A proposed bill that would amend the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) of 2008 is giving hope to many of the industries affected by the Act, including children’s libraries and used booksellers. “It solves our problem,” says Emily Sheketoff, executive director of the American Library Association’s Washington Office.

On the other hand, publishers of new children’s books are disappointed that the bill does not specifically address their concerns, either by exempting them outright or by allowing the Consumer Products Safety Commission the flexibility to assess their low risk of dangerous lead levels and exclude them on that basis. “Unfortunately, there’s really nothing there that addresses new children’s books,” says Allan Adler, v-p for legal and government affairs at the Association of American Publishers.

The House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing and Trade, chaired by Rep. Mary Bono Mack (R-Calif.), held a sesson on Thursday, May 12, to mark up a discussion draft of the bill, called the Enhancing CPSC Authority and Discretion Act of 2011 (ECADA). The Subcommittee had solicited industry input in a hearing on April 6. (Click here to read the discussion draft and here to read a memorandum that summarizes the proposed changes.) The Subcommittee passed the draft bill and referred it to the full Energy and Commerce Committee.

The ECADA, as it stands now, would benefit libraries, sellers of used books, and charitable groups by limiting the CPSIA’s lead-testing requirements to products manufactured since the date of enactment, rather than to all products, no matter how old, as in the current law. Thus it would permit the sale or distribution of used and older books without proof of lead testing. The CPSC granted a stay of enforcement for the testing of “ordinary” ink-on-paper books printed after 1985—although they still must be “safe”—but sellers or lenders of older books still must prove, through third-party testing, that the books contain acceptably low levels of lead, according to the current Act. “And to test it is to destroy it,” Sheketoff says.

The proposed bill also addresses some of the testing issues that are still unresolved, which apply to publishers of novelty and book-plus titles and some other books. For example, it would give the Commission more authority to allow alternative testing procedures for small batches or in other cases where third-party testing is prohibitively expensive. The ECADA also would establish a moratorium on enforcement of the Act’s lead-testing provisions until the CPSC completes a review of the requirements and makes any necessary revisions. Confusion over the CPSIA’s testing requirements and a lack of guidance from the CPSC have been a source of consternation to the publishing industry.

The proposed bill, which is an outgrowth of House Resolution 272 introduced by Rep. Jeffrey Fortenberry (R-Neb.) early this year—although that document did include a provision to exempt children’s books entirely—has to cross many hurdles in a crowded legislative session before it becomes law. “We’re looking at a lot of work ahead of us,” Sheketoff says.

Click here to read our coverage of the key events in CPSIA history since it was enacted in August 2008 and went into effect in February 2009.