Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Clear as Fog

Publishers Weekly has an article on the goings-on in the children’s books world over this past year. If you write or publish children’s books, you’ll want to keep up with this. You can read the article, but it may just confuse you.

The Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008 called for the testing of children’s books (and accompanying items that come with some books) for lead. But they haven’t gotten around to issuing guidelines for said testing.
This lack of direction makes it difficult, if not impossible, for publishers and other makers of children’s products to comply.
There was confusion from the very beginning:
It initially was believed that the Act could cause children’s books [to] be removed from schools, libraries, and stores; nonprofit groups to lose the ability to accept donations; and retailers, printers, and publishers to potentially go out of business.
There was a little bit of light, but not much when:
…the CPSC declared a permanent stay of enforcement for “ordinary” children’s books printed after 1985, saying it would not impose penalties against anyone for making, importing, distributing or selling them. This gave the industry some relief, but still did not preclude states’ Attorneys General from enforcing at their discretion.
According to Publishers Weekly, this is where it stands now:
1. Ordinary books published after 1985 are “safe.” Sort of.
2. Books-plus and novelty books will have to be tested before being deemed “safe.”
3. Retailers can sell children’s books printed after 1986, but could face fines if they sell or display a lead-containing book.
4. Libraries and schools might be able to keep lending or using books printed before 1986. Or they might not.
5. Used booksellers might be able to sell books printed 1986 or before, but they can’t sell anything “unsafe.”

And there you have it. Clear as fog.
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  1. Ugh. As if there isn't enough to worry about...maybe.

  2. Yikes - the things we have to concern ourselves with!

  3. My children have always played with antique toys and read very old books. From time to time I get their lead levels checked at the pediatrian (yes, my kids love me for that). They're always just fine. I have to wonder how MUCH lead is required for impairment...

    Mystery Writing is Murder

  4. I find this lead caution interesting, yet am surprised at society's wavering standards on it. The past couple years we have been looking to buy an artificial Christmas tree but have not, because we find just about all of them contain lead. On the packaging, it even advises the user to wash their hands every time they handle the tree! Now seriously, whose intrigued, wonder-filled hands will be touching those trees? Children's. It doesn't make sense.

  5. Good grief. As if there aren't enough important issues to deal with in these times we gotta go and get all up in a hissy over trace levels of lead in books? We're weakening the gene pool, I say - another decade or two of this kind of nonsense and we'll be a species with such low tolerances we'll get deathly sick from coming into contact with dust.

    Back in the 80's I was a remodeling contractor. The EPA was going great guns against lead paint back then. The cost of remodeling an old home shot up so high it was prohibitive and seriously crippled the industry. I read that the city of Chicago's school system went bankrupt complying with the strict abatement and removal rules.

    So. We have safe little tykes with no exposure to lead in their books, except they are being raised in homes that can't be renovated and go to schools so broke they can't afford to be good.

    Crazy world.

    Marvin D Wilson

  6. Typical. They set up guidelines without thinking it through, just because they can.

    Why would there be lead in children's books anyway? I don't quite get that. The paint on the covers?

  7. They're looking at the glue in the binding, for one place, although the tests have shown that to be negligible, it seems.

  8. Okay, so my 90-year-old mom read books when she was a kid, and I read books when I was a kid. And my kids read books. We all probably chewed on them, too. I don't understand why this is even an issue.

  9. At least this is one publishing hurdle I don't have to worry about since I write adult fiction. Pretty soon our kids will come crated with a tag that says "Don't remove until contents reach 21 years of age."

  10. I had not heard of this as being an issue but it doesn't surprise me. I certainly had books galore as a child and seem to have no damaging effects.

  11. Though the act may be well-intentioned, I don't think they've thought it through. They seem to have succeeded in doing nothing other than causing headaches for authors and publishers.

  12. JennyMac, no damaging effects here either, unless you count an addiction to reading.

  13. Muddy fog at that! Sad they don't really know what they're doing...

  14. The Old Silly said: "another decade or two of this kind of nonsense and we'll be a species with such low tolerances we'll get deathly sick from coming into contact with dust."

    Another reason for me to avoid cleaning the house! Cheers!

    I'm no expert here, but take this as a rule of thumb, if your childrens' book needs three kids just to lift it off the ground, it probably contains lead.

  15. Yes, I'd heard of this, from a different source. I have a close friend who volunteers for the Junior League store here. They can't sell any children's book produced before 1986 EXCEPT as an antique.


  16. I don't know, but it seems to me that historically it hasn't worked so well in a lot of cases for the government to look out for me.

    Straight From Hel

  17. Yeah... clear as mud!

    thanks for the links though :)

    Merry Christmas Helen. Have a great day :)

  18. God -it's a plot devised by the television networks - get those pesky books out of our consumers' hands.
    yoicks! Read books - don't read newspapers or listen to the radio or watch the news. just don't. you'll be fine.

  19. Like you say, clear as fog indeed!

    Sometimes, I think we worry too much. I grew up eating peanuts wrapped in cones made out of old newspapers, and am alive to tell the tale. How much worse can it really get?

    And happy holidays, Helen. Though I comment very infrequently, your blog gives me many hours of pleasure and deep thought.

  20. @ Rayna, and we had little red wagons made of metal with edges, teddy bears with stick-pin eyes, we made mud pies, and played with mercury...and here we are still kickin'!

  21. Augh, the CPSIA. As a picture book illustrator, I've been keeping up with it (thanks in part to your blog!), but it is SUCH a mess. Big companies sell toys made in China that poison our kids, and the government comes down on the small business person whose work is made in the USA. It doesn't make sense to punish the little guy.


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