Controversy over new lead regs

Seven On Your Side
February 3, 2009 3:15:44 PM PST
It's a Consumer Product Safety Commission regulation that's supposed to get the lead out of children's products like toys, even clothing. But the clothing manufacturers say they will be out - millions of dollars - and their product won't be any safer. Hundreds of workers from children's wear manufacturers were yelling today to save their jobs. They are hoping their voices are heard all the way to Washington, DC.

"The economic repercussions are grave there could be 100's of millions of dollars in returns of goods that could bankrupt companies," said Cory Silverstein head of Kids Headquarters, a children's apparel manufacturer.

He's talking about new rules from the Consumer Product Safety Administration limiting the amount of lead in everything from children's toys to apparel sold to kids 12 and under. They're saying it will have a devastating effect on the clothing industry.

"There is no signs to support that there is a danger from trace levels of lead in children's clothing to a child health safety," says Steve Levy of Coalition for safe and Affordable Children's wear.

Manufacturers of children's clothing say they will be required to test each product line for lead levels, even items manufactured before the law took effect. In every component like zippers, buttons, and decorative appliques, a process they say is involved and costly.

"You would test this fabric, this label, this button and then test these five different colors," says Steve Levy.

In response to complaints, last Friday the CPSC said they would not enforce the new regs for another year. Even so, stores are still sending un-tested product back to the manufacturers. Steve says, "They are now starting to return millions and millions of dollars of safe product that's destined to be destroyed."

Don Mays of Consumers Union says, "It's a mess, and it's a confusing mess."

Consumers Union says the implementation of the regulations was handled badly. But in the next year, until they are enforced, parents don't have to worry too much. "The only time lead comes into play is with zippers, snaps button, or other fasteners that could potentially contain lead and if swallowed could be a health hazard. But that doesn't happen very often."

A rep from the CPSC concedes lead levels in children clothing isn't much of a health hazard for kids. It's expected eventually yet more changes will mandate only buttons, zippers and appliques will have to be tested for lead levels in clothing.


Story by: Tappy Phillips

Produced by: Steve Livingstone