Child Safety Act Impact On Children's Books Sparks Major Concern
- Friday, January 23, 2009
The Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act, CPSIA, passed last August in the heat of the 2007 recalls of Chinese manufactured toys containing unsafe levels of lead, is aimed at all consumer products intended for use by children 12 and under—and this means not just toys, but books. The legislation mandates testing for lead in all these products including books, something that would obviously be extremely expensive for publishers(up to $1,500 per title). The act is slated to go into effect February 10 and publishers are now scrambling to find a solution, or to get Congress to exempt books.
Chip Gibson, President and Publisher of Random House, has said that, “this is a potential calamity like nothing I’ve ever seen. The implications are quite literally unimaginable.” He went on to point out that books could be removed from schools, libraries and bookstores and retailers, printers and publishers could go out of business. He added, “Books are safe. This is like testing milk for lead.”
“Yes, the CPSIA may well keep books out of libraries,” adds Emily Sheketoff, associate executive director of the American Library Association. “We are very busy trying to come up with a way to make it not apply to libraries.” But unless she succeeds in lobbying Capitol Hill for an exemption, she believes libraries have two choices under the CPSIA: “Either they take all the children’s books off the shelves,” she says, “or they ban children from the library.”
“Under this new law, you are suspect until proven safe,” says Allan Adler, the American Association of Publishers’ vice president for legal and governmental affairs.
Regardless of whether libraries and schools are affected, the CPSIA is poised to cause distress and confusion in the book industry. Large retailers are beginning to demand that publishers comply, and did so even in advance of the law’s deadline. In January, Amazon.com sent a general letter informing its vendors that, if they did not certify their products, the items would be returned at the sellers’ expense.
As of this writing the American Booksellers Association, Children’s Book Council and other associations directly affected are working to lobby Congress to alter the CPSIA. How successful they will be is still unclear. The SCBWI will join in the lobbying efforts, and members should contact their representatives in Congress as well. First, begin by getting a current update on the legislation. You can do so by visiting the Publishers Weekly website at www.publishersweekly.com
and the CPSIA site at www.cpsc.gov/about/cpsia/cpsia.html
Also for the latest information, or to find out contact info for your representatives, visit the American Library Association online at http://www.wo.ala.org/districtdispatch/