Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Save the Children's Books! CPSIA is a Road to Hell, Paved with Good Intentions

As a mother, I wholeheartedly agree that children need to be protected from products with lead and phthalate content. However, when it comes to books, the burden is being placed on the wrong people.

Publishers, particularly small publishing houses, and authors have little or no control over the materials used in the production of books, only the print vendors do. Yet, under the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008, publishers and/or authors must pay fees that will essentially put them out of business in order to prove that each book published complies with the federally mandated requirements for lead and phthalate. Small companies and their authors cannot afford to pay $110 for an initial test for one batch of one title, and then up to $500 or more for a thorough test. Further, each batch - each print run for each title - would have to be tested. Printers don't have to provide any proof of testing and safety; they are not targeted by this law, yet, they have the only control over materials used in books.

The law is retroactive. So, what about used books? Old textbooks? Will underfunded schools be forced to replace all of their textbooks and library books? What about public libraries? Will they have to replace their books - or ban children? It gets worse - the books also cannot be donated or shipped overseas. Who will pay to store them until the laws change? Will they be banned and destroyed?

With the global economy in abysmal shape thanks largely to our own government's failure to act, it seems a very bad time to allow a poorly worded piece of legislation - full of good intentions that will pave the road to hell - to drive countless small businesses out of business, including those of stay-at-home moms and dads trying to care for their families and make ends meet.

How many books contain lead and phthalate? How many children have been harmed by toxins in books? How many more will be irrevocably harmed by depriving them of a wide variety of books from which to learn to read and think?

As of January 15, vendors such as Amazon.com will refuse to sell our books unless we provide proof that our books have been tested and meet the requirements. Even if each batch of each title passes muster, we've still paid thousands of dollars to prove it - and are still left without any real control over the materials used. Place the burden of proof on the people who provide the materials and manufacturing, not on authors, artists, and craftspeople. Large toy companies like Mattel might survive this legislation, but small businesses will not.

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Please help save Trockle and his friends (all books that might be enjoyed by children under age 13) from the real "monsters" - write to your Congressional Representatives and ask that this law be repealed and rewritten (its intentions are laudable, its current implementation is horrendous). Spread the word. Blog about it, tell your friend, write a letter to the editor. Note that CPSIA also places an unfair burden on other small businesses, including stay-at-home moms and dads who make handmade toys, jewelry, clothing items, blankets - any product designed for children under age 13.

For additional information, search for "CPSIA" and "books". Here's a good post that goes into some detail:

http://bookshopblog.com/2009/01/04/book-burning-on-feb-10th-2009-due-to-cpsia/#comment-2557

Here's a copy of the letter sent out by Amazon.com:

http://issues-in-publishing.blogspot.com/2008/11/cpsia-sneaking-up-on-us.html

The law has already passed and goes into effect NEXT MONTH, so this is urgent.

 

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2 comments:

  1. I was just linked to your blog posting, and thought you might be interested in this article I found:
    http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-lead7-2009jan07,0,6917858.story

    Hopefully, this will help alleviate this issue.

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  2. George, I wish it did, but even if they're "rethinking" things (and it is not clear that they're rethinking anything, really - other than to exempt resellers and thrift shops from testing requirements - separate from selling requirements, mind you), there's still this:

    No final rules will be approved until after Feb. 10, when the testing rules go into effect.

    That means retailers and manufacturers who sell untested children's merchandise would technically be in violation of the new law starting Feb. 10. Whether federal regulators will enforce the rules -- which might entail inspections at thousands of secondhand stores and toy shops across the country -- is another question.

    "The CPSC is an agency with limited resources and tremendous responsibility to protect the safety of families," said Scott Wolfson, a CPSC spokesman. "Our focus will be on those areas we can have the biggest impact and address the most dangerous products."

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