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The End of Vintage Kids' Books?

Some readers were confused about my comment below that the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act is having a negative impact on used booksellers. In short, the CPSIA bars the sale of children's books printed before 1985 due to concern that the ink might contain lead. As the Washington Post reported:

Legislation passed by Congress last August in response to fears of lead-tainted toys imported from China went into effect last month. Consumer groups and safety advocates have praised it for its far-reaching protections. But libraries and book resellers such as Goodwill are worried about one small part of the law: a ban on distributing children's books printed before 1985.

According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, the agency charged with enforcing the act, lead in the books' inks could make its way into the mouths of little kids. Goodwill is calling for a change in the legislation even as it clears its shelves to comply, and libraries are worried they could be the next ones scrubbing their shelves. . . .

Scientists are emphatic that lead, which was common in paints before its use was banned in 1978, poses a threat to the neural development of small children. But they disagree about whether there is enough in the ink in children's books to warrant concern. . . .

The legislation, which passed with strong bipartisan support, was a reaction to lead's being discovered on and in thousands of imported toys, mostly from China, in 2007. It restricts lead content in products designed for children age 12 and younger to 600 parts per million by weight; the threshold drops to 300 parts per million in August of this year. Items as varied as bikes and jewelry are affected.

So are books such as "Madeleine," "Goodnight Moon" and "Corduroy."

Lead was phased out of printer's ink following the 1978 paint ban; lacking a firm date for when it effectively disappeared, the safety commission has ruled that the toxic metal might be found in any book printed before 1985. . . .

Implementation of the new law has libraries and secondhand bookstores reeling. Although they could pay to have each old book tested, the cost ($300 to $600 a book, according to the American Library Association) makes that impractical.

For more on this, see Walter Olson's City Journal article, "The New Book Banning," as well as his stuff on Overlawyered.com, specifically this post.

Related Posts (on one page):

  1. The End of Vintage Kids' Books?
  2. No More Rhinestone Cowboys and Cowgirls?
cboldt (mail):
Anybody remember toy soldiers made of lead?
8.3.2009 7:06pm
Angus:
Stupid law, but if book sellers can't figure out how to get around it, shame on them for being dumb. You label each book an "adult memorabilia collectible" and sell it as such, not as a book.
8.3.2009 7:16pm
santa monica (mail) (www):
One assumes that, if this indeed is a real concern, it would be an easy legislative fix. It's not exactly a Dem or Repub talking point to eliminate books (well, books in general). Would anyone actually oppose a narrow exception for books?
8.3.2009 7:36pm
/:
Would anyone actually oppose a narrow exception for books?

Nope. The only way to fix broken legislation is to pass more.
8.3.2009 7:37pm
HS of AUS:
The End of Vintage Kids' Books?

Not so. We just need to wait thirty years or so and there will be plenty of them.
8.3.2009 7:41pm
Shadow:
If a kid is eating books, they have far worse problems than fear of lead poisoning, such as what eating paper will do to them, and the probable malnutrition that would lead to such behavior. I'm a used book seller myself and, though I don't specialize in kids' books, I do have some for sale. I intend to ignore the law as it's too stupid to be taken seriously, though I may relabel the books as Angus suggests. Goodwill should just ignore the law too, and let somebody try to prosecute them for this. Who would be stupid enough to prosecute Goodwill?
8.3.2009 7:44pm
DangerMouse:
People really think this was unintentional? I wish I had your faith in their stupidity. I attribute it to malice.
8.3.2009 7:47pm
Fub:
OK, I'm gonna go totally idiotic just for the heck of it.

Why isn't this a speech restriction based on content?

Isn't the publication date of the book content?

What is the compelling state interest? How many books with publication dates prior to 1985 would a child have to eat in order to even develop measurable Pb serum levels?
8.3.2009 7:56pm
silvermine (mail) (www):
Goodwill isn't just worried about books. They are worried about all kids toys and clothes. Anything for kids 12 and under. AT ALL.

So this winter, when kids are freezing because there are no thrift store coats to buy, you'll know who to blame.

(And there won't be any used cars left to buy either. You get the feeling the elitist congress doesn't understand what real american families have to deal with?)
8.3.2009 7:57pm
John Moore (www):
Ah, the nanny state.

When I was a kid, we used to make lead soldiers by melting lead on the gas stove and pouring it into molds.

Now, the slightest possibility of the slightest exposure is enough to bring down the power of the federal regulators.

Then there's mercury... used to have bottles of it and rolled them around with our fingers. That was commonplace.

Maybe that explains the Flynn Effect ;-)
8.3.2009 8:04pm
Steve:
Isn't the publication date of the book content?

No?
8.3.2009 8:06pm
Curt Fischer:

Isn't the publication date of the book content?


But how can one determine if a book is a children's book without relying on the book's content? Maybe Fub's idea works if you focus on the "children's" part of the phrase instead of the "published before 1985" part of the phrase.
8.3.2009 8:21pm
Perseus (mail):
We just need to wait thirty years or so and there will be plenty of them.

Not so. In thirty years they will find some new health concern with books published today, so they will have to ban the sale of those books too. But that will be good news for publishers of new books...
8.3.2009 8:21pm
_quodlibet_:
Isn't banning the sale of certain books unconstitutional under the First Amendment? "Congress shall make no law ... abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press". Perhaps it might be constitutional to forbid marketing the books as suitable for children, but an outright ban seem indefensible.

And, on a related note, it seems simply un-American to ban the sale of potentially dangerous goods even when the customer understands the risk and believes the benefit outweighs the risk.
8.3.2009 8:23pm
Andrew J. Lazarus (mail):
When I was a kid, we used to make lead soldiers by melting lead on the gas stove and pouring it into molds.
That explains a lot.

Seriously, unlike paint chips, I can't imagine there is enough lead in a book, but I could be wrong. Retardation from eating lead paint appears to be a genuine problem. I imagine that lead toys pose a similar hazard.
8.3.2009 8:26pm
Walter Olson (mail) (www):
Angus:

if book sellers can't figure out how to get around it, shame on them for being dumb. You label each book an "adult memorabilia collectible" and sell it as such, not as a book.

Most of the used book sellers who've written about CPSIA's impact on their business don't think such a dodge will work very well. Examples: Bookroom Blog (tactic "will work for some children's books, but only for a few"), Common Room (CPSC will consult "value and age" in determining what qualifies as authentic collectible, and most of the books in question are neither very pricey nor of primarily antiquarian interest).
8.3.2009 8:28pm
Scape:
Unfortunately, CPSIA has such a dramatically more harmful impact on small-time "manufacturers" that to the big players, to some degree it's just another means to help keep out the competition. The biggest losers (aside from consumers) are home entrepreneurs -- particularly stay at home moms hoping to bring in some income with home made crafts. Selling a couple dozen baby slings a week is no longer profitable once you're spending ten thousand or so bucks to do the required lead testing.

Also completely inane is the way in which lead samples are required to be taken -- not from the inputs, but rather from the total of the product, which is astronomically more expensive and less effective at judging whether there are harmful quantities of lead present.
8.3.2009 8:39pm
book lover (mail):
Note that, unlike many Volokh Conspiracy threads, there's no real debate here. CPSIA involves two types of people: those who know it's evil, or those who haven't heard much about it and will join group one if they learn. The only other category out there are the evil/stupid perpetrators, a/k/a Congress.

Seriously, has ANYONE with half a brain written a defense of banning pre-1985 books, and all bikes, and pens, and more? It is a tragedy that something with such an awful effect, by consensus among all reasonable people, has so little chance of being fixed. How can anyone expect positive change on something as challenging as healthcare, when there's no consensus on fixing something this stupid? And worse yet, there WAS such a broad consensus on passing this monstrosity?

Maybe the reason to get rid of old books is to keep the next generation from learning that we ever had a more limited government.
8.3.2009 9:09pm
Fub:
Walter Olson wrote at 8.3.2009 8:28pm:
Most of the used book sellers who've written about CPSIA's impact on their business don't think such a dodge will work very well.
Well, such dodges work fairly well with other contraband where the contraband nature is in the eye of the beholder.

Federally (and most or all states), sales of cigarette paper, baggies, pipes, and other such things are subject to prosecution under drug paraphenalia laws.

The dodge works this way:

The storekeeper's posted policy is that the items are for use only by adults for legal purposes, such as smoking tobacco or legal substances.

The storekeeper's unwritten policy, which avoids busts, is that if a customer even mentions an illegal substance when trying to purchase an item, there will be no sale.

Granted that the excrably ambitious federal prosecutor Mary Beth Buchanan prosecuted Tommy Chong for paraphenalia distribution. But there was little or no question what Mr. Chong's son's business made clear the paraphenalia was for use with illegal substances.

There is as yet, no widespread public moral panic over children eating Pb laden books, so no federal prosecutorial careers to be made by exploiting this law.

If a storekeeper advertises "adult memorabilia collectible" books, and word gets around not to mention that one is buying the book for one's children, there is at least some historical factual basis for betting that there would be no prosecutions. Except for the stray bookseller who doesn't close down a sale immediately if the undercover feral cop mentions that she intends the book for her children.

They could likely sell tickets to the trial in such a case.
8.3.2009 9:12pm
Sarah Natividad (mail) (www):
Angus and Fub: the authors of CPSIA anticipated this dodge ("It's for adults! It says so right here on the label, 13 and up!"). CPSIA has this to say about determining the age for which a product is intended:

In determining whether products described
in paragraph (1) are designed or intended for use by a
child of the ages specified, the following factors shall be
considered:
(i) A statement by a manufacturer about the
intended use of such product, including a label on
such product if such statement is reasonable.
(ii) Whether the product is represented in its packaging,
display, promotion, or advertising as appropriate
for use by children of the ages specified.
(iii) Whether the product is commonly recognized
by consumers as being intended for use by a child
of the ages specified.
(iv) The Age Determination guidelines issued by
the Commission staff in September 2002 and any successor
to such guidelines.


Short version, if people look at it and say "that's a children's item," it is. You can't label a bib as "for adult use only" or a baby size bootie as "decorative", or package a pen in a way that appeals to children and then claim it's a general use pen.
8.3.2009 9:24pm
Alan Gunn (mail):

Note that, unlike many Volokh Conspiracy threads, there's no real debate here. CPSIA involves two types of people: those who know it's evil, or those who haven't heard much about it and will join group one if they learn. The only other category out there are the evil/stupid perpetrators, a/k/a Congress.

Interesting point. There's a class of "supporters," though: the New York Times and Snopes, for instance. I suspect that their underlying principle is that we shouldn't admit that government is capable of such stupidity, so we'll just dismiss the fears as "needless" (the Times) or assume that the law won't really be enforced against anyone who isn't evil (Snopes). As for Congress, think of the campaign commercials accusing anyone who opposes this legislation of favoring "lead in children's toys." There's a real public-relations problem here, too. The law is so massively idiotic that most people react by saying "well, they won't really enforce that, will they?" (Enforcement is in the hands not only of the commission, but the attorneys general of each state.) Some members of Congress are trying to blame the stupid outcomes on the commission, arguing that it won't make sensible regulations. Which is true, but irrelevant, because the law limits the commission's authority here.

Yup, let's let these people run medicine, too. What could go wrong?
8.3.2009 9:24pm
Cato The Elder (mail) (www):

Yup, let's let these people run medicine, too. What could go wrong?

Well, Massachusetts.
8.3.2009 9:44pm
PersonFromPorlock:
DangerMouse:

People really think this was unintentional? I wish I had your faith in their stupidity. I attribute it to malice.

Why malice? Why not the new-book industry very sensibly bribing Congress to take competing used books out of circulation?

Remember - it's called "Capitolism" for a reason.
8.3.2009 9:47pm
Sarah Natividad (mail) (www):
Here's an excellent post on the legislative history of CPSIA. Short version: the bill was pretty much written by and at the behest of several "consumer" lobbyist groups. Congress was warned that the bill was too broad and took risk assessment out of the picture, but they figured it was just what the usual suspects would say and took that as proof that it was a good law.
8.3.2009 9:54pm
davod (mail):
This is a far greater problem than books. Furniture and clothing are also involved. The cost of new product testing is prohibitive for small manufacturers.
8.3.2009 9:59pm
/:
"Capitolism" for a reason

Nice.

The cost of new product testing is prohibitive for small manufacturers.

And unlike the gasoline tank replacement issue a few years back, there's no reasonable argument for doing it in the first place; so where's the study on who lobbied the hardest for this?
8.3.2009 10:06pm
Duracomm (mail):
Angus said,
Stupid law, but if book sellers can't figure out how to get around it, shame on them for being dumb. You label each book an "adult memorabilia collectible" and sell it as such, not as a book.
Of course if booksellers were to try and get around the CPSIA regulations they can count on dependable supporters of unfettered government regulatory power like Angus to support their prosecution.

In fact Angus would probably come up with some flimsy pretext to justify his support of the prosecution.

Like he did on another recent thread regarding the overwhelming breadth of possible prosecutions under federal law like the CPSIA.
Read a little more about the cases in Balko's post, and I'm not so sure anymore that they are as ridiculous as they seem. For example, the Kirster Evertson prosecuted for selling sodium metal. Turns out he had 10 tons of the stuff (which is used in Meth making) and had transported it from Seattle to Idaho without taking needed safety precautions.

He also was head of what looked to be a single-person corporation and was known to travel under a false name. I'm ambivalent about drug laws, but my gut says this guy was in the meth business.

Selling books through a single person corporation and traveling anonymously, clearly that person is guilty of violating the law and deserves prosecution, right Angus???

Obviously the prudent bookseller is going to dump old books as fast as he can.

You would have to be an idiot to leave your fate to the capricious prosecutorial judgment to people like Angus who are enthusiastic supporters of expansive government regulatory power.
8.3.2009 10:08pm
Passing By:
I discussed this, in passing, with a CPSC official who opined that this was a hysterical reaction being fanned by right-wingers (and he has nothing against right-wingers, being one himself, just hysteria). I'll have to follow up with him.
8.3.2009 10:10pm
Fub:
Passing By wrote at 8.3.2009 10:10pm:
I discussed this, in passing, with a CPSC official who opined that this was a hysterical reaction being fanned by right-wingers (and he has nothing against right-wingers, being one himself, just hysteria). I'll have to follow up with him.
Be sure to ask if we have always been at war with Eastasia.
8.3.2009 10:26pm
Eric Rasmusen (mail) (www):
This is an example of how truly evil the National Resources Defense Council is. The CPSC tried to issue a reasonable interpretation of this unreasonable law. If nobody had objected, that would have been a way around this craziness. But Democratic politicians and the NRDC did object, saying the crazy result was what they wanted, and the court, quite properly, had to admit that the crazy policy was indeed what the law said. See


National Resources Defense Council v. US Consumer Product Safety Commmission, 08 Civ. 10507, SD NY, Gardephe. J.

I have a link and other references here.
8.3.2009 10:27pm
Eric Rasmusen (mail) (www):
On lead more generally: I have a suspicion that current lead standards are ridiculously tight and have no safety benefit whatsoever. There were stories about children eating paint chips, I know, but are those more than stories? I bet you'd have to eat a lot of paint to get enough lead digested to make a difference. In any case, beyond perhaps indoors lead paint (outdoors should cause no problem) and lead anti-knock chemicals in gasoline, does anyone know of evidence that any other lead products have caused enough harm to justify banning them?

Also, I think I recall seeing that the average lead level in people's bodies back in the 1960's was above what is called dangerous now. I don't think it works to explain the Flynn Effect. Is there any evidence of ill effects on a massive scale back then?
8.3.2009 10:34pm
DangerMouse:
Why malice?

Congress is full of politicians. They need campaign donations to run for office again. This issue is a parochial issue that won't affect too many people, and others will dismiss it because they won't believe that it's as onerous as reported. Congress creates the problem. To "solve" it, they need to hear from you. But they're awfully busy, and they really only have time to listen to campaign contributors....
8.3.2009 10:40pm
Sarah Natividad (mail) (www):
Eric Rasmussen: See here and here. The vast majority of lead poisoning cases (70-85%) come from lead house paint chips, followed by contaminated soil. Other sources of lead poisoning include imported candies, foreign home remedies, lead pipes, lead-soldered samovars and other vessels for drinks, and ingestion of lead-containing objects like bullets and fishing sinkers. You can count on one hand the number of cases each year that are caused by consumer goods, and only half of those are children's goods covered by CPSIA.

Lead poisoning also doesn't correlate tightly with blood lead levels. At the CDC's "level of concern" (10 ug/dl) some children show symptoms, while others don't. It may depend at least partially on diet; a nutritious diet may mitigate the effects of lead.
8.3.2009 11:10pm
FantasiaWHT:
My first thought was "Google Books is going to love this!"
8.3.2009 11:22pm
John Burgess (mail) (www):
Why does Henry Waxman hate literate children? Why does he hate kids bikes or clothing with rhinestones?

He must have had a miserable childhood.
8.3.2009 11:37pm
Californio (mail):
Who knew my vintage children's book "Little Black Sambo" was so dangerous?
8.4.2009 1:27am
HS of AUS:
I think my Dr Seuss books have all been deleted from my Amazon Kindle.
8.4.2009 3:04am
Angus:
Duracomm said blah, blah, blah.

Yes, because a person using a false identity to sell explosive materials unmarked through the mail is a situation exactly equivalent to a person using their real name to sell children's books.
8.4.2009 4:26am
NickM (mail) (www):
These aren't children's books - they're for really stupid adults, such as Congressmen.

Nick
8.4.2009 4:49am
JS Huntlands (mail) (www):
Set in today's day and time, Me and My Best Friend is about a young boy, his faithful companion and their exciting adventures.

Henry and Liam are the best of friends and they do everything together. They can run and play all day long. But when Henry the puppy gets tired and tries to take a nap, three-year-old Liam keeps waking him, wanting him to play some more. Will Henry get any rest?

Get your children involved with this beautifully illustrated book. Your child will love to match up words and pictures, and find Liam, who keeps hiding in his bedroom. Perfect for the young reader!




About the Author

J.S. Huntlands is the author of Nick Twisted Minds and is currently working on more books in this series, as well as 23 more books in the Me and My Best Friend series. Huntlands is a full-time writer, as well as a mom to a wonderful four-year-old boy. This book is dedicated to her son in hopes that he never forgets his best friend.
8.4.2009 6:49am
davod (mail):
"Be sure to ask if we have always been at war with Eastasia."

US small manufacturers will not be able to bear the cost of testing.

The law is a pernicious as the Cap and Trade legisislation. The law effects everything.

As usual the tort lawers will win.
8.4.2009 7:09am
Brett Bellmore:
I'm with those who assume this was deliberate. And even if it wasn't, the very fact that they're not rushing to fix it makes it retroactively deliberate.

Before moving last year, I sold the bulk of my library to a bookseller, because the moving van was full. If I'd known much of it was going to be sent to a landfill, I'd have figured out SOME way to keep it.

Tom Swift, I mourn you.
8.4.2009 7:36am
cookiecool (mail):
May every Jack has his Jill. Still Don't have a date?
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8.4.2009 7:44am
Danny (mail):
I am also a children's book survivor. I constantly read Peter Rabbit and Goodnight Moon and touched all the pages, and now I'm scarred for life.

If only my parents had raised me just sitting in front of video games and the TV, my quality of life would have been so much better...
8.4.2009 7:51am
yankev (mail):

Why malice? Why not the new-book industry very sensibly bribing Congress to take competing used books out of circulation?
There is also a cottage industry of safe children's toys, often homemade, using wood, safe finishes and eco-freindly materials. What a wonderful wauy for the toy industry to put small competitors, who cannot afford the testing, out of busienss.
8.4.2009 9:21am
Commodore:
The issue raised in many comments here to the effect that there is nothing to be afraid of because no prosecutors will ever bother pursuing charges for selling untested children's books under the CPSIA dovetails quite nicely with the discussion a few days ago about the considerable loss of freedom that goes along with our increasing number of criminal laws.

To wit: prosecutors won't ever use the CPSIA to bring charges, unless, of course, they happen to find a violator who is sufficiently unpopular.
8.4.2009 9:36am
Abdul Abulbul Amir (mail):

One assumes that, if this indeed is a real concern, it would be an easy legislative fix. It's not exactly a Dem or Repub talking point to eliminate books (well, books in general). Would anyone actually oppose a narrow exception for books?


To put children at risk for the profit of greedy book sellers, you betcha.

BTW, this law applies to children's four wheel ATV's. The idea that minute traces of lead in an engine block are in any a hazard is completely nuts.
8.4.2009 9:54am
Closet Libertarian (www):
There are other crazy parts of the law as well. Even if all parts have been tested, once assembled they have to be retested. This will eliminate products that do not have lead in them. How about a fine for products that actually have lead in them?
8.4.2009 10:45am
ValentinoRossi:
My wife and I donated several thousand books we purchased over the last thirty five years to a parochial school earlier this year not knowing of CPSIA. "Well, it's their problem and not ours," said my wife.
8.4.2009 10:56am
DennisN (mail):
Steve:

Isn't the publication date of the book content?


No?


No, but the lead is content.

{WHACK} Owwww!


_quodlibet_:


Isn't banning the sale of certain books unconstitutional under the First Amendment?


They are not banned, per se. They cannot be sold for use by children under 12, because they are allegedly unsafe. If the books were actually toxic, no one would think twice about banning "Arsenic Books".


book lover:

And worse yet, there WAS such a broad consensus on passing this monstrosity?


No, there was a broad consensus on passing the title of the bill without reading it. Who could be against Consumer Safety? In particular, who can be against consumer safety when prodded and bribed by powerful consumer advocate terrorists Lobbies? I'd argue that everyone voting for it should be kicked out of Congress for gross dereliction of duty, but I'd be baying into the wind. Anyway, "Congress" and "gross dereliction of duty" is redundant.


Duracomm:

Obviously the prudent bookseller is going to dump old books as fast as he can.


That's what I did with my entire inventory of childrens' clothing. Fortunately, I didn't have much. The items that fit go to my Grandchildren.


Abdul Abulbul Amir:

this law applies to children's four wheel ATV's. The idea that minute traces of lead in an engine block are in any a hazard is completely nuts


If you are licking the engine block of your motorcycle, you have bigger problems than the lead; particularly if it is in motion at the time.

For me, the offensive part isn't the stupidity of the legislation. It is the culpability of an arrogant Congress in not fixing an obviously stupid law. As Brett Bellmore said, the very fact that they're not rushing to fix it makes it retroactively deliberate.
8.4.2009 10:58am
Owen H. (mail):

Yup, let's let these people run medicine, too. What could go wrong?



Of course, by this logic the government should not be running anything, such as the military, or the post office, or border security, or homeland security.

The problem is that there is no single "these people". The people involved here are not the ones involved in health care.
8.4.2009 11:37am
Hugh59:

Granted that the excrably ambitious federal prosecutor Mary Beth Buchanan prosecuted Tommy Chong for paraphenalia distribution. But there was little or no question what Mr. Chong's son's business made clear the paraphenalia was for use with illegal substances.


Excuse me, fub, do you know Ms. Buchanan? I do. Before becoming the US Attorney for the Western District of Pennsylvania, she was a career AUSA. She came from a working class background and was a single mother before starting law school. She is a conservative so people who hate conservatives are going to hate her and insult her.

She was loaded with extra work and extra responsibilities by the previous administration because she is hard working and very good at her work. I have talked with her about some of her more controversial cases (which are being litigated by the career attorneys on her staff, not by her personally) and I don't think that ambition is behind any of them.
8.4.2009 11:51am
egd:

Of course, by this logic the government should not be running anything, such as the military, or the post office, or border security, or homeland security.

If you were to throw out the Constitution, this makes perfect sense. Military and postal services are express powers of Congress, whether they do them effectively (and weighing the tremendous deficits in the PO against the relative success of FedEx and UPS, suggests they do not) does not bring into question their authority to do so.

Health insurance, not being an explicitly granted power, is being sold as "the Government can do it better." This law is further evidence that the Government can't do it better.


The problem is that there is no single "these people". The people involved here are not the ones involved in health care.

Congress isn't writing the "health care reform" bill? If not Congress, and not the Executive branch...then who is?
8.4.2009 11:53am
LarryA (mail) (www):
Lead was phased out of printer's ink following the 1978 paint ban; lacking a firm date for when it effectively disappeared, the safety commission has ruled that the toxic metal might be found in any book printed before 1985
Back in the 60s my parents had a "books are for reading, not eating" rule. In the 80s our children had the same understanding. How did we survive without government help?
Anybody remember toy soldiers made of lead?
(Hand goes up.) I also remember lead weights in venetian blind cords, and lots of other uses.
Stupid law, but if book sellers can't figure out how to get around it, shame on them for being dumb. You label each book an "adult memorabilia collectible" and sell it as such, not as a book.
And the Lead Police will charge you with a felony if you have adult memorabilia collectibles where children can browse them.
And, on a related note, it seems simply un-American to ban the sale of potentially dangerous goods even when the customer understands the risk and believes the benefit outweighs the risk.
Not any more. See: War on Guns, War on Drugs, War on Tobacco, War on Transfats, War on Sugar, War on...
Retardation from eating lead paint appears to be a genuine problem.
It used to be. But over the last couple of decades it's mostly been solved by replacing the paint.
If a storekeeper advertises "adult memorabilia collectible" books, and word gets around not to mention that one is buying the book for one's children, there is at least some historical factual basis for betting that there would be no prosecutions.
Except that by the time I was six my parents were letting me pick out my own damn books.
8.4.2009 12:00pm
davod (mail):
"I'm with those who assume this was deliberate. And even if it wasn't, the very fact that they're not rushing to fix it makes it retroactively deliberate."

There was a bi-partisan effort to amend the law but it went nowhere.
8.4.2009 12:57pm
FWB (mail):
Another bogus governmental control program!

Government warning:

Blood Pb levels of over 10 ug/dL MAY cause a decrease in IQ of 0 to 4 pts on an IQ scale with a standard deviation of 15.

Same as the As nonissue. And the asbestos nonissue.

OMG, the sky is FALLING!!!

Are there issues with Pb, AS, and asbestos? Yes. Just as dihydrogen monoxide is one of the most dangerous substances on Earth, each of these has its problems. But then it so much easier to fix a nonissue that to tackle REAL problems.

Tiocfaidh ar la!
8.4.2009 12:59pm
FWB (mail):
Interested persons might want to get John Stossel's "Are We Scaring Ourselves to Death?" ABC newshow. I believe it came out in 1995. I show it in my college courses.

The show covers the EPA attack on Aspen, CO.

Tiocfaidh ar la!
8.4.2009 1:04pm
Fub:
Hugh59 wrote at 8.4.2009 11:51am:
Excuse me, fub, do you know Ms. Buchanan? I do. Before becoming the US Attorney for the Western District of Pennsylvania, she was a career AUSA. She came from a working class background and was a single mother before starting law school. She is a conservative so people who hate conservatives are going to hate her and insult her.
Never met her. Don't want to meet her under any circumstances.

My opinion is based solely upon public accounts of her behaviors or actions, statements and attitudes toward law, truth and justice. I know conservatives who definitely don't support prosecution of such cases as she chose to prosecute, nor the manner and tactics she chose to prosecute them.

Background and upbringing are irrelevant. Actual public actions are relevant.
8.4.2009 1:32pm
Lead Ink Book Defender:
They can have my copy of Blueberries for Sal when they pry my cold, dead fingers from it.
8.4.2009 2:58pm
Hugh59:
Fub, I think you are full of toothpaste.

I don't necessarily agree with every one of Buchanan's prosecutions either. I disagree with Buchanan's views on porn and violence in movies (and other issues)...but I recognize that she genuinely holds those views. Too many people in public life push views that they really don't believe in.

But you just go on hating conservatives. It's a free country. You are free to hate them, and I am free to think that it reflects poorly on you.
8.4.2009 3:21pm
/:
...then who is?

The Red Menace
8.4.2009 3:41pm
aces:
How can the CPSC or Congress decide what constitutes a "children's book" without making a literary judgment? Doesn't the First Amendment prohibit the government from making subjective literary judgments?
8.4.2009 4:50pm
Book lover:
Davod, can you give more info re your statement that "There was a bi-partisan effort to amend the law but it went nowhere." As I understand it, the only Democrat to make some noise was Dingell, who still hates Waxman over losing the Commerce chair to him. So Dingell asked CPSC to answer several questions, triggering the CPSC memo that explains why the problem is in the statute itself, and is thus not fixable by the agency. But I don't think he ever signed on to any bills to fix it, did he?

Other than that, who has signed on? Word was that some realized it's a problem, but Pelosi and Waxman scared them all of. So an issue that was a bipartisan screwup, and could have been a bipartisan fix, has somewhat become partisan. That's bad news for any hope for a fix, because if it does solidify on party lines, then of course it's a loser.

But if you have info on pro-fix Democrats, let us know.

Meanwhile, if it does end up partisan enough to prevent passage of a fix, then the GOP should try to rev it up as an issue next year, especially GOP challengers. For incumbents, admit you made a mistake, and then say "but I'm willing to fix it, and they won't let us." Run some video of the shelf-clearing at Goodwill, and dumpsters full of books, coats, and teddy bears. If mushy "for the children" got us into this, turn it around on them. Not only might it be powerful, but it would not be stooping to the usual "for the children" scam, as the difference is that the harm of destroyed products is real, and the harm of lead in ink was bogus.
8.4.2009 4:54pm
Losantiville:
CPSIA bars the sale of children's books printed before 1985

Or - Bans the sale of books printed in 1984, or before.
It doesn't actually ban sales. It creates a Safe Harbor for post 1984 books. At your own risk.
8.4.2009 5:00pm
Fub:
Hugh59 wrote at 8.4.2009 3:21pm:
Fub, I think you are full of toothpaste.
Maybe I am. But not as full as the jurors in the Cyril Wecht thought her prosecution was.

Nor as full as the star witness' story she paraded before the jury in the Rottschaefer trial. The witness admitted later to lying on the stand in hopes of leniency in another case. But that little admission didn't even cause her an iota of rethinking the justice of her prosecution. Naturally, she's not prosecuting her witness for perjury either.

At least one former US Attorney has called for her resignation, claiming her prosecutions were partisan. That may, or may not, be partisan itself.

But the first two issues aren't a question of conservative or liberal politics. They are a matter of ordinary human decency.
I don't necessarily agree with every one of Buchanan's prosecutions either. I disagree with Buchanan's views on porn and violence in movies (and other issues)...but I recognize that she genuinely holds those views. Too many people in public life push views that they really don't believe in.
The cases above are about human decency, and the ambition to win at any cost.
But you just go on hating conservatives. It's a free country. You are free to hate them, and I am free to think that it reflects poorly on you.
I don't think conservative or liberal has anything to do with my opinion.
8.4.2009 6:31pm
Sarah Natividad (mail) (www):
Losantiville: No, it doesn't technically speaking ban sales of these books. It just makes it illegal to do anything with them but throw them away. Of course you can sell the book, if it's been tested and proven lead-free. But the test you have to do destroys the book. But see? It's not illegal to sell the book.

That's the insidious way that CPSIA works. Its proponents get to jaw all day long about how it doesn't really ban books and doesn't require sellers to throw them away, and pretend the people who are trying to figure out what to do with these books are just being petulant or stupid. In the meantime, these sellers are stuck with books that it's illegal to "stockpile" (keep) and illegal to sell and illegal to give away. If you test them you can sell them, but then you'd be spending good money to destroy the book you want to sell.

So if you're for CPSIA, you tell me: what should they do with the books, if not throw them away? Which is equivalent to burning them.
8.4.2009 6:58pm
Duracomm (mail):
Lacking a substantive reply to my points Angus said
Duracomm said blah, blah, blah.

He then continued with
Yes, because a person using a false identity to sell explosive materials unmarked through the mail is a situation exactly equivalent to a person using their real name to sell children's books.
Actually if the penalties are similar and a motivated prosecutor runs the prosecution the end results are exactly the same. This ignores the crushing impact even an unsuccessful prosecution has on an individual.

You were ignorant enough to think that having a single owner corporation was evidence of criminal activity. I suppose their are several book dealers who operate as single owner corporations.

If you are at all consistent that must mean these booksellers must be guilty of some crimminal acivity.
8.4.2009 7:18pm
Angus:
You were ignorant enough to think that having a single owner corporation was evidence of criminal activity. I suppose their are several book dealers who operate as single owner corporations.
Single owner + no apparent employees, customers, or products + fake identity + fake address + mailing unmarked explosive materials. Yep, exactly like your typical book store owner.
8.4.2009 9:22pm
jenny2:
They will have to rip my copy of "Mrs. Ticklefeather" out of my cold dead hands.
8.4.2009 9:36pm
maggiew65 (www):
This is just one step in banning ALL books. How about all
the pre 1985 books printed that are not childrens books,
that children can and do read such as old encyclopedias,
old Bibles, old newpapers, etc....when will the next turn
of the screw start taking more of our literature away from
all of us for the children?
8.4.2009 10:11pm
Hugh59:
Cyril Wecht is corrupt. He abuses the public trust and profits from his office. He forces public employees to work for HIS benefit.

I talked about this case at length with her and with other prosecutors in her office. Wecht is a disgrace. That does not guarantee that even the best prosecutor will get a conviction.

By the way, have you ever been a criminal prosecutor? I have. It is a harder job than most people imagine. And it is not unusual for even the best, most ethical and careful prosecutors to get slimed by spurious ethics charges.

Your mind is closed. You said you would never meet her under any circumstances. You will believe what you read. Good luck.
8.4.2009 11:54pm
ChrisTS (mail):
Larry A: Except that by the time I was six my parents were letting me pick out my own damn books.

Really? Did they let you select from anyplace in the library/bookstore? The 'Adult' section? Wow.

Look, folks, not wanting unsuspecting parents to expose their kids to toxins is not an evil aim. Of course, many good aims are mangled by over-broad legislation. What is the sensible citizen's response? Work for intellignet reform of over-broad laws.

But, this crazy 'they are coming for our books' stuff is ... well, just crazy.
8.5.2009 12:31am
Ben Franklin (mail):
"Psst, hey kid. Come over here. You won't believe what I have in this book bag! The first one is free... "

Since when did we become rich enough to destroy perfectly good books, and cars (cash for used clunkers), and jobs, and health care industries, and energy sources, and ad infinitum? A horde of locusts is no more rapacious than the bunch in charge now.

Luckily, Americans have a healthy disrespect for the law and are ingenious in finding ways around many of these predations. And when that doesn't work we can always just ignore it. I bought two games for my daughter at the thrift shop just last week that were printed during the no-no years. They cost me a dollar and since my daughter is starting first grade I let her pre-screen the cards and pick the trivia questions she believes she can answer. She thinks she is getting a leg up on me and I think I have tricked her into reading. We are both right.
8.5.2009 12:44am
JAL (mail):
Baby.

Bath water.

I heard about this when the effect on the sales of kids' motorcycles and ATVs (lead in the brake assembly? Like they're eating the brakes...) was raised. I believe they did exempt them? (Millions and millions of dollars of inventory ....)

Seriously, for you folks who are content with Congress writing your single payer healthcare and the Federal government administering it ... WAKE UP.

These people Do Not Live in the Real World.

We do.

I would like to see evidence that a dozen children ... heck, make it one ... was adversely affected by reading and handling a book printed with pre 1985 ink. Evidence.

(My thoughts are that the kids most likely to be affected by lead toxicity would not be in circumstances where they went to sleep with their books ... as all 4 of mine, and I, did thirty years before them when even paint really did have lead in it.)
8.5.2009 1:19am
Zoe E Brain (mail) (www):
Demonstration of harm to even one child is not relevant. Even though lead may be bound and not biologically available even if you ate pounds of the stuff, that's irrelevant.

Any measurable lead content at all, no matter how small, means it is illegal to sell for use by children under 12.

Balloons inflated with ambient air are illegal, as it's possible using the most sensitive gas-spectrum chromatography techniques to detect the few parts per trillion in the atmosphere.
8.5.2009 2:06am
Chimaxx (mail):
It is kind of ridiculous to post this article from March and have all this huffing and puffing about it without anyone even mentioning "H.R. 1692: To amend the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act to exempt ordinary books from the lead limit..." introduced by Jeff Fortenberry in April.
8.5.2009 3:04am
Mr. Bingley (www):
Well, at least now we know why our Dear Representatives in Congress never read the legislation they vote on: I mean, if our beloved children need to be protected from the lead contained in the 15 pages of Goodnight Moon surely our Dear Representatives can not be expected to face the Deadly Peril contained in the 1000 pages of the Health care bill.

It's simply too much to ask.
8.5.2009 6:39am
comatus (mail):
It was Mike Mulligan and Mary Ann and some others who cut through the high mountains so the trains could go through.

It was Mike Mulligan and Mary Ann and some others who lowered the hills and straightened the curves to make the long highways for the automobiles.

It was Mike Mulligan and Mary Ann and some others who smoothed out the ground and filled in the holes to make the landing fields for the airplanes.

And it was Mike Mulligan and Mary Ann and some others who dug the deep holes for the cellars of the tall skyscrapers in the big cities.

Mike Mulligan Shrugged.

Someone should have dubbed this Umberto Eco's Law.
8.5.2009 8:10am
iowan (mail):
Someone mentioned that to just ignore the law is the best way to go. Goodwill most likely will, who would sue Good will? The danger is some paper pusher deep in some office making a name for themselves by issuing a $25000 fine.
8.5.2009 9:34am
Sarah Natividad (mail) (www):
JAL: motorbikes were not exempted; enforcement was stayed for a couple of years by CPSC. Once the stay expires, they're back under the law. And state AGs don't have to respect CPSC's stay, though most probably will.

ChrisTS: the point is not that "they're coming for our books," the point is that anytime they want to prosecute you to death they now have a hook to do it. If most Americans are ignoring the law, then most Americans are now subject to an at-whim $100,000 fine PER BOOK they sell at a yard sale. That most of them probably won't get fined is little consolation. They want us all lined up, bent over, pants down, and they're holding the paddle, but they say they're not going to spank us today? How generous of them. Maybe tomorrow.

Iowan: I'd bet the reason Goodwill's pulling their children's stuff is that many of the agreements stores enter into involve them only selling legal goods. I don't know about Goodwill's particular situation, but on Etsy CPSIA is causing an uproar because Etsy's TOS requires the goods being sold to be legal for sale, meaning that all the grandmas with their untested beanies and booties are violating Etsy's TOS and can have their listings pulled. Etsy's not happy about it, but they have to at least make token efforts at enforcing their TOS or they get in trouble. I imagine Goodwill's probably in a similar situation-- do many building leases require the premises be used for legal purposes only?
8.5.2009 10:27am
gullyborg (mail) (www):
HR 1692 is a Republican bill in Pelosi's House. It will die in committee.

And without a great deal of public outrage, there is zero change of Congress taking action to fix this. We have low-flow toilets that need to be flushed twice and in a few years light bulbs we will be banned - and a search of blog posts on these topics shows that the vast majority of people with an opinion are opposed. But the key is "with an opinion." Most voters are ignorant and don't really care as long as they keep their social security, Medicare, food stamps, etc.
8.5.2009 11:41am
Sarah Natividad (mail) (www):
Indeed, Gullyborg, none of the numerous CPSIA reform bills will make it out of committee, because the heads of the committees in both House and Senate are the same people who wrote the original CPSIA law, and they all to a man/woman believe the law is bulletproof and the objectors to it are just those stupid dunderheads at the CPSC and those idiotic businessmen missing their filthy lucre that they would have gotten by poisoning kiddies. And they don't give a crap about any of those people, so it's OK if they whine that they're going out of business.
8.5.2009 11:50am
ray_g:
"Look, folks, not wanting unsuspecting parents to expose their kids to toxins is not an evil aim."


I would say it is evil when (a) the risk is miniscule, (b) the side effects of the legislation are very broad and onerous, (c) when the legislature refuses to fix the situation because they can't admit to error, and the lobbying groups won't budge because they are absolutist.


There's an old saying about good intentions and a certain road.
8.5.2009 11:51am
B-B-B-Blair:
DennisN: "If you are licking the engine block of your motorcycle, you have bigger problems than the lead; particularly if it is in motion at the time."

At exains a ot.

Back on-topic, can anyone point me to a supplier of lead-free tar &feathers?
8.5.2009 12:08pm
deputyheadmistress (mail) (www):
Iowan, Goodwill most likely will NOT ignore the law. Several Goodwill stores and Salvation Army thrift shops have dumped their inventory of children's products and aren't accepting donations of older children's goods. Not all of them, but some of them.

The problem is that there is no single "these people". The people involved here are not the ones involved in health care.

Wrong. I would say Waxman, who repeatedly canceled hearings where smaller entrepreneurs were finally going to get to speak, was probably the biggest obstructionist on this bill there is, and he's involved in health care, too.

Check out the links Sarah provided- she's been on this from the beginning and she knows what she's talking about.
8.6.2009 4:17pm
cmmjaime (mail) (www):
As I read through these comments, I don't know whether to laugh or cry...or scream...

As some of us have been discussing on twitter -- these books are not toxic, the law is!

Numerous amendments have been proposed to fix various portions of this law -- and almost 7 months after the law went into effect, and almost 12 months after it was signed into law - not one of them has made it out of committee!

I am a bookseller and I no longer sell pre-1986 picture books, or textbooks, or any other books that are "clearly" intended for children 12 and under. It breaks my heart, but I cannot afford the fines that could come my way if someone decided to enforce the law!

But I DO sell pre-1986 chapter books -- and history books and science books and anything else that I could argue is "family reading" -- since those were exempted from the requirements of CPSIA. And I clearly mark them as such -- and I make sure my customers know that I am selling them the books, not their kids! That's the best I can do for now.
8.6.2009 8:44pm
The Ornithophobe (mail) (www):
This book ban has been the law of the land since February; I watched the local thrift shops empty out their kiddie gear into dumpsters. Back then, I wrote my congresscritters, but to no avail; they gave me "safety of the children!" nonsense. So yes, now the children are all going to be safe. Naked, bored, and stupid, but safe.
8.6.2009 11:21pm
Loki1 (mail):
John Moore said:

"When I was a kid, we used to make lead soldiers by melting lead on the gas stove and pouring it into molds.

"Now, the slightest possibility of the slightest exposure is enough to bring down the power of the federal regulators.

"Then there's mercury... used to have bottles of it and rolled them around with our fingers. That was commonplace."

Mr. Moore, when I was a kid my brother and I used to make lead soldiers by melting lead in a little electric heating pot. (It did at least have a long handle). We used the open flame from candles to smoke the inside of the molds, for easier removal of the soldiers after they cooled. I recall no one overseeing the fun we had with this. (Our father, by the way, was a Public Health Officer.)

Oh, and when I went on to high school, friends and I used to enjoy the sensation of rolling around drops of mercury in our hands, when we could swipe a little of it from the chem lab.

Having now reached the more sensible age of 81 in prime health, I am somewhat remorseful. If I hadn't done all that as a kid, I would undoubtedly now be 102.
8.7.2009 7:01pm

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