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The Children are Worth It

This story seems to be getting a bit of attention. In a perfect example of the crisis-driven shortsightedness typical of democratically elected politicians, the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) passed overwhelmingly last August and takes effect in February. There’s no one I trust more to protect my consumer safety than a bunch of politicians in DC, and I for one am glad they have my back. Well, not my back, but my children’s backs, except my children don’t have backs, or rather my backs have no children. Anyway, you get the idea.

From the article: "On February 10, the new law gets teeth. After that day, all products for children under 12 — books, games, toys, sports equipment, furniture, clothes, DVDs, and just about every other conceivable children’s gadget and gewgaw — must be tested for lead, and fall below a new 600 part-per-million limit, or face the landfill. Thanks to a September 12 memo from the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), the lead limit applies not only to new products, but also to inventory already on store shelves."

It seems that consumer products for children are presumed guilty until proven innocent.

Publishers, the ALA, and other folk concerned with books are worried, because the typically incautious, overly simplistic law technically means that even children’s books will all have to be tested for lead to make sure they’re safe enough for children’s consumption. Not being a metallurgist, I wasn’t aware that books had any lead content, but I really couldn’t say. If they do, maybe that’s what people mean by "heavy reading."

"The CPSIA, intended to keep lead out of toys, may well also keep books out of libraries, says Emily Sheketoff, associate executive director of the American Library Association. ‘We are very busy trying to come up with a way to make it not apply to libraries,’ saidSheketoff. But unless she succeeds in lobbying Capitol Hill for an exemption, she believes libraries have two choices under the CPSIA: ‘Either they take all the children’s books off the shelves,”’she says, “or they ban children from the library.’"

What a choice! If it were me, I’d go with the latter option: banning children from the library. Think about it. Children are noisy, dirty, and smelly. They make messes, and they don’t even pay taxes. Why not ban them from libraries? Then all the adults who like to read kiddie books but haven’t already become children’s librarians can have free run of the stacks. The other choice would be fine with me, too, though. I never go into that section of the library, and all those thin books look hard to shelve accurately anyway.

If this choice is really what we face unless the ALA succeeds in lobbying Congress for an exemption, then I have a feeling one or the other is going to happen, because I can’t think of any issues that the ALA has ever successfully lobbied for. They lobbied against CIPA and DOPA, after all. Midwinter’s coming up, so maybe the ALA Council could pass a resolution. That would bring quick and effective action, just like the resolutions against the confirmation of Justice Alito and the Patriot Act! And we all remember how the genocide in Darfur came to an abrupt halt after the ALA Council resolution against that.

The ALA is always so hysterical, though. They give us these two options merely to get us all in a tizzy, when they know these aren’t the only two options. Probably they just don’t care if our youngsters die of lead poisoning in libraries. That’s why they’re bamboozling us with all this pettifoggery, if that’s what one does with pettifoggery.

There is another option, of course. Libraries could just test books for lead. I don’t know why this hasn’t occurred to anyone. To be fair, it has occurred to some publishers, but they mistakenly tested for soluble lead content instead of total lead content, which didn’t satisfy the two people at the CPSC. So libraries would definitely need to test for total lead content. It’s really not that difficult, as this fact sheet from someone or other attests. (I’m pretty sure this fact sheet is reliable, because it came up near the top in my Google search.)

There’s a cheap test for lead that just involves dipping an applicator into some sort of gunk and spreading it on the book. The only problem is that the test isn’t reliable, plus you have to wash the affected item thoroughly after the test. Thus, we’ll be forced to admit, this test isn’t at all practicable for libraries. It’d be a shame to save a book because it had no lead only to discard it because it was water-damaged.

But there are reliable tests for total lead content that merely require removing part of the object for a sample and shipping it to a laboratory for analysis. That’s not so big a deal. Libraries can just snip a page from each book, keep careful track of which pages go to which books, ship the pages off to the laboratories for analysis, and pay somewhere "between $5 – $35 per sample for this type of analysis." Given that range of choice, if I were the librarian in charge of the project, I’d choose the low end, but that’s just me. I have no idea about the typical collection size for a typical children’s library, but let’s say 10,000 books just for fun. At the low end, we’re talking a mere $50,000 to test the books for lead in each library, and the worst case scenario would require just $350,000 to test such a collection. Is this too much to pay to ensure the safety of our children?

It’s just possible that the ALA will finally succeed in lobbying Congress, but just in case their track record stays the same, libraries should start saving their pennies and finding the cheapest labs they can. It might seem onerous and unnecessary, but no amount of government-inspired busywork and expense is too much when we consider that this is for the safety of our children. They’re worth it. The children, after all, are our future, just like the last generation of children are our present. I’ll leave you to draw your own conclusions.

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Comments

  1. Marcia Brady says:

    This whole lead thing would explain why my sister Cindy was always acting so fruity. Thanks for heads up.

  2. Annoyed and Fed Up says:

    “The CPSIA, intended to keep lead out of toys, may well also keep books out of libraries, says Emily Sheketoff, associate executive director of the American Library Association. ‘We are very busy trying to come up with a way to make it not apply to libraries,’ saidSheketoff. But unless she succeeds in lobbying Capitol Hill for an exemption, she believes libraries have two choices under the CPSIA: ‘Either they take all the children’s books off the shelves,”’she says, “or they ban children from the library.’” First of all, who is producing the alleged lead in books, LIBRARIES or BOOK PUBLISHERS??? We don’t even know there IS lead in these! If ANYONE should have to defend themselves it should be Publishers, not “Libraries”. ALA, then, AS IT APPEARS, is lobbrying in behalf of American Publishers, but won’t lift a finger to help LIBRARIANS. THROW THE BUMS OUT! Question; are persions connected with ALA getting paid under the table to lobby for other groups? I think Congress should turn the tables and ask ALA what they’re doing mixed up in this. What do they KNOW about lead in books? Just literally put them on the hot seat.

  3. Annoyed and Anonymous says:

    If a company in China produces defective products and sells them, say toys painted in lead paint, to an American firm for sale and distribution, without the firm being aware, who is at fault? In this case the libary is not printing and distributing books. I would like to nominate Ms. Sheketoff for the Annoyed Libarians Assn. Magaret Dumont Award [look her up on Wiki] for Library Busybody of the Year. ;-/

  4. Million says:

    It’s just possible that the ALA will finally succeed in lobbying Congress, but just in case their track record stays the same, libraries should start saving their pennies and finding the cheapest labs they can.

    One word: enforceability. Let’s see em’ actually do something about this. No, really. Whadya going to do? Fire the librarians who didn’t test their books?



    I hope so. I’m in the middle of a job search. :)

  5. anonymous says:

    Forget the books.
    Just test the Wii consoles. It’s what the kids are there for anyway.

  6. Dan Kleinman of SafeLibraries.org says:

    I applaud the ALA on this one on my blog. See “ALA Uses Common Sense on CPSIA Child Safety Issue; Congratulations to Emily Sheketoff and the ALA Washington Office.”

  7. The Professor says:

    These are indeed interesting issues. But the real question remains today just as it has for the last 20 years:

    Ginger or Mary Ann?

  8. Herman Munster says:

    That’s easy: Ginger.

  9. Shay says:

    This is easy – just tell your kids to stop licking the books!

  10. VNS says:

    Ginger is the one you keep on the island Mary Ann is who you get off the island with.

  11. whoever says:

    Ginger or Mary Ann?

    Both.

  12. anonymous says:

    Colbert Nation on lead-free ink, see tinyurlDOTcom/8sz3rk

  13. AlwasyWanted2B says:

    Mary Ann, Tina Lousie has not aged well

    imdb.com/name/nm0001481/mediaindex

  14. Durcell says:

    Mary Ann.
    Then Ginger.
    Then Mary Ann.

  15. former librarian says:

    If this was passed in August, where was all the hoopla by the ALA and others to start work on an amendment or exception immediately? Why are we hearing about the repercussions of this law only weeks before it goes in to effect?

  16. anonymous says:

    re: Not being a metallurgist, I wasn’t aware that books had any lead content, but I really couldn’t say. If they do, maybe that’s what people mean by “heavy reading.”< <

    Inks do and it can be a problem. A number of reports have arisen with Chinese products lately (e.g. candy wrapped in paper printed with leaded inks that exceed US limits), and there is no reason to believe that books printed in China would necessarily be lead-free. And yes, a lot of books are printed in China now. How much of a problem it is, no one really knows.

    But, never let the facts get in the way of a good rant. Carry on.

  17. Skipper says:

    I’ve got to go with Mary Ann. Ginger is way too high maintenance.

  18. publiclibrarEwoman says:

    Libraries also have toys (such as puzzles) for children… I would not be surprised if some of the puzzles in our children’s department and toys in our early literacy kits have lead in them. And, kids do put them in their mouth, unfortunately. :-( But ultimately, I do think the manufacturer should be responsible.

  19. Danny Partridge says:

    I’ve done so many steroids that my equipment doesn’t work so well, so I’d probably have to go with Mrs. Howell. But back in the day, I would have said Ginger, no question about it.

  20. Concerned Librarian says:

    The reason ALA didn’t act sooner, is because this act was aimed at manufacturers, who were notified. The implications for libraries were not realized until recently.

  21. Scooby Doo says:

    The reason ALA didn’t act sooner, is because this act was aimed at manufacturers, who were notified. The implications for libraries were not realized until recently.

    How is this related to the Ginger/Mary Ann debate? I’m confused.

  22. cookiemonstr says:

    Dang, does no one care that this applies to school libraries too?! Think of all the well-funded, well-stocked school libraries that will have to…well…if there still any open, they’ll have to close! Wait, they already are closing because of education cuts? Nevermind.

  23. Schlomo says:

    My Annoyed Librarian action doll is 100% organic and made in Canada by a religious order.

  24. Not Necessarily Amused says:

    “If this was passed in August, where was all the hoopla by the ALA and others to start work on an amendment or exception immediately? Why are we hearing about the repercussions of this law only weeks before it goes in to effect?” If you’ve been reading this blog for a while before it came to LJ you’d realize this is typical of ALA. On the other hand, I’d suspect the publishers didn’t fork up to the folks on East Huron until late in the game. Besides that, ALA may have felt the membership and public had forgotten about them and felt it necessary to carp about something in order to justify their salaries. Otherwise, we might get the impression it was all mindless coffee breaks and paper shuffling and meetings.

  25. John Bonham says:

    Does this mean that libraries will have to get rid of their Led Zeppelin CDs now?

  26. Elisa says:

    Or ditch all heavy metal music CDs?

  27. Phil Collins says:

    What about Steely Dan?

  28. publiclibrarEwoman says:

    Booooooooo. *Throws rotten tomatoes at Elisa and Phil.*

  29. Ozzie Osbourne says:

    Don’t even think about removing those Iron Maiden records.

  30. thinker says:

    Talk about heavy metal music on this blog is the best thing that happened since that guy gave credit to the Royal New Zealand Navy.

  31. M says:

    I think you didn’t notice that the act requirs 3rd party testing after Aug. A library cannot use a home testing kit. These labs are charging $100s per componant in an item, which can add up to several hundred per book in the library. Books which are not covered in plastic or have added charms have not been scientifically shown to be a risk for lead. Have you heard of libraries and schools suddenly being well funded?

  32. M says:

    Actually the CPSC nor congress notified small boutiques, thrift shops, craft shows, small manufacturers, booksellers, libraries or publishers of this at all. That is why people are still hearing about it now. Maybe if we knew in June we would have had time to work out a small business plan with them. Many are still unaware of it and those of us who are heard recently through word of mouth.

    So anyone thinking they should have been on this months ago is not getting it.

    Those of us who did hear of it months ago assumed it didn’t apply to us because we were not making toys. It is only recently people have realized how vague the law is to apply to “anything that appeals to a child under 12″.

    If publishers are forced to test every book there goes short runs, new authors and illustrator, print on demand and self-publishing.

    Do you notice they told you about DTV 2 years ago? There’s no way you coudl miss that right?

  33. indajns says:

    “If this was passed in August, where was all the hoopla by the ALA and others to start work on an amendment or exception immediately? Why are we hearing about the repercussions of this law only weeks before it goes in to effect?”
    There’s been “hoopla” ever since the law passed, but for some reason, Main Stream Media has a complete blackout on this subject. That’s why you’re not hearing about it. If you Google CPSIA you’ll get an eyeful, but CNN, NBC, ABC, CBS, FOX, NO ONE has mentioned that today (Feb 10th) has been declared National Bankruptcy Day because of all the small businesses that will go out of business today because of this law. You’d think THAT would be news in an economy of constant layoffs and 9% unemployment. But I guess not.

    As for whom else doesn’t know about this law? Something like 70%+ of the manufacturers and retailers. Wait until words gets around. This law was retroactive.