Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Time to Worry, Time to Act: Make Your Voice Heard on the CPSIA

My Mimi is about to become an outlaw. Or maybe just disappear from the bookshelves and the hands of children.

Huh, you say? Well, let me explain.

The Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act, scheduled to go into effect on February 10th, will make outlaws of millions of children's books, toys, clothing, school supplies, furnishings, and more, unless someone shells out big bucks to get each one tested and labeled and thus make them legal again. The CPSIA, enacted with good intentions of protecting children 12 and under from lead and pthalate exposure, will instead cause ripples of harm throughout the lives of children and adults. It is a prime example of regulation run amok. 

The CSPIA mandates expensive independent testing of every component of nearly any product made for children. The law as written (and interpreted so far) threatens handcrafters, small toy manufacturers, and children's clothing makers. If not amended in the next two weeks, it will compel booksellers and publishers to destroy millions of children's books in stores and warehouses, and force schools and libraries to remove all books intended for kids under 13 (including text books) from their shelves or else bar kids from the premises to protect them. It would force resale store owners to stop selling kids' items (thereby also hurting those shoppers who benefit from their lower priced goods) or risk liability if any component of any item they sell turns out to exceed the stringent limits on lead. In the long run, the law will hurt everyone, as consumer choice in products of all sorts will be greatly limited, small businesses will fold and their employees (and suppliers) lose their jobs, and taxpayers will have to absorb additional burdens to enforce the over-reaching law and support those left jobless. 

Sound crazy? Wonder why you haven't heard of this law before now? Can't imagine a law like this will actually go into effect or be enforced?

Well, those are all reactions I had too, but I'm becoming convinced that although this law is crazy and although it's been largely under the radar of most consumers, it is very real and it's looming. Check out this article in Forbes Magazine and this letter from the American Library Association if you think no one's worried. You can read some more bloggers' excellent comments here, here and here. And you can watch (if you don't mind gritting your teeth) the condescending and unhelpful comments of a CPS commission spokesperson here. (Apparently the spokesperson has since left her position.)
And then write to your congressman and senator - you can find contact information for them here and here. Let them know you'd like at a minimum to have the enactment date pushed back until unintended consequences can be identified and reasonable exemptions made. 

Time is running out. February 10th has already been designated National Bankruptcy Day. Please don't let that name become a reality.

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