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No More Rhinestone Cowboys and Cowgirls?

Few paid much attention when Congress passed, and President Bush signed the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act in 2008. Indeed, it's almost certain that few who supported the law had much understanding of its likely consequences.

One person who's paid substantial attention to the CPSIA, and the havoc it's created for many industries is Overlawyered's Walter Olson. In regular posts he has noted how the law's absolutist requirements effectively bans the sale of all sorts of products even where there is no health risk. Among those particularly hard hit are sellers of second-hand clothing, furniture, and books.

The CPSIA's latest victims are rhinestones and crystals used in children's clothing. Crytals and glass beads are subject to the law because they contain trace amounts of lead, and lead can do nasty things to children if ingested and absorbed into the bloodstream. Although lead in children's projects can be a very serious concern -- as with lead paint -- it does not appear there is any evidence that tiny amounts of lead in rhinestones and crystals poses any risk, even if ingested. No matter. As reported here, the Consumer Product Safety Commission refused to grant an exemption for these items because, as several commissioners noted, the law provides no basis for such an exemption. As a conseuqence, children's apparel makers will no longer be able to use rhinestones for children under age 12, and (as I understand the law) second-hand clothing stores will not be able to sell children's clothing with rhinestones either. Overlawyered has more here.

In a statement accompanying the decision, Commissioner Nancy Nord noted that it would make sense to apply a de minimis standard in enforcing the CPSIA. One of the law's sponsors has even urged that approach. But the actual law itself is not so flexible. And so it goes.

Related Posts (on one page):

  1. The End of Vintage Kids' Books?
  2. No More Rhinestone Cowboys and Cowgirls?
31 Comments

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?
88 Comments