(KCPW News) Local thrift and consignment stores are worried about the enforcement of a new regulation that prohibits the sale of children's products that contain lead or chemicals called phthalates, which are used in soft plastics. KCPW's Faroe Robinson reports.
Sloan says she's going to Washington D.C. for a rally on April first, which she hopes will cause the committee to schedule another hearing for the bill.
The 2008 Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act passed by Congress in August prohibits lead or phthalates in children's products and also requires stores that sell children's products to be certified and test their inventory for toxins. It was passed in the wake of several recalls of children's toys made in China.
Stores can be held liable if they sell products that contain toxins as of last month, though the Consumer Product Safety Commission pushed back the testing requirement until February 2010.
Second hand stores and charities that re-sell children's goods are exempt from having to test them, but can still be held civilly or even criminally liable for selling products with lead or pthalates, so the commission urges them not to sell anything that is likely to contain lead.
Shauna Sloan, Founder of Kid to Kid, a reseller of children's products that has 80 franchises worldwide, says these regulations put second-hand stores in a tough position.
"I'm not selling anything in my store that I know contains lead, anything that has come out on a recall list, or where we have been told this product has lead, but if we were to eliminate every single children's item that has snaps or zippers, or anything like that, there would be precious little left that we could sell."
She says it can cost $100 to test one item for toxins, and feels the law shouldn't apply to products retroactively. Kid to Kid shopper and mother Abby Don agrees children need to be protected, but second-hand stores shouldn't be held liable.
"A lot of people don't even think about it, don't even know, and so if there is something harmful in it of course they should be more strict, they should be as strict as they possibly can. But I think for places like this, and second hand toys and things that have been bought once and are being re-sold, I don't think that the store owners should be responsible for that, because its something that is already out in circulation."
Another parent and Kid to Kid shopper Kate Stoker says there also needs to be an element of parental responsibility. She says there are inexpensive products out there for parents to buy to test their children's toys, and most parents know they have to be careful when buying older toys and products.
"You aren't paying for the quality necessarily, you are paying for the toy, to help, you know, save a buck and a dime, so therefore you are trying to help save, but you can't necessarily be depending on them to check every single toy, because some of these toys are 15, 20 years old."
Sloan says the law is also too broad. She says products that are very unlikely to be chewed are being regulated, like bicycle tire valves, zippers, and even the engines of a children's four-wheeler. She says lead poisoning has dropped dramatically in the last 30 years, and feels the biggest treat to children is lead paint in older homes, not toys. Sloan adds that unless it's reasonable to assume that a child could chew a product and give them a measurable increase in lead levels, the government shouldn't regulate it.
"Lead in clothes and books and those things is not really a real danger to your child. It sounds frightening, but so does the boogy man. And I feel like this is a boogy man law that we are trying to make a law to protect our children from the boogy man when its really not a real danger to them."
Sloan says the impact of the legislation wasn't evaluated, and legislators may not have looked closely at the bill, but passed it because it protects children. She says Senators Bob Bennett and Orrin Hatch have both requested a hearing with the US Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, which originally passed out the bill, but have received no response.
Sloan has also contacted Representative Jim Matheson, who helped draft the bill, but she says he blames the Consumer Product Safety Commission for not interpreting the law correctly, and that he won't request a hearing. Sloan says it's the law itself that needs to be fixed, not the interpretation.
"The reality is the CPSC has its hands tied by what the law says. The bill says it can't have any lead, you know, plain and simple, any children's product intended for a child under the age of 12 can't have any lead in it. Period. What are they, how are they suppose to interpret that?"
Sloan adds that the commission already interpreted the law to mean that phthalate regulation should be enforced retroactively, but then a federal judge changed it, three days before the law went into effect. She says this caused one of the bigger children's stores, Gymboree to pull $1.5 million dollars of merchandise off its shelves.
A spokesperson for Matheson says he has sent a letter to the commission, and feels the commission has time to re-evaluate the law's impacts before the testing requirements go into effect in 2010.