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Heavy Backpacks Injure Students

The U.S. Consumer Products and Safety Commission reported that nearly 7,000 American children were injured last year because of the weight of textbooks they carried in their backpacks.

The U.S. Consumer Products and Safety Commission reported that nearly 7,000 American children were injured last year because of the weight of textbooks they carried in their backpacks.

The commission noted that some kids’ backpacks weigh around 44 pounds. The weight of a child’s backpack should be no more than 20 percent of the child’s weight, according to federal health recommendations. That means a 120-pound child shouldn’t carry more than 24 pounds.

In California, legislators decided to make the issue one of law. Gov. Gray Davis signed a bill last week limiting the weight children can carry in their backpacks.

The Sacramento Bee reported that the bill sets a maximum weight for textbooks used by elementary and middle school students based on medical evidence of increasing injuries among children. The bill also requires the Board of Education to explore the use of Internet resources and CD-ROMs to replace heavy books.

“The mere adoption of maximum weight standards … will not resolve the issues of excessive backpack weight and the long-term health of pupils,” Davis said in a press release. “Rapid advances in electronic technology demand that we look beyond … providing a set of textbooks to each student.”

Backpack Safety America was founded to bring attention to the growing problem of heavy backpacks. BSA reported on its Web site that by the end of their teen years, more than half of youths experience at least one low back pain episode. This can lead to long-term problems, like altering the mobility of the spine and leading to restricted movement, BSA reported.

Using MRIs, research has found that backpacks alter the fluid content of the spine, making the wearer of the backpack a prime candidate for disorders such as herniated (“slipped”) discs and osteoarthritis later in life, according to BSA.

Jodi Mathews is BCE’s communications director.