Children’s Stories, were both printed prior to 1983. All books printed after 2004 by major manufacturers of children’s books do not have traceable levels of lead.