Think about the children!

You’ve read about the ruckus that the recently-enforced Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) is causing to small business retailers and libraries.Here’s a commentary from my colleague Ivan Lerner about the foolishness of this law and its effects on our cultural heritage. This was published on March 9 Endpoint issue of ICIS Chemical Business.


Lead, and they shall follow

By Ivan Lerner

IT WAS with horror that I heard the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) of 2008, which went into effect on February 10, was recommending that books from before 1985 be destroyed.

The excuse for this atrocious activity came in the form of that tidy, contemporary, catch-all phrase that is meant to shut down any opposition or potential arguments: it’s being done to protect the children.

The CPSIA was passed by the US Congress last summer after the panic over lead paints from China. In their wisdom, our elected officials have included among the prohibited items children’s books, which before 1985 used lead-based pigments in some of their inks and dyes.

Let’s just think about this for a moment, though. The books being recommended for liquidation are more than likely the same ones you and I read in childhood. How many people do you know have suffered from lead poisoning stemming from books they’ve eaten? And don’t start recounting lead paint statistics at me – because there is a huge difference between a dried paint chip that’s cracked off a wall and a copy of A.A. Milne’s The House at Pooh Corner.

Across the blogosphere, patrons and owners of thrift stores and used bookstores are lamenting the new law: “I just came back from my local thrift store with tears in my eyes! I watched as boxes and boxes of children’s books were thrown into the garbage.”

Libraries have staved off the ruling successfully so far, but for how long? And who’s to say that our collection of Oil, Paint and Drug Reporter from the 1930s, or those Doc Savage paperbacks from the early 1960s, aren’t one day considered verboten?

It doesn’t matter if no children ever visit your hermit’s cave. The potential is there, and the health and welfare of some imaginary child is more important than your collection, Mr. Bookworm! So into the fire it goes! It’s true that not all children’s books are created equal, but this is not about the relative merits of Dr. Seuss over Richard Scarry. This is about how, on the flimsiest of evidence, book burning, burying or shredding – but always destroying – is being recommended as a way to protect the innocent.

That’s sure some world you’re protecting those kids for, CPSIA.

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