Thrifty parents, say 'bye-bye' to bargains thanks to CPSIA

I can't remember the last clothing I bought for any of my three little boys from a regular retail store. I (and my wallet) prefer to stock their closets with a funky variety of clothes picked up at thrift stores, garage sales, and the Goodwill outlet. Same with the majority of our toys and kids' room bedding. What I don't buy used, I buy (as much as possible) from small local crafters or other small toymakers.

I was already ranting and raving about how the CPSIA -- the bill that requires toys and children's products (from clothing to bicycles to sippy cups) be tested for lead and phthalates before they can be sold -- will put most small toymakers out of business in the U.S. entirely. Then tonight one of my friends brought it to my attention that these same restrictions will virtually end all resale business in children's products. While the phthalates testing is only required on products manufactured after the act goes into effect on February 10, 2009, the lead testing is required on all products sold in the country, including resale. This means no thrift stores, no Goodwill, no garage sales, no rummage sales, no eBay, no toys or baby clothes or cute children's t-shirts at craft bazaars, no nothing that hasn't been passed through the CPSC with its enormously expensive testing requirements.

Update: As of January 8th, CPSC issued a bulletin that essentially said it would not require resellers to test for lead and phthalates, though they still should not sell items with levels of lead that are too high, or recalled products.(Though it appears that XRF-gun technology can be used until late this year, when everything will have to be tested through an independent lab -- obviously impossible for a thrift store, where no item is alike and the manufacturer is far distant.)

Both my husband and I were raised in large, decidedly poor families. If our parents couldn't have bought clothing, furniture, toys, shoes, and bedding from thrift stores; well, we wouldn't have needed dressers to store our single set of clothing and our one toy each. (Maybe this bill is secretly anti-stuff?) It seems patently ridiculous that such a bill could shut down a whole retail channel; not only wildly increasing the cost of clothing and toys for thrifty, green-minded and low-income parents, but shuttering thousands of businesses and making surviving thrift stores' processes enormously complicated.

Let me make this clear. This is not an overstatement: I can not go to Goodwill and buy a screenprinted cotton child's t-shirt after February 10, unless changes are made to the current CPSIA. I can not sell my baby stroller on craigslist. I can not hold a garage sale and offer my kids' least favorite toys. Nothing with buttons, zippers, sequins, plastic parts. I search my kids' closets for my best finds and everything I encounter would be banned for sale under the law -- products are presumed guilty until proven innocent of lead, at the cost of the manufacturer or seller.

Now, that just doesn't seem constitutional, does it?

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