I have been an ostrich. I thought that someone, somewhere would see reason, fix a broken law, and everybody would live, if not happily ever after, at least happily free to do business and buy books in the United States of America.
Instead, the deadline has come and gone, and now they’re burning/trashing books. The Consumer Products Safety Improvement Act was signed into law six months ago. It was supposed to keep our kids from being poisoned by lead in toys.
“Under the law it is now illegal, as of yesterday, to sell or distribute any product–toy, book, clothes, electronic gadget, you name it–aimed primarily at children 12 and under without first having every accessible element in that product–fabric, appliques, ink, zippers, buttons, switches, doll hair, you name it–certified by a third-party lab (not, for instance, the zipper maker) as having less than 600 parts per million of lead. The law includes substantial criminal penalties and allows state attorneys general, as well as the Consumer Product Safety Commission, to enforce its provisions.”
Yes, the law covers books. Yes, each book that is to be sold must be tested for lead content. Yes, this law includes used books. The Consumer Products Safety Commission has promised not to enforce testing provisions for another six months . . . while at the same time warning retailers not to sell anything, after February 10th, with unacceptable levels of lead. How exactly do you make sure your products don’t have too much lead if you don’t test? And how do you test every product if the testing costs a minimum of fifty dollars per product, and there aren’t enough labs to test everything anyway?
The answer: you don’t. Instead, it’s Fahrenheit 451, guys, and they are BURNING BOOKS, at the behest of the government. It doesn’t matter whether anyone meant for this giant, country-wide bonfire to happen or not. It doesn’t matter whether you think I’ve gone from being an ostrich to being an alarmist. It’s happening anyway.
My daughter works in a used bookstore. TODAY they pulled all the books from the children’s section that had any kind of metal or plastic or toy-like attachment, spiral bindings, balls or things attached, board books, anything that might be targeted under this law, and they very quietly trashed them all. I say “very quietly” because the bookstore had a meeting with employees and told them to be careful not to start a panic. If anyone asked what they were doing they were told to say that they were “rearranging their inventory.” No one was allowed to tell anyone about the new law, and no one was allowed to take any of the doomed-for-destruction books home or give them away.
The CPSC has, as of last week, made an exception for “ordinary children’s books printed after 1985.” Supposedly, some inks used before 1985 may have contained some lead. (However, the eight, nine, or ten year old reading a copy of Winnie the Pooh printed before 1985 would have to eat the book to get get any level of lead into their system. My four to twelve year olds don’t eat books. Do yours?) Right now, the bookstore where my daughter works is getting around the law by reclassifying their children’s books printed before 1985 as “vintage books” for adult collectors. Of course, this strategy is just that, a way of circumventing the law. That 1983 copy of Winnie the Pooh isn’t really vintage or collectible; it also isn’t dangerous to children.
It’s not just books, of course. Small businesses that make clothing and toys for children are going out of business. Thrift shops are destroying all their inventory of children’s merchandise because they fear being found with something that contains lead. And all this is happening in an economy that is having major issues in the first place. Are we crazy?
My husband asked me why this law was passed in the first place and why no one has fixed it. I think it was passed out of ignorance and fear, and now out of pride and inertia, no one wants to admit that they made a mistake.
Please call Congress, and tell them to fix this law. Many of these older children’s books are irreplaceable. The books are out of print, and no one even has the original manuscripts or printing plates. And it’s already too late for the books that were destroyed today and those that will be burned tomorrow.
By the way, the American Library Association says that the CPSIA doesn’t apply to libraries because . . . get this, no one has said yet that it applies to libraries. So, libraries don’t have to comply with the law unless . . . they do. And bookstores have to destroy or “reclassify” their books, but libraries can loan out these “possibly dangerous” books to children without fear of penalty.
Read more here. And somebody tell me that this horrible thing isn’t happening in the U.S.A.