In the rush of the past few days, I totally forgot to post about the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA), a piece of American legislation that could have substantial impacts on the sale of used children's books.
Under CPSIA requirements, children's products can't be sold if they contain over a certain amount of lead or particular phthalates, and many such products will have to undergo mandatory testing and certification. Lead poisoning and phthalate exposure can have a wide array of very negative health effects, particularly on children.
There's been tremendous worry and pushback from publishers, libraries, sellers of used children's books, toys, and clothing, and parents worried about whether something as simple as hand-me-down clothing will remain unambiguously legal. On January 8, The Consumer Product Safety Commission issued a clarification, explaining that the rigorous testing and certification requirements are meant to apply only to new children's products, but that used items must still conform to guidelines. This doesn't seem to offer any ground for makers of new small-scale or handmade goods, which are still subject to the same potentially expensive certification requirements.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission has suggested that books published after 1985 are relatively safe, but the threat of legal liability means that sellers of used children's books from before 1985 may choose to pull them out of the market or destroy them, rather than do costly testing of each individual book. For example, read these stories from booksellers at Overlawyered.