The island of misfit toys is about to become a landfill. Unless something drastic forces Congress to repeal its recent actions, a new law will virtually force every thrift store and many small businesses out of business on February 10, 2009; all existing inventory will officially incur the status of “Banned Hazardous Substance.” The so-called Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008 treats “any children’s product” as “a banned hazardous substance” unless it has been tested and complies with new limits of lead and phthalates. The Act makes it otherwise unlawful to “sell, offer for sale, manufacture for sale, distribute in commerce, or import into the United States” any such product. The new measure—a supercharged answer to the “lead paint scare” for children’s toys—essentially assumes that all children’s products (12 and under) are now hazardous unless officially tested by an accredited testing agency, declared safe, and in some cases, labeled and tagged for tracking. Worse yet: it applies retroactively to all existing inventory.
UPDATE: Thrift stores and other resellers raised such an outcry at this new law that the Consumer Product Safety Commission released a “clarification” of their Act in regard to “resellers.” This clarification came yesterday, after my original article was prepared for Friday publishing. The clarification states, “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.” While some people accept this as relief, note that the clarification proceeds, “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.”
In other words, thrift stores don’t have to test existing inventory, but they are still held liable if that inventory does not comply. So, while they are spared the costs of testing, they sell at great risk. It will only take one instance of a thrift store getting caught and prosecuted, and many will decide the risk is too great. Some will remain, but the Commission will almost definitely see to it that they make an example of someone. They are still waging the War on Thrift; they are just playing the PR game for the time being.
Meanwhile, consider that the ban applies to “any children’s product,” which includes books. Libraries will be required to test their stacks, as well, or throw them out. So will home-school product companies. Also, while resellers are exempt from testing, small businesses still are not. Thousands will have to shut down.
Article continued: Many small and even medium businesses will not be able to afford the vast amount of testing—which come at great expense in time and money even for small amounts of inventory—which the Act requires. Perhaps worst of all, thrift stores, consignment shops, the Salvation Army, home-crafting businesses, and flea markets will probably have to close. It is highly unlikely that they can afford testing, and yet they cannot afford to trash their existing inventory and start from nothing. What will they do? What will those of us do who depend on them for inexpensive clothing and other items?
Due to the massive impediments of time and cost required for testing all existing inventory, some prominent attorneys and businesses have petitioned the Commission to relax the interpretation. On lawyer lays out the inevitable consequences should it not: either continue to “sell inventory at risk of violating the Federal Hazardous Substances Act (FHSA), or abandon their existing inventory at enormous, possibly fatal exposure.” Despite more than one plea about the massive losses many business will sustain, the Department of Commerce’s attorney replies coldly,
The Commission is aware of the potentially significant economic impact that the new Act could have on any remaining inventory next February. However, Congress stated that children’s products that did not meet the new lead limits would be treated as “a banned hazardous substance” under the Federal Hazardous Substances Act as of February 10, 2009, and made it unlawful “to sell, offer for sale, manufacture for sale, distribute in commerce, or import into the United States” any banned hazardous substance. The language Congress wrote does not permit me the flexibility to take into consideration the policy and economic issues that have been raised.… your request for reconsideration is denied.”
In short, “We know it’s going to cost you, but we don’t care.” The burden now rests on all concerned business—whether manufacturers, wholesalers, distributors, or retailers—to prove themselves innocent by testing that every item they sell complies with the new lead and phthalate limits, or else risk being caught and prosecuted.
The bill was sponsored by Representative Bobby Rush (D-IL), the same guy who just a few days ago jabbered that the Senate would be no different than old-time segregationists and racists if they refused to seat the scandal-ridden Illinois Gov. Blagojevich’s pick to replace Obama in the Senate. The tainted appointee, Roland Burris, would be the only African-American member of the Senate. Referring to famous government segregationists in the 1950s and 60s, Rush threatened, “I’m sure the U.S. Senate don’t want to see themselves placed in the same position.” Apparently, race is a qualification for a Legislative seat, but good grammar is not. Nor is thoughtful legislation.
Nevertheless, Rush was not alone with this bill, which received 106 cosponsors (98 Democrats and 8 Republicans). In its final form, the Act passed Congress with a vote of 424 to 1. The only dissenting vote was Ron Paul (R-TX). In the Senate, it was 89 to 3 (three Republicans dissenting—Coburn (OK), Kyl (AZ), and DeMint (SC)). President Bush signed the bill on August 14, 2008. Such overwhelming votes show the thoughtlessness and cowardliness of Congress: afraid to oppose a bill that has been styled “protect the children” even if it contains such broad measures that many of those children, especially those of poorer families, may have to do without when beloved thrift stores close. I can only imagine what bill will come next: welfare subsidies or price controls for clothing because poor families can’t meet the high cost of “children’s products.”
Ironically, the new measures will only hurt many of those it claims to protect. The little businesses will be forced out, and only ones remaining will be those large enough to afford the expenses of testing, etc. Of course, many of these big companies, importing junk from China, caused the problem to begin with. So they get to remain, while the virtually harmless—and usually much more “Green”—little guys suffer the worst. As a result, many people who rely on thrift stores to meet their budgets, and many who sell in consignment stores in order to raise a little cash for next year’s school clothes, will now lose all of those options. This new cry to government for Safety has resulted in a War on Thrift.
What we have here is one more case of the State playing Nanny. True, toys with lead paint cause a legitimate scare that we must deal with. But must we deal with it with more government control? Can we not take care of our problems without Nanny State holding the hands of business, and diapering the behinds of bureaucrats?! Why write the laws so broadly and pretend the consequences mean nothing? Only if they believe their cause is sacred enough to require a little sacrifice; consider it a spanking for that ever-misbehaving brat business (as they see it). Do they expect to improve the world by imprisoning it? It would be easy to eradicate cases of poisoning by outlawing all substances, but aren’t the obvious ludicrous costs something to consider? If not, why not just pass a bill outlawing “naughtiness.” That would subsume all of our problems in one draft, and all we would need is a Commission to enforce it.
And all of this because of some lead paint on a few toys.
Meanwhile, the same administration just bailed out the auto industry to the tune of fourteen billion. The auto industry is by far the largest lead polluter in the world. (Automobiles contain lots of phthalates, too!)
The day after Bush signed the bill, some milquetoast commie-mom at About.com blogged, “It is very heartening to see the stricter rules and regulations for the safety of kids’ toys and baby products that will now be in place due to the new law.… I think that parents can finally breathe a sigh of relief.…”
A sound-minded commenter let her have it:
This law is ridiculous. It will shut down millions of home industries who are trying to offer alternatives to the cheap garbage coming out of China. It will shut down moms who sew organic diapers, children’s clothing, etc. It will drive the price of clothes at your local Walmart through the ceiling since the cost of testing for each garment (and each component, which is required, including thread, snaps, buttons, fabric, tags, etc. etc) is in the thousands of dollars. Retailers will be forced to dump tons into our landfills of items when are known to have no lead in them anyway. Forget consigning your clothes to your local consignment shop—they are closing up and declaring bankruptcy (do an internet search, LA times covered it this week.) Say goodbye to Goodwill and Salvation Army that help so many people—they can’t afford to test each garment and each component of that garment that comes in. Won’t be able to sell your used video games or toys on Craigslist, etc. This is the LEAST thought-out law on the books and the economic catastrophe that it will cause is mind boggling. I’m a work at home mom of four kids and their health is of the utmost concern to me, but this law is too broadly written and is absolutely ridiculous as it stands now.
A saying, attributed to Ben Franklin, constantly circulates in my mind. You’ve heard it: “Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.” Congress violates this principle pretty much every time it does something. The Nanny State and all her drooling bureaucrats and bawling commie-moms squeak like old rocking chairs: “Safety! Safety!” We surrender more liberty in the name of safety in one session of Congress than the whole era of our Founding Fathers fought for and gained. I stand with Jefferson: “I would rather be exposed to the inconveniences attending too much liberty than to those attending too small a degree of it.”
Our nation has forgotten this; Or will we raise a powerful cry to our Senators and Congressmen to restrict, repeal, reform this awful law? Find yours and write, now. Write a physical letter, not an email. Emails are ignored.
House of Representatives Contacts:
Pre-written letter for legislatures:
The text of the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008:
All Congressional info about the Act:
Info about the Act from the Consumer Product safety Commission itself:
Wall Street Journal article:
 Michael A. Brown, Esq. to Cheryl A. Falvey, Esq., “Request for the Consideration of the Office of the General Counsel’s Advisory Opinion on Retroactive Application to Inventory of Total Lead Limits Specified in the Consumer Product Safety Act of 2008,” Nov. 4, 2008, page 3; available athttp://www.cpsc.gov/library/foia/advisory/322.pdf (accessed January 7, 2009).
 Cheryl A. Falvey to Michael A. Brown, Nov. 14, 2008; available at http://www.cpsc.gov/library/foia/advisory/322.pdf (accessed January 7, 2009)
 http://www.edf.org/documents/2887_leadbatteries.pdf (accessed January 7, 2009).
 Dipika Mirpuri, “Consumer Product Safety Act of 2008 Signed into Law,” Dipika’s Toys Blog, August 15, 2008; http://toys.about.com/b/2008/08/15/consumer-product-safety-act-of-2008-signed-into-law.htm (accessed January 7, 2009).
 Commment (4) from Kel, January 5, 2009; http://toys.about.com/b/2008/08/15/consumer-product-safety-act-of-2008-signed-into-law.htm (accessed January 7, 2009). Emphasis and minor edits to punctuation mine.
 Thomas Jefferson to Archibald Stuart, 1791, in The Writing of Thomas Jefferson, Memorial Edition, eds. Lipscomb and Bergh, 20 vols. (Washington D.C., 1903-4), 8:276.