CPSIA: “Children’s books have limited useful life (approx 20 years)”

whenmonstrisbornCarol Baicker-McKee is stunned to find that line appearing as part of a slide presentation for staff of the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) on enforcement of CPSIA (for those just catching up, CPSC’s guidelines last month recommend that resellers discard pre-1985 kids’ books unless the books are put through expensive testing.) It has her “ready to move to Australia. Or, better yet, ready to make Congress move to Australia and let the country start fresh.” Read the whole thing. More: Esther at Reader’s Loft.


  • Since the CPSC has now determined that books have a useful life of only approximately 20 years, perhaps they should recommend that the Library of Congress destroy all their books that are older than 20 years.

  • Oh phew!!! I have books from when I was a child that are WELL OVER 20 years old that I AND my children treasure! WHO ARE THEY KIDDING?? No wonder they have so many problems . . . they never learned to appreciate anything old. . . . So are they going to decide that houses have no value after 20 years and should be destroyed too?? What about people?! What about CARS??! This is insanity . . . (but you already knew that!) Meanwhile, back in DC, Mr. Obama talks about wanting to foster ” . . . . 21st century skills like problem-solving and critical thinking, entrepreneurship and creativity.”
    Does anyone besides myself see the complete irony in that?!! Congress has just squashed the education I have in sewing children’s items, as well as my problem-solving skills (using that skill to provide income to pay for two Dd’s music lessons), my enterpreneurship and my creativity!!!

  • I don’t know who did the figuring for this one. I’m not a book collector, but I’ve got kids books that are over 120 years old, a couple, in fact, that are nearly 200.

    I enjoyed them when I was a kid (thanks to parents and grandparents) and my kid enjoyed them 20 years ago. His kids will get a chance, too, once he gets around to having any.

    Were I to hazard a guess, I would guess that the moron who came up with this ’20-year’ estimate is a <30 who replaces his iPod at least twice a year, if he remembered to get the reminder file transferred from last year’s Blackberry.

  • Now if only someone could determine that members of Congress have a useful life of only twenty years…

  • Just looking at that foolish headline makes me say banana oil, balloon juice, hogwash, NONSENSE! Yes, if a book has been read enough times it will fall apart, and in that sense their life is limited. I will grant that. However, that does not mean that books are automatically worthless after 20 years or will never be read again. Good books are kept around in families, sometimes for generations. (Laura Ingalls Wilder refers, in *On the Banks of Plum Creek*, to using the selfsame reader that her mother had used!) Even “fluff” books have their survivals, whether being continuously in print (Hardy Boys, anyone?) or because they’ve stayed around on someone’s shelves (there are large fanbases of adults who still have or are re-collecting Babysitters Club books, for instance.)

    What reality do some of these people live in, honestly?

  • How can we get those troublesome history books revised to tell the story we want them to say, instead of the reality? Hey, yet another useful application of CPSIA!

    Maybe that’s also how all of those activist judges are rewriting the Constitution! Good theory, but they’ve been doing it far longer than CPSIA has existed.

  • Perhaps any laws written more than 20 years ago should be null and void, since how can we read the lawbooks* without possibly ingesting huge amounts of lead (not to mention congress-critter germs – worse than botulism)?

    * Yeah, like we all read those lawbooks, right?

    “The soul of a lawyer was created beloooowwww!”
    (new signature).

  • At least those of us who have and will keep old books (and new ones, in many cases) can learn from them and our children can too.

  • I can’t help wondering what libraries the author of this statement goes to. The children’s section of our local library is full of books older than 20 years. Our local used books stores also had many such items. Part of the wonder of taking the kids to the library or a used book store is having them discover books that have been around but that none of us has ever heard of.

  • I have never heard of anything so stupid in my life. Did someone vote for these idiots or are they the kind of idiots that you don’t get to vote for?

  • This just stuns me! About the time I think I’ve heard all of the most ridiculous statements from our government, along comes this one! only useful for 20 years???? I LOVE old books, and in fact in recent weeks, have been buying them for those who are still selling…I feel like I might be saving them from a dumpster or bonfire…kind of like taking in stray pets! I just shudder at the thought of what we will lose as a society if this stands, and we do indeed remove all books for children that were printed pre 1985…God help us. I think it’s time for me to write yet another letter to my congressmen and I will include a copy of this slide from the CPSC. And I agree with some of the other posters…I think Congress critters aren’t much use after 20 years! (or less for that matter!)

  • What this really means is that the CPSIA micro-managers have realized that they screwed up and that everyone knows it, so they are now trying to justify, rather than deny, the results. (Kinda like the “I never hit him and anyway he deserved it” defense).

    Won’t help them, though. Keep up the pressure and offer them a means to quietly surrender without losing face; they’ll take it rather than suffer the narcissist’s nightmare of being publicly inferior.

  • Do we need to PEACEFULLY demonstrate outside of the Library of Congress?! I can just see us each there with a stack of old books in our arms . . . they wouldn’t dare touch those lead filled things now, would they? So we might be allowed to do our thing. 😉

  • To be fair perhaps they meant that a child’s book would be of use to the original owner for ~20 years or less.

    However, given the obvious thought and foresight exemplified in this legislation, perhaps those involved should realize that the books in question are at an appropriate reading level for them.

  • I like Carol’s idea of sending Congress to Australia, so we can start over again.

    Don’t tell the CPSC folks but I just bought all sorts of children’s books from a library book sale that were well over 20 years old! (Well, no, scratch that — they were family books, “clearly intended for children 13 and up”)

  • Melanie, you put it exactly right, taking in stray pets! (Okay, I’ve never had any pets, stray or otherwise, but it does feel as I imagine that would.)

  • As an Australian, Catherine, those are Fighting Words.

    You send Congress to Australia, and you will be prosecuted in every International Court we can find. We do not want your toxic waste here.

    Childrens Books though – yes, we’ll take those. Even if they’re 20, 30 or 100 years old. First mark them “Collectible books for adults, for export outside the USA only, NOT TO BE SOLD TO ANYONE UNDER 18” and we’ll take as many of them as you’d care to send. I guarantee that all the buyers will be over 18.

  • When I read this line in the presentation I couldn’t help laughing. Maybe they should calculate a half-life for us instead?

  • If I can make a small suggestion to all the bloggers who are covering the CPSIA, link directly to the official website of the politician that you are complaining about. It is important to show exactly who is responsible for this bad law.