Complete and Utter Injustice

File this under things that make me both very sad and very angry:

It’s hard to believe, but true: under a law Congress passed last year aimed at regulating hazards in children’s products, the federal government has now advised that children’s books published before 1985 should not be considered safe and may in many cases be unlawful to sell or distribute. Merchants, thrift stores, and booksellers may be at risk if they sell older volumes, or even give them away, without first subjecting them to testing—at prohibitive expense. Many used-book sellers, consignment stores, Goodwill outlets, and the like have accordingly begun to refuse new donations of pre-1985 volumes, yank existing ones off their shelves, and in some cases discard them en masse.

Lead in the paint of old houses is dangerous. Lead, in large amounts only, in certain toys is dangerous. Small traces of lead in the artwork and bindings of children’s books are not dangerous. Not unless you took the book, tossed it in a blender with a little milk, and then fed an old book smoothie to your toddler. The thought that this law is being used to tell booksellers “the following books are unsafe and should never be sold again” hurts my heart greatly. The joy in finding an original printing of a childhood favorite, buying it, then passing it on to your own children is a wonderful thing. A thing that now, unfortunately, looks to be outlawed.

This quote, by an Etsy commentor, from the above article made me sigh deeply and question how this sort of thing could happen in these modern times:

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!

Terrible thought.

And yet, the ALA has made a very firm stance. The American Library Association has decided that the law does not apply to libraries until it hears otherwise. A decision that is very admirable, sort of a final stand against the ridiculous use of a law, though who knows how long it will last? The wording of the law is “distribution”, not just sale, so therefore a library allowing a child to check out a pre-1985 copy of Huck Finn, is now technically against the law.

The entire thing just makes me so sad and so furious and it makes me want to walk into Congress and demand a change.

And it should make you feel the same way.

Let me make very clear the fact that a law being passed to further the investigation into the levels of lead in our children’s toys is a very good thing. And a government that would enforce that law in an attempt to protect our children is another very good thing. But a government that would allow something as simple and unassuming and yet so powerful as books, especially in such an insanely large category as “published before 1985”, is not a good thing. At all.

Published by Rob Kaas

Biographical information? I was born 37 years ago. I've lived a little here and there since then. I do not look forward to death. Biographical enough for you?

One thought on “Complete and Utter Injustice

  1. Akin to this they made similar rulings about children’s clothes, which means that a lot of donations to good will and salvation army etc are going to have to be exported to other countries or just thrown away. Such a lame thing to do.

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