January 6, 2009

She's A Children's Product! Burn Her!

I want to fix the CPSIA, the CPSC's new lead testing law, and save all the various children's product industries from regulation-induced bankruptcy and collapse on February 10th as much as the next guy.

But I would like to do it in some way other than whipping the population into hysteria with out-of-control doomsday scenarios and hyperbole. Does it really help things to tell booksellers that they'll have to close down or destroy their entire children's book inventory on February 10th unless they can certify that every title is lead-free?

So what does CPSIA do? It mandates lead testing for ALL items intended for children under 13 or PERCEIVED as being for those under age 13. So items commonly regarded as "kids stuff" even if it is intended for adults, such as many comics, collectible books, high end popups, etc, still falls under the statute even though they're aimed at adult collectors.


The manufacturer needs to provide a testing certificate to the retailer, which must be available for inspection, should a Consumer Product Safety Administration inspector come in. No certificate, the retailer can't sell it.

The truly bizarre part is that the new regulations apply retroactively. Even if it was printed 50 years ago and the publisher no longer exists, you need to have a certificate proving it's not filled with lead. Even if it is the only remaining copy of a rare children's book worth thousands of dollars and only will ever be handled by collectors, you cannot sell it because you can't prove it is not filled with lead.

First and last, the rules are still being set, but if it's not a children's product--and graphic novels, "high-end popups," and four-figure rare books seem easily argued out of that category--it's exempt from the CPSIA ruling.

Second, third, and fourth, the CPSC has "about a dozen staffers" working on the CPSIA, reviewing "hundreds of requests" for testing exemptions. So not only is there much that's unsettled about the rules, the agency barely has anyone to figure it out.

So do you think there's an army of CPSC lead inspectors waiting to swoop in on Feb. 11th and throw used book dealers and consignment store owners and wood toy carvers into prison for not having a lead certificate that meets some as-yet-undetermined CPSC rule? If you have products that you know have no lead in them, or you know have no possibility of having lead in them, you should care and organize and campaign for fixes to the CPSIA, but you should probably not panic--and you should definitely not burn your inventory of pre-Feb. 10 books.

Book burning on Feb. 10th 2009 due to CPSIA [bookshopblog vai craftsbury kids, thanks dt reader sara]
Dec. 20, but still a good summary: Toymakers Assail Costs of New Law [washingtonpost]


How about--and I'm just blue-skying here--you voluntarily choose not to sell things that might have lead in them to children, just like you also don't give them rat poison pellets to play with?

And just maybe, having known since the fall of Rome that lead was bad for you, we all just up and stop using it in all consumer products? Huh? How about that?

Maybe someone should work out if those hi-tech luggage machines at airports can detect led at the required levels and put them to an extra use.

Wouldn't it be a great recesion move on behalf of the TSA? Helping the struggling toy makers by offering free certification while securing their own budget. Sci-fi, I know...

this just in:

CPSC Clarifies Requirements of New Children’s Product Safety Laws Taking Effect in February
Guidance Intended for Resellers of Children’s Products, Thrift and Consignment Stores


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