Child Product Lead Law Leads to Government Censorship?

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January 12th, 2009 Leave a comment Go to comments

(Click here for our complete coverage of CPSIA.)

As reported last week (see Government Bans Sale of Used Children’s Clothing and Toys !?!), the impending enforcement of the Consumer Products Safety Improvement Act of 2008 starting on February 10, 2009, will change the landscape for children’s clothing and toy sales in the United States. New 600ppm limits on lead will be enforced immediately, and those limits will be lowered to 300ppm and next to 100ppm. Phthalates used to soften plastics must comprise less than 0.1% of the product content. Sellers must be able to show the items they are selling have passed safety tests for lead and phtalate content or they cannot sell the products. The new regulations pertain to products intended for use by children age 12 and under.

A major criticism of this law has been the negative impact on the resale of used children’s clothing and toys. Many consignment shops and charity organizations sell such items, and parents are able to get back some of the value of toys and clothes their children have outgrown. There have been widespread complaints that the new law has the potential to put such businesses out of business.

There are reports that a recent federal government ruling as a result of complaints to the Consumer Product Safety Commission and US Congress has removed the testing requirement on used children’s clothing and toy resales, much to the relief of such stores including Goodwill Industries and Salvation Army. However, if these stores do sell products that violate the limits, regardless of whether it was inadvertent or in good faith, they will still be liable for civil and/or criminal penalties. So although it looks like the impact is less than feared, there is still some uncertainty over the consequences of the law for sale of used children’s items. If a “better safe than sorry” attitude takes hold, it may be that American landfills get filled up with perfectly usable children’s products that haven’t been tested and cannot be cost-effectively tested.

It appears that small clothing and toy manufacturers will still be put out of business by the law. Homemade clothing and toys that have been made with safe materials will become unprofitable as the necessary testing could run to hundreds or thousands of dollars per manufacturing batch, a cost that is likely unbearable for home-based and small businesses making such items. The Help Us Save Handmade web page contains additional information on these concerns and what you can do to protest the law.

Even more bizarre, it appears the new law puts libraries and schools into a difficult position of either having to test their books for lead or to ban children of age 12 and under to avoid violating the law. A memo from CPSC on December 23, 2008, declared that children’s books must comply with the law. There has been no ruling as to whether libraries that do not sell books must comply, also. Without such a ruling, it appears that public and school libraries may have to pull children’s books off the shelves and/or ban children age 12 and under.

The Boston Phoenix interviewed staff of the American Library Association regarding such concerns:

The CPSIA, intended to keep lead out of toys, may well also keep books out of libraries, says Emily Sheketoff, associate executive director of the American Library Association. “We are very busy trying to come up with a way to make it not apply to libraries,” said Sheketoff. But unless she succeeds in lobbying Capitol Hill for an exemption, she believes libraries have two choices under the CPSIA: “Either they take all the children’s books off the shelves,” she says, “or they ban children from the library.”

Quoted from: Congress bans kids from libraries?

The far-flung implications of CPSIA 2008 make us wonder whether it was just mind-numbing ignorance and stupidity by the US Congress in writing and passing the law or whether something more sinister was involved. Perhaps it’s a new way to control the thoughts of actions of the next generation of children disguised a child safety law to make it more palatable? Small volume books and toys that might not comply with “correct thought” as determined by politicians and big corporations can be banned under false safety pretenses, giving the politicians even more control over what our children will learn and believe. Whatever the case may be, Congress has put itself to shame with this poor legislation.

Where to protest this law:

Petition: Save Kid’s Clothing Resale, Consignment & Thrift Stores from Closing!

Further reading:

Secondhand Stores Escape Lead Law

Child safety law a challenge for thrift stores

Congress bans kids from libraries?

Children’s Products Containing Lead; Proposed Determinations Regarding Lead Content Limits on Certain Materials or Products; Notice of Proposed Rulemaking

CPSC: Information on the Consumer Product Safety Act (CPSIA)

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