New lead rules stump local shops

Resale stores unsure about child items

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Excerpt from a Consumer Product Safety Commission news release

"While CPSC expects every company to comply fully with the new laws resellers should pay special attention to certain product categories. Among those 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."

Source: Consumer Product Safety Commission, www.cpsc.gov>

— New rules limiting lead in children's products go into effect Feb. 10, and local resale shops aren't sure what that means to them.

Congress approved the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act last year. It bans the sale of children's products that contain more than 600 parts per million total lead. Stores that sell new products will receive inventory with a seal that verifies compliance. But the change is more complicated for Rummagers, The Twice as Nice Shoppe and LIFT-UP of Routt County's store.

"As far as we know, we're not going to change anything, and I haven't found out anything about whether we need to," said Deborah Improta, manager of LIFT-UP's thrift store. "As of yet, I don't really have a whole lot of solid information about what we're going to do to keep those items off our shelves."

A customer in Craig called Improta to alert her to the restrictions, so she has known about them since just after Christmas. Owners at Rummagers and Twice as Nice weren't aware of the rule change. The women said they sell few children's products because of general safety concerns.

Rummagers owner Rose Atkins said she sometimes takes new toys and clothing but is wary.

"We've cut way back on children's toys, apparatuses and stuff like that," Atkins said. "We do still sell cribs, though, and some baby swings and strollers, but we definitely don't do car seats and boxes of toys, because we just don't know."

Twice as Nice owner Yolanda Tait said she typically gives away the children's clothes and toys people bring in.

"But now I'll think twice about even accepting kids toys and things like that, because you never know," Tait said. "Toys can be dangerous too, but kids have to have their toys, just like grownups. Maybe I'll take the toys but not give them away or sell them. I know some of these new plastic toys, they look OK, but they're not that great."

Unclear effects

The rule change resulted from several recalls in the past few years. Former President George W. Bush signed it into law Aug. 14. The total lead limit drops to 300 parts per million Aug. 14, 2009.

The rule stirred confusion as resale shops tried to figure out how it affected them. A Jan. 8 Consumer Product Safety Commission news release said this:

"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. :

"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. : Those resellers that do sell products in violation of the new limits could face civil and/or criminal penalties."

Annie Tisch, who owns Annie's Home Consignments, said she has researched the rules. Her store isn't affected, she said, because she doesn't sell children's furniture.

"I have never sold any sort of child stuff, never cribs or high chairs, no toys, nothing like that," Tisch said. "Everything that I sell that's child-related is like a collectible that's like 100 years old, like a toy that's like (something) an old man would buy."

Still, the rule hits at an awkward moment in the economy, she said.

"During this time when people are trying to save money, if they go to try to buy a bed secondhand that can't be sold because it might have lead in it, that's really sad," Tisch said.

Local challenges

Retailers who want to have children's items tested probably will have to go out of town. Tisch said she heard of one woman who sent the homemade children's clothes she sells to Denver for lead testing.

The only listing under "lead removal" in Steamboat's phone book is Phase Con Environmental Consultants in Grand Junction. The company does mostly buildings, owner Doug Close said.

"Once in awhile we'll get a call, someone's worried about a toy," he said. "It is something that you could do. It just doesn't come up very often."

Close said his company had to be on site to test for lead. Portable detectors are available, he said, but companies need licenses for them because they emit radiation.

"An option for them might be to contact the state health department, and they might be able to perform some testing," Close said.

He said he couldn't think of any specific items that might carry a high risk of lead content. Anything a child is "using and abusing" could be problematic, Close said, because lead is only an issue when it's rubbed off.

Close said concerned retailers weren't bombarding him with questions.

"We've had no interest at all, and I don't know how they could enforce something like that," he said.

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