A law that was meant to “protect the children” seems to have had some adverse consequences. Under the guidance of the law, federal officials are now advising that all children’s books published before 1985 be considered unsafe and may even be unlawful to sell.
The Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008 was passed when many were afraid of toys that were coming from China with lead paint:
Among its other provisions, CPSIA imposed tough new limits on lead in any products intended for use by children aged 12 or under, and made those limits retroactive: that is, goods manufactured before the law passed cannot be sold on the used market (even in garage sales or on eBay) if they don’t conform. The law has hit thrift stores particularly hard, since many children’s products have long included lead-containing (if harmless) components: zippers, snaps, and clasps on garments and backpacks; skateboards, bicycles, and countless other products containing metal alloy; rhinestones and beads in decorations; and so forth.
The law also hit hard in the used children’s book market. Megan McArdle over at The Atlantic explains how the ban has essentially outlawed one of her favorite past-times:
Some of my happiest memories as a child are of reading the old children’s books I found at houses and in the libraries of my school and camp. Musty smelling, filled with deco and nouveau style pictures of girls in strange costumes, they were a tangible link to the past. Not merely because some child had held that book in 1920, but because to read the popular fiction of another era is to take at least a few halting steps into its foreign mental world.
So when I see old children’s books–and by “old” I mean “pre-1960″–I often buy them. I love having the companions of my childhood to hand. I’ve always enjoyed the prospect of having more space to really take up collecting.
Apparently, I can forget about that. Congress has apparently outlawed my hobby. Nor is this merely ideological hysteria. I just checked Amazon, and while there are still some old books for sale, it looks as if there are a lot fewer than there used to be.
This is the Law of Unintended Consequences in full effect. Nice going Congress critters!