Consignment store owners are becoming anxious about new regulations that they say would make it too expensive to sell children's clothing.
The federal regulations, set to take effect Feb. 10 as part of the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act, would require all products intended for children 12 and younger to be tested for lead.
That's particularly troubling for someone like Elizabeth Sowers, who owns Mommy's Lil' Rascals consignment store in Manchester Township. Sowers sells used children's clothes, toys, shoes and furniture. She fears she wouldn't be able to afford to have each item she receives tested for lead.
"Hundreds and hundreds of items come in here every day," Sowers said. "I would have to close."
Some relief, however, may be on the horizon for consignment store owners like Sowers.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission is charged with enforcing the regulations. It has become aware of consignment store owners' concerns, said commission spokeswoman Patty Davis.
"We're working to determine if the law allows any flexibility for small businesses, including consignment stores," Davis said.
On Wednesday, the Los Angeles Times reported the commission voted tentatively to exempt certain items in the wake of complaints that the measure could have negative effects on thrift stores and consignments shops. Those exemptions include: items with lead parts that a child cannot access; clothing, toys and other goods made of natural materials such as cotton and wood; and electronics that are impossible to make without lead.
The commission also tentatively approved a rule that clarifies how it determines exclusions from the law, according to the Times report.
Sowers said she has never received a complaint from a customer about the presence of lead in any of her products. She doesn't feel lead is a threat in her store.
"All my customers know I thoroughly check all of our products that come in," Sowers said, adding that she receives regular notifications from the Consumer Product Safety Commission about products that have been recalled.
Cindy Quick, owner of Top Drawer consignment shop in Springettsbury Township, is also concerned about the possible effects of the new regulations.
One-third of Top Drawer's products are for children, Quick said, and she feared that testing each item for lead would be too expensive.
"If they do require it, we would stop (selling) kids' clothes and focus on ladies' and teens' clothes," Quick said.