Thrift store owners can breathe a little more easily. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission has clarified how a new federal law requiring the lead testing of children’s products will affect second-hand stores nationwide, saying that store owners will not be required to test or discard their entire inventories.
Second-hand store owners like Aimee Krupp of Highland Park’s Principessa Children’s Boutique had worried that the new Consumer Product Safety Act, which goes into effect Feb. 10 and requires all children’s products to be tested for lead before they are sold, would force them to either discard all their current stock or subject it to expensive testing that could put them out of business.
"I don’t see Salvation Army or Hadasa House having the money to buy a $35,000 test gun and testing all their inventory," Krupp said before the clarification.
While secondhand dealers are still expected to comply with the regulations—no sales of any children’s item with more than 600 parts per million of lead—they need not test items that obviously contain no lead content.
"The agency intends to focus its enforcement efforts on products of greatest risk and largest exposure," says the CPSC release.
Krupp is confident her merchandise complies with the regulations. "I would put my daughter in anything I have in my store right now," she says. "I’m not afraid of any single thing in my store."
The new law, which is aimed more at manufacturers, also prohibits the sale of any item manufactured after Feb. 10 that contains more than 0.1 percent of certain restricted phthalates (dangerous plastic additives). In addition, a new Illinois law requires a warning sticker on any child-oriented toys and jewelry containing more than 40 ppm of lead and manufactured after Jan. 1, 2010.
The nonprofit organization Kids in Danger, based in Chicago, lobbied for the Illinois law and Consumer Product Safety Act. "Lead is a neurological toxin that basically reduces IQ—a permanent change of everything from behavior in school, to ability to concentrate and growth and maturation of organs," says Nancy Cowles, executive director of Kids in Danger.
She says Kids in Danger supports the CPSC clarifying "part of the problem," but adds that "thrift stores still need more direction to know how to avoid products with lead."