Law Causes Financial Strain on Small Businesses

Tuesday, January 6th 2009, 5:33 pm
By: News 9

By Amy Lester, NEWS 9

OKLAHOMA CITY -- A new law that's supposed to protect children could cause major financial problems for small businesses.

The law forces companies to stop selling children's items that contain more than a small amount of lead. They'd have to test merchandise currently on the shelves. The law could change what some businesses sell.

Small businesses, consignment and thrift shops all have concerns about this new law. Some may be forced to stop selling items for children.

"I think the law has good intentions, but it could adversely affect many families financially," Kathy Winslow said.

Winslow organizes Oklahoma City's largest consignment sale.

The new law says all products for kids under 12 must undergo tests to make sure they don't exceed new lead content standards, starting next month. The testing must be done by a lab and could cost big bucks.

"I definitely think these regulations could hurt many small businesses, not just mine, but anything, any business that sells anything for children," Winslow said.

"This is the most sweeping piece of Legislation to ever affect our safety agency," Scott Wolfson, Deputy Director with the Office of Information and Public Affairs, said.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission will enforce the law. The agency admits it'll be tough if not impossible for consignment and thrift stores to pay for testing, and comply.

"We know how challenging this law may be for them, but the law is clear," Wolfson said. "The law aims to protect the safety of children and we take that requirement very seriously."

Everything from children's toys to backpacks to clothing all fall under the new requirements.

"It would affect us just because we do sell a lot of children's clothes," Cpt. Mark Winters, Salvation Army Administrator, said.

The Salvation Army is waiting on direction from the national office, on what to do.

"Testing would be so expensive we'd just have to take the stuff out of the stores, which is what's possibly going to happen," Winters said.

Starting in February, stores must test current merchandise, and manufacturers must test items before they sell them. They're required to have a certificate from the lab proving it. The law also bans the use of filates in toys, that's a chemical that makes them more ply able.

There's a push by consignment and thrift stores to write letters asking Congress to change the law, so that they're exempt. The Consumer Product Safety Commission is trying to see if there's a way to help them.