If you are a publisher of children's books, then you need to be aware of this. A law passed by Congress which was created to crack down on high lead levels in toys has now expanded to include children's books.
From the Publisher's Weekly article:
The Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act, enacted in August 2008 as a response to the high-profile 2007 recalls involving Chinese-made toys containing lead, covers not just playthings but all consumer products intended for use by children 12 and under. That includes books, audiobooks and sidelines, no matter where they are manufactured, even though most books have lead levels that are well below the Act’s most stringent safety standards. The industry is fighting to have most books exempted, but there may not be a resolution by the time the Act kicks in on February 10, so publishers and retailers are proceeding as if books will be included.
This ruling could be an economic disaster for already struggling publishers, as well as impact schools and stores as books are removed from shelves. Of course protecting children from exposure to lead is important, but this law creates more problems than it solves. It is a Congressional reaction, fueled by fear, that doesn't solve the real problem of toxic toys.
From the article:
The CPSIA dictates that each children’s book SKU, shipped to retailers, catalogues and e-commerce sites as of February 10, must have been tested by a third-party lab to ensure that lead levels are below 600 parts per million. (Acceptable levels drop to 300 ppm in August and 100 ppm in 2011.) Some books also must be tested for phthalates, an acid used to soften plastic. The importer or domestic manufacturer must provide a Certificate of Conformity (usually posted on the Internet), and the product must be labeled appropriately. Older products on shelf must fall within acceptable safety standards but do not need to be accompanied by a Certificate, according to recent comments by the Consumer Products Safety Commission.
The Small Publishers Association of North America (SPAN) has created an information page on their website. Click the link to learn more about the law, the labs sanctioned to test books, and what the publishing community is doing to try and change the law so the impact on publishers is not as detrimental.
Even if you don't publish children's books, please write your Congressperson to alert them to the problems inherent in the law. Children MUST be protected, but quickly created laws that are reactionary, rather than comprehensive, just create more, sometimes bigger, problems than the one the law was trying to solve.