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Getting the lead out

A process that largely began with the 2007 discovery of lead-tainted toy imports from China culminated in a new set of regulations for the manufacturers of children's products that went into effect on Tuesday, Feb. 10, as elements of the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act made their way into law.

Passed in August of last year by overwhelming majorities in the U.S. legislature, the act aims to limit the amount of lead in children's products defined as those targeted at children under 12 to under 600 parts per million. That restriction just went into effect for children's jewelry, cribs, pacifier and paints. Other items were given a year's stay, as small toy manufactures complained about the costly tests and certifications required to put their products on store shelves.

There are others who would just like some clarification or who provide children with books and toys for children free of charge.

Libraries, most notably, are left wondering how they will deal with this sometimes-vague rule short of tossing out children's books altogether.

The American Library Association, most notably, has rallied against the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, drafters of the legislation, and local librarians are following suit.

"These are books, not toys, and libraries should never have been included in this," said Sara Dallas, director of the Southern Adirondack Library System. "How many 12-year-olds do you know who would eat a book?"

According to Arlene Flecha, a spokeswoman for the CPSC, while libraries will not be required to do any testing for lead, they will have to adhere to the requirements of the law. Violators of the regulations could be subject to penalties that start with a $100,000 fine and/or jail time.

"The intent of the law is certainly not to shut down libraries," she said. "We have found, in general, that ordinary books are safe. Children's books printed after 1985, we have found that they are OK."

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