New rules could hurt kid businesses

January 12, 2009 4:46:04 PM PST
New rules regarding lead levels in children's products may force some small entrepreneurs out of business.The law goes into effect in February and some mom and pop craft sellers say they cannot afford the cost of compliance. Nobody wants lead in kid's products, but those who make a living selling handmade products say the rules are costly to follow and could force many to shut down.

For the last eight years Trevor Thorson has been making extra income selling her handmade kids clothes. The items became so popular she even opened a store in Katy.

The Pink Zebra Boutique now sells the products of a half dozen local moms and while business is good, the store is closing in a few weeks.

"This was my dream," Thorson said. "I have always wanted a store. I always wanted something that I did. I created the ambiance; I created the concept of having all handmade in one store."

Thorson says a new federal law designed to cut the lead out of kids products contains testing rules that she simply cannot comply with.

Designers like Thorson say they will have to test their wares even if the materials used have already been tested by the manufacturers.

"Each component is going to cost between $100 to $150 per component," Thorson said.

The new lead rules go into effect February 10th.

"This is what allows me to stay at home with my two children," said Stacy Jacob who makes kid room decorations. "In a hurting economy I hope that I am not going to be put out of business."

Recently resale shops and charities were concerned they too would have to test kids products donated to them, but the Consumer Product Safety Commission decided not to require testing of donated items. However, the CPSC says resellers cannot sell items that exceed lead limits or they risk being fined up to $100,000.

It is the potential fines and the cost of testing that is behind the closing of the Pink Zebra Boutique.

There is a lot of confusion regarding this law. We tried to contact the CPSC and could not get any answers from the agency regarding kid's clothes. Right now the rules apply to any product intended for kids under 12.

If the manufacturers get their products tested and certified as lead free, can't the mom and pop stores use that to prove products are lead free? The designers we spoke with said they will not be allowed to use a certificate from a manufacturer and that the makers of the final products must pay for lead testing on their own. One crafter told us one of her finished items could cost about $1,000 to test.

You can read the law for yourself on my consumer blog.

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