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US Bans Thrift Stores (updated)

Got your attention? Good…because what we’ve got to report on will shock you…and could have a devastating impact on some charities and the families that depend on them.

Congress, in a stroke of genius that was too smart by half, passed the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act in August 2008. It takes affect February 10, 2009. The public is only now becoming aware of the draconian nature of the statute.

The stated intent of the legislation was to strengthen protections against lead and other harmful substances in toys, clothing and other items manufactured for children under age 12. A noble enough idea…especially given the lead paint on Chinese-manufactured toys incident awhile back. The law requires all such products to be tested for lead levels, as well as the chemical phthalate. But, in typical congressional overreach, the legislation provides no safe harbor for the sale of existing products…even second-hand products! It doesn’t even exempt private parties. So what does this mean to you? The law effectively bans the sale of used children’s clothing, toys…anything for kids under 12…unless the seller has each individual item tested by a certified lab. We’re not kidding. The law is so broad that sales by Goodwill and other thrift stores, eBay sales, Craigslist, even yard sales of untested items, will be considered illegal under federal law.

Adele Meyer, executive director of the National Association of Resale and Thrift Shops, put it this way, “They’ll all have to go to the landfill.”

So, goodbye children’s consignment stores. So long, kid’s clothing fundraisers. Too bad, nonprofit thrift stores. Your friends in Congress say, “Eat cake!” Not only will this law prove harmful to many of America’s nonprofits and community groups that rely on thrift and consignment sales, but poor and working families will lose an invaluable resource for providing affordable clothing for their kids…right in the middle of a deep recession. For every child that is theoretically helped by this legislation, thousands will literally be hurt.  It’s insulting to one’s intelligence.

You don’t have to take this lying down. Rarely do we get on a soapbox, but this is one of those times. Call and/or write your US representative and senators. Contact the Consumer Product Safety Commission.  Let them know just how damaging this will be to charities and the families they serve. Tell them to use common sense for a change and amend this law to exempt resale. Below are links to other news stories, as well as ways to contact your representative.

Lead-Testing Rules Threaten Thrift Stores – The Tennessean, 01/08/2009

New U.S. Safety Regulations to Eliminate Sale of Used Children’s Products – Associate Content, Lifestyle Section, 01/07/2009

New Safety Rules for Children’s Clothes Have Stores in a Fit – Los Angeles Times, 01/02/2009

Contact Elected Officials:

Consumer Product Safety Commission


Jan 9, 2009 – Nothing like a little bit of righteous indignation to shake things up.  Since this story hit the public, the Consumer Product Safety Commission has been swamped with complaints.  It appears to be working.

First, the CPSC backed off slightly on Tuesday by giving prelimenary exemption to natural products made of wool or wood.  That did nothing but confuse people further and stir the pot.  Yesterday, the Commission backed off even more, saying that second-hand stores would not be required to test or certify items.  As of now, they will still be accountable for the sale of items that would exceed the lead limits.  There still remains a bit of ambiguity, but it appears things are settling out.

Let’s keep the pressure on Congress to get this exemption codified into law.

Lead-Testing Rules Won’t Apply to Thrifts – The Tennessean, 01/09/2009

Greg McRay is the founder and CEO of The Foundation Group. He is registered with the IRS as an Enrolled Agent and specializes in 501(c)(3) and other tax exemption issues.

This Post Has One Comment

  1. A lot are really into a very tight budget today especially after the economic crisis hit us hard. And purchasing new things became harder and harder. But don’t lose hope. Thrift shops and sales are still here. Clipping coupons is a time honored tradition, yet the practice of clipping coupons and other practices of thrift have been subject of ridicule over the last few years.  Well, those people into money saving ideas and not having to get payday loans all the time are not concerned about ridicule. They are willing to compare, and look out for sales ads.  Buying bulk is always a good idea, as you can stock up for quite some time and save a lot of green over the long run.  Keeping a keen eye on what is going for cheap in your area grocery stores can save you a lot of money if you keep to it.  You can keep from wondering about installment loans to keep the shelves stocked by clipping coupons.

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