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  • David L. Kent
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    @davidlkent
    7 years, 2 months ago

    Two recent items in the forum addressed the question of risks in using type metal. While google produces a variety of opinions, the fact is that lead type (an alloy of lead, tin, and antimony) is dangerous only to those who allow a cabinet of type to fall on them, or allow type to oxidize and then chew on it. The ordinary use of type is not dangerous to health. The lead scare began decades ago when the Environmental Protection Agency decided that babies could (hypothetically) chew on lead paint chips and fall over dead behind their mothers’ backs. The EPA kept up this lead scare over the years, despite the evidence to the contrary that type metal was not toxic, most recently attempting to mandate that American libraries destroy all their collections of children’s books. These were printed using lead type, were they not, with the result of the poisoning of millions upon millions of The Children. But librarians are not a group to be bullied, and the blowback was so enormous, from libraries and the general public, that the EPA withdrew this claim–which could factually be proved to be false–to retain its non-existent credibility. The EPA is the classic case study of a government agency staffed with well-meaning know-nothings turning into a worthless, harmful agency. The EPA, not lead type, is toxic. How do you research the facts on this issue? The only people who know whether “lead” type is dangerous are those who have experience in using it. It is largely thanks to Richard Hopkins and the American Typecasting Fellowship Newsletter (which he began in 1978 and continues today) that the question can be answered factually. These are the articles appearing in the Newsletter addressing Health and Safety issues:

    1) “A Guy Who Wasn’t Careful” (11/1991), Issue 15, page 3

    2) “Lead Poisoning: Some Practical Observations” (11/1991), 15:3

    3) “An Ounce of Prevention?” (7/1993), 17:28

    4) “U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics 1925 Report: Lead Poisoning is Statistically Remote” (6/1994), 18:36

    5) “Treating Metal Burns” (1/1996), 1913

    6) “The Perils of Lead Just Not an Issue If Facts Are Studied”, by Stanley Nelson (11/1999), 24:36

    7) “Lead Poisoning Hysteria Bans Old Children’s Books” (10/2009) 33:40

    8) “Spoof on Burn Treatment Dismissed” (7/2012), 36:2

    If you would like copies of any of these articles, email Richard L. Hopkins: wvtypenut@frontier.com, and although he is a very busy man and some issues are out of print, he may be able to help you.

    David L. Kent, archivist, Amalgamated Printers’ Association

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