The House Committee on Energy and Commerce’s Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing and Trade held a hearing on February 17 called “A Review of CPSIA and CPSC Resources,” which examined the implementation and consequences of the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act. The law was passed by Congress in 2008 and requires, among other things, lead testing for all products for children under age 12, including some children’s books.

CPSC Commissioner Inez Tenenbaum and several industry groups testified at the hearing; the Association of American Publishers, the Book Manufacturers’ Institute, and the Printing Industries of America are among the groups that want the committee to consider amending the statute. In particular, the three organizations want ordinary paper-based children’s books and other printed, paper-based materials for children—which have never previously been regulated—excluded. Barring that, the organizations asked Congress to consider adding risk assessment standards and procedures to the statute, which would show that most ordinary children’s books carry very low risk and should not need testing.

“CPSIA imposes [total lead content testing and certification] requirements without any provision for risk assessment, which has been the key methodology underlying extensive studies of children’s exposure to lead that have been conducted by other agencies of the federal government such as the Environmental Protection Agency,” the AAP, PIA and BMI said in a joint statement yesterday. “Based upon test results provided to the Commission by children’s book publishers, printers and manufacturers, the component materials comprising ordinary paper-based children’s books and other printed, paper-based children’s materials—such as flash cards, posters, bookmarks, and worksheets—consistently fall well below even the lowest levels of lead content permitted for children’s products under CPSIA.”

Meanwhile, on Wednesday, the CPSC held its own hearings about whether lowering the total lead limit from 300 parts per million to 100 parts per million, as the law requires, is technologically feasible. It is also still struggling to create testing and certification protocols before the end of the year, when the latest stay of enforcement runs out. There are two facets under consideration with regard to testing: first, how to test products in general, and second, whether separate testing and certification for component parts—something for which the publishing industry has been arguing—would be possible under the law.

“We’re very hopeful that the components rule will help,” said CPSC Commissioner Robert Adler during his keynote address at the Toy Industry Association’s annual safety seminar, held Tuesday during Toy Fair. Adler noted that allowing suppliers to certify the safety of component products, if that can be implemented, would reduce costs for manufacturers, but that it has been difficult to get suppliers to agree to certify their components as safe.

“I’m confident we will have both [testing and certification rules] done by the time the stay runs out,” Adler continued. “To the greatest extent under the law that we can do so, we will try to give as much flexibility to manufacturers as possible, because we want to keep prices as low as possible for you [the manufacturers] and for the consumer.”

The CPSC is particulary cognizant of the costs of the CPSIA testing rules to small businesses, added Adler, who pointed out that the Commission has established an outreach office specifically to assist smaller companies in complying with the law.

Click here for a complete timeline of PW’s coverage of CPSIA and its impact on book publishers.