- I’ve got a new opinion piece just up at City Journal on the pressure on thrift stores, inexpensive used-book dealers and other resellers to trash most of their stocks of pre-1985 children’s literature. Some of the ground it covers will be familiar to those who read Tuesday’s post at this site, as well as yesterday’s mention of CPSC commissioner Thomas Moore’s call last week (PDF) for some undefinedly large share of pre-1985 books to be “sequestered” until more is known about their dangers.
Several bloggers have pointed to this post at Semicolon Blog which reminds us that many post-1985 children’s books are also at risk of destruction, in particular those enhanced with decorative or amusement-providing elements in materials other than paper:
My daughter works in a used bookstore. TODAY they pulled all the books from the children’s section that had any kind of metal or plastic or toy-like attachment, spiral bindings, balls or things attached, board books, anything that might be targeted under this law, and they very quietly trashed them all. I say “very quietly” because the bookstore had a meeting with employees and told them to be careful not to start a panic. If anyone asked what they were doing they were told to say that they were “rearranging their inventory.” No one was allowed to tell anyone about the new law, and no one was allowed to take any of the doomed-for-destruction books home or give them away.
It should be noted that completely plain board books would be probably considered “ordinary” and thus safe to resell under the CPSC’s guidelines so long as they contain no special texturized elements such as rubber, foil, nubbly synthetic pretend-dinosaur-skin, genuine stink bugs encased in clear plastic, etc., etc.
A lot of blogs have begun to notice the kids’ book issue, and I may round up highlights at some point. For now, start with Deputy Headmistress at Common Room;
- Thanks to Esther of Design Loft for confirming something of which I’ve heard rumors for a while, namely that CPSIA bans ballpoint pens when designed or marketed for persons under 12, because of the irreducible minimum of lead in the mechanisms. Giving the kids adult ballpoint pens is still okay, but shipments of adult pens to, say, middle schools are at the very least under a legal cloud, and it is reasonably clear that pens with kid-oriented decorations on them have become unlawful to sell unless the decorations can be somehow expunged to do away with the kid appeal. A trade group called WIMA, the Writing Implement Manufacturers Association, is now petitioning for an exemption (PDF). I see that Deputy Headmistress is now on this in her usual thorough way;
- Virginia Postrel’s superb piece at her Dynamist blog got a lot of attention, including links from leading bloggers Glenn Reynolds and Andrew Sullivan. She’s followed up with second and third posts, the latter of which asks:
Why stop with products “primarily” for kids? Why not test everything a kid might encounter, from sofa cushions to bathroom mirrors?
But maybe I shouldn’t say that. Public Citizen might get ideas.
- More from Deputy Headmistress: “FedEx now requires a Certificate of Conformity as required by the CPSIA before they will accept any imported products,” with a roundup on motorcycles, substitute chemicals, and other topics. And I predict Public Citizen is going to rue the day it ever got the D.H.Mrs. on its case with its misrepresentations about the law;
- Journalist Radley Balko blogs on the law at The Agitator (and also has kind words for my coverage, for which thanks). And Katherine Mangu-Ward reveals that she’s going to have an article on the law in an upcoming issue of Reason;
- Who knew that the New York Times was so bad at covering the problems of the book, design and garment trades, and so good at covering crises in the world of motorcycles? But the proof continues;
- Reader Adam L., fresh from this thread at PhillyBlog, writes:
I was discussing your City Journal article with someone and
they pointed out this Snopes article, which would seem to contradict
yours. I am curious about your view.
To which I wrote back:
Snopes botched it. It’s true there was an erroneous rumor going around a few weeks ago that resellers would be legally required to do lead testing. The CPSC and others corrected this and pointed out that although resellers would be liable for selling anything over the lead ppm limit, they were not legally obliged to test, that is, they could take their chances. Hence Snopes is literally correct when it points out testing is not required, but flatly misses the wider story, which is that fear of liability is by no means an imaginary phenomenon since many older items (including some books) do flunk the new standards, even if posing no material risk to kids, and reliance on CPSC enforcement forbearance is chancy, especially since the CPSC is not the only source of enforcement for the law.
Many people have written to Snopes in recent weeks asking them to correct their item, but they have done nothing.
And then I pointed him to coverage at this site and elsewhere on thrift stores’ removal of books and other merchandise that pose no risk to kids but that cannot readily be known to comply with the law.
I keep waiting for Snopes to correct, and they keep not doing so, even after the past week’s coverage of convulsions in the thrift store world. This is highly damaging because so many writers and editors check Snopes as a quick way to dismiss false alarms — I’ve done so myself many times, though I am less inclined to do so again. Is it time for someone to set up a “Shame on Snopes” page? (More: reader Meredith Wright wrote to Snopes and got a highly unsatisfactory response, reprinted in comments below);
- Wisconsin bookseller Valerie Jacobsen charges Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) with telling a “goofy whopper” about the safety problems that led up to the law’s passage;
- Jacobsen also correctly pinpoints one of the key questions in the unfolding political struggle under CPSIA: will there be a hearing in Washington around which public and media interest might crystallize, and if so will it be under the full control of those who want to keep the law as it is, or will dissenting voices be heard too? She writes:
Henry Waxman, chairman of the [House] Committee on Energy & Commerce and Bobby Rush, chairman of the Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade, and Consumer Protection, don’t want any reasonable amendment and are refusing to allow any discussion.
They don’t want more hearings. They don’t want more talk. They want compliance. Waxman and Rush are the original sponsors of CPSIA, so you can see why they don’t want the damage they’ve caused to go on the record.
- Attorney Sandra Ezell, Bowman & Brooke: “There are a lot of excellent products and excellent companies” that won’t survive CPSIA even though “they basically had no dog in the fight”. [Inside Counsel]
Public domain illustration: Ruth Mary Hallock, Grandma’s Graphics.