Friday, March 20, 2009

New Consumer Legislation Causes Concern and Confusion

Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act May Reduce Children’s Access to Books

Librarians, booksellers, and publishers around the country have been grappling with how to interpret and act on the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA), which is aimed at protecting kids by reducing their exposure to lead and other harmful chemicals in children’s products.

The problem for book handlers is that the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) believes the law applies to children’s books and is particularly concerned about books printed before 1985. Previously, books have generally been considered safe and have not been subject to the same regulations as toys and other consumer products.

To comply with the CPSI Act as it stands, libraries and bookstores must test all their older books that are used by or sold to children. Testing is very expensive—about $300 per book according to Emily Sheketoff, Executive Director of the American Library Association’s Washington office. All books whose lead content exceeds the minimum must be removed, destroyed, or relocated so that children cannot access them.

The CPSI Act was designed to keep dangerous toys and consumer products out of our children’s hands and was signed into law (P.L. 110-314) August 14, 2008 by former President George Bush. The legislative bill, known as HR 4040, was sponsored by Congressman Bobby Rush (Democrat, Illinois). The Act went into effect February 10, 2009 and imposes strict safety measures on products made for children. Specifically, the CPSI Act requires that toys and products made for children under 12 be tested for lead content by independent labs and labeled with their material contents. Materials include paper, ink, covers, and glues. All products must meet new standards for lower lead content—no more than 600 parts per million in any part accessible to a child. Even stricter standards will become effective in August 2009.

Current Status: One Year Stay of Enforcement
Thanks to the lobbying efforts of groups such as the ALA and the Association of American Publishers, the CPSC voted on February 6 to issue a one-year stay of enforcement for implementation of the CPSI Act until February 10, 2010. The stay has provided a reprieve for now, but the ALA is continuing to work with members of Congress and the CPSC to exempt libraries from regulation under this law. The CPSC has, however, asked book stores to stop selling older children’s books that remain untested.

Learn More!
Read all 62 pages of the CPSI Act on the Library of Congress website at:

Read detailed information about the CPSI Act on the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s website at:

Read CNN’s article, “Libraries in suspense over lead regulations,” which describes the problems in the new legislation and includes commentary from consumer advocates and librarians at:

Review the ALA’s commentary about the CPSI Act on their website at:

Read the Association of American Publisher’s letter to CPSC titled “CPSI Act Applicability to Books and Other Paper-Based Printed Materials” at:

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