Sunday, January 18, 2009

ALA Seeks Exemption for Children’s Books from Anti-Lead Law

American Libraries: 2009 January 15

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission’s interpretation of the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act, which lowers the permissible level of lead in children’s products and imposes certification requirements, may require libraries to limit access to their children’s collections or have them tested for lead content. The new law becomes effective February 10.

In a notice to ALA’s Federal Library Legislative Action Network, Government Relations Specialist Kristin Murphy wrote, “As a result of these new regulations, publishers have tested the components of books and found that the levels of lead in children’s books were far below the future legal requirements. . . .However, the advisory opinion from the CPSC says that not only must the testing be done by one of their certified labs but that this legislation is also retroactive, and every book must be tested.”

Despite the advisory opinion from CPSC’s general counsel, ALA Washington Office Executive Director Emily Sheketoff told American Libraries, “We have spoken with congressional offices and they have said that it was not congressional intent to include books” in the law.

Sheketoff said the Washington Office has asked the commission for a formal opinion exempting libraries from the testing requirements. She has also contacted an attorney to explore the possibility of filing for an injunction against the commission, and is prepared to ask the Obama administration to intercede if necessary.

Until the commission makes an official ruling, however, “There’s really nothing anyone can do,” Sheketoff said. “We’re sort of stuck waiting for them.”

Even so, news of the law is trickling down to library patrons. Kate Pohjola, director of Lapeer (Mich.) District Library, told AL that she had received questions about the law’s potential impact, from both library-borrowing and home-schooling perspectives. “I think there’s a lot of fear right now, because people don’t know what’s going to happen,” she said.

The Washington Office will release updates as new information becomes available on its District Dispatch blog.