Safety law has local business closing doors

RACHEL PARKER DICKERSON
LOG CABIN STAFF WRITER
Published Tuesday, January 27, 2009

At least one local business is closing its doors as a result of a new law aimed at greater safety in children's products.

A Kidd's Dream, located at Oak and Court streets, will close on Feb. 9, the day before the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act goes into effect. Brenda Kidd and daughter Gayla Wade opened the business, a children's consignment shop, in February 2007. The law, passed in August 2008 in response to widespread recalls of children's products, requires third-party testing of "not just toys, but everything from cloth diapers to hair bows," according to a story from the Associated Press. Kidd and Wade say they cannot afford testing of their merchandise.

"For large manufacturers, such as Mattel, Lego and Little Tikes, the mandated tests are expected to cost between $300 and $4,000 per toy. Spread over hundreds of thousands, often millions, of units, the cost to companies and consumers would be almost negligible. Many small and home-based businesses, however, say they can't afford to test items they create and sell one at a time," the AP said.

On Jan. 8., the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission issued a statement clarifying the requirements for thrift and consignment stores. It states, "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, phthalates (substances added to plastics to increase their flexibility) standard or new toy standards.

"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, unless they have testing or other information to indicate the products being sold have less than the new limit. Those resellers that do sell products in violation of the new limits could face civil and/or criminal penalties."

Kidd said, "We will be held criminally and civilly responsible for anything sold that does not meet the new requirements."

She noted the law addresses products for children ages 12 and under "not just toys, but furniture, clothing, anything which, for us, is what we are."

The consignment shop would be held responsible for anything sold that does not meet the new standards, even if it was manufactured before Feb. 10, 2009. For that reason, the family made the decision to go out of business, they said.

Taunya Kidd, another daughter of Brenda Kidd, was helping her mother and sister last week at the store's going-out-of-business sale.

"The only ones it's not going to affect are the ones who were importing from China in the first place," she said. "Mattel can easily afford to test one (toy) from each lot. We kept waiting for them to make an exemption or an exception, but all they did was say 'you're not our primary target, but you still have to follow the law.'"

She added, "This is the first thing you see when you come downtown. I hate that it's going to be sitting empty."

According to the Associated Press, "The Consumer Product Safety Commission, which is responsible for enforcing the new law, has tentatively agreed to exempt clothing, toys and other goods made from natural materials such as cotton and wood. No final rules will be approved, however, until Feb. 10, when they go into effect."

U.S. Sen. Mark Pryor was one of the sponsors of the bill. He said in a statement from his office, "In 2008, Congress overwhelmingly voted in favor of new reforms designed to prevent harmful toys and products from landing on store shelves. I was proud to lead this effort and of the strong commitment Congress made to keep all children safe from hazardous substances, including reducing the lead content of children's products beginning Feb. 10.

"Consignment shops and other secondhand stores also place a high premium on the safety of the items they sell. The new law is not and was not intended to be a one-size-fits-all mandate. Congress recognized that different products can and should be regulated in a manner that recognizes the risk they pose to children. That is why Congress gave the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) the authority to grant common-sense exemptions to the law when they determine there is not a safety risk. I expect the CPSC to use their expertise in developing these regulations quickly and clearly with regard to secondhand stores and certain small manufacturers. It should not leave businesses hanging in the wind waiting for direction.

"I believe (the Jan. 8) preliminary guidance by the CPSC was an attempt to clarify that its primary focus will be to ensure major manufacturers and retailers are in compliance with the tougher lead and testing standards. The law does not require secondhand stores to test any products, but it does require they make a good-faith effort to check for recalls and meet improved safety standards.

"2007 was dubbed the 'Year of the Recall.' 2008 broke that record with more than 43 million products recalled. 2009 will be the year we see vast improvements to keep kids safe from unnecessary harm and restore integrity into the American marketplace."

Congressman Vic Snyder said in a press release, "The Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act is a great improvement for America's children, and I applaud Sen. Pryor for his leadership. I am confident that any unanticipated consequences will be worked through consistent with the law's intent to protect children."

(Staff writer Rachel Parker Dickerson can be reached by e-mail at rachel.dickerson@thecabin.net or by phone at 505-1277. Send us your news at www.thecabin.net/submit)




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