Thursday, January 22, 2009

Government restrictions on children's books?

American libraries are concerned:

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission’s interpretation of the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act, which lowers the permissible level of lead in children’s products and imposes certification requirements, may require libraries to limit access to their children’s collections or have them tested for lead content. The new law becomes effective February 10.

In a notice to ALA’s Federal Library Legislative Action Network, Government Relations Specialist Kristin Murphy wrote, “As a result of these new regulations, publishers have tested the components of books and found that the levels of lead in children’s books were far below the future legal requirements. . . .However, the advisory opinion from the CPSC says that not only must the testing be done by one of their certified labs but that this legislation is also retroactive, and every book must be tested” (American Libraries).

This is a good example of the unintended consequences of excessive nanny-state laws.

I recently saw a news report about mom and pop toy companies which make wooden or cloth toys and how these little companies will also be subject to the new regulations which will require their toys to be inspected and approved by the government at significant expense to them--enough expense to put them out of business even though their toys have nothing to do with lead.

As a librarian, I am, of course, sympathetic to the dilemma of libraries in this case, but if the ALA gets its exemption it will demonstrate at least one thing:

If you are a powerful, strongly Democratic organization like the ALA, you can get the Democratic Congress to exempt you from their stupid nanny state laws whereas if you are a small business owner you're just out of luck.

2 comments:

Kevin said...

Another issue with the law was that it didn't provide adequate exemptions for resale. So you could not sell or facilitate the sale of used children's clothes, toys, equipment, etc. without testing it for lead. This would effectively mean thrift shops, yard sales, and consignment sales/stores could not sell children's items.

Exemptions were added to avoid this b/c consumer advocate groups and mothers contacted their congressman.

My point. Yes, this is an absurd nanny-state law, an overreaction by the government that will have significant consequences... but getting things fixed does not mean that you have to be a "strongly Democratic organization".

I believe law was passed by Republicans and Democrats.

Dennis said...

Kevin,

Democrats control the Congress. I haven't looked at the voting tallies but I doubt this would have passed a Republican Congress.

Otherwise, good response. I will concede your point about not having to be a "strongly Democratic organization."