Friday, January 9, 2009

What Would Laura Think of the CPSIA?

While modern-day issues don't often make their way onto these pages, I think about all of Laura's fans and all the wonderful TV shows, movies, and theater productions that have come about as a result of the Little House books, and can only wonder what Laura might have thought about this law if it were enacted when she was an aspiring author.

Children's author, Elysabeth Eldering--whose State of Wilderness, Book 1 of the Junior Geography Detective Squad series I reviewed here--turned me on to information regarding the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) that President Bush signed into law in August 2008.

Publisher's Weekly has written an article about the negative impact to the children's book industry that compliance with this law will ultimately bring.

CPSIA can only be described as a law where good intentions have gone astray. Instead of targeting the true culprits--toy manufacturers whose products manufactured overseas have been recalled due to lead content and small parts unsafe for children--this ill-written law will cover "all consumer products intended for use by children 12 and under. That includes books, audiobooks and sidelines, no matter where they are manufactured, even though most books have lead levels that are well below the Act’s most stringent safety standards."

According to the Publisher's Weekly article, "The CPSIA dictates that each children’s book SKU, shipped to retailers, catalogues and e-commerce sites as of February 10 must have been tested by a third-party lab to ensure that lead levels are below 600 parts per million. (Acceptable levels drop to 300 ppm in August and 100 ppm in 2011.) Some books also must be tested for phthalates, an acid used to soften plastic. The importer or domestic manufacturer must provide a Certificate of Conformity (usually posted on the Internet), and the product must be labeled appropriately. Older products on shelf must fall within acceptable safety standards but do not need to be accompanied by a Certificate, according to recent comments by the Consumer Products Safety Commission."

This translates into a huge additional cost for publishers; and if we think the book industry has seen a lull in this tough economy, just wait until February 10, 2009 when all these products are required to be tested.

Vivian Zabel of 4RV Publishing has provided the names and address of committee and subcommittee leaders on her Brain Cells & Bubble Wrap blog. These leaders have the ability to call for hearings on the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008 and advance critical legislation to resolve some of the issues.

Please consider writing letters to these four men to express your concerns about the CPSIA as it is currently written.

Don't let good intentions gone astray squelch the dreams of aspiring children's authors. Don't let an ill-written law put small publishers out of business. Write your letter today!

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