Libraries and bookstores could be forced to take kids’ books off the shelves unless the Consumer Product Safety Commission delays enforcement of a law designed to protect children from toys, clothing or other products tainted with dangerous chemicals. The law takes effect Feb. 10, reports the San Jose Mercury News:
Without a reprieve, San Jose library officials say they could be forced to close their children’s sections and send off all 700,000 volumes in them for safety testing.
Congress passed the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act in August to protect kids from exposure to lead and plastic. The law followed the discovery of lead paint in imported toy trains and mounting health concerns about baby bottles and toys containing phthalates, used to make some plastics more flexible.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission says the law covers all books aimed at children under 12, including books already in libraries. All must be tested for lead and phthalate or taken off the shelves.
Many children’s books, like the Dorothy Kunhardt touch-and-feel classic “Pat the Bunny,” have pages with plastic, cloth or other material to excite young minds.
And a toddler might chew on a book for a few minutes, picking up the germs of the toddlers who’ve chewed on it before. What are the odds of a kid getting seriously sick from Pat the Bunny? A gazillion to one, I’d guess. What are the odds that libraries will use money set aside for buying new books to pay for useless testing?
Children’s clothing will be more expensive to cover the costs of testing the same materials again and again; retailers and resellers say they’ll stop selling children’s clothing to avoid liability.
Just repeal the law, advises Walter Olson on Forbes.
(Thrift stores and other used-clothing sellers) while not obliged to test, face liability if they inadvertently sell a vintage item with any component (the axle on a skateboard, the zipper on a size 10 jacket, the rhinestone on a doll’s tiara) that flunks the tough new standards.
Since a broad-based testing regime will normally be incompatible with the economics of a thrift store, that will leave store managers with the unpleasant choice of : 1) ceasing to sell children’s goods; or 2) predictably being in noncompliance on a lot of old items (without knowing which ones) and hoping no one ever decides to enforce the law against them.
Legislators who sponsored the bill belatedly asked the CPSC to exempt children’s clothing with no metal or plastic fasteners and children’s books “that have no painted, plastic or metal components.” Use a staple, go to jail. It’s not clear the commission has the power to comply.
Good intentions, bad law, writes Health News Digest.