Resale and Thrift Stores Say New Law Might Shut Them Down

SEE STORY HERE – (WDSU 5 p.m. Newscast)

There is some confusing information online and in the media regarding the Children’s Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) set to go into effect February 10.  You might find news stories titled “Thrift Stores Breathe a Sigh of Relief” or something to that effect; however, I’ll explain the real problem with the facts.  The law that Congress passed last year limiting lead in all children’s products (effective February 10, 2009)  has not changed, and what was meant to be a protection for children is posing a problem for resale store owners and shoppers that many say will force them to close.   After an uproar across the country, the Consumer Product Safety Commission sent out a press release clarifying that resale shops will NOT be required to conduct lead testing (a process most resale stores claim would be impossible in terms of finances and resources).  This is when some media outlets started reporting “relief for store owners.”  But the law hasn’t changed, and resale store owners are afraid they will face penalties while still being expected to comply with the federal regulations.  How can they know what items are “illegal” if they don’t test them?  Who will enforce the law and how?  

Click here to watch Melancon's Floor Speech in Support of the CPSIA, June 2008

Congressman Charlie Melancon (D-Louisiana)

has been a huge supporter of the law and helped to create it.  You can read the CPSIA and see the House votes here (94% voted in favor).  I spoke with Melancon’s Communications Director Robin Winchell today who said the Energy and Commerce Committee (of which he is a member) is trying to work with the CPSC to better clarify the law and how it will be interpreted.  But she says Congressman Melancon is extremely concerned with child safety and we have to outweigh the benefits of protecting children with the possible side effects of enforcing the law.   She also confirmed although resale store owners don’t have to conduct tests, they will be held responsible if they knowingly sell merchandise that doesn’t comply with the new restrictions. The question is how to define the word knowingly, and that’s what she says is being discussed.  The CPSC says it will enforce the law on a federal level, but each state’s Attorney General also has the authority to enforce it.  Louisiana’s AG Buddy Caldwell does have a staff member addressing this who tells me she won’t have more information until probably next week, but she is aware of the issues and  confirmed “the statute gives the 50 state attorneys general authority to enforce” the CPSIA.

The National Association of Resale and Thrift Shops  tells me that the challenge for resale stores was an “unintended consequence” of the law.  NARTS  is upset to say the least and tells me members are actively advocating changes to the law.  NARTS has an online campaign saying the organization “is expending a great deal of time and resources in efforts to seek exemptions and/or exclusions to the implementation of this Act so it does not go into effect unaltered.”  

WHAT ARE THE NEW RESTRICTIONS?  Let me break it down for you to read as simple as possible.  After February 10  children’s products with more than 600 parts per million  lead count can no longer be sold in the U.S. even if they were manufactured before that date. The limit drops to 300 parts per million in August. Also, products can’t contain more than .1%  of certain phthalates (pronounced PHALL-ates) – chemicals used in many plastic products.

WHAT DOES THAT MEAN?  I like the explanation by the National Environmental Services Center at West Virginia University.


Four drops of ink in one 55-gallon barrel would produce 1 ppm (according to the National Environmental Services at W. Virginia University)

Most contaminants are expressed as parts per million (ppm).This means that the concentration of a particular
substance is very low even though the regulatory agency may consider it a significant amount. One ppm is 1 part in 1 million or the value is equivalent to the absolute fractional amount multiplied by one million. A better way to think of ppm is to visualize putting four drops of ink in a 55-gallon barrel of water and mixing it thoroughly.This procedure would produce an ink concentration of 1 ppm.




Resale and Thrift stores are fighting to legally continue to provide affordable deals to consumers and say Congress has gone too far.  Congress says the main concern is to protect children. What are your thoughts about this issue?  I’ll continue to follow the updates.


4 Responses

  1. I own a large upscale resale shop, 7200 sq. ft. and am a proud member of NARTS. We sell clothes for women, men and kids and are still extremely uncertain what to do regarding our childrens clothing. Of course we are concerned for children’s safety, however it will be financially impossible to test all of our kids apparel, but without testing we have no way of having 100% certainty that our items are compliant with the new lead limits. Our customers are extremely dissapointed to hear that we may not be able to sell kids clothes after 2-10-09. They rely on resale and thrift shops to clothe their families, especially their children, as they grow so fast. We do want to adhere to the law and wonder if it is worth the risk.Even though the CPSC and AG offices will be focusing on larger businesses we are concerned about consumer activist groups or simply the mom whose child got lead poisoning from something, at some point. They will be the people targeting small shops and thrift stores, they will come armed with an XRF gun and then if something proves non-compliant will report us and then the big guys will get involved…then the fine ($100,000 for each infraction) comes that would put us out of business. After 9 years of providing our community with an economical shopping experience, I don’t know that it is worth the risk.

  2. I am the owner of a small internet business and sell at arts & craft shows. I make girls dresses and burp cloths. They are made from cotton fabrics. My suppliers have done the testing on each of the three things I put together for a dress: fabric, ribbon, and thread. There is no way I can afford to do this testing myself on the finished product. I have worked to hard to realize a dream to own my own company to see the government take it away from me. Especially when I know none of my products contain any lead. The guidelines for this law need to be changed before I am forced out of business.

  3. I savour, lead to I found exactly what I used to be having a look for.
    You have ended my 4 day long hunt! God Bless you man. Have a nice day.

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