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Clothing and toy makers make new push to delay lead rules

The manufacturers want to delay for at least six months the effective date of the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act.

February 05, 2009|Alana Semuels

Clothing and toy manufacturers launched a fresh effort Wednesday aimed at postponing enforcement of a law set to take effect next week that forces items that may contain dangerous amounts of lead to be pulled from shelves.

The manufacturers want to delay for at least six months the effective date of the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act, passed by Congress last year in response to a string of toy recalls.

"Bankrupting small businesses is no way to stimulate the economy," read a full-page ad in the Hill newspaper in Washington. It urged Congress to "act now and extend the deadline for the lead standard."

The law is scheduled to take effect Tuesday.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission, which enforces and interprets the act, ruled Friday that manufacturers would not have to pay for third parties to test their products for lead content.

But manufacturers and retailers say that because it is still illegal to sell products that contain more than 600 parts per million of lead, they still have to test their materials to ensure that they are compliant. And the CPSC, they say, doesn't give them enough guidance about how to test for lead.

"It's fine and dandy for the CPSC to say manufacturers don't have to test and certify, but retailers are saying if I want to put products on the shelf, I still have to," said Ed Krenik, a lobbyist with Bracewell & Giuliani, which represents companies that belong to the National Assn. of Manufacturers' CPSC coalition.

Major retailers are requiring that manufacturers either test for lead or sign a statement saying they're responsible if any problems occur with their products, he said.

The two commissioners of the CPSC are in the process of voting on a delay. They have until Monday to decide, but it's unclear whether the commission even has the authority to postpone the effective date, said spokesman Joseph Martyak. The commission can interpret the law, but only Congress can change it, he said.

Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) plans to introduce a bill this week that would delay the effective date of the act.

Children's clothing manufacturers organized what they say was a 1,000-person rally in New York on Tuesday to protest the law, saying that 4,000 jobs will be lost if the law is not changed.

The toy and thrift store industries say the law makes it potentially costly to put items on their shelves that have not been tested because of the civil and criminal penalties they could face.

"This stay offers no relief or security for the children's resale industry," said Adele Meyer, executive director of the National Assn. of Resale and Thrift Shops. She asked for "definitive and concrete rulings that reflect the reality of our marketplace."

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alana.semuels@latimes.com

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