Testing Children's Books for Lead
A federal law requiring all products for kids 12 and under to be tested for lead content has publishers of children's books on high alert, Publisher's Weekly reports. The law was enacted last August, and the first deadline for demonstrating conformity to new standards comes on February 10 -- even as many in the business wonder whether their products are affected and how to get them tested in time.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission didn't make clear until late November that the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008, whose lead-and-kids provision is in part a response to the presence of lead in toys and other products imported from China, also applies to books aimed at kids.
Many large publishers already routinely have their products tested. Those that don't could soon be in a bind as they scramble to test all their books or face stiff fines. Retailers have pressed publishers to get the job done so they can sell books without legal worries. Libraries, schools and used-book sellers are all trying to figure out how the complicated new law might apply to the kids' books -- including textbooks -- they deal in.
Meanwhile, industry trade groups are pressuring the CPSC to clarify the new regulations and to consider exempting books from the act altogether.
(Disclosure: I have three children's picture books under contract with a major publisher; the first of them is due out this fall.)
As a parent, I appreciate any effort to protect kids from the potentially devastating effects of lead exposure. But also as a parent, I wonder whether testing all books for lead might be overkill (though I can certainly see testing those that are likely to be gnawed on by small children). And in this economy, anything that might up the price of books could put some publishers out of business. The last thing we need right now is to have fewer books available for our children to read.
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