Steamboat Springs When lead-content rules tightened for children's products six months ago, local resale shops were part of the national chorus that wondered: What does it mean for us?
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission has tried to clear up confusion with documents released this month specifically for resellers. Congress approved the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008 a year ago, lowering the acceptable amount of lead in children's products. Further restrictions for lead content went into effect Friday.
"CPSC's laws and regulations apply to anyone who sells or distributes consumer products," states a handbook for resale stores and product resellers. "This includes thrift stores, consignment stores, charities and individuals holding yard sales and flea markets."
As of Feb. 10, no children's product could be sold if it contained more than 600 parts per million of lead. On Friday, that limit dropped to 300 parts per million. It's set to fall to 100 parts per million Aug. 14, 2011, "if technologically feasible." New products are to come with a label ensuring their safety, but resale shops sometimes are left guessing.
Owners of The Twice as Nice Shoppe and Rummagers said they haven't changed their policies in the past six months, nor had they seen the explanatory handbook. Deborah Improta, manager of the resale shop for LIFT-UP of Routt County, said she plans to follow the handbook.
Yolanda Tait, who owns Twice as Nice, said she doesn't sell children's furniture because of space constraints. If a customer is in the market for a used crib, for example, Tait sometimes will hold on to one and offer it to the person.
"I'm not taking certain items, and I still take kids' clothes and toys," she said. "And I have a list of names and call the people up and say, 'I've got this size for your child.'"
Rummagers owner Rose Atkins said she doesn't take car seats and rarely takes cribs.
"We get kids' picnic tables and stuff like that we'll use, and even some playpens, bouncy seats, strollers," Atkins said. "We get really nice used strollers, and those things I do as long as they're in mint condition."
The Consumer Product Safety Commission's handbook provides guidelines for reselling children's products.
- It suggests testing some products for lead, such as inexpensive children's metal jewelry and clothes with rhinestones, metal or vinyl/plastic snaps, zippers, grommets, closures or appliques.
- It provides safety guidelines for furniture.
- Selling any recalled product is illegal.
"CPSC's response will vary depending upon the circumstances, including the nature of the product defect, the number of products, the severity of the risk of injury associated with the product and the type of violation," the guide states.
Improta said LIFT-UP had stopped accepting many children's items with small plastic parts because of safety concerns. She said she expects donations of potentially dangerous items to slow as manufacturers stopped making them.
"It's definitely an ongoing process for us and our volunteers here," Improta said. "We've got a good recall list of things, specific items that have been recalled."
Risks for children
The dangers of lead are real, said Dr. Sheila Fountain, who practices at Pediatrics of Steamboat. She said she wasn't aware of problems with children's toys, however.
"All the lead cases we've had in the state have been from keys and soil and paint, and foreign travel," Fountain said.
She said she hasn't seen a case of lead poisoning in her six years in Steamboat. Her partner at the practice, Dr. Ron Famiglietti, has seen one child with elevated lead levels. That child had traveled to India and encountered pottery coated in lead paint, Fountain said.
Exposure to lead can cause decreased learning and memory, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder and lowered IQ. As children are exposed to more lead, they can have symptoms such as fatigue, irritability, seizures, headaches and vomiting. Lead poisoning can progress to paralysis and encephalitis, Fountain said.
The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment monitors the location of lead poisoning cases in the state. Such incidents are remarkably low in Routt and Moffat counties, Fountain said. But parents should be wary, particularly if their home was built before 1978 and might be coated in lead paint.
"Plumbers and pipe fitters" sometimes work with lead, Fountain said. "Usually it's parents, where they work. They come in, and the kids get exposed."
If risks are present, Fountain's practice screens children for lead when they're about 9 months old. If a child has elevated levels of lead, they often go away when parents remove the source of lead.
In severe cases, doctors use a process called chelation to remove lead from the blood.
"It's super rare that kids would need it," Fountain said.