To: (Multiple email addresses may be specified by separating them with a comma)
New lead standards for children’s products are threatening small businesses, including Catholic ones.
BY TIM DRAKERegister Senior Writer
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — A new law meant to protect children from lead
is, some say, hurting business for many Catholic retailers.
Catholic retailer Ian Rutherford,
owner of the Colorado Springs-based Aquinas and More, said that the law
impacted his store's first Communion season sales this spring.
Last August, Congress passed the
Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) in response to massive toy
recalls. The law, co-sponsored by Rep. Henry Waxman D-Calif., passed
overwhelmingly in both houses. It impacts any products sold to children ages 12
and under, including toys, books, jewelry, bikes and clothing.
As of Feb. 10, such items, even if
they were made prior to the enactment date, are subject to more stringent rules
governing the content of lead and phthalates (chemicals used to soften
"We were unable to obtain any kind
of certification from several of our vendors, so we had to drop a major section
of our first Communion line," said Rutherford. "That included first Communion
jewelry, bracelets and rosaries, as well as dresses and dress accessories, such
as veils and gloves."
According to the law, retailers who
do not have the necessary certifications on file for each product sold can be
fined. Each violation carries with it the potential for a $100,000 fine.
While other Catholic retailers
haven't gone to the lengths of Aquinas and More, Rutherford said he'd rather
not run the risk of facing a fine that could bankrupt the store.
"While we didn't expect the
[Consumer Product Safety Commission] to wander into our store, some
child-safety consumer groups have been entering stores with portable lead
scanners, and state attorney generals can also enforce the law," said
Reprieve of Sorts
Because of confusion over the law
and how it would be enforced, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC)
issued a one-year stay of enforcement in January, just prior to the law going
into effect on Feb. 10.
"The action we are taking today puts
in place a limited 'time-out' so that the commission and the Congress can
address the issues with the law that have become so painfully apparent," said
Nancy Nord, the commission's acting chairwoman, in a written statement.
"The stay of enforcement provides
some temporary, limited relief to the crafters, children's garment
manufacturers and toy makers who had been subject to the testing and
certification required under the CPSIA. These businesses will not need to issue
certificates based on testing of their products until additional decisions are
issued by the commission. However, all businesses, including, but not limited
to, handmade toy and apparel makers, crafters, and home-based small businesses,
must still be sure that their products conform to all safety standards and
similar requirements, including the lead and phthalates provision of the
The stay, however, does not apply to
children's jewelry makers. Currently, a loophole of sorts exists for
consignment stores such as Once Upon a Child and Goodwill. While not required
to test the products they sell, they can still be held liable if they sell a
product with high lead content. As a result, some consignment stores across the
country, such as Goodwill, have ceased selling children's books, toys and
In addition, attorney general
offices in California, Connecticut, Arizona and New York have stated that they
intend to enforce the law as it's currently written.
Catholic family business assistant
owner Kerri Davison says that even with the stay the law has the potential to
close many small Christian retailers or home-based businesses.
"If someone were trying to destroy a
small family or Christian business, they couldn't have written a better law,"
Davison's business, Holy Heroes,
until recently, sold children?s religious books, CDs and jewelry. They've since
ceased selling jewelry because much of it was made in South America and the
Davisons were unable to verify the lead content. The high cost of having each
component tested and the requirement that government-certified labs do the
testing were part of their decision. There are few certified labs in the U.S.,
and most of them have been kept busy with large suppliers and manufacturers so
have little interest in doing testing for Mom and Pop shops like Holy Heroes.
According to the CPSC, each
component of a particular product batch must be tested for lead. Such tests
cost hundreds of dollars per part tested.
As an example, Davison described the
testing required for their sacrifice beads.
"We would have to test the beads,
the string, the crucifix and the carbiner," explained Davison. "Thousands of
dollars of testing for a product that sells for $4.95."
"This is an onerous law," she said.
"It's overreaching and unnecessary."
One manufacturer whom the Register
spoke with said it has spent thousands of dollars testing various jewelry
Alan Napleton, president of the
Catholic Marketing Network, said that he started receiving telephone calls from
retail stores last July, before the law was passed. He described the law as
"confusing" and "government run amok." To date, he said he's unaware of any
stores that have been fined.
leaders are beginning to see the unintended consequences of this poorly written
and hastily passed legislation," said Napleton. "They are starting to
understand that for stores and manufacturers to comply with all provisions of
the act it would place tremendous financial burdens on some of these businesses
when many are struggling to survive in a very difficult economic environment."
Some congressional members, such as
Reps. Anthony Weiner, D-N.Y., Gresham Barrett, R-S.C., and Sens. Olympia Snowe,
R-Maine, and Sandy Levin, D-Mich., have requested hearings and have asked the
CPSC to provide common sense clarifications to small businesses regarding the
Another organization that tried to
fight the legislation was the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA).
Members of the HSLDA's federal relations department met with commissioners from
the CPSC in early February.
"They assured us that they wouldn't
be locking people up for selling curriculum and books, but the law is clear
that any products sold to children 12 and younger need to be safe," said
Jeremiah Lorrig, deputy director of federal relations with the HSLDA. "They
issued a stay and indicated that there could be another stay, but that there
will be testing requirements."
While the law doesn't specify books
as "children's products," the CPSC does. Thus, any children's books printed
before 1986 would fall under the requirements. Those printed after 1986 are
considered safe because regulations were in place banning lead from printers'
concerned that Congress would put forth such sweeping legislation without first
examining the consequences it would have on their own constituents," said
Lorrig. "My hope is that within a year they'll review the policy and the political
climate will have cooled so that they can reconsider what products are truly
dangerous and deal with it."
Drake is based in