Stepping into the toy section of the local Goodwill thrift store, shoppers quickly discover the shelves are empty. No longer do dolls, puzzles, games, and action figures fill their surfaces in jumbled reverie.
But far from Buzz Lightyear and Woody the Cowboy simply being off on exciting adventures, this toy story, unfortunately, has a much sadder side. It's a tale of new government regulations for lead testing on children's products. Of difficult decisions for resale shops. Of a loss of much-needed sales for thrift stores. And the absence of treasures for the children who shop them.
The Consumer Product Safety improvement Act of 2008, to go into effect February 10, 2009, (but now has a partial one-year stay of testing and certification for certain products), was designed to prevent the US sale of children's products with lead content of more than 600 parts per million. (Consumer Product Safety release: http://www.cpsc.gov/cpscpub/prerel/prhtml09/09115.html . Citizen Times article: http://www.citizen-times.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2009901250348)
Thrift store and resale shops were left hanging about how this applied to them until recently, when the Consumer Product Safety Commission stated resale shops and thrift stores would be exempt from testing lead and chemical content. But those shops are still asked to avoid products likely to have high levels of lead.
In a January 30th, 2009 Pittsburgh's Tribune Review article, spokesman David Tobiczyk for Goodwill of Southwestern PA is quoted as saying, "While we are exempt from testing, we're not exempt from the ban on selling children's products that exceed the lead limit. If we don't test it, we can't sell it, if we don't know about it. People will have to throw out (children's toys and clothing)." (Tribune-Review article: http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsburghtrib/business/s_607068.html )
A USAToday article on the topic indicates that testing is prohibitive for these organizations because of its cost-- as high as $400 for a small item. (USAToday article: http://www.usatoday.com/news/washington/2009-01-08-toys_N.html )
While Goodwill's web site doesn't indicate that it no longer accepts toys, the Goodwill in Monroeville, PA, is not currently carrying children's items. And a Thrift Shop Romantic reader in the state of Indiana has indicated that her Goodwill Thrift Stores, too, are not stocking toys and other items for kids since the February 10 deadline.
The Saint Vincent de Paul thrift stores and Salvation Army thrift stores of the Western Pennsylvania area still do seem to be selling the children's products-- but for how long, we'll have to see.
So my suggestion for folks looking to donate these items in question is to contact your local thrift store prior to donating them, and find out whether they are accepting toys and kids' clothing and what their policies are.
I'd be happy to list that information here on the blog, for others' reference, if anyone would like to share the policies in their region.
Child safety is, of course, an important concern. Yet, the new regulations thrust resale shops, crafters of children's products, and even individuals hosting yard sales question what this wide-reaching policy means to them.
Somehow I am left with the feeling that childhood just lost a bit more of its innocence.
- On a happier note, if you'd care to check out last week's Treasure Box Wednesday in praise of vintage box office hits, click here.
- Or if you happened to miss last Sunday's post on funny ads from the 50s, click here.