OK I'm jumping on the CPSIA bandwagon and urging anybody who reads this blog to take up their pens and write a letter to their Congresspeople. Designed to protect children from lead and phthalates (a good thing), the new regulations require all retailers selling products for children to certify that they are lead-free. This law is retroactive and will basically shut-down the sale of used children's books.
Some thrift store industry leaders are concerned about the impact on their business and rallying their troops and a recent story in the LA Times indicated that some consignment stores will simply close.
For those who think this doesn't apply to books, one author has found out that it does.
If you are member of Joe's Used Book store group then you already know the routine but I am providing the sample letter below. We are asking folks to send a used children's book to their COngressperson as well
Dear YOUR CONGRESSMAN'S NAME HERE,
Please burn the enclosed book after reading. It is a danger to
American children… or at least the Consumer Product Safety
Administration thinks so.
Despite being published in the US, using lead free materials, under
the new Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA H.R. 4040) it
must be tested for lead. CPSIA applies retroactively to all items
intended for individuals 12 and under. The publisher of this book no
longer exists, so they will not be testing their product for lead.
Since I cannot provide the certificate proving that this book has been
tested, I am unable to sell it. In fact, no children's book, or
textbook, published before the new law went into effect in November
2008 can be sold under the new law. These books are required to be
CPSIA requires that all products intended for people 12 and under be
tested at the end of the manufacturing process for lead, even if all
the materials used in them have been certified as lead free. If a
publisher runs two books on the same press on the same day, with the
same materials, using the same workers they must test each book
separately for lead because the arrangements of words inside the book
This end-product-testing increases costs and may drive small scale
manufacturers out of business. Prices for these tests range from a
few hundred dollars to thousands, PER ITEM, depending on how many
materials it contains. Those that do survive will pass the cost on to
the consumer. The product will be exactly as safe as it was before
testing, just significantly more expensive.
This also places an undue burden on American taxpayers by requiring
ALL products intended for those 12 and under to be tested. School
districts are a major purchaser of children's items, which must
already meet rigorous safety standards. The cost of making companies
test already safe products like textbooks, microscopes, gym mats,
desks, and educational software CDs just in case a 12 year old might
eat them (lead poisoning requires ingesting or inhaling the lead),
will be passed on to already cash strapped school districts.
The CPSIA also requires permanent batch labeling of items to verify
they have been tested. This makes no sense for one of a kind items or
items made in extremely small batches. Again, this increases costs
with no significant benefit to consumers.
In addition to its effect on US based manufacturers, this would strike
a crushing blow to charity groups. Groups like Goodwill and Salvation
Army will no longer be able to raise money through the sale of
children's items. Nor will they be allowed to simply give them away.
In this economic downturn, many families rely on being able to
purchase secondhand goods to clothe their children. What will they do
with these items that they cannot sell or give away? Throwing them
out seems the only option.
Many anti-poverty programs, here and abroad, focus on helping single
individuals sell handcrafted items through collectives. Forcing those
individuals to test for lead will drive them back into poverty and
work against the government's own programs.
CPSIA should be amended to clarify that it:
1. Is not retroactive and does not apply to secondhand items.
(Manufacturers found to be KNOWINGLY selling goods that have been
recalled should still face some penalties. Retailers should not face
that penalty, as they often have no way to tell whether an item has
been recalled or not.)
2. Exempts from additional item testing; products that are made
entirely in the US from materials made in the US; items made wholly in
or from materials made in countries with equally strict standards such
as Canada and the European Union; or any combination of those two.
3. Exempts all "one of a kind" items. (Testing these as an item
destroys the item so it may never be sold.)
4. Exempts one of a kind items and small runs from batch labeling.
(The FDA has existing guidelines for this type of exemption which can
be found at: http://www.cfsan.fda.gov/~dms/sbnle.html )
5. Exempts items made entirely from natural materials that are already
known not to contain lead (wood, beeswax, etc.)
6. Exempts items made entirely from certified organic materials.
7. Exempts items that have been certified as fair trade items.
8. Allows manufacturers to test their materials and process rather
than the end product. (If all the same materials and equipment are
used, it should not produce a different result. Manufacturers sharing
equipment that can be cross contaminated by manufacturing products
with lead on them should be required to test their finished products
for lead. Example: manufacturers must note food was processed on
equipment that handled peanuts, even if the actual product has no peanuts)
9. Exempts all manufacturers in the US, Canada, and the European Union
below a certain volume, based either on dollar volume or total units.
(This number should be based on the FDA exemption cited above. (#4)
It should exempt what amounts to "micro-businesses". Because of the
strict safety standards on materials sold within those countries, the
chances are low that individual artists or micro-businesses will
accidentally get contaminated materials. )
10. Exempts registered charity groups recognized by the US government
from the cash penalty if they unknowingly distribute goods that are
found to contain lead. (The fines will do more harm than good.) If
they are found to do so knowingly, then they should face the full
The regulations set forth in CPSIA will come into full force February
10th. Please act swiftly to deal with issue, before severe damage is
done to American small business and every taypayer.
YOUR NAME HERE, Constituent YOUR CONGRESS DISTRICT HERE
P.S. Don't really burn the book. Please donate it to a local school