As was mentioned in one of the comments for the previous post, the economy has tanked. And as all of you know, the margins in publishing are very small. In fact, unless you have a huge blockbuster, it’s hard to make a fortune on a children’s book. (Sorry if I’m crushing anyone’s dream. You can make a good living as a children’s author and/or illustrator, just not a fortune.)

So, as a children’s publisher, I was very relieved when a potential book expense was removed — at least for this year. As of right now, I will not have to get the 4 books I’m putting out lead tested.

You see, as part of the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA), all products produced “primarily for children 12 and under” must have certification that they don’t contain more than a certain amount of phthalates and only have a certain amount of lead.

In general, this is a good thing. We don’t kids ingesting phthalates (whatever those are) or lead. However, the difficulties were in the certification. Now, when it came to the phthalates, the plant that physically manufactures the product can certify the product, but for lead certification, tests must be performed by an independent third party.

Since my books are printed on recycled paper with vegetable based inks, my printer has assured me that they meet the phthalates and lead requirements. But under the current guidelines, I would still have to spend $500-800 a book to get it lead-free certified. And in an industry with such slim margins, that can make the difference between a book that profits or breaks even and a book that even with a sold out print run generates a loss.

So, you can imagine my relief when the CPSC (the agency overseeing interpretation & implementation of the law) decided to issue a year’s stay on the implementation of the certification requirements. The products have to meet the requirements, I just don’t have to prove it quite yet.

This is great because beside not having the expense this year, it means that CPSC has more time to determine exactly what needs to be tested. There is some debate that traditional books (hardcover & paperbacks) are not necessarily intended for “primarily for children under 12” but for adults as well and therefore would be exempt anyway. It’s all very confusing and difficult, and all children’s publishers are sitting around waiting to see what we’ll need to do.

If you’re curious about the issue, you can visit the CPSC site devoted to this issue.

And in the meantime, rest assured that if your ten year old decides to munch on a copy of The Book of Nonsense or The Emerald Tablet, he should be safe — at least from phthalates and lead. I can’t say what all that paper will do to his digestive tract.

© Copyright 2006-2011 Madeline Smoot. All rights reserved.
May be excerpted and duplicated for educational purposes.
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