CPSIA Update: Washington Post Spots the Big Story

By March 25, 2009Regulations

The Washington Post’s Health section this week prominently featured a story about the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act’s impact on libraries, the book business, and parents and children who read, “Book Dealers Told to Get The Lead Out.” Excerpt:

Implementation of the new law has libraries and secondhand bookstores reeling. Although they could pay to have each old book tested, the cost ($300 to $600 a book, according to the American Library Association) makes that impractical.

The commission has advised libraries not to circulate old books while the agency reviews the situation. But few libraries have complied, and they complain that they have received contradictory information from the commission.

“We’re talking about tens of millions of books,” said Emily Sheketoff, executive director of the Washington office of the American Library Association. “You’ve got the commission playing games with the libraries.

The Post is not alone among major media outlets in being very, very late to a major story about government overreach costing billions of dollars, putting people out of work, and harming consumers, especially the poor.

How late? The Boston Phoenix ran a thorough story on the book issue on January 9, “Congress bans kids from libraries?,” followed by another report on the impact on the toy business and consumers February 9, “Congress’s war on toys.” (Kudos to reporter Lissa Harris for both pieces.) Walter Olson at Overlawyered — a prominent legal blog — has been chronicling the many excesses of the law nearly daily since January. We’ve had scores of posts, many quite detailed, since the December 8th item. The law’s lead content requirements went into effect February 10.

Still, thanks to the Post for getting to the story. As reporter Michael Birnbaum must have found, it’s a compelling story. Just look at the lede: “Rachel Merrill, mother of three, was holding innocuous-seeming contraband in her hand at an Arlington Goodwill store earlier this month: a 1971 edition of ‘Little House on the Prairie.’ This copy of the children’s classic had just become illegal to resell because of concerns that some old books contain lead in their ink.” And there are many angles to explore, as the Post’s list of products affected by the CPSIA’s lead content restrictions shows:

Cribs and strollers
Board games and toys
Bicycles and all-terrain vehicles
Children’s books

All-terrain vehicles (for children) are being banned? That’s a big story!

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