Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act ALSC Update 6/1/2009

As the ALA has emphasized since first learning of the possible ramifications of the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act, concern for children’s safety is our first priority in providing materials to young patrons.  While we believe that ordinary books – those books that are published on paper or cardboard, printed by conventional publishing methods, intended to be read, and lacking inherent play value are safe for all ages – we will immediately inform our membership if we learn of any potential threats from such books due to lead content.

Recently, two television stations tested a slew of library books and identified three books that reportedly have trace amounts of lead in them. The television stations only provided titles and did not report additional information on the specific editions tested.  It is unclear what, if any, danger these books actually pose to children in their ordinary use, but felt it was necessary to inform you of the reports to continue our efforts to ensure children’s safety.

If you possess the following books you will want to make an assessment of the course of action to take for your library.  Options may include removing the material(s) from the cirulating children's section or move the material(s) to a non-circulating adult section of the library.

The volumes are: Japanese Children's Stories, Poems of Childhood, and Some Merry Adventures of Robin Hood

Moving forward, we will continue to inform you of any other cases of specific concern of which we are made aware.

Please also be sure to check the Web site of ALA's Washington Office for further information and updates.


Legislative Action Alert: Ask your Representative to sign Rep. John Fortenberry's Dear Colleague on Lead in Children's Books!

Find out more at the Washington Office's Legislative Action Center at

2/2/09 Update

The Consumer Product Safety Commission has issued a stay of implementation of CPSIA for certain products!

Read the full article at AL Online

You may also visit the CPSC Web site and click the link under "What's New" to access their press release (it's a PDF). Many thanks to all who contacted the CPSC with concerns! Your voices have apparently been heard.

Background Information

The Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) was passed in August 2008. This legislation seeks to decrease the levels of lead and phtalates in products intended for children under 12 and will be enforced by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC).

The law clearly has unintended consequences, and the ALA Washington Office is working hard with the law’s Congressional sponsors (Durbin, D-IL and Rush, D-IL, plus more than 100 others) as well as the CPSC in order to clarify issues of concern, and ensure the law as implemented matches its original intent. The situation is fluid, and concrete information has proven elusive. ALA urges members to keep this issue on their radar, educate themselves, and be ready to act when necessary (see “What ALA Is Doing; What You Can Do, below). In the meantime, we know members are facing questions from patrons, trustees, and fellow staff. We hope the information here can help.

For libraries and librarians, there seem to be two issues of concern: Which kinds of materials the law will cover, and which kinds of places that make materials available to children the law will cover.

Regarding types of materials:

  • The law’s Congressional sponsors never intended for books to be included in the regulations; books themselves do not explicitly appear in the actual language of the law, as they are typically considered an “unregulated product.” Congress is already contacting the CPSC to explain the intent was not to include books.
  • The Association of American Publishers (AAP) has made the case to the CPSC that since components of books (paper, ink, cardboard) are considered safe, an entire book should also be considered safe and therefore exempt from the testing requirements. The CPSC General Counsel responded with a letter rejecting this argument based on test results currently available; however, the letter also indicates that the CPSC does intend to issue rules exempting certain kinds of materials and CPSC will issue NPRs (notice of proposed rules) explaining protocols on seeking exemptions.
  • AAP’s argument does not cover toys that are packaged with books, nor books that are really toys in book format (such as plastic books intended for use in the bath). Book-related recalls that have been made in recent history have applied to items that posed a choking hazard that were packaged with books.
  • Even if “ordinary” books are eventually exempted from the law, or agreed to be considered “safe” by the CPSC, librarians need to consider the impact of this law, since non-book items such as DVDs, CDs, games, puzzles, etc., including those currently on library shelves, will not be exempted.

Regarding types of places:

The Consumer Product Safety Commission, the government agency charged with implementing this law, has recently exempted thrift and secondhand stores from the testing requirements, since they are not considered “centers of commerce.” However, such stores may be subject to fines if they actually do sell an item that contains a higher-than-acceptable level of lead or is unsafe for children in some other way (such as a crib with bars too far apart to prevent a child’s head from getting caught). Libraries are not explicitly mentioned in this release, but it is possible, once the implications of the law have been thought through, that libraries may receive similar treatment, at least with regard to books.

What ALA Is Doing; What You Can Do

ALA’s goals are:

  • CPSC to exempt books from the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008.
  • CPSC to accept the component tests that have already been done on book components, as indicated by the AAP.
  • CPSC exempt school and public libraries ( in other words, to give libraries the same consideration given to thrift shops and secondhand stores).

The ALA Washington Office does not believe Congressional action is needed at this time because members of Congress are already contacting CPSC. ALA is communicating with the CPSC and may eventually ask that members contact the agency, pending the outcome of these negotiations. ALA has also been in touch with the Obama/Biden Transition Team Leader for CPSC, who understands our concerns. ALA is preparing for all potential actions, which may include seeking an injunction, a grassroots effort to contact members of Congress and/or the CPSC, and/or a press campaign highlighting all the damage an extreme, immediate interpretation of CPSIA could cause. Members should remain aware of this situation, educate themselves, and be ready to respond if necessary. ALA’s strategy may change as new information and opinions are issued, so please stay tuned. We expect to know more about what libraries will need to do by the time the law is implemented, but for now that is still being worked out.

For More Information:


Aimee Strittmatter, ALSC Executive Director, 312-280-2163, 
Kristin Murphy, ALA Government Relations Specialist, 202-403-8222,