Friday, March 20, 2009

CPSIA The Lead Law Update #5

Oh yes, this lead thing has not gone away. Don't think for a minute that it has. is the best source for links to all of the important discussions of the law. According to Walter Olson, "the big Half Price Books chain has made a policy of pulling pre-1985 books from its shelves, as well as more recent books that contain various kinds of embellishments and special features."

The era of buying old books at the big chain used bookstores is ending. The larger chains are much more likely to be targeted for fines than the small local stores, so the larger chains have been quick to react. What remains unclear is what the bookstores are doing with the old books. I hope that the books are placed in storage rather than destroyed.

I have read so many reports of Goodwill stores from various parts of the country pulling their old books that I feel confident that Goodwill has ordered all stores to remove them. What is Goodwill doing with the old children's books? Goodwill may perhaps be selling all of the old books online, but I have noticed that Goodwill has fewer old children's books for sale on eBay than it once did. Of course it seems that everyone has fewer old children's books for sale on eBay, so this might be coincidence.

I checked my thrift stores around a month ago. I seldom go into my Goodwill store since the selection has always been pathetic, but the store always had at least a couple of worthless older children's books. This time, I saw no old children's books, not even worthless ones. I suspect that Goodwill has instituted a blanket policy banning the sale of old children's books.

Walter Olson also reported how one library is "boxing up many books that are likely to have been printed after 1985, because their copyright date falls before then; it is a common practice for children’s books to list only a copyright date even if they were printed many years later. So at that cautious library, at least, the law’s effects are even more drastic than one might have assumed."

This means that under some people's interpretation of the law, even recent books may become unavailable. I have read reports of stranded inventory that companies cannot distribute. The stranded inventory will likely be destroyed. Our economy is in terrible shape, and we have this idiotic law that is forcing many small companies out of business. This law will further weaken our economy. Rewriting this law should be a dire emergency for Congress, but they do not care.

Walter Olson wrote of many developments on March 18 in his blog. Olson stated that the CPSC is "officially urging the nation’s libraries to remove from their shelves children’s books printed before 1986 until more is known about their possible dangers from lead in their inks, dyes and pigments."

Carol Baicker-McKee posted a comment on Olson's blog, stating in part:
I also spoke with Joe Martyak, the CPSC chief of staff, yesterday, and while he did not mention “sequestering” books, he did tell me that there is considerable legal precedent for seeing libraries as “distributors in commerce” so the agency definitely considers them to be subject to CPSIA. Martyak also told me that they are finding older books that under destructive testing do exceed the 300 ppm standard that goes into effect in August...Martyak said that the agency is continuing to test vintage books to get a sense for how widespread the presence of lead is in older books, and they won’t make a final determination about an exemption for the older books until then. Got the feeling that could be a while.
The parts that are most important to me as a collector of vintage books are "destructive testing" and "continuing to test vintage books." The CPSC is destroying old books in order to test them for lead. What do you think about that?


Jenn said...

I think the people in Washington--especially Pelosi--are idiots for allowing this law to go into effect without considering the effects of what it is doing. Just complete stupidity, but what else do you expect considering the state of affairs in DC right now...

Jennifer said...

I have no respect for nearly all politicians. Tom Coburn, Republican Senator of Oklahoma, is the only one I respect right now. He voted NO on the lead law, and was one of the few who did. Congress passes bills that are hundreds of pages long, and the laws are not read. This is why we have this stupid lead law, and this is why we have the problems we keep hearing about on the news every single day.

I am furious about so much right now, from the lead law to eBay to what I hear about on the news everyday to the latest idiot law that my Oklahoma legislature is pushing through. The Oklahoma legislature is stupid and comes up with laws that will hurt everyone in the long run. I'll spare you the details, but I am appalled!

What is wrong with everyone in government???

Wacky Hermit said...

As horrific as the thought of destroying books is, I think I know what CPSC is trying to do. I think they're trying to sneak in old books under the "total lead" standard. Since only small portions of illustrations occasionally have violative lead content, if they can show through scientific evidence that the "total lead" in books is not violative, they can issue a blanket exemption. But I'm neither a lawyer nor a scientist, so take my opinion with a grain of salt.

I do know, however, that they're not thrilled at the idea that they might have to ban pre-1985 books, and they know Congress isn't going to do squat about it.

Robert said...

There are a bunch of Half-Price Books in the DFW area, and I've noticed that all the older children's books have been moved to the Collectibles section, so they haven't gotten rid of the books yet. I think books in general fiction continue to be a mix of newer and older editions (with books which are obviously much older editions already in the collectibles department). Hopefully they'll continue to do this, I think it would be disgraceful to destroy any book just because it was made before '85.

Paula said...

I agree with Robert - why can't the stores just use a little common sense and move the vintage children's books to their collectibles section, at least until this thing gets straightened out? I noticed Goodwill has a statement on all vintage Nancy Drew listings to the effect that these books are sold as a collectibles only.

Bridget said...

I have a toddler and I am pretty paranoid about lead content - I certainly want to know the content of his wooden trains and such. However, I also collect vintage books and I can tell you there is no chance in the world that he'd ever get so much as a corner of a page of one of my books into his grubby little hands. Nobody buys vintage books to give to toddlers - I don't understand why they are being classed with children's products.