SACRAMENTO, Sept. 30 (UPI) -- Concerned about the threat of nagging injuries to students lugging overloaded heavy backpacks on their shoulders, California's governor signed a bill Monday that will lead to maximum weight limits for textbooks.
Gov. Gray Davis signed a measure requiring the State Board of Education to adopt weight limits for elementary and secondary books that will spare students from long-term soft-tissue damage caused by hauling around their entire collection of books every school day, and he also urged the agency to look into doing away with some dauntingly large books altogether.
"The mere adoption of maximum weight standards by the SDE will not resolve the issues of excessive backpack weight and the long-term health of pupils," Davis said in his signing message to the State Legislature. "Rapid advances in electronic technology demand that we look beyond the present system of providing a set of textbooks to each student."
The U.S. Consumer Products and Safety Commission has estimated that nationwide, nearly 7,000 children wound up in emergency rooms with aches and pains attributed to carrying backpacks that weigh as much as a whopping 40 pounds and are simply too heavy for children whose soft tissue, bones and muscles are still developing.
"Every year, we are seeing more and more children with stooped shoulders, sore necks and aching backs caused by carrying school backpacks that weigh nearly as much as they do," said Joseph C. Isaacs, executive director of the American Occupational Therapy Association. "It's foolish to needlessly jeopardize the health of children and occupational therapists are hoping to provide some common sense guidance on how to protect our kids."
The increasing number of students hauling around bulging backpacks has been attributed to an increase in homework and overcrowded schools that either don't have enough lockers for every student or that have eliminated lockers altogether in order to cut down on the hiding places for the presence of drugs and weapons on campus.
Parents are advised to keep backpack loads at no more than 15-percent of their child's body weight, or use packs that are equipped with wheels and can be pulled along like a suitcase.
(Reported by Hil Anderson, Los Angeles)