The industry consensus is that the concept of ensuring children’s safety is, in principle, a good thing. “Everybody agrees that the basis of the [CPSIA testing] requirement is absolutely in good faith,” said Kathleen McHugh, president of the American Specialty Toy Retailers Association. “But there must be exceptions to that. With books, you’re testing for lead on a material that’s just not associated with lead at all.”
“This is an absolutely knee-jerk reaction to the fact that, yes, there have been children’s toys and cribs that have contained lead,” said Bruce Smith, executive director of the Book Manufacturers’ Institute. “But let’s not take a paintbrush and paint everything the same color.”
Chip Gibson, president and publisher of Random House Children’s Books, goes further. “This is a potential calamity like nothing I’ve ever seen. The implications are quite literally unimaginable,” he said, noting that children’s books could be removed from schools, libraries and stores; nonprofit groups like First Book would lose donations; and retailers, printers, and publishers could ultimately go out of business. “Books are safe. This is like testing milk for lead. It has to be stopped.”
--Publishers Weekly, "Industry Scrambles to Comply With Child Safety Act", 1/12/2009 (see note)
We use a literature-based curriculum to teach our children at home, and of the many books we need to purchase each year, quite a few were published before 1985 and are out of print.
(I am so thankful for the out-of-print books that have been preserved electronically and are accessible for free online. Hopefully we won't get to the point where we need to scan every valuable child's book printed before 1985 in order for kids to have the benefits of these books in the future.)
You can't imagine the wealth of wisdom in these books that are now being treated as hazardous substances and must go through an expensive testing process, despite the fact that historically, **NO child has ever been harmed by lead or phthalates in a book.**
We have a pretty large collection of kid's books, but we are not done building our collection. I remember one time at a homeschool meeting, someone opined that our book collections are heirlooms for our children and their children, etc. We certainly feel that way about our books. But like I said, we aren't finished collecting yet. (I don't know that we ever would be, but we want the opportunity to continue.)
Think of the waste! So many excellent stories that awaken the imagination and inspire virtue-- and if that isn't enough, think of the recycling nightmare! So much *paper* tossed into the trash as hazardous waste.
(And am I being alarmist to worry that this law could lead to a ruling that would tell me I am criminal to allow my children to peruse the books we own that were published before 1985?)
Surely, Congress will fix this. They aren't so far gone as all of that.
Please call your thrift stores and libraries and find out what they are doing with their pre-1985 books now that CPSIA has gone into effect. I'm calling mine today and will report what I find out.
(Workers in at least one thrift store were seen already tossing books, refusing to allow anyone to even take them home for free because of liability issues. I wonder if there would be a problem with going round to the dumpster and pulling them out without the store workers' knowledge?)
Some links that talk more about this law and why libraries and used book sellers alike are worried and unsure what to do:
These Are A Few of My Favorite Things
CPSIA Enforcement Waived for *Post-1985* Books (Some of you logical, lawyerly types tell me what is implied in this statement.)
Why Libraries Cannot Comply
You Can't Buy These Books Anymore
The Deputy Headmistress has done a great job making her blog a kind of clearinghouse for CPSIA info and discussion. For more info, click on the CPSIA category.
Note: The article at the head of this post was written before the Act was waived for post-1985 books. So when you read it, you have to think "pre-1985 childrens books" instead "childrens books".