Publishers, librarians and others in the children’s book industry are still waiting for resolution on a number of questions that will determine how they can comply with the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA). Pending issues include protocols for lead and phthalate testing, which would affect publishers of novelty and book-plus titles; guidance on tracking labels, which are required for all children’s books; and information on how schools and libraries should comply with the law, especially with regard to older books.

In addition, the industry is still hoping for an outright exemption for ink-on-paper and ink-on-board books. A stay of enforcement in February covers most "ordinary" books printed after 1985, which are considered safe enough that the Consumer Product Safety Commission will not go after publishers or retailers who sell them (even if they end up containing lead, as long as no one knew about it). However, state Attorneys General could still prosecute if they so choose.

An important step came last week when President Obama nominated two new CPSC commissioners, Inez Moore Tenenbaum, who would replace Nancy Nord as chair, and Robert S. Adler. In addition, Obama proposed increasing CPSC’s budget to $107 million, 70% higher than 2007 levels, and said he wanted to add two additional commissioners later this summer, expanding the Commission to five seats.

It is not yet known what position Tenenbaum and Adler, if confirmed, will take on books and the CPSIA, but an uneasy relationship between Nord and members of Congress has been one barrier to moving forward on implementation of the Act.

"We are hopeful that with a Democratic majority on the commission, and with increased funding, they will be able to do their job and let us know how we can be in compliance with the law," says Emily Sheketoff, executive director of the American Library Association’s Washington office. "The job of the commission is to be clear about what libraries should do to comply. And they need to do something now, because whatever they decide, it will take time for us to implement it." The full lead-testing provisions of the Act go into effect in February 2010.

One area of immediate interest for publishers: the tracking labels that will be required on children’s products starting this August. These would pinpoint the source of each book (e.g., the print run and the manufacturer), which would aid in a recall and give consumers a way to get more information about a product if they’re worried about its safety. The tracking labels would be required for all children’s books, not just the novelty titles for which the Act’s lead provisions will be enforced.

The CPSC has not yet issued guidelines on the form these tracking labels should take and has been seeking public comment, including from the publishing industry. "We argue that published books come with information on the copyright page that allows people to identify the year and place of publication," says Allan Adler, v-p for legal and government affairs at the American Association of Publishers. This fact differentiates books from the myriad other products for children 12 and under that are covered by the Act. "We hope the Commission doesn’t take a one-size-fits-all approach."

Click here to see our timeline of previous CPSIA coverage.