, Salem, MA


March 24, 2009

Thrift and consignment shops ponder how to get lead out

More than a month after Congress passed a law prohibiting shops from selling children's products containing high levels of lead, local thrift store owners are still fuzzy about the rules.

The Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act, which took effect Feb. 10, warns small businesses, thrift shops and manufacturers to make "sound decisions" about the products they are selling for children younger than 12. Items as small as buttons and beads, children's toys and books, child care articles, and clothing are covered under the new law.

Herein lies the confusion, said Liz Moore, owner of Children's Orchard in Danvers.

"Some people interpret it one way or another way," Moore said. "I think the law is good, but there is so much ambiguity regarding it. There are still a lot of things that need to be ironed out."

Jen Bayles, owner of Witch City Consignment and Thrift Store in Salem, just heard about the law.

"Originally, I thought they totally banned children's clothes, that's how I read it," Bayles said. "Everyone's following the rules how they think they should."

The new law leaves businesses with three options: test the product, refuse to sell or accept the product, or contact the manufacturer about the questionable product.

Moore has not removed any items from her shelves, saying she has always been careful about the products she sells and is confident they are within regulation. Plus, Moore said, she keeps up with the ever-changing recall lists online.

The bulk of Bayles' business is selling adult clothes and antiques, but she said she now has to turn away some of her 1,650 consignors who bring in children's toys and clothing, and they aren't too happy about it, she said.

Lisa Suldenski, owner of the secondhand store Just Kidding in Beverly, sells children's and maternity clothing. She said due to the bad economy, business is booming, but the new law will put a damper on things.

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