Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act

On August 1, 2011

U.S. Rep. Bono Mack (CA-45) with 7 cosponsors introduced H.R. 2715, a bill to provide the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) with greater authority and discretion in enforcing the consumer product safety laws, and for other purposes.  This bill provides the further guidance that the CPSC stated was required in order to enforce the CPSIA as Congress had originally intended.  This bill protects libraries in two ways:

1. Page 2 of the bill specifies that “each limit set forth … shall apply only to a children’s product … that is manufactured after the effective date of such respective limit.”  This would then require the manufacturers of books to ensure that their processes are safe and fall within the limits of the law.

2. Page 18-19 of the bill states that “the third party testing requirements established … shall not apply to ordinary books or ordinary paper-based printed materials” and then continues to define both ordinary book and ordinary paper-based printed materials.

In a whirlwind of events, the bill passed the House (421-2) and then went to the Senate where it was passed without amendment by unanimous consent.

On January 12, 2011

U.S. Rep. Fortenberry (NE-1) recognized the need for ordinary books to be exempt from the law by reintroducing a bill to do so.   The bill, H.R. 272, would amend CPSIA to exempt ordinary books and paper-based printed material from the lead limit in CPSIA. The bill has been referred to the House committee on Energy and Commerce.

On March 12, 2010

Representative Waxman, Chairman of the House Energy and  Commerce Committee, began circulating a discussion draft of bill language that would in effect provide the solution to the problem begun by the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008 (CPSIA) and its interpretation by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). 

This bill would have amended CPSIA so that the lead limits established under the bill would no longer apply to used children’s products which would include children’s books at libraries.
The discussion draft did not ever get officially submitted.

On January 15, 2010

The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) released its Report to Congress regarding difficulties encountered with enforcing the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act.

The report notes that used books have emerged as a particular problem due to the retroactive nature of the law, adding that the retroactive applicability of the lead limits creates problems for libraries.

Additionally, the report reaffirms the Commission’s belief that Congress did not intend to impose the strict lead ban — as imposed by section 101(a) of CPSIA — for ordinary books. However, the report states that the CPSC does not have the flexibility needed to grant an exclusion for ordinary books.  “In order to address this issue, Congress may, with some limitations, choose to consider granting an exclusion for ordinary children’s books and other children’s paper-based printed materials,” the report states.

On Friday, March 12, 2010 Representative Waxman, Chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, began circulating a discussion draft of bill language that would in effect provide the solution to the problem begun by the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008 (CPSIA) and its interpretation by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC).

This bill would have amended CPSIA so that the lead limits established under the bill would no longer apply to used children’s products which would include children’s books at libraries.

The discussion draft did not ever get official submitted and to date there has been no further movement in Congress on this issue.

Background:
In August 2008 Congress passed legislation titled “The Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008” ( CPSIA). This legislation seeks to decrease the levels of lead and phthalates in products intended for children under the age of 12 and will be enforced by the Consumer Product Safety Commission ( CPSC).

Under the CPSC General Counsel’s interpretation of the CPSIA, books will be subject to the same testing standards as children’s toys. Very few recalls have actually involved books; in fact, the recalls surrounding books have not happened because of the books themselves but rather the toys that were attached to the books that were considered potential choking hazards. In spite of this information, the standard hardcover and paperback books would be subject to the same testing standards as children’s toys under the new legislation.  

The law was set to go into effect on February 10, 2009, but in late January 2009, the CPSC issued a one-year stay of implementation for enforcement of the new lead limits in children’s products, stating that the commission will not impose penalties against anyone for making, importing, distributing or selling a children’s product to the extent that it is made of certain natural materials, such as an ordinary children’s book printed after 1985.

As a result of this issue, the Association of American Publishers (AAP) has tested the components of books and found that the levels of lead in children’s books were far below the future legal requirements at the full implementation of the regulations three years from now. 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 also is retroactive, and every book must be tested.

In an effort to solve this problem, ALA has been in discussion with attorneys, other associations and the sponsors of the original bill. One of those groups, the AAP, has received a response to a letter from the Consumer Product Safety Commission that does not fully satisfy our concern. Our analysis is that neither the law nor the legislative history indicates any Congressional intention to include books and even textbooks in the law.

On August 26, 2009, the Consumer Product Safety Council ( CPSC) released its final rule on children’s products containing lead. In the rule, the CPSC confirmed that libraries have no independent obligation to test library books for lead under the law.