Thursday, August 6, 2009

CPSIA - Old Books are BANNED

The CPSC Commission wrestled with the subject of old books and LOST (its mind). In today's docketed vote on exceptions under Section 3 of the CPSIA (materials determined to never violate the lead standards), the Commission considered the American Library Association's appeal to common sense to exempt all library books. Of course, we know that the CPSC is no longer allowed to consider risk - Mr. Waxman will handle that, thank you - so it squirmed and attempted to find a crack or crevice to stash an exception for these materials. No such luck, Charlie:

"Under section 101(a) of the CPSIA, Congress has deemed that children's products that do not meet the lead content limits within the specified dates 'to be banned hazardous substances.' Accordingly, the Commission may not provide relief from the lead content limits except under the specific exclusions provided under section 101(b) ofthe CPSIA. Absent a finding that all used children's books fall within the scope ofan exclusion, the Commission is bound by the statutory language of the CPSIA. Unfortunately, the Coinmission is unable to make such a determination in this proceeding. Because older books have not been manufactured using modem printing processes, such as the CMYK color process, and have been found, in some circumstances, to contain leaded ink or components, the Commission is unable to make a determination that the components of all older children's books fall under the lead content limits.

For older used children's books that are sold, many of these books may be collector's items that are sold to adults. Such books would not be considered to be intended primarily for children, and accordingly, may continue to be sold to adults. For older used children's books that are lent out, ALA has requested additional guidance regarding the treatment ofthese products. Accordingly, the Commission intends to issue a separate Statement ofPolicy addressing the treatment of older children's books." [Italics added.]

Let's not forget that in an effort to protect America from the scourge of old books, Commissioner Moore cautioned libraries across the land to sequester these "dangers" until further notice ("I believe that our staff has come up with a supportable 'bright line' to guide libraries as to what books we will deem not to pose a problem and which ones should be sequestered until we get more information from the publishing and ink manufacturing industries."). That was a real high point in this drama, I think.

What can I say? Pathetic and shameful, but hardly the CPSC's fault. The idiocy of this decision is entirely Congress' fault. Frankly, I struggle to find words strong enough to condemn a law like this. As a longtime book lover and heavy user of libraries, I find this decision demoralizing, embarrassing and deeply troubling. I grew up in a library. To think that the CPSC is cooperating with making that a distant memory and thereby harming children all over the country makes my blood BOIL.

Should we worry about this? Will anyone actually take action or withhold access to books in libraries? Well, consider the policy of this North Carolina library (courtesy of Lenore Skenazy of "To ensure a safe and enjoyable library visit for all, the Hyconeechee Regional Library staff would like to remind you of our Safe Child Policy. All Hyconeechee Regional Libraries require that children 12 years of age and under be accompanied by a parent or caretaker when visiting the library. Parents/Caretakers are responsible for the child’s safety and behavior at all times while in the library building. If library staff is aware of an unattended child, they will try to contact a parent or legal guardian. If unable to locate a parent or guardian, staff will contact appropriate authorities." You read that right - unaccompanied children under twelve may be turned over to the police. Perhaps some jail time for touching books will teach those darned kids a valuable lesson! I have contacted this library to ask if the origin of this genius new rule derives from the insane CPSIA. No response . . . . You decide.

What kind of world is this, anyhow? As I have said many times in the last year, THANKS CONGRESS!


Sebastian said...

If books before a certain date are a banned hazardous substance, what does that say about those of us that have shelves of them in our home?
Do I need some special air filtration system to cut down on potentially lead laden dust particles? Do we need to do bedtime stories with cotton gloves?

Good to hear the the House passed the food bill modeled on the success of this law.

teanotea said...

Welcome to Fahrenheit 451. It's only a matter of time before the government sanctioned book burnings begin.

I'll be Green Eggs and Ham.

Carol Baicker-McKee said...

I am sick. I cannot figure out how to get anyone in Washington to listen and take action.

I also cannot believe the harm being done to children, particularly the most at-risk, in the name of safety. As products like used books, inexpensive but high quality toys and learning materials, and affordable used clothing are systematically removed from the shelves of libraries, schools, thrift stores and homes, how is anyone supposed to provide a mentally stimulating environment for needy kids? Keep in mind that according to the CDC, an enriched environment is the ONLY known way to prevent and treat the consequences of lead poisoning - and this law does nothing to remove the most common sources of lead in children's environments.

Thank you Rick for your excellent and persistent efforts to reverse this ridiculous law.

Esther said...

I am waiting with great anticipation for the special ruling for books that exist on shelves now. While the exemption for some post 1985 books is great, the loss of pre-1985 is very much devastating.

Headmistress, zookeeper said...

Great post, Rick, thanks.

While I welcome the ruling when it comes to four colour printing, I am concerned about what this means for books printed using other colours, and for media such as posters.

I think it may have a dampening effect (or is that affect?)

Happymom4 aka Hope Anne said...

As a dedicated family of old book lovers, all the way from the youngest at age 4 to the oldest in the 40's . . . we are just sick beyond words. We even plan our trips to see family to coincide with trips to old book sellers, or stop at library book sales! That is one of our family's favorite activities! When my son was 7 years old, his vocabulary tested out at OVER TWELVE YEARS OLD. The testers observation?! "You must read a LOT of books to him!" Yes, I sure did--starting with classics like Heidi and "Snip, Snapp and Snurr". Under the new laws, most of the books I was reading to him are now banned hazardous substances. Congress has much to answer for.

Lucille said...

I'm curious: when did they institute that policy, and why? My first thought is that the people who make those policies have other things on their mind - not having to keep their eye on unruly children, and the risk of anything happening to the child - from tripping down stairs to getting kidnapped.