The Consumer Product Safety Commission announced today that a new government regulation scheduled to take effect next month will not force thrift and consignment stores to adhere to strict lead and phthalate testing or declare their merchandise hazardous material.
Only one day following a WND report, the commission released a statement saying, “Sellers of used children’s products, such as thrift stores and consignment stores, are not required to certify that those products meet the new lead limits, phthalates standard or new toy standards.”
Many thrift and consignment business owners were outraged after Congress passed the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008, or HR 4040, a retroactive rule mandating that all items sold for use by children under 12 must be tested by an independent party for lead and phthalates, which are chemicals used to make plastics more pliable.
The regulations could have forced thousands of resale businesses – especially smaller ones that cannot afford the cost of lead testing – to throw away truckloads of children’s clothing, books, toys, furniture and other children’s items and even force them to close their doors.
Now those sellers are not required to test products before selling their inventories, but the CPSC warns, “[R]esellers cannot sell children’s products that exceed the lead limit and therefore should avoid products that are likely to have lead content, unless they have testing or other information to indicate the products being sold have less than the new limit. Those resellers that do sell products in violation of the new limits could face civil and/or criminal penalties.”
Small businesses still affected
However, the law still affects small businesses that sell new items. Under the new measure, new children’s products with more than 600 ppm total lead cannot lawfully be sold in the United States on or after Feb. 10, 2009, even if they were manufactured before that date. The total lead limit drops to 300 ppm on Aug. 14, 2009. Also, products manufactured on or after that date cannot be sold if they contain more than 0.1% of certain phthalates.
Some small toy businesses say lead testing alone costs more than $4,000 per item – a price some say only large companies like Mattel and Fisher Price can afford to pay.
“The only people who can do that now are the ones who actually put this scare into effect and actually caused the problem,” Amy Evan’s, owner of Baby’s Boutique in Chico, Calif., told CBS’ KHSL.
Shelsie Hall told California’s KXTV News 10 she makes hair bows and jewelry for children and sells them online to support her family.
She believes her small business is threatened by the measure because those products must be tested.
“[M]y items sell for $4 to $10 and I make a lot of different things. So I couldn’t just test one; I would have to test every item,” she said.
One blogger who identifies herself as “Tina” has a home-based business making and selling cloth diapers online. She said a U.S. lab quoted a price of $75 to test each component of her diapers.
“I have at least two different fabrics, thread, snaps and elastic in a diaper,” she wrote. “$375 to test each different combination of fabrics/snaps/thread/size combinations? That is insane.”
She continued, “I am but one of many micro-manufacturers who will be forced to give up the American dream of owning my own business because of this legislation.”
Tina said retailers purchase inventory with loans secured by the value of that inventory.
“What happens to these lenders and retailers when the value of that inventory goes to zero?” she asked. “It is conceivable, at least to me, that retailers will be the next group in front of Congress asking for a bailout.”
The act’s broad wording could extend to new children’s items sold on eBay, Craig’s List, Amazon. Critics also say landfills will be hit hard if stores, distributors and families simply throw their untested items away rather than face prosecution. And clothing, toys, furniture and books at large retailers could become more expensive to cover third-party testing costs.
Other tentative exemptions
While the Consumer Product Safety Commission administers the law, it may only be changed by Congress. Some exemptions approved Tuesday by the commission’s two members, but not formally adopted, include the following:
- Items with lead parts that a child cannot access;
- Clothing, toys and other goods made of natural materials such as cotton and wood; and
- Electronics that are impossible to make without lead.
But the tentative exemptions do little to reassure most businesses and families who will be affected by the law. Final rules are not scheduled for approval until after Feb. 10, when the rules take effect.
The measure raises the CPSC budget each year until 2015, at which time
the agency’s budget would be $156 million. It also allows state
attorneys general to take civil action against those who violate the
Rep. Bobby Rush, D-Il., sponsored the bill along with 106 co-sponsors. In the House of Representatives, 424 members voted for the act, nine voted “present” and a single member voted against it – Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas.
President George Bush signed it into law on Aug. 14, 2008.