What will be pulled off the shelves? The impact of the new Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act
Recently the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act is making headlines because it required that all products (including clothes) made for children 12 and under be tested for lead and a unpronouceable toxic plastic additive called phthalates. Additionally, retailers must check that their products were not part of a recall. What does this mean for your everyday life?
The law will become effective on February 10th and at first it sent waves of panic through thrift store owners because testing is expensive and each violation of the law could mean fines of $100,000 or jail time. On one hand, I appreciate that the government is trying to enhance product safety, but I feel that they were putting too much of a burden on too many people with this mandatory testing program. It does not make financial sense for a small time eBay clothing seller to spend $200 to test a $10 shirt, and if the products are not officially tested then they are considered hazardous and illegal to sell. This is precisely the reason why many thrift shop owners felt like they were forced to dump all of their inventory and close up. Honestly I think that products in second hand shops probably are less dangerous than new products because in a way the used things have been "tested" so to speak. Consumer products that have been recalled are less likely to show up in thrift stores simply due to the fact that they have been recalled. In comparison, new products such as these Simplicity Cribs are sold by the thousands and millions and only get recalled when someone gets hurt. Personally I have never heard of a story where a child died due to an used shirt.
Fortunately, it seems that the Consumer Product Safety Commission listened to the reasoning of the thrift shop owners and voted that second hand sellers will be exempt from mandatory testing of children's products so it shall be business as usual. I guess they realized it probably is not a good time to force a large group of small businesses to shut their doors when the economy is already gasping for air. All second hand sellers will still be required to check the CSPC website for recall announcements on the products they sell, but at least they do not have to throw everything away.
Another side effect of this law is that many small manufacturers and book publishers will be required to test their products for children. Some of them will inevitably be forced to close their doors or change their products completely because they do not have the resources to test all of their inventory. This law also applies to anyone who creates and sells handcrafted toys or clothes for children so some grandmas out there may just be dealing out illegal knitted beanies. On the flipside I think the government probably would not spend a lot of resources to enforce this law amongst individuals who sell their crafts, but you never know.
In a perfect world, nothing would be toxic and kids would be invincible, but in reality there is danger for children in almost everything in our homes. A pen could pierce a jugular vein and a piece of paper could be tainted with the flesh eating virus. It is really up to parents to be vigilant and watch what their kids are putting into their mouths and hands, but there is no need to be overly zealous. This new law will probably make products more safe in the long run, but we may lose small businesses along the way since for the most part only the large retailers and manufacturers can afford the testing. Additionally, children's products may become more expensive as a result.
What do you think? Are we trading freedom for a bit of perceived safety? Do you think the government will crack down on your neighbor who sells kid's jewelry online?