Evan Dorkin (evandorkin) wrote,

In Order To Save The Children, We Must Destroy Industries

Have you heard of the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA)? Apparently not a lot of folks have. In a nutshell, this act was passed in August as a measure against lead contamination in children's toys and products. As is often the case with government, the act wasn't thought out, is sledgehammer drastic, and will affect far more many businesses, entities, people and lives than whoever drafted this probably ever thought. And, apparently, there was no economic feasibility study done as to the potential impact this act would have. Which is, from what we understand, illegal.

Anyway -- said impact will be nothing short of devastating for many small businesses, home-crafters, DIY-ers, toy manufacturers, clothing manufacturers, re-sellers, used clothing shops, thrift shops, and so on and so forth. And also, libraries, book stores and yeah, comic shops. Because a ton of stuff is being lumped together under this act, which will require expensive product testing for anything deemed "for children". Children's clothes, books, comics, school supplies, toys, costumes, need I go on?  And second-hand items, clothes, toys, books, back issues, etc. It doesn't end once you start thinking about it. And, in fact, it gets worse, because it affects inventory. So, dump your inventory, Target, Toys R Us, etc, and smaller businesses, you lose those toys and shirts that will possibly bankrupt you. No more crafting on Etsy, et al. You can't even, under this law, knit blankets for Project Linus , which provides blankets for children in need. So why the F didn't the people who slapped this together think about it? 

I dunno.

This monumental act of stupidity kicks in on Feb 10th.

A number of overseas toy and clothing manufacturers have already started shutting down US shipping/operations, their items are tested back home, and those tests -- some stricter than ours -- aren't being accepted. So they're opting out. Larger companies like Mattel will be all right, less competition for them, in fact, and I'm pretty sure they'll pass the costs on their stuff to the consumer. Yatta yatta yatta. I know, it sounds like Chicken Little stuff, right? But the sky's been falling in so many places as of late, that no one's taken stock of this dumb-ass law.

Here's a link to an earlier statement on the American Library Association's website concerning the subject:

http://www.wo.ala.org/districtdispatch/?p=1322

I'm not great at breaking down this sort of thing in a mature, adult, tutorial manner, I'm no journalist, I'm a ranter. However, Sarah recently wrote a letter to someone on the topic, and here's her edited version of what she wrote. Folks should read this, because if the act isn't patched up or tossed out and reworked, we're all in a very messed up situation, the economy will feel this, and I can't believe I'm typing this --  but according to the American Library Association, if this dumbosity isn't addressed by sane, rational folks, or barring that, books aren't exempted -- libraries will either have to yank all kid's books, or bar children under 12 yrs of age from entering a library. Because the lead is going to kill us all (not to downplay lead contamination, actually - it needs to be dealt with, but, this is crazy and crippling.)

Okay, here's what Sarah wrote:

I was telling Evan how many people have no idea they are affected, and I asked him if it was being followed in comics at all. He said no, and asked why -- I pointed out that every comic shop is full of stuff that is definitely made for children (and yes, printed material is covered!), and of course as we all know, the general public still thinks comics=children anyway. And all inventory that is currently uncertified is not legally allowed to be sold after Feb 9th. And while I doubt anyone is going to be going into shops on Feb 10th, all it takes is one jerk to report a shop that's in violation. He was like YIKES and asked if I had links to back this up and asked me to send them to you.

So, I tried to pull some links together that cover retailers as it may apply to comics, and here you go.
Obviously, look into it for yourself; but since technically this makes practically all inventory that has gone through Diamond's hands illegal in less than 60 days, I think it's something retailers need to start getting worked up about. And small press publishers -- do they realize they have to third party test everything by August? It's so expensive! Not to mention consumers -- what's going to happen is we're going to simply lose choice since so much stuff will vanish.

the best intro I've seen:
http://www.fashion-incubator.com/archive/cpsia-and-small-manufacturers/

What is covered -- it's a blanket rule that covers anything and everything that could be used by children 12 and under. I cannot find the reference to the paragraph that closes the loophole and says that anything with cartoon characters etc will be considered for kids but I have seen it mentioned several times (in context that an "adults only" tag will not help if an outsider, no idea who would actually decide, would believe it was not attractive to kids). So I'm certain it's there, and I think going by past precedent, outside agencies will probably consider that anything in a comic shop is fair game for kids. (And then of course, they will all be aghast at the porno all over again....)

I have found reference to books and similar materials definitely falling under this law:

Does the new requirement for total lead on children's products apply to children's books, cassettes and CD's, printed game boards, posters and other printed goods used for children's education?

In general, yes. CPSIA defines children's products as those products intended primarily for use by children 12 and under. Accordingly, these products would be subject to the lead limit for paint and surface coatings at 16 CFR part 1303 (and the 90 ppm lead paint limit effective August 14, 2009) as well as the new lead limits for children's products containing lead (600 ppm lead limit effective February 10, 2009, and 300 ppm lead limit effective August 14, 2009).
(from a CPSC FAQ page)

from bookblog, Jan 9th:
http://bookshopblog.com/2009/01/08/book-burning-on-feb-10th-2009-due-to-cpsia/

Boston Pheonix, quotes head of ALA as saying libraries will have to ban kids under 12
http://thephoenix.com/Boston/News/74940-Congress-bans-kids-from-libraries/

What's important here -- there have always been limits on lead, and it has been illegal to sell anything over those limits -- and I imagine anything printed in North America is in fact, totally safe (although I wouldn't want to swear to it). But now, everything has to be actually tested and certified, which is new, and onerous at best.

To see how onerous, check out this blog:
http://nationalbankruptcyday.com/
tons of school supplies are simply going to never be replaced because the testing is too expensive. Especially see his recent post about telescopes -- under the new laws, no-one going to be able to make decent telescopes for kids anymore. At all.

Implementation -- the lead ban goes into effect Feb 10th, any children's item that is not reasonably certified cannot be sold at all.
According to an opinion issued by Cheryl Falvey, the Consumer Product Safety Commission's (CPSC) general counsel, as of February 10, 2009, all children's products that do not achieve the 600 ppm standard are considered banned hazardous substances and cannot be sold or distributed in commerce. "
Stock that is not certified by the manufacturer will have to be tested with something like an XRF gun; after Aug 9th everything must be certified by a third party.


Actual enforcement....well, that's anyone's guess. There are heavy fines and felony penalties but probably aimed towards manufacturers rather than retailers. Retailers still are clearly on the hook, as any sale is illegal.

Personally, I think this is so insane it has to be amended. But people need to realize that it affects them and get active or it really will happen. And no, I don't think that the average comic shop is going to be checked for "hazardous items" come Feb 10th, but don't almost all these CBLDF cases come about because some shop is reported by a 3rd party? All we need is some jerks from PIRG to hit a few comic shops and kaboom...because it'll be the law.

Anyway. There you go. I am probably forgetting more links that are good, if I come across them I'll send them along.



Evan again -- WTF, right? I mean, right?

Folks, get on this. It's not just comics, but as far as our little field goes, it will potentially affect everyone, whether they make kids toys or comics or action figures or models or whatever. And you know how most folks think all comics are for kids, so there's people who would classify superhero statues and crap made for adult collectors as kid stuff. And old comic strip collections. Etc. Folks don't even know how they'd implement and oversee something this far-ranging, but who wants to risk this crap. Somebody gets nailed for file-sharing and ends up broke. Comics is under-funded jelly-foundation land. Nightmare scenario, someone complains just to be a dillweed or some rabid activist-type gets his or her dander up at the weird comic book store, and you're in trouble for selling Disney Comics or Toon Books to a kid. Back issues. Old, not-so-old, loose or packaged Star Wars or Spider-Man figures. Video game toys. Many, many pages of the Diamond Catalog come under this. Can Graphitti afford to test their shirts? And will DC Direct be able to afford to test every stupid thing they make, pay extra for accessories to action figures, and pay again for repaints and variants, because they are considered different finished products under the unit testing conditions of the act? And everything at a con is technically violating the law (not that anyone goes after them, but still, who knows, and who needs this craziness?).

Hopefully this will be struck down, or changed, or will blow away like a bad dream or not come to be the complete nightmare it sounds like. Maybe this is crazy alarmist stuff. But the ALA doesn' think so, nor do a heck of a lot of other folks. And  even if it is amended, people are already closing down their small businesses, and companies are already opting out of selling things here, and the information being spread around is often conflicting, leaving some folks to believe their concerns are exempted, when they're not.

It's a mess. If this strikes you as a mess, or a potential mess, please add your voice to those asking their reps to clean this mess up before it does substantial harm. There has to be a saner way to make kids stuff safer.

Thanks for reading this. I'll be posting stupid gags again asap.

ADDED: Here's a good place to go for a clearing house of info on the effects and potential effects of the CPSIA.  Companies shutting down, charity programs affected, potential job losses projected by some to be in the tens of thousands. Newspapers, magazines and other media are just starting to come around to this, but it may be too late, and it's already too late for many folks. Again, WTF?
Tags: stupidity
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