Just a quick follow-up to my Toy Story post, which got some good comments. The CPSIA is now law, the CPSC granted a stay and issued some guidelines (PDF) but things seem pretty screwed up. Etsy folks are hopping mad. Fashion incubator, who did a lot of work on the issue, is seriously depressed. Overlawyered has a lot to say on the subject. He has a fifty state round-up of bad-sounding stuff. Thrift stores forced to strip their shelves of stuff. The post on vintage books really depresses me. From an Etsy forum poster:
I just came back from my local thrift store with tears in my eyes! I watched as boxes and boxes of children’s books were thrown into the garbage! Today was the deadline and I just can’t believe it! Every book they had on the shelves prior to 1985 was destroyed! I managed to grab a 1967 edition of “The Outsiders” from the top of the box, but so many!
I haven’t seen anyone seriously making the case that all this Fahrenheit 451-goes-to-Etsy chaos is 1) due to hysterical people not understanding what the law really says; 2) some sort of big money astroturf confusion.
To put it more sharply: given the failure of the act’s defenders to make a serious argument (that I’ve seen) that this chaos and small business suffering is mostly unnecessary or temporary, I haven’t seen any positive answer to the following question: if these are the consequences – small businesses wiped out, only the big manufacturers able to bear the heavy burdens of compliance, and a lot of nonsense like old childrens books made unsalable – do we think it’s a good law? Is the safety benefit worth these costs?
I’ve read quite a bit of stuff like this: “Take your thumbs out of your mouths, grow up, and accept that the country needed to stop children from dying or being made sick from toxic toys.” But that doesn’t seem like a serious response to genuine concerns. The first commenter to my first post, one Mike Russo, attempted a more measured response in the same vein. But it seemed to me he was rebutted pretty effectively as the thread progressed.
It does seem fair to note that some people have been testing old books for lead and, apparently, a significant number of the pre-1985 ones fail. So don’t let your toddlers lick the colored illustrations in old books, people. A lot of thift store items fail – zippers, clasps, rhinestones are frequent offenders. So there are a diversity of issues here. There are people producing stuff that’s harmless, but they can’t afford to prove it, so they can’t sell it. (Even with the 1-year stay, vendors apparently feel they can’t take a chance.) There are old books that shouldn’t be licked by children, but does that mean no one should be able to sell them? (Yes, if they are valuable vintage items, ergo not ‘intended for children’, you can. But many don’t clearly qualify. So you would be running a risk.) Maybe it’s good to make reselling old children’s clothing illegal, if the clasps might have lead. Maybe thrift store shopping for children should become a thing of the past, because it’s too hazardous to life and limb. But, to repeat, I haven’t actually seen anyone 1) argue that the law shouldn’t, as written, have these really very sweeping effects; 2) argue that, even if it does, on balance it’s still a good law.