February 12 – February 19, 2009 Edition

Libraries Get
Reprieve on Lead
Law for Kids Books

WASHINGTON, DC/Authorlink News/02/12/09–Librarians who might have had to purge their shelves of potentially harmful lead-containing books, have received a reprieve from the Consumer Product Safety Commission. A new anti-lead rule for children’s toys and books went into effect Tuesday, February 10. But the CPSC will temporarily exempt people who sell or make children’s products that don’t usually contain high lead levels. And, since testing and certification have been delayed, the agency won’t prosecute makers or sellers of the products if they do not know the products are unsafe.

Specifically, the CPSC temporarily exempts materials with lead content that consistently fall well below the new standard which became effective this week.

The new policy requires that kids’ products may contain lead at a level of no more than 600 parts per million. Regardless of where books and other products are manufactured, they must not contain more than 1% phthalates, a lead-containing acid used to soften plastic. The ruling applies only to book formats that feature soft plastic components, such as a bath book or a book with a squeaky toy integrated into the cover. Novelty and book-plus formats are not defined as “ordinary” books.

Among the products outlined in the new policy are ordinary children’s books printed after 1985, because inks used for printing after this date contain lead that exceeds the new standard. Books printed before 1985 are apparently not included.

Congress passed the new lead limit last summer as part of a bigger product safety law. It applies to products made for children 12 and under. Toys and other kids’ products containing certain chemicals, called phthalates, over 1,000 parts per million also are banned.

Small businesses protested that the law could cause significant financial damage or store closings because the law requires costly product testing. Last Friday, CPSC announced that it is delaying for one year most of the testing requirements. The new limits for allowable lead and phthalates remain, but the new deadline for the testing and certification has been moved to Feb. 10, 2010.

Phthalates have been linked to reproductive defects and other health maladies such as irreversible learning disabilities and behavioral problems.