A few points about the new law on lead and phthalates in children's products:
A minor furor erupted about it recently on my local parents' email list. Everyone is in favor of protecting kids from hazardous substances, of course, but people worried about some pretty important unintended consequences of the law's vague wording.
The Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act, which goes into effect on Feb. 10, applies to all products intended for people under age 13—including apparel. Under the law, all such products must be certified as complying with the new lead safety standard. Any untested items are considered hazardous and therefore illegal to sell.
Would secondhand stores like the one in our neighborhood where many of us outfit our kids be forced to send perfectly good used clothes to the landfill, and either stop selling children's clothes or go out of business because they couldn't afford the costly tests?
No, thankfully. This past Thursday the Consumer Product Safety Commission issued a press release clarifying that resellers are not required to do the costly tests. It will still be illegal to sell products containing lead, of course, so stores must carefully screen their offerings to guard against, for example, shoes adorned with lead charms.
However, there's more at stake here than used-clothes sellers. What must also be considered are the livelihoods of Etsy sellers and small natural-toy makers, like the guy I met at the Green Festival last year who complained about having to limit his line of wooden vegetable-themed figurines because he would have to spend money testing not only, for example, the jalapeño toy but also the lettuce one, even though they were made from the same materials, right down to the paint.
Here's a great Z Recommends post about the issue; it includes a bunch of actions you can take to help spur reforms before the law goes into effect, including submitting a comment to the Consumer Product Safety Commission.
Finally, there's the phthalates loophole. As this story details, this past November, three months after the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act was passed, a legal firm successfully petitioned the Consumer Product Safety Commission to apply the phthalate ban only to products manufactured on or after Feb. 10 (when the law goes into effect)—which means stores can keep selling phthalate-laden products for who knows how long after the law takes effect, and consumers have no way of knowing the items aren't free of the endocrine-disrupting chemicals.
So, the NRDC and Public Citizen have sued.
Lucky for me and other California residents, a new state law protects us from such shenanigans. As of this year, in the Golden State, it doesn't matter when the product was made; if it doesn't meet the safety standard, it doesn't get sold here.
I just hope the feds get on board with that.