In August 2008, the 110th Congress passed the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) to protect children under 12 from exposure to lead following widespread reports about the dangers of children’s toys coming in the United States from China and other places. This new law is administered by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and will likely start to take effect in February 2009 (although even this latter date appears to be changing.)
Within the last few days, ALA and others in the “book” community (other librarians, publishers, teachers, booksellers, etc.) became extremely concerned after seeing that the CPSC intended to include books in the definition of “products to children” that would need to be certified as safe. This concern was heightened by a letter from the General Counsel of the CPSC — a letter that states that books are not exempt from the law.
However, ALA has been in discussion with attorneys, other associations and the sponsors of the original bill. Our analysis is that neither the law nor the legislative history indicates any Congressional intention to include books and even textbooks in the law.
Please stand by — there is no need to take action at this time. The situation is extremely fluid and every day this week ALA has received new and sometimes contradictory information. The ALA Washington Office is taking measures to ensure this ruling (CPSIA) will not affect libraries and has sent a letter to all Congressional offices alerting them to the fact that we believe CPSC General Counsel has erroneously interpreted the CPSIA to include books. ALA is also monitoring the potential impact on other types of library materials as well.
Several key Hill offices have contacted the CPSC Commissioners and the General Counsel. We believe that the misunderstanding may be cleared up, so the Commission can focus on children’s items that are truly dangerous.
If we can’t get this resolved, we will need everyone who wants children to continue to have access to safe children’s books to contact the Commission and Capitol Hill — but, for now, we can stand by until we hear more from our Congressional supporters.
Emily Sheketoff, Executive Director
ALA Washington Office
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