Sales of Used Clothing for Kids to Hit a Snag After Feb. 9

shelves of kids clothesChildren outgrow clothes and even toys so quickly that many parents either buy clothing used, donate their gently-used togs and toys to thrift stores, or sell them on consignment.  When the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act goes into effect on February 10, however, these used articles upon which so many families rely will suddenly be considered toxic and destined for the landfill.

Congress passed the law last year to protect children against lead and phthalates, harmful substances which have been found in everything from buttons to backpacks to ponchos, reports the LA Times. Any items which have not undergone expensive testing procedures (which may cost $50,000) will be considered contaminated and removed from the shelves.

Thrift stores will be essentially prohibited from accepting and selling donations of children's clothing because they will certainly be unable to afford to test them. In addition, small businesses that make handmade kids' clothes or toys, and the small stores that sell them, would also be unable to have their existing inventory vetted, meaning a substantial loss. Some businesses in the LA Times article are already planning to close.

It just seems ironic that a law designed to protect children should be putting people out of business and swelling our landfills, which will be the next generation's inheritance anyway. Families who relied on second-hand goods will find clothing their children takes a larger chunk out of their paychecks. I'm struggling to think of another solution that will protect kids from lead poisoning but preserve their parents' access to the "reuse" cycle so many families participate in.

Would it have been better to develop a more inexpensive testing procedure before banning all suspect articles, thus saving the long-term costs of sending all those small sweaters, socks and shirts to the landfill? Should all untested clothes and toys be given away (thus taken off the shelves) to families who have weighed the risk? Will exchanges of used kids' items simply go underground?

There seems to be a lot of confusion about how the law is going to be enforced, but looking at the Consumer Product Safety Commission's memorandum, Retroactive Application of the CPSIA to Inventory, everyone seems pretty serious about it:
On balance, it appears that the 660 ppm lead limit applies to product in inventory or on store shelves as of the effective date of February 10, 2009....Given the strength of the congressional language that these products shall be treated as banned hazardous substances and the strong prohibition against their sale, the CPSIA read as a whle suggests that the statutory provisions on lead limits apply to inventory. Products with more than 660 ppm of lead must come off the shelves no later than February 10, 2009, 180 days after enactment.

Many thrift stores seem to not have heard of the law, which will go into effect in about a month. Maybe between now and then there will be some awesome sales that will give some relief to recession-crunched families.

Hat tip to Ethical Style Blog.

UPDATE from the Consumer Product Safety Commission: Apparently there has been a change. "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."

Tags: Add new tag, Charity, Contaminants, Kids, Second-hand, Shopping, Thrift

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