Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Good News About Bad News: CPSIA Is Officially News

I think this qualifies as good news about the preposterous CPSIA (Consumer Product Safety Inspection Act):

It is now officially News! Because it's finally been covered by the Washington Post. Maybe with this extra attention, extra pressure can be brought to bear on getting some necessary changes made to the vaguely worded legal anguage that categorizes old books as poisonous to 12-year old children, especially with the upcoming April 1st "Amend the CPSIA" rally being held in Washington DC... an event unmentioned in the Washington Post article, Book Dealers Told To Get The Lead Out:
Legislation passed by Congress last August in response to fears of lead-tainted toys imported from China went into effect last month. Consumer groups and safety advocates have praised it for its far-reaching protections. But libraries and book resellers such as Goodwill are worried about one small part of the law: a ban on distributing children's books printed before 1985.
The legislation, which passed with strong bipartisan support, was a reaction to lead's being discovered on and in thousands of imported toys, mostly from China, in 2007. It restricts lead content in products designed for children age 12 and younger to 600 parts per million by weight; the threshold drops to 300 parts per million in August of this year. Items as varied as bikes and jewelry are affected.

So are books such as "Madeleine," "Goodnight Moon" and "Corduroy."

Lead was phased out of printer's ink following the 1978 paint ban; lacking a firm date for when it effectively disappeared, the safety commission has ruled that the toxic metal might be found in any book printed before 1985.
Implementation of the new law has libraries and secondhand bookstores reeling. Although they could pay to have each old book tested, the cost ($300 to $600 a book, according to the American Library Association) makes that impractical.
The commission says that it is understaffed and overtaxed by the new areas it must police.
"The agency is really stretched to the limit as to what we are doing about this new law," [Joe Martyak, a spokesman for the commission and the chief of staff to its acting chairwoman, Nancy Nord] said. But he said that the agency has been given very little leeway. He cited new restrictions on children's bikes that have also caused a backlash: There was enough lead in the tire valves to push them over the enforcement limit, even though there might not be lead anywhere else in the bike.

"Whether you consider that common sense or not, that's the way the law is written," he said.
The several dozen comments to date reflect the usual combination of disbelief and fury that tends to be exhibited when people first discover the existence of this needlessly nonsensical law.

From acesdc at 1:51 pm:

[H]ow is "children's book" defined? Does "The Hobbit" count? "Animal Farm"?
The Bible? I read Jim Bishop's "The Day Kennedy Was Shot" at 10--is that good enough?
alert4jsw at 1:09:54 PM wrote:

This is absolutely ridiculous. What would be wrong with putting a sticker - a simple 1/2 inch dot of a specific color would suffice - on the covers of books published before 1985 to alert parents that they might contain this minuscule amount of lead, and to be extra careful to see that their kids aren't eating them? The idea of requiring a chemical analysis that would cost several hundred dollars and take weeks, if not months, to complete in order to be able to sell a book for 50 cents is simply crazy. The bike rule is even more ridiculous. How many times has anyone, anywhere, ever seen a kid sucking on a tire valve? While lead may be a problem, we should probably fund some studies to see what it is that the people who come up with these nutty ideas were exposed to as a kid to make them this clueless.

The article covers a lot of ground. I think I'm being a little churlish in my opening paragraphs; the Post has covered CPSIA before, concerning the new law's damage to the toy industry. I just don't understand why this isn't being covered every day, since there's damage being done every day. Businesses are being hurt by arrogant congressmen, all in the name of good intentions.

[Thanks to Walter Olson at Overlawyered.com]

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