The Consumer Product Safety Commission has outlined its enforcement policy for the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act, which takes effect on Tuesday, February 10. While consumer products for children 12 and under cannot contain more than 600 parts per million of lead in any accessible part, the Commission said it would “not impose penalties against anyone for making, importing, distributing or selling” a list of specified products, including “an ordinary children’s book printed after 1985.”
The Commission says it will not prosecute makers or sellers of these products even if they are found to contain higher-than-permissible lead levels, as long as they did not knowingly sell unsafe products. These rules, announced last Friday, will remain in effect until the Commission takes further action—such as exempting “ordinary” books entirely.
“This is a piece of good news,” says Allan Adler, v-p of legal and governmental affairs at the Association of American Publishers. “This is the first bit of guidance we’ve received from the Commission that actually helps to address the retroactivity issue.” The previous stay of enforcement from the CPSC “was lacking in terms of the law’s applicability to inventory,” he explains, adding that the 300-plus test results provided by the publishing industry showing both finished books and their components are safe has given the Commission more confidence to make this recommendation. “This puts the focus a little more on the bad actors.” The AAP and the publishing industry will continue to push for a full exemption for ink-on-paper and ink-on-board books.
The CPSC also confirmed on Friday that children’s books and other products—no matter when they were manufactured—cannot contain more than .1% phthalates, an acid used to soften plastic. This ruling applies only to book formats that feature soft plastic components, such as a bath book or a book with a squeaky toy integrated into the cover. (Novelty and book-plus formats are not included in the definition of “ordinary” books.)
There is still some confusion among publishers, new and used booksellers and charities, particularly smaller organizations, about how to best comply with the Act. The CPSC has issued a booklet that offers guidance for small businesses, resellers, crafters and charities, including answering some of theses groups’ most frequently asked questions, which can be viewed here.
Over the last few days, coverage of the CPSIA by the national media has started to increase a bit. Although regional newspapers have been following the Act, particularly its ramifications on libraries, publications such as the New York Times surprisingly have not mentioned it (outside of a few blog posts on its Web site), despite the wide-ranging effects on business and consumers in New York and across the country. This lack of interest has been noted in blogs such as Overlawyered.com, which has been closely following developments surrounding the CPSIA and covered the latest announcement on Saturday. USA Today ran two stories in the last few days, one on the controversy surrounding the Act and one on Friday’s enforcement announcement. The Associated Press also covered the new enforcement guidelines on Saturday.