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Congress: Keeping Your Children Safe From Books, Used Clothing and Small Businesses

Lead: look at that smug bastard.  All the trouble he's caused.

At Needcoffee, politics really isn’t our bag. First up, because we are read all over the world, and it gets a little silly if we’re trying to talk about stuff that affects America all the time–the people in Brazil or Canada, while amused, probably don’t care beyond that. And secondly, even though I think that 80% of people in America are not as blisteringly either left wing or right wing and I bet if you talked to them you’d see they were reasonable people who might differ in opinion on the finer points, but for the most part just want to be left alone to enjoy life. And we don’t want anybody to get their coffee filters in a twist.

But sometimes…sometimes the government does something so incredibly dumb that we think the only people who will be backing the government’s play is…the government. And then we have to say something.

Especially when you’ve got legislation that could wind up banning kids from libraries, putting Etsy stores who make stuff for kids out of business (search for “CPSIA sale”), and forcing anybody who makes anything for kids spend craploads of money testing everything they have for lead. Because anything that goes to kids under the age of 12 is fair game. And what I want to know is this: when was the last kid who was hospitalized because they had a book with lead in it? How many children’s books have been shown to have lead in them…at all? There might be answers for both of those that go above the number zero–I’m honestly, seriously, asking. How many diapers have been shown to have lead in them?

[ad#longpost]Basically, The Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act is a crap law. Forbes has an article up on it and what impact it might have on the stuff I think the majority of you guys like. Go read that and then if you live in America and want to do something, I recommend you call your Congressmen. Not e-mail. Not sign some petition online. Seriously. Call their office. Tell them–nicely–that you think that the CPSIA needs to be nullified before its unintended consequences take their toll and you want your rep to know that.

I’m all for keeping kids safe from lead–I’ve refrained from buying a lot of stuff made in China due to the recent problems–but making librarians have to worry about having to ban kids? Making thrift shops look seriously at just throwing kids’ clothes away rather than risk selling them due to the civil and criminal ramifications? And for what? Do we really have any good data on the actual risk we’re circumventing with this law? And you can tell the people defending this are idiots–because they say that it’s not going to be enforced for the people doing the most worrying. If that’s the case, then A) what’s the frigging point of including them? and 2) laws like that exist to do one thing: be enforced when somebody wants them enforced. Which is very, very dangerous. If a law’s interpretation is potentially all over the map, you have to assume that it will be all over the map–again, depending on the opinions of whoever’s in charge that day.

Thanks to The Neil for Twittering this. I knew it was mental before he did so, but I didn’t appreciate just how mental. If somebody comes and tells me how non-mental this is, I’m willing to listen. I’m willing to be told I’m wrong–Christ, I hope I’m wrong. But “it won’t be enforced” or “the law is being interpreted wrong” is your line, I’m telling you now: you’re wasting your time.


  • Pan, you are correct in that opinion says they’re exempt–although it’s still not the clearest thing in the world to get that out of that text–but bear in mind that it is just an opinion and that is echoed by the statement at the end, “The views expressed in this letter…have not been reviewed or approved by the Commission. [snip] They may be superseded at any time by the Commission…” Which, sadly, is just a fancy way of saying, “Maybe this is how it’s going to roll. But we haven’t decided yet.” It’s just sad that we even have to have a conversation about the legal definition of what books are…