Pelosi's Library Quarantine
The CPSC is left cleaning up the House Speaker's messy child-safety law.
It looks like "Jumanji" in local libraries these days, after the classic children's book about chaos unleashed by the failure to heed warnings. In February, an overzealous law governing lead in products resulted in toys going from store shelves to the trash heap. Now, confusion over how the rules affect children's books has led some libraries to rope off kids' sections.
Last summer, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) interpreted the 2008 law to include children's books, though exactly what that means is anyone's guess. CPSC spokesman Scott Wolfson told the Associated Press that until the agency can give clearer guidance, especially on books published before 1986, public and school libraries "should take steps to ensure that the children aren't accessing those books." The agency hurried to say it didn't mean to tell libraries to toss the books, but that it is "investigating" whether there are unsafe lead levels.
Democrats in Congress have leapt to criticize acting CPSC Chairman Nancy Nord, in hopes President Obama will replace her. But the real culprit here isn't the CPSC, which is overwhelmed with requests from manufacturers trying to make sense of the chaos that Congress created. House Energy and Commerce Chairman Henry Waxman has dismissed efforts to improve the law, claiming the real problem is that "misinformation has spread" about the impact on businesses.
Older books pose hardly any danger, according to safety experts at the Centers for Disease Control. The problem is the ambiguity in a law that leaves businesses facing lawsuits if they can't prove their products are safe. In addition to libraries, thrift stores, church bazaars and small batch toymakers are also unclear what they can and can not sell. Makers of bicycles and ATVs have pulled youth models -- designed to increase safety -- off the showroom floor at a cost of hundreds of millions of dollars.
Nancy Pelosi boasted last summer that the toy safety law would mean products weren't merely made differently in the future but would be removed from the shelves today. That's the real source of this mayhem, as she was amply warned at the time by Democrat John Dingell, among others. Ms. Pelosi prevailed, and now the harm to thousands of businesses, charities and even public libraries is manifest. Since the House Speaker won't admit a mistake and fix the law, the CPSC must do what it can to prevent more damage to the already challenging economy.