Last Friday (January 2nd), a LA Times article reported the following: "Barring a reprieve, regulations set to take effect next month could force thousands of clothing retailers and thrift stores to throw away trunkloads of children's clothing." On February 10, 2009, the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act will go into effect which mandates that all products sold for children age 12 and under be tested for lead and phthalates (chemicals used to make plastics more pliable). This includes clothing! Perhaps the best article I read to explain all of this is at The Simple Dollar. There is also good discussion over at BabyCheapskate and TheSmartMama.com.
New clothing manufactured after February 10th will be tested and have some sort of approval rating seal or certificate. BUT... what about used clothing and products? I am a huge advocate of consignment sales as well as stores like Kid to Kid or Once Upon a Child. I participate on Freepeats regularly too. But the owners of these sales and stores do not have the resources to spend on expensive tests. Nor is that even a reasonable feat for local consignment sales - which have hundreds or thousands (or even hundreds of thousands!) of items dropped off in a short period of time right before the sale opens to the public. A law forbidding the sale of used items & clothing would put these sales out of business! An unverified source I read online said that the penalties are stiff: $100,000 per violation and up to 5 years in jail! The enforcers are going to be State Attorney Generals and the CPSC.
When a consumer buys an article of clothing or a toy for their child, part of the item's purchase cost is justified by the item's resale value. I know that my child will wear that clothing or use that toy for less than a year, but I expect to get some return on the item's value by reselling it at a later date. Essentially this law will eliminate this possibility for everything I already own, which causes an immediate permanent reduction in my wealth. Because of that, I will buy fewer products which helps to slow the economy. This action is contridictory to the objectives which Congress is trying to pursue to stimulate the economy during our current recession.
And this comes at a time of "economic hardship"... that's all we hear about on the news these days. I want to know - is the Congress considering the families who can't afford to buy their children brand new clothes every few months when the seasons change and their kids have grown an inch? If the economic crisis is hitting America so hard, wouldn't the number of families in this category be increased right now already?
This feels almost like a destruction of property rights or a devaluing of the currency. My goods are worth something on February 9th, but come 12:01 am that night, they suddenly lose their value. I believe that the CPSIA will cost many American families much more money than any economic stimulus check has ever benefited them.
What about the environmental impact? According to the LA Times, "Those [products] that haven't been tested will be considered hazardous, regardless of whether they actually contain lead." So whether or not they are actually hazardous, millions upon millions of brand new toys and clothing will be tossed into landfills. Might I add that all of the "non-earth-friendly" plastic toys will surely sit there in the landfills for many years to come, whether or not they are even dangerous. Too bad they couldn't have been used and played with in the meantime! This law doesn't allow enough time for current used products to be properly tested.
Now in general, I think it's a great thing to mandate the levels of lead in children's products. In fact I have often wondered why it wasn't mandated before with all of the crazy Chinese product and toy recalls in the past couple of years. HOWEVER, today is January 4th, and even though preliminary research shows that this issue has been around for at least 3-4 months, this is the first I've heard about this law which is to take effect in only 36 days!
What happened to "being green" and recycling and not wasting products unnecessarily? Freepeats, Freecycle, eBay, and Craigslist have become an integral part of my life, along with millions of other Americans, and I take pride in knowing that I am helping to avoid excessive waste by buying and selling items instead of tossing them out when I no longer need them or always buying them brand new.
My heart goes out to the owners of local consignment sales like Twice as Nice. Stores like Goodwill probably will not go out of business, mainly because they do not specialize only in clothing for under age 12, but have adult inventory as well. Yet I can't imagine not having local resources like Kid to Kid to help me save money on used clothing and toys. I think the law needs to be amended before being passed, so that only products manufactured AFTER Feb. 10th are subject to screening. Used products should receive a longer "shelf life" for at least another year, to allow adequate time for testing and screening to be performed.
It's not that I want my child wearing lead-filled clothing or playing with toys full of phthalates. But I also don't want to see a bunch of perfectly good items - items which people paid hard-earned money to buy - go to waste and then be replaced with costlier versions of the same thing. I think there can be a better balance than the current proposal set forth, and I'd like to see that bill be amended to allow for the resale of used items.
If this whole issue upsets you, the best course of action is to contact your local Congressman and Senator at these links below. I know I will!
What do you think?