From gently used clothing to handmade toys, we’ve raised our concerns about how the new Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) will negatively affect green families and businesses.
This law designed to protect our children is so poorly written, it will actually benefit big business and harm resale shops and natural toymakers. As Stephen Lamar, executive vice president of the American Apparel and Footwear Association explained to the Redding Record Searchlight, “The law introduces an extraordinarily large number of testing requirements for products for which everyone knows there’s no lead.” An exemption has been proposed for clothing and toys made from natural materials such as wood and wool, but what about library books? Yes, LIBRARY BOOKS!
Taking effect on February 10, 2009, the CPSIA will require all products for children under 12 be tested for lead, including books. That means in order for a library to admit children under 12, they must test all of their children’s books or ban children from the library.
According to Emily Sheketoff, associate executive director of the American Library Association, CPSIA will keep books or children out of libraries:
We are very busy trying to come up with a way to make it not apply to libraries. Either they take all the children’s books off the shelves, or they ban children from the library.
Is this what our lawmakers intended when the overwhelmingly passed CPSIA? Not only will libraries be affected, but schools could be subjected to CPSIA regulations too. The CPSC has not released any ruling on whether libraries and schools will be exempt because they lend books and don’t sell them.
Image: allie pasquier on Flickr under a Creative Commons License
Jamie Ervin says
How entirely ridiculous and frustrating! If I couldn’t take my children to the libraries, not only would we miss out on a wonderful green resource, I’d also very likely lose my mind!
Let’s hope they revise this!
Jennifer Lance says
I know, it is absolutely ridiculous, and without guidance from the CPSC, the American Library Association thinks that they need to adhere to the law. I’m sure all the side effects of this law were not fully explained to Congress.
What a joke. This reminds me of how, when we go to meetings at work and the big wigs/management come up with a bright idea. Then, one of us worker bees questions it and management looks like someone hit them with a baseball bat- as if no one even thought the idea through.
The most recent revision appears to loosen up a bit for 2nd hand stores. Sure they don’t need the certificates, but if they sell a product that exceeds the limits then they are fined. Still pretty much bites. Nonetheless, hopefully it is a step in a positive direction.
I’m no fan of the way this crazy law is affecting small businesses and secondhand resellers. But I don’t see any way it would apply to libraries. Technically, the CPSIA makes it illegal to “sell, offer for sale, distribute in commerce, or import” any children’s product above the new lead and phthalate levels. And it would take a BIG stretch of interpretation to say libraries are selling their books. (Library book sales maybe, but then you’ve just got to take small comfort in the fact that it’s surely not the kind of thing the regulators are going to spend their resources enforcing….)
Jennifer Lance says
Tara, Sorry there was an error in the post that made the link to the article where I found this information disappear. That has been corrected. The source is:
In that piece, it says:
“Under this new regime, you are suspect until proven safe,” says Allan Adler, the American Association of Publishers’ vice president for legal and governmental affairs.Historically, books have been considered more dangerous to read than to eat. Regardless, a memo from the CPSC, issued the day before Christmas Eve, explicitly quashed any hope that books might escape the new law. To make matters worse, even publishers that have already had their products tested for lead will be forced to retest. In the same memo, existing test results based on “soluble lead” — a measure of whether lead will migrate out of a product — were rejected by the CPSC because they did not measure “total lead content.”
The CPSC has not issued any ruling on whether libraries, schools, and other institutions that loan — rather than sell — books will be subject to the law. Without such clear guidance, says Adler, schools and libraries should assume they have to comply.
“If [the CPSC is] going to say that we’re being alarmist,” says Adler, “that’s fine, as long as they provide an explanation that we can understand and rely on. That’s what’s been missing from this entire discussion.”
The law is unclear on so many levels.
More info here from American Library Association: http://www.wo.ala.org/districtdispatch/?p=1322
The opinion was issued to the Association of American Publishers (AAP), following the group’s request to exclude children’s books from regulation under the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA), which passed the 110th Congress in August and is enforced by the CPSC.
Under the CPSC’s interpretation of the law, which seeks to protect children from exposure to lead and phthalate, books for children under the age of 12 are required to undergo the same testing procedures as children’s toys. Since the General Counsel’s opinion is retroactive, all books currently on library or store shelves must be removed for testing, including textbooks and children’s literature books in academic library research collections.
This article made me go to the governments website and actually read the legislature. Jennifer, you are right, it’s very unclear as to it’s intention. It kind of seems like it’s directed only at imported goods, but then again it’s very non-specific. Frustrating as all this may be, I think these details will all be worked out before city libraries have to ban children.
Jennifer Lance says
Sunnylime, Good for you for reading the law! I think that libraries and schools would be the last place it will be enforced if clarification doesn’t come soon, but I think children do need protected everywhere. Who knows, the tables, bookshelves, chairs, etc. at the library could contain toxic compounds, but I wouldn’t worry about the books. Then again, they make all those books (I hate) that are more toys than books these days. Those books should definitely be tested!
Libraries have now been given a one-year reprieve, as the CPSC revisits what they can do and what to require of libraries.
It is my understanding as a book conservator and restorationist that it is the lead content in some inks and dyes used in some publishing processes before 1985 that contain lead. For now, all children’s books dated 1985 and later are deemed safe. I just hope that, for the sake of the children who can be so enriched by the quality and writing in older and vintage books, used booksellers will simply store and protect these old treasures until the CPSC becomes better educated on the handling of books by children. Not many children eat the illustrations and pages of books, which is the primary way to ingest lead (as with old, peeling, lead-based paint in old homes).
It would be easy to set rules on board books, which toddlers may bite on.