February 18, 2009
Lead safety law hits store owners
Local children’s products reseller Rebecca Beardslee’s shelves are emptier these days, due to a new federal law that strictly limits the amount of lead in toys.
Beardslee, owner of Little Pumpkin located in the Marketplace Mall on Main Street, collects used children’s clothes and other products in good condition from local residents and resells them.
She said she was happy to comply with new safety regulations, but was confused about what was required of resellers.
The Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act, which went into effect Feb. 10, forbids the sale of children’s toys and other products unless they contain less than a certain amount of lead.
According to a press release issued in January by the Consumer Product Safety Commission, the law does not allow sale of children’s products with more than 600 parts per million total lead on or after Feb. 10, even if they were manufactured before that date.
“It’s an all-inclusive law,” said Adele Meyer, executive director of the National Association of Resale and Thrift Shops, a group representing about 1,000 shop owners nationwide. “Any industry that sells or makes these products has to comply.”
Beardslee’s shop is not the only one affected in Cortland.
Terri Feringa, manager of Thrifty Shopper store the Rescue Mission runs in Cortlandville, said customers have repeatedly expressed disappointment at the lack of toys in her shop.
“It’s starting to show, they ask about it, but we don’t have any toys anymore,” Feringa said.
Children’s games, stuffed animals, crib attachments and other items ranging from $1 to $20 had to be taken off the shelves at Rescue Mission and kept in the back of the store.
She could not provide an estimate of how much revenue from toys the store is losing because of how the prices vary depending on what is donated.
Beardslee said the products must pass tests for lead, but resellers cannot know for certain whether those products are affected without testing.
“The way I understand it is, it’s a judgment call on our part,” Beardslee said. “I got rid of them to avoid the hassle and cost of making sure they’re lead-free.”
Renting scanning equipment for lead testing would cost over $1,000, which Beardslee said is out of her price range.
She could not provide an approximate annual income from her business.
“I know I’m not making a killing on it,” she said.
John Miller, resident manager of the Salvation Army thrift stores in this region, said children’s products were pulled from the shelves of the regional thrift store chain after the law went into effect.
“We’re not selling them if we can’t guarantee safety,” said Miller, who is based in Binghamton and was speaking in behalf of the thrift shop on Route 281 in Cortlandville.
“Most large retailers don’t have it on their shelves unless they were tested,” Meyer said. “We (thrift stores) don’t have that option.”
Beardslee collects her stock of products from local residents who turn in their old children’s clothes and other products in good condition for cash or credit.
She said her customers are looking for children’s products at a lower cost because the turnover rate for children’s clothes is between three and 18 months, due to children’s growth rates during those times.
Beardslee is not sure how much of a dent the removal put in her income, but said she had to get rid of over $300 worth of toys. She added she is confident about her business because she mostly sells children’s clothing. She said she does not plan to sell toys again unless she can purchase them at an affordable cost from a manufacturer and they have already been tested.
“I’ve been in business for three years, they say the first five are the hardest,” Beardslee said of the product loss.
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