After my recent article about new restrictions on used children’s clothes from the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA), I received a flood of correspondence from angry and confused readers who were quite upset with the proposed changes. I compiled a number of these emails and forwarded them on to a few email addresses at the Consumer Product Safety Commission and to my local congresspeople.
On January 8, the Consumer Product Safety Commission issued a clarification of the law (emphasis added):
The new law requires that domestic manufacturers and importers certify that children’s products made after February 10 meet all the new safety standards and the lead ban. 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.
The new safety law does not require resellers to test children’s products in inventory for compliance with the lead limit before they are sold. However, resellers 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.
What does this mean?
Used children’s clothing will still be available at Goodwill and other places. These stores can continue to sell the clothing even without lead and phthalate testing. This would also apply to people who resell used children’s clothes on eBay and so on.
However, items that do not meet the new standards for lead and phthalate content are still banned. Even though you can re-sell used children’s items without testing, that does not mean that you can legally sell items with too much lead and phthalate content. If you’re selling them, you may be fined.
What’s the solution? Simply avoid reselling items that may have high lead or phthalate content. Most clothes should be fine, but you may want to be careful about reselling toys. The CPSC offers a bit of guidance in that press release:
While CPSC expects every company to comply fully with the new laws resellers should pay special attention to certain product categories. Among these are recalled children’s products, particularly cribs and play yards; children’s products that may contain lead, such as children’s jewelry and painted wooden or metal toys; flimsily made toys that are easily breakable into small parts; toys that lack the required age warnings; and dolls and stuffed toys that have buttons, eyes, noses or other small parts that are not securely fastened and could present a choking hazard for young children.
Your best tool, if you’re considering reselling such items, is the internet. If you’re suspicious that an item you are considering reselling may have high lead or phthalate content, do an internet search and see whether your suspicion is true. If I were considering reselling children’s items, I would probably just avoid the categories mentioned by the CPSC above.
So, what did I learn from all of this? My biggest lesson was that there are sensible people in charge of consumer issues. This was really the most sensible solution to the problem – it protects kids without driving resellers out of business. The CPSA was on the ball here in clarifying the rules.
Another lesson was that awareness helps. This issue affects a lot of people – virtually all parents, as well as anyone working for a clothing resale organization, were affected by the basic interpretation of that ruling. I was one of many blogs that chose to talk about the issue – many newspapers and trade groups also spoke out loudly on the topic. Awareness attracts attention, and attention gets things done.
Normally, I won’t delve into specific consumer issues like this one, but I felt that it was a good example – from beginning to end – of how consumer laws affect everyone (sometimes in surprising ways) and how speaking out about things can help bring about a better solution.
At the very least, now I can resell my kids’ outgrown clothes without worrying a bit about the CPSIA.