CPSIA update: Second-hand stores in the clear

Earlier, I wrote about the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) and its impact on second-hand stores and small manufacturers of children’s clothing and toys.  I missed this update from the LA Times, but Lady Logician noticed it, which brings a little good news — and a little common sense — into the story:

After a barrage of complaints, federal regulators shifted gears Thursday [January 8th] and said they would no longer require that used children’s clothing, toys and other items sold at secondhand stores be tested for lead.

Thrift and consignment store operators had protested that they couldn’t afford to pay for the testing, and that doing so would require them to stop selling some goods or even go out of business. …

Officials with the Consumer Product Safety Commission initially said that thrift stores couldn’t sell any clothes, toys or other merchandise for children younger than 12 that had not been tested for lead starting Feb. 10, as required by the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act passed by Congress last year.

Outraged thrift store owners blitzed the commission with objections, and on Tuesday the two-member panel gave preliminary approval of several measures to exempt products made from natural materials, such as cotton and wood, from the rules. …

On Thursday the agency backed away even more, issuing a statement saying that “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 . . . or new toy standards.”

Second-hand sellers will still have to check merchandise against recall notices issued by the CPSC.  The commission refused to mitigate that law, which seems like a reasonable compromise with the thrift stores and resellers.  A simple on-line check is all that’s needed to clear merchandise for sale, while the original thrust of the law would have required the stores to test everything for lead and driven the costs far above any level that they could recoup in the sale of the products.

It’s important to note, as the CPSC explicitly did, that the commission hasn’t changed the law.  They have only decided how they intend to enforce it.  New management at the CPSC could come to a completely different conclusion at some point in time.  Unless Congress changes the law to exempt second-hand sales and natural materials such as cotton or wood, the retailers will find themselves right back in the same position.