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The Congress Should Fix CPSIA Now

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Last week I interviewed Gary Wolensky of Snell & Wilmer about the devastating effects of the the 2008 Consumer Products Safety Improvements Act (“CPSIA”) on his clients in the manufacturing and retail industries. Hundreds of millions of dollars of perfectly good inventory has been recalled because of the Act’s draconian standards and timelines. Some industries have been crippled, and others badly damaged. The interview with Wolensky is here.

Now the Boston Globe has noticed the impacts of CPSIA on another of the sectors Wolensky and I discussed –resellers like thrift stores:

A federal law designed to protect children from lead products has caused several Massachusetts thrift stores to stop selling kids’ clothing, shutting off an important shopping alternative for families struggling in this recession.

The Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act, which took effect Feb. 10, prohibits all shops from selling children’s products that contain too much lead or potentially harmful chemicals. Congress passed the law in response to a series of recalls of toys and jewelry that had high lead content and were linked to several child deaths and illnesses. But the legislation applies to all children’s products, including clothes, which could contain lead in metal zippers, buttons, or painted fabrics.

The sweeping nature of the law has been devastating for many resale shops nationwide, such as those run by Morgan Memorial Goodwill Industries. Unlike traditional merchants, thrift stores do not deal directly with manufacturers, which can provide proof that products meet safety standards. The regulation also applies retroactively to goods already in stores, and many thrift stores do not have funds to conduct the tests themselves.

In recent weeks, Goodwill pulled all children’s merchandise from its nine stores in the state. Thrift chain Second Time Around eliminated kids’ clothing from several of its 16 shops. St Vincent de Paul is currently removing children’s clothing with metal zippers, buttons, and painted fabrics from its processing center, which sends out merchandise to its six stores in Massachusetts.

Read the whole thing. The article is right to note that “[t]he fallout from the law is especially damaging for consumers who have increasingly visited thrift stores during the tough economic times,” but it should have spent more ink on the impact to the bottom line of the charitable enterprizes that run the second-hand stores and to the employees of places like Goodwill. The article did not even mention the vast damage the law is doing to other industries like the ATV business and sporting goods, or the legion of plaintiffs’ lawyers who are empowered by the law to bring suits against non-compliers.

I am traveling the next two days but will continue to try and answer e-mails about the law, but suggest that if you have questions you e-mail Wolensky at


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