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Children’s Books and the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA)

January 12th, 2009

In August 2008, the 110th Congress passed the Consumer
Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) to protect children under 12 from
exposure to lead following widespread reports about the dangers of children’s
toys coming in the United States from China and other places.  This new
law is administered by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and will
likely start to take effect in February 2009 (although even this latter date
appears to be changing.)

Within the last few days, ALA and others in the “book”
community (other librarians, publishers, teachers, booksellers, etc.) became
extremely concerned after seeing that the CPSC intended to include books in the
definition of “products to children” that would need to be certified as safe. 
This concern was heightened by a letter from the General Counsel of the CPSC –
a letter that states that books are not exempt from the law.

However, ALA has been in discussion with attorneys, other
associations and the sponsors of the original bill.  Our analysis is that
neither the law nor the legislative history indicates any Congressional
intention to include books and even textbooks in the law.

Please stand by – there is no need to take action at this
time.  The situation is extremely fluid and every day this week ALA has
received new and sometimes contradictory information.  The ALA Washington
Office is taking measures to ensure this ruling (CPSIA) will not affect
libraries and has sent a letter to all Congressional offices alerting them to
the fact that we believe CPSC General Counsel has erroneously interpreted the
CPSIA to include books. ALA is also monitoring the potential impact on other
types of library materials as well.

Several key Hill offices have contacted the CPSC
Commissioners and the General Counsel.  We believe that the
misunderstanding may be cleared up, so the Commission can focus on children’s
items that are truly dangerous.

If we can’t get this resolved, we will need everyone who
wants children to continue to have access to safe children’s books to contact
the Commission and Capitol Hill – but, for now, we can stand by until we hear
more from our Congressional supporters.

Emily Sheketoff, Executive Director
ALA Washington Office

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