February 10, 2009 = National Bankruptcy, Censorship, and Landfill Dumping DayWritten by: Alison Print This Article
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(Click here for our complete coverage of CPSIA.)
Unless the US government acts soon, on February 10, 2009, life as we know it in the United States may become extremely bizarre. Imagine a nation in which it is illegal for:
Children age 12 and under to enter libraries or attend schools or daycare facilities unless those schools and daycare facilities have no books or toys.
Books and toys for children age 12 and under can only be sold by mass-merchants because home and small businesses and manufacturers cannot afford the testing costs to verify paper, cardboard, glue, and other components do not have illegal levels of lead.
Only major publishers running huge print-runs can print children’s books because only they can afford the testing costs.
If you can find anybody willing to risk selling you a used children’s book, either they will be criminals or buying a used children’s book will cost upwards of $150 per title because each book will have to be individually tested for lead and phthalates.
Tens of thousands of US home and small businesses which have made a major portion of their sales from children’s products go out of business and file for bankruptcy as their inventories go from having value to being worthless because they cannot be sold.
This is all due to the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008. The new law requires that products intended for use by children ages 12 and under must meet new standards for lead and phthalate content or they cannot be sold starting February 10, 2009. The law does not have any grandfather provisions for products made prior to February 10, 2009. It apparently affects all products intended for use by children age 12 and under. And it is being interpreted as affecting operations that sell, lend, or allow the use of children’s products by children ages 12 and under.
The American Library Association has issued a legal opinion to its members that unless the law is changed, libraries and schools must either ban children age 12 and under from entering or eliminate all their books and toys for children of those ages unless they can prove they meet the new lead and phthalate limits. Since most toys and books have never been tested, there is no way to prove this except to remove all the books on the shelves and test every one. The cost is likely to exceed $150 per book. A more cost-effective option may simply be to send all those books to landfills, eliminating all children’s books in order to obey Congress’s insane laws.
The American Library Association has written to Congress to try to get this law corrected before it takes effect. The letter reads in part:
Dear Member of Congress:
Last August, Congress passed the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) in an attempt to protect children from exposure to lead and phthalate. This is a very laudable goal. However, the General Counsel of the Consumer Product Safety Commission has interpreted this law to include children’s books and sent an opinion to the Association of American Publishers informing them that all books designed or intended for children under the age of 12 need to be tested. And she has made this opinion retroactive, covering all books currently on our shelves.
The publishing community has supplied the Commission with evidentiary support (can be viewed at www.rrd.com/cpsia ) that books and other non-book, paper-based printed materials should not be subject to the lead, phthalate, and applicable ASTM standards that are referenced in CPSIA because they do not present any of the health or safety risks to children that the law intended to address. But the General Counsel rejected the Publisher’s request to be excluded.
If the CPSIA is applied to books and paper-based materials, as indicated by the Commission’s General Counsel, public, school and museum libraries will have to either remove all their books or ban all children under 12 from visiting. This cannot be what the Congress intended.
America’s libraries are asking you to make your true intention clear to the Consumer Product Safety Commission and urge the General Counsel to release an opinion that reflects Congress’ true intention of CPSIA. They should enforce this important legislation where the dangers are, not with books, which are not playthings, and should remain unregulated.
Executive Director of the American Library Association’s Washington Office
Given how many other business have such books and how broadly worded this law is, the effect is not likely to be limited to libraries and schools. It may affect doctor’s and dentist’s offices, children’s psychologists and therapists, daycare facilities, church nurseries, and play and party centers. It appears it may affect any facility that allows entrance by children age 12 or under. Either ban all of those children, eliminate all the existing toys and books and replace them with new approved ones when they are someday available, or pay for costly testing for each item.
Retail stores will have to dispose of their inventory of products for children ages 12 and under, likely by dumping it in landfills as selling it in the United States will be illegal. What will this do to small bookstores and toystores? Some store owners talk of going out of business and filing for bankruptcy as their only viable option as much or all of their business is made illegal.
Goodwill and other charities are likely to stop accepting donations of children’s books, toys, and clothing unless parents can prove they were purchased on or after February 10, 2009, or that they were tested and meet the new limits. How many parents do you think will be able to do that? And the charities don’t want to be stuck with the cost of massive landfill dumping, so they may be better off just banning donations of all items intended for children age 12 and under.
If the charities and consignment stores won’t accept used children’s items any more, parents who used to buy clothes and other used children’s items at such places will have to buy brand-new ones at a higher cost from retail stores with limit-tested inventory, with selection limited to items that have been tested to meet the new limits. This is happening at a time when the US economy is in the dumps because of other mistakes made by the US government.
With the Congress passing such ill-conceived legislation, what’s next? Are all parents of children age 12 and under going to be turned into criminals unless they get rid of all the books and toys in their home unless they can prove they meet the new lead and phtalate limits? With fines running to $100,000 and jail time up to 5 years, we would need lots of new prisons. But perhaps they can be paid for by the fines? And perhaps that is what Congress intended with its expanded budget for the Consumer Products Safety Commission, the enforcement agency for this law. This may be alarmist, but there’s no question the implications of CPSIA 2008 were not thought out and explained well in the legislation or CPSC rulings to date.
If you agree that this new law is a mistake (or insane — take your pick), please help let the government know that it needs to be changed.
Where to protest CPSIA 2008: