Yes, vintage books can have lead! This 1954 Reprint of the 1926 children’s book “Winnie The Pooh” tested positive for lead and arsenic in the cover art. The lead (Pb) level came in at 3,999 +/- 94 parts per million (ppm) and the arsenic (As) level was 326 +/- 59 parts per million. This is the highest lead level I have ever found in testing a vintage book. In my experience, most vintage books come in at a lead (Pb) level in the 200 to 400 ppm range.
For context, the amount of lead that is considered unsafe in a modern item intended for use by children and manufactured today is anything 90 ppm or higher in the coating and anything 100 ppm or higher in the substrate. This book is therefore on my “very unsafe” list, especially since it is a painted coating on the cover and it is frequently handled by children. The interior pages also tested positive for lead at about 22 parts per million (+/- 6.) The book (both the cover and the pages) were negative for mercury (Hg) and cadmium (Cd.)
Safer Choice: Get a new copy! The words and the sentiment are the same and it will have been printed with child-safe inks! (Something you can confidently pass on to your grandchildren!)
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