I blogged a while back on the unsuspected hazards that might lurk in books, and the seemingly draconian regulations posted in library books in days of yore to deal with them.
Alas, it seems that the poor souls who drafted those regulations missed a trick: they did not consider the possibility that children's books might be actively dangerous in themselves, not just because of the dreadful germs they might have encountered. In America, any children's book published before 1985 is now considered an active menace to children, and may not be sold. The Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) is now in force, and has imposed very tight limits on the amount of lead any article bought for a child may contain. Books produced before 1985 may have had lead used in their printing inks, and hence the prohibition. Note the may there - some have lead, some haven't, so the law has helpfully produced a way round to stop you throwing away books you can actually sell. You pay for the book to be lead tested - and this is apparently not cheap.
There is an exemption for books which might be thought of as collectible, and so read by adults and not children, but all over America thrift stores and libraries are tarping off pre-1985 books, or throwing out the illicit child poisoners. If they don't, they risk a $100,000 dollar fine and maybe even imprisonment.
It seems absolutely mad, doesn't it? The nanny state gone completely stark, raving bonkers. The CPSIA was apparently sparked by the Chinese toy scandals: which I can entirely see - no one wants illegal lead in toys, but books? Surely you're more at risk from a vicious paper cut from a book than lead poisoning.
And if it's illegal to expose a child to lead in a pre-1985 book, I do wonder what this means for books people actually have in their houses now. Perhaps the children of bookdealers who work from home will be whisked off to safety until their homes can be de-contaminated.
So, here I sit, in what American legislators would probably consider a toxic fug, surrounded by piles of lethal literature. No wonder the dog's just insisted on going outside. Read more about the law here, here, and here.