CPSIA de la Plata? Argentina un-bans book imports

Following a worldwide outcry, Argentina has promised to lift restrictions on the importation of foreign books, which had purportedly been based on fear of dangerous lead content in the ink. According to a report by my Cato colleague Juan Carlos Hidalgo:

“If you put your finger in your mouth after paging through a book, that can be dangerous,” said Juan Carlos Sacco, the vice-president of an industrialist organization that supports the measure.

MercoPress carries reporting in English translation on the original measure and on the promised reversal. Under the rule of President Cristina Fernandez, the Argentine government has taken a number of steps considered hostile to press critics, including controls on the newsprint business, and criminal charges against economists who report that prices are rising faster than the official inflation index.

Where did the Argentine officials get the idea that lead in book inks might be enough of a public health problem to justify drastic government action? Maybe from the U.S. Congress. As I explained in this City Journal piece, the notoriously extreme and poorly drafted 2008 CPSIA law imposed across-the-board requirements for lead testing of older children’s products, with the result that, according to guidance from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, it was considered doubtfully lawful to sell or distribute most pre-1985 books for children. That set of restrictions was eventually relaxed, following a massive outcry from dealers, publishers, libraries and lovers of children’s books.


  • I never heard of CPSIA being relaxed. When and how?

  • I know I’ve fallen down very badly at documenting further developments in the CPSIA story. If memory serves, Democrats on the Hill finally agreed to permit an extremely minimal set of legislative fixes narrowly drawn to placate some of the outraged lobbies they simply could not ignore any longer, such as the book publishers. The CPSC itself, once brought under a working majority of Obama appointees, grudgingly allowed some gestures toward component testing that reduce some of the most obviously duplicative cost. Makers and sellers of kids’ goods that were not well enough organized politically to obtain one of the targeted fixes got less relief, or none. I need to set aside a block of time to put the whole story in print, but have kept postponing the project.

  • Anyone heard from Rick Woldenburg lately?