Friday, January 9, 2009

New Laws on the Distribution of Children's Books and Products

As I perused my Yahoo Groups Digests this morning, I was appalled to read that apparently as of February 10, it will become ILLEGAL to distribute (sell or give away) any book, clothing, toy -- anything intended for children 12 years old or younger, unless it has been tested for lead by an independent laboratory and has the paperwork to prove it. The fine is to be $100,000 per infraction.

I quickly Googled around and found an article dated today on Publisher's Weekly, the top publication for the publishing trade, that confirmed my fears. Their link to the Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC)didn't work, but I trust PW to get their facts straight. This law was passed in August, but only in November was the publishing industry made aware that books were included in the scope of the law.

A paragraph from the PW article states, "The Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act, enacted in August 2008 as a response to the high-profile 2007 recalls involving Chinese-made toys containing lead, covers not just playthings but all consumer products intended for use by children 12 and under. That includes books, audiobooks and sidelines, no matter where they are manufactured, even though most books have lead levels that are well below the Act’s most stringent safety standards. The industry is fighting to have most books exempted, but there may not be a resolution by the time the Act kicks in on February 10, so publishers and retailers are proceeding as if books will be included."

So how does this affect used bookstores, especially the ones that specialize in children's books, like San Diego's Prince and the Pauper? What about thrift stores and children's consignment stores? What about garage sales? Homeschool used curriculum sales? Libraries, both public and in schools? And it's the "distribution" of these products, which includes donations, not just sales.

I looked on the CPSC's website and saw that they released a statement yesterday saying that "this law does not apply to thrift and consignment stores," yet when I read through the law itself, I saw no such exemption. The law was crystal clear: "distribution" after February 10, 2009, of ALL products intended for children must be tested by a third party lab (of which there are only two to three in the whole US) and labeled as such.

I can understand if this law was covering toys (as was the original intent of the law) in the wake of the many toys imported from China that were recalled due to toxic lead levels. But books? Clothing?

And what about those small-operations that make handmade toys, like my own husband who used to have his "Wood Toy Company" for which he handmade beautiful toys. He used nontoxic dyes and finishes, but no longer would his word be sufficient. Each type of toy would have to be tested (at a cost varying from a few hundred dollars to $1500 per toy) and paperwork or labels attesting to that fact. It could shut down many artists on Etsy and other artistic/crafts sites, as well as E-Bay. Plus, what about places like Game Stop that sell used computer games?

This law, going into effect a month from tomorrow, is already creating a *HUGE* problem for book publishers who are already hurting financially. it seems to me like one more example of the government gone overboard. As usual.

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