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Such unbearable heaviness

The mayor of Cantu, near Milan, has decided to get heavy with parents who make children wear heavy satchels by imposing a fine of up to 400,000 lire (Pounds 160) or six months in jail if satchels weigh more than 15 per cent of the child's body weight.

Italian textbooks are massive tomes designed to cover two or three-year cycles, often weighing more than two kilos. Children may have to carry five or six of these.

The mayor has instructed his local police to weigh children's satchels, after concern that heavy books are causing long-term damage to pupils' spines. At the first spot-check outside a primary and a lower secondary school (scuola media), only two out of 13 children tested were within the limits.

But mayor Armando Selva says: "I don't wish to punish parents - I just want to make them aware of the problem."

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