CPSIA Update: Shredded, Burned or Boxed-Away Books

 An outstanding article appears in the Spring edition of “The New Atlantis” on the destruction of children’s books caused by the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act, “Keeping Books Safe,” written by  Elizabeth Mullaney Nicol.

That the CPSIA is causing the destruction or “sequestering” of safe, pre-1985 children’s books is well known to followers of the issue here at Shopfloor, at Overlawyered, or with the Twitter feed #CPSIA. Where Nicol does such a nice job is reminding us of the cost that comes when ill-conceived laws drive books from our culture and children’s heritage.

In a rousing message to the American Booksellers Association in 1942, Franklin D. Roosevelt said:

We all know that books burn—yet we have the greater knowledge that books cannot be killed by fire. People die, but books never die. No man and no force can abolish memory…. In this war, we know, books are weapons.

Nine years after the Nazi book-burning, these words had a special import. And it is because of just such historical remembrance that the federal government’s banning of a single book for content today would provoke a coast-to-coast outcry. But mass annihilation—in effect, though not intent—is going more or less unnoticed. Unless and until a credible health threat is demonstrated, Congress needs to come to its senses and protect the use and distribution of children’s books of all eras; otherwise the “memory” (as FDR so eloquently put it) in these books’ trust really will die out. CPSIA was aimed at protecting the health of children—and who can argue with “safety”?—but if a conspiracy were bent on controlling ideas, this would be a nefariously clever approach.

Politics & Prose is a popular independent bookstore in Northwestern D.C. with a wonderful children’s section downstairs. P&P is also known for hosting author appearances in the store and elsewhere, the best series of its kind in the Washington area.

This Wednesday, Politics & Prose is sponsoring a downtown speaking engagement by Rep. Henry Waxman, chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, who in addition to having authored the book, “The Waxman Report,” could be considered a chief author of the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act.

Where better than an appearance at the Sixth and I Historic Synagogue, one sponsored by a bookstore, to ask Chairman Waxman a pointed question: “Why did you write a law that has led to the wholesale destruction of books?”

With a follow-up question: “When is Congress going to fix the law?”


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