February 13, 2009 @ 6:02 pm | Filed under:

I have been wanting to blog about the Consumer Products Safety Improvement Act for weeks, and especially this week when the law went into effect, but I have very little handsfree time for typing right now (and you know I’m not complaining about that).

But this is a very important and disturbing issue, and if it isn’t on your radar yet, I urge you to read up on the matter. Many used book stores and thrift shops are now throwing out—as in, putting in the trash—children’s books published before 1985 because to sell them would be breaking the law, as of this past Tuesday. Books in the trash is such a horrifying thought I can scarcely type it.

Goodwill stores have pulled all children’s clothing and any other children’s product from their shelves.

Here’s some links to folks who are on top of the issue. I highly recommend exploring their recent archives (especially their posts of the past week) and follow their links to yet more information.


The Common Room


American Library Association

Snopes, I’m sorry to say, is wrong on this one.

A friend just sent me a link to an HSLDA statement from earlier this week which pitches the CPCA’s recently added exemptions to the testing regulations as good news:

Last Friday, the CPSC declared numerous changes in their regulations, including the following exemptions that correspond with requests made by HSLDA in our meeting with Commissioner Moore:

  • An exemption for certain natural materials such as wood, cotton, wool, and certain metals and alloys that rarely contain lead;
  • An exemption for ordinary children’s books printed after 1985;*
  • An exemption for textiles, dyed or undyed (not including leather, vinyl, or PVC) and non-metallic thread and trim used in children’s apparel and other fabric products, such as baby blankets.
  • The exemptions may be a step in the right direction, but that second bullet point makes it clear that children’s books published BEFORE 1985 are not exempt from the new lead testing requirements. Used bookstores, thrift shops, and eBay or other online sellers of books are unlikely to be able to afford to have all their pre-1985 inventory tested. It is, therefore, now illegal to sell children’s books published before 1985—even in your own yard sale.

    This is seriously wrong.

    (Thanks for that link, S.!)

    Updated to add: Here, at The Bookroom, is a thoughtful post responding to HSLDA’s memo.

      Related Posts


    16 Reponses | Comments Feed
    1. Kim says:

      Thank you for helping spread the word about this! So many people are either blissfully unaware or completely misinformed about the far-reaching effects of this law. It has complicated the selling of children’s items to the point that I have removed them from my Etsy shop. It’s not too late to contact your congressmen to urge them to support legislation being proposed to amend the CPSIA!

    2. almamater says:

      An interesting loophole at the CPSIA website (http://www.cpsc.gov/about/cpsia/smbus/cpsiasbguide.html), worthy of some note:

      “Question 17: Can I sell vintage children’s books and other children’s products that are collectibles?

      Yes. Used vintage children’s books and other children’s products sold as collector’s items would not be primarily intended for children. Because of their value and age, they would not be expected to be used by children. Therefore, they do not fall into the definition of children’s product and do not need to comply with the lead limits.” But mostly it is a dismal situation. A great plan to put a lot of small business owners out of work during a tanked economy. *sigh*

    3. sarah says:

      This is shocking, I can’t find the words to comment properly. I’m aghast.

    4. Yvonne says:

      I read about this a few weeks ago in our local paper because several small thrift stores felt they would need to close based on the wording of this new law.

      In these trying economic times more and more parents need the affordability of thrift stores to buy clothes, books, and toys. The wording of this law makes it difficult for thrift stores to continue to offer these items. How can something that was meant to do such good cause so much harm?

      I will share a link to a different perspective because the law’s supporters truly wanted it to be a positive in the world and they still believe in it. I just don’t understand how it went so wrong:


    5. Lisa says:

      The new regulations are too asinine for belief. I’ve written to my Congressman and Senators and asked just about everyone I know to do so as well. I’m checking for a Facebook group against this and wonder if anyone has done a blog button yet. ANYTHING helps to get the word out.

    6. sandra says:

      This is just awful, in my opinion. I contacted my senator and congressman about 2 months ago….both of whom responded to me in apology for voting for this change… 🙁

    7. Beth says:

      I want to thank you for writing about this — I want to thank everyone who has been, really.

      I’ve been feeling woefully inarticulate, overwhelmed.

      This law — well intentioned as it was — is a disaster. It must be fixed.

      It isn’t enough to contact our representatives once: we must do so repeatedly until this is resolved.

      {{PS: I can’t get to your homepage? It links back to a blog party post from 2007? Very odd, but maybe it’s okay now}}

    8. Melissa Wiley says:

      Thanks for the heads up on that, Beth. It’s happening to me too. My web host just upgraded WP for me, so this must be related. I notice my Recent Comments plugin isn’t working either. I’m sure she’ll get me fixed up soon.

    9. Joann says:

      Perhaps we can convince libraries and used booksellers to GIVE the books to good homes rather than throwing them away.
      I think if I asked our libraries, they would do that. Then I could give a donation later…

      This is awful.
      And on the flip side, there are folks who will be more upset by this than by abortion…

    10. Amy C. says:

      Thanks for covering this issue, and especially the links to the DHM, who is spot-on with her coverage. I’ve been watching this unfold for the past month in absolute disbelief, and contacting my reps as often as I can. I’m convinced that this law will actually hurt children, as it shifts the resources of the CPSC away from programs that have a much higher benefit (such as removing lead plumbing and abatement of lead paint in homes, problems that are KNOWN to poison many children each year). And, of course, I’m sick at heart to think of the books being thrown away.

      Almamater, see Common Room re the vintage books loophole, she explains it well.

      Yvonne, thanks for the link to another perspective. While I personally think the advocates miss the forest for the trees, it’s always good to remember that they have good intentions, and to consider the other point of view.

      Here’s my nomination for the most ridiculous moment in the CPSIA saga. Just a few weeks ago, the House Commerce Committee (which is the body that can do something about the CPSIA), did act quickly and decisively to delay the implementation of another act: the digital-TV transition. They worked double-time to save our TV signal, but they won’t lift a finger to save our kids’ books. It’s beyond sad.

    11. Heidi @ GGIP says:

      Not to mention the affect this is going to have on filling our landfills!

    12. Heather Idoni says:


      A friend and I wrote a Dr. Seuss style story about the CPSIA. I hope it will give you a grin in the midst of the pain!


    13. Christina says:

      Well, I went to Goodwill on the 16th and expected to find most of the children’s books gone. I was thrilled to find an OOP hardcover book from 1947 in the pile, so at least at the store I went to they hadn’t purged the old books yet. However, all the toys were gone except for the stuffed animals. (I don’t have a problem with them throwing away old plastic toys, but I have a huge problem with them tossing old books.)

    14. Heather Idoni says:

      Snopes is Wrong about the CPSIA —

      “People BELIEVE what we say, yes they do!
      Whatever we say they’ll believe that it’s true!

      They won’t check their own facts; they’ll rely upon us —
      We’ll lull them to sleep and they won’t make a fuss…”