CPSIA's Unintended Consequences (Rep. Jeff Fortenberry)

My office has received hundreds of inquiries from constituents and organizations regarding the recently-enacted Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008 (CPSIA). A bipartisan Congress passed the CPSIA last year to protect children from the dangers associated with products containing unreasonable levels of lead, by imposing lead standards and testing requirements. However, a subsequent interpretation of the law by the Consumer Product Safety Commission has stretched beyond Congress’ original intent, applying the lead regulation to all children’s books. Under the CPSIA, libraries and other organizations have been forced to restrict access to children’s books and as a member of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, I have introduced legislation to clarify the CPSIA to allow children’s books to remain on library shelves for the benefit of millions of our youth.

Access to books is critical to child development and education. While the Consumer Product Safety Commission has worked diligently to ensure our children can play without risk from toxic lead-ridden products, these lead rules were never intended to force libraries to pull their collections.

There is no credible evidence to suggest that children’s books contain harmful amounts of lead. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have determined there may be only minimal risk to children from lead in ordinary books, and comprehensive testing by accredited laboratories of finished books and component materials has found total lead content at levels considered non-detectable or well below the thresholds in the CPSIA.

My bill, H.R. 1692, would amend the CPSIA to exempt ordinary books from the lead regulation, and declare that it was not the intent of Congress to impose these burdensome restrictions on children’s books. While the goals of the CPSIA are well-intentioned, I hope that my legislation will aid in mitigating some of the unintended consequences that have resulted from the CPSIA’s enactment.