Monday, January 12, 2009

NEW LEAD LAW MAY CAUSE CHAOS IN CHILDREN'S LIBRARIES

Boston Phoenix - Is it possible that Congress has just inadvertently turned millions of children's books into contraband? At the moment, anything seems possible with regard to the sprawling, 62-page Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act passed this past August with overwhelming margins in both the House and the Senate. The CPSIA, intended to keep lead out of toys, may well also keep books out of libraries, says Emily Sheketoff, associate executive director of the American Library Association. Topics

"We are very busy trying to come up with a way to make it not apply to libraries," said Sheketoff. 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."

On February 10, the new law gets teeth. After that day, all products for children under 12 - books, games, toys, sports equipment, furniture, clothes, DVDs, and just about every other conceivable children's gadget and gewgaw - must be tested for lead, and fall below a new 600 part-per-million limit, or face the landfill. Thanks to a September 12 memo from the Consumer Product Safety Commission, the lead limit applies not only to new products, but also to inventory already on store shelves. . .

As the February 10 deadline approaches, the CPSIA has been causing increasing consternation - and, at times, hysteria - among makers and sellers of children's products, who are just beginning to realize the financial and logistical nightmare they face in trying to comply. Lead testing promises to be expensive - from several hundred to several thousand dollars per test, depending on the product. And each batch of each item must be tracked and tested, making compliance brutally expensive for items with small runs. . .

The CPSC has not issued any ruling on whether libraries, schools, and other institutions that loan - rather than sell - books will be subject to the law. Without such clear guidance, says Adler, schools and libraries should assume they have to comply.