The End of Secondhand Clothes for Our Children

I want to point your attention to a very important issue that is going on now.  Starting on February 10, 2009, the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act comes into effect.  A major impact of this program is the mandate that everything sold for children 12 and younger will have to be tested for lead and phthalates.  Anything that isn’t tested or that fails the test will be considered hazardous and cannot be sold.

This has a direct impact to small clothes and toy makers, thrift and consignment stores.   They can’t afford to send out each and every item they receive out for testing and will probably be forced to stop selling children clothes or close doors altogether. To make matters worse most of those clothes that previously were donated will now probably end up in a landfill.

This will also impact families who relied heavily on thrift stores to dress their children.  Demand for new clothes will probably go up impacting the price upwards.  Read more about this here, here and here.  You CAN do something about this: sign this petition to help small business owners or write to your local Congressman (this link has a letter template you can use) and ask that used clothes be left out of this program.

What are your thoughts about this?  How much do you think this will impact your family?

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  • Charlene McCormick

    Not really a whole lot, but then again I’m on

  • Kate

    I purchase from garage sales and charity clothing resales. Hopefully these won’t be affected. I think it should only be for NEW clothes being sold. That is over the top!

  • I think it’s ridiculous. Small businesses that re-sell children’s clothes or make them new will go out of business. That impacts the economy. I get 80% of my children’s clothing from used sources and I resent being told that I have to purchase new clothes for safety. I’ll be going to a lot more garage sales this summer.

  • Mary

    I OWN a children’s consignment store and this is the first I’ve heard of this. We check all toys for lead recalls and make sure they aren’t affected – it’s the GOVERNMENT’S job to let us know which toys are. That’s why there is a CPSC.

    I’m curious to know the exact wording of this new “law”…

  • Lisa Fischer

    wow. I hadn’t heard about this. I am a mother to 4 (10, 7, 4,3) & I buy 5-10% of their clothes new. It’s all garage sale or thrift clothes that they wear. Heck, my clothes is the same, I get all of mine at the thrift store!!

    This upsets me. Once my kids were all older I have even thought about opening a children’s consignment store here (we had one but recently closed & the NEED is here). There goes that idea.

    I’m off to sign that petition!!

  • Delores

    I have a question: what are the chances there is lead in the clothes? Let’s say I buy something from Lands End for my daughter this year and assume it is tested. Then I take it to a consignment store…. what are the chances that it has lead in it after a year of use? Is it something that is just picked up by being around? If that is the case, then everything should be tested. And how would lead get into clothes to begin with? I am just curious. I know paint can contain lead, so I understand about toys. Can it be in plastics? I guess I am pretty unaware about these things and just want to know how or why we have to worry about lead. And what are phthalates? I signed the petition. Thanks, Mercedes, for writing about this. I definitely think making consignment stores worry about this is just wrong.

  • Charlene McCormick

    Before everyone flies off the handle, check these out.

    and please note the wording of the law. It’s directed at “manufacturer’s” and “importers” not resale shops

  • Charlene,
    It bans sale of items with lead or phthalates. That’s the part that affects resellers.

  • Mary

    Also, it’s retroactive – meaning stores like Target, Kmart, Toys R Us, etc. – with stuff sitting in warehouses or on shelves without certification that it’s been tested will need to have the items tested by a 3rd party (now there is a great business to start up – testing for lead…) or not sell it.

    So, what, it all goes in landfills? That’s a great thing to do to Mother Earth… very green of you, Congressmen and women…

    Obviously another rush by our great legislature to get something passed (it passed in Nov 08) before they left for the holiday. Hopefully when they get back to work in January there will be enough of an outcry on this that they get their heads back on the job and fix what they did wrong the first time! I just finished writing my congressman, letting him know I’d be declaring bankruptcy if this goes thru as-is. In fact, it’s being called “Bankruptcy Day” on several sites on the ‘net. There are at least 10-12 children’s resale shops in my town, alone! Think of the repercussions of this!

  • I’m not sure about the clothing thing. (I have not read up on this yet) But I’m all for the toys being checked!!! I’d rather have my kids safe than close my eyes to health issues. I’m not so cheap or dumb that I would like my kids chewing on lead. The landfill thing is bothersome. But in the long run it will all end up there anyways, so it’s not as drastic as it sounds. I try to buy wooden toys whenever possible for this very reason. (and they are cute)
    So why are we upset that we may not be able to buy contaminated goods for our kids?

  • Further more, if lead paint was still available, would you all buy it if it was cheaper? And then paint your babies rooms with it? I hope small business owners will be more concerned about destroying a childs brain then money. I’m not saying the wording in the law is perfect. But I think it’s a good start. As a mother (and cheapskate) I think think it is wrong to sign this petition. My kids are more important than money anyday!

  • Wow. Thanks for the heads up. I am the president of a non-profit organization that holds semi annual consignment sales in our community. I have contacted my lawyers to look over the wording of this law to see just how it affects my organization. If in fact we cannot hold our sales, it will impact our whole community. We not only help the members of our community by offering them inexpensive ways to buy for their children, ways for them to sell their used items and get 60% of the selling price, but every penny we make after our advertising and rental expenses goes to charities that help the women and children in our area. Annually we are able to give abou 13,000 to these charities. This will impact them as well as they have come to count on this contribution to help those in need. I’m anxious to see what comes of this. My whole mailing list will be sent the information about this petition if my lawyers say it does affect us. I care about my kids and their safety, but I also trust the integrity of my organization and I trust myself to make good decisions, while still saving money.

  • gloria

    I wonder if this will affect Ebay?

  • Jennifer

    This will affect EVERYONE. It affects items used by children 12 and under, which includes baby bottles, clothing, toys, cribs, highchairs, pacifiers, shoes, fabric (clothing), art supplies…you name it – if it’s for a kid, you will have to prove it doesn’t contain lead or other contaminates before it can be SOLD, not just RE-SOLD. You can pretty much expect to see empty shelves at your local stores in MANY departments if this takes effect. And, items would be required to be tested by a 3rd party – renting a machine to do the testing is $400/day – my store could not afford to have that done even once a month!

    From your local Target, Kmart, Meijers, that won’t be able to sell the goods already in stock – they’ll have to trash them and you’ll see prices on everything else in the store go up to compensate – to small businesses, including independent toy stores, Children’s Orchard & Once Upon A Child stores, independent resale shops like mine (I have another $25k in SBA loans to pay on, and if my store has to close I’ll be declaring bankruptcy on Feb 10th, too!), Goodwill & Salvation Army stores (which depend on the $$ to support their works)…to large companies like Fisher Price. This will affect EVERYONE.

    People will lose their jobs as stores lose business…I live in Michigan and we simply can’t afford to lose any more jobs here.
    Honestly, this is the most asinine thing I’ve heard of!

    Pennypile says “The landfill thing is bothersome. But in the long run it will all end up there anyways, so it’s not as drastic as it sounds. I try to buy wooden toys whenever possible for this very reason. (and they are cute)
    So why are we upset that we may not be able to buy contaminated goods for our kids?”

    NOT AS DRASTIC AS IT SOUNDS? Going to Target and not seeing children’s items for sale sounds pretty drastic to me. Losing my business and declaring bankruptcy is PRETTY DRASTIC to me.

    And as to “wood” toys being safer for your children, pennypile, many of them are made in China, which is where most of the lead paint issues seem to be stemming from! I handle toys every day and I know whereof I speak…buy yourself a few of those home lead test kids (little vials that you rub a sponge on the item and it turns bright orange if lead is present) and rub a few of your cute wooden toys and let me know how that turns out for you.

    And, if you do sell “outlawed” stuff in garage sales or at mom-to-mom sales, your Attny General can fine YOU just like the big guys.

    This is SCARY stuff, folks.

  • Timotheus

    You can read more about the requirements of the act here:

  • jenny m

    I myself think this is somewhat unconciasable. Not only will millions of small business owners be thrown out of business- work at home moms and dads who might make kids clothes or diapers to supplement or perhaps provide the lion’s share of the income will also be no longer able to sell. Those of us who rely on secondhand clothes to clothe our kids as well as provide christmas/birthday toys will also be devestated. As a parttime nursing assistant, i cant afford new stuff- what a poorly thought out law.

  • Sarah M

    My husband was telling me about this on one of his blogs that he found yesterday. Apparently it also may effect the sale of clothing on Craigslist, at yard sales and on Freecycle. I’ve even seen where it may be illegal to even give the clothing away (since it’s not tested for lead)

    I found this new law to be absolutely ridiculous and hope that changes are made. Many of the resale shops will be put out of business and majority of the stores that sale clothing will no doubt bump up the price on clothing to cover the lead testing.

    With the way the economy is right now and many people losing their jobs left and right, they can’t afford new clothing that is going to cost anywhere from $20 up for 1 kids outfit.

    I buy the majority of my children’s clothing from garage sales, craigslist and freecycle. I can’t afford to go out and buy new clothing all the time for growing kids! This is insane!!!

    Here is the link to where my husband first found it:

  • Lindsay

    I am highly upset about this new law being past. We ae having our first baby in February. I purchased all my maternity clothes at thrift stores as well as the baby things. I understand that the government wants things to be safe, however i think it is ridiculous that all these small businesses and consignment shops will no longer exsist. It figures once we decide to have a baby the economy goes way down hill.

  • Jennifer,
    I mentioned wood toys in the context of them seeming a bit better material to decompose in a landfill (or repaint and reuse) then plastics and such. Many companies sell wooden ones with non-lead paint.
    I hate to be a comment hog. So I may blog about this soon on my own blog.
    Losing good sales at Target is HARDLY drastic. But I would feel for anyone who completely lost income due to this if that becomes the case. It would do this country good to buy less anyways. Make our own toys, share, play in the sand, tell our children stories,stop trampling workers in Wal-mart. You get the picture. Cheap toys just aren’t worth throwing a fit over. Safety of babies is.
    Sometimes I think about not blogging about money/savings anymore as I love simplicity in life. I think it’s easy for us to get obsessive about saving money which is a greed all in it’s self.

  • Jennifer

    Not to be rude, but maybe you should retitle your blog “head in the sand”.

    If this goes through, MILLIONS of people will be losing their jobs. And MILLIONS of others will not be able to afford clothing, baby bottles, toys for their kids…this really has no end to how it will affect the Average Joe’s family.

    And, you won’t be buying any “cute wooden toys” from local craftspeople because they WON’T BE ALLOWED TO SELL THEM without undergoing $1000’s of dollars worth of testing…what home crafter can afford that?

    And, if Target closes? Not drastic? According to, Target employs over 350,000 people. If 10% lose their jobs (assuming just the toy departments cease to exist) then that is 35,000 families affected. And that is just one company.

    If my store closes, and we are barely hanging in there as it is, I lose my income, my house, etc and thank God my car is paid for because I’m gonna be living in it.

    Comments such as “losing good sales at Target is hardly drastic” show a complete lack of understanding of the system of commerce in the US. Our entire ECONOMY will be turned upside down if this happens.

  • Christina Albea

    Look at the impact it could have on ministries that help people in need. These are mostly not-for-profit churches and other organizations that resell items extremely cheaply or flat out give them away to people in need. But if they can’t for lack of proof of safety then you’re looking at millions of people in need further in need because the organizations that they would turn to for help can no longer provide that help!

    This truly does effect everything. Many have mentioned resell and thrift shops. But that is not all this will effect. It will hit Ebay, Craig’s List, Consignment Sales, Yard Sales, even to the point that if a group of mothers did a private swap they could be fined if discovered. Ladies this is a nightmare waiting to happen if we don’t stand up and open our mouths.

    This is more the rich get richer and the poor get poor insanity that our country can not afford!

    Don’t take this to mean that I don’t worry for my children’s health and safety because I do. Like all mothers I worry about making sure my children are provided the safest environment possible to grow up in but this law is taking things too far. At what point we are willing to risk our economy (fragile as it already is) and the welfare of those among our society that are already poor and down trodden we are risking the vary fabric of our nation and doing so with a smile on our faces.

  • This will effect everyone who buys, sells, trades and gives away children’s products.

    It will effect ebay, craigslist, etsy, consignment store, retailers and manufacturers.

    It will affect businesses, small and large.

    Many companies will go out of business. One school supply company would have to pay $20 million dollars to have all their products tested.

    Even if a products is assumed to contain no lead would still have to be tested and certified before it can be sold or giveaway.

    One vendor who makes a $20 kids applicade t-shirt would have to pay $1200 to have it tested and certified. Each fabric, color or component requires a separate test and fee.

  • Lisa Fischer

    That’s what I was wondering about. We have a local Clothing Depot that takes donations & turns around & GIVES the clothing to people in need. It’s open 2x week & you just show up with a bag & take what you need. I guess it will still be open for adult clothing?? Why don’t we care about lead testing in adult clothing? Or did I read it wrong & it’s for both adult & children’s clothing.

  • Kelly

    I checked the links in the comments before mine and must confess that the CSPC documentation is overwhelming. The wikipedia article was far more readable so I hope it is accurate. I noticed that it specifies that MANUFACTURERS must perform the testing and supply certificates to retailers. This is still a huge burden on small and large manufacturers, but very different from what is discussed above.

    To those who think this testing is great and wonderful and worth saving our kids brains – well, do we really have a problem with lead in clothing? If it’s actually occurring, then we should look at ways to eliminate it. But I don’t see the point of testing for something that is not happening. I have seen recalls for lead in buttons, zippers, and so forth, but I honestly cannot recall any cases of lead in fabric. Phthalates – well, maybe those are causing problems in clothing and the inspection/elimination could be improved.

  • Mary

    Think of it like this…your children are today playing with the toys and wearing the clothes already in their closets. You can give them away, resell them, recycle, or throw them away when they wear out.

    After Feb 10th…you can’t give them away, you can’t consign them or sell them in a garage sale. You may not even legally be able to put them in a landfill, who knows because this “act” is a big bunch of confusing stuff! What changed? They are the same items you had Feb 9th, right?

    But on Feb 10th, I can’t sell them either, in my consignment store. I’ll go out of business pretty fast. Target and Walmart can’t sell what’s on their shelves either, unless they have documentation showing they are lead/phthalate free. Same stuff, just now it needs “papers”. They’ll lay off people, too. Smaller stores will slowly go under, trying to absorb the losses for awhile and finally giving up.

    I feel like we are in some kind of socialist nightmare. Next the government will tell us what kind of vodka we can drink…geez, and I’m too young to remember much of the cold war with Russia, I thought!

    This is absolutely nuts! I’m 100% in favor of children’s safety. I don’t resell cribs (too many recalls), car seats (too many old ones floating around, geez, people, just shell out $50 for something you’ll use for a few years, it’s for your kids safety!) and we check all our toys against recalls for any reason. We don’t sell bathrings, etc. I memorized what date codes are affected by the Fisher Price lead recall last year. I do everything I can to keep kids safe. I just want to stay in business and not lose everything I’ve worked for for the past 4 years…

  • This won’t make it that far. If it really does affect that many small business owners, either an executive order will place certain provisions on hold or make allowances for resellers, or lawsuits will be filed to prevent it. Or Congress will step in and amend it. There’s no way in this time of major job loss and economic strain that they’re going to let thousands of small businesses go under. No politician wants that on their record.

    For those who worry about the clothes going to a landfill, that’s not where they’ll end up. They’ll end up in third world nations, where America’s used clothing castoffs end up being sold in street markets for pennies. You won’t believe how many Africans or Central Americans are walking around in your company’s tshirts from five years ago. You know, the ones you gave to Goodwill and they couldn’t sell? That’s where our unsold, used clothing ends up.

  • I am a seamstress who has been assisting our family income since our daughter was born making children’s clothing and accessories. This law will effectively close my business, and put our family in terrible financial strain. Most likely, I will have find work outside of the home, which makes me cry as I am typing this now. I am sure there are many more WAHM’s like myself that aren’t even taken into consideration because we are to small to count. The social impact is quite large if you consider the economic repercussions on our nation’s families. I feel very helpless and unfairly caught up in a “safety scare” mentality, that clearly does not apply to fabrics.

  • Upsetmom

    I think its fantastic that just about everyone has the same understanding and outlook on this matter. I mean, look how many people responded to this blog and only 1 person agrees that this law should be passed. So, little miss penny pile, perhaps you should hear the point we are all trying to make. This will have such a negative affect on so many people and it’s just an all around sad situation. I think I speak for everyone when I say that we obviously care deeply about our children’s safety but the fact of the matter is, if this law is passed and these shops go under, a lot of people will loose their source of income which will ultimately lead to not being able to properly care for there children and give them the basic essentials in life. Perhaps you make more money than some, pennypile, and that’s great for you! But as for the rest of us, we need these stores and we depend on them for the sake of our families.
    “I’m not so cheap or dumb that I would like my kids chewing on lead.” . You need a reality check little miss. Seriously!

  • disgusted

    I just want to point out that as a whole we don’t have a problem with lead tainted toys, clothing or healthcare items for our children.

    Fabric is already required to be tested and has a more stringent allowable contaminate count than this new law requires. The same for toys etc. Prior to this ignorant and unneeded law being passed a study was published on random, independent toy testing for lead – ALL toys tested passed! I can’t find the link because I have read soooo much on this and haven’t been able to backtrack to that page. If I find it I’ll post it.

    Yes, there have been issues with Foreign made lead tainted toys and jewelry but rather than implementing a law that required independent testing of Foreign made product Congress passed one of the most poorly written and far reaching laws to ever be put on the books!

    This is what people need to know: The way the law is written now, all end product has to be tested regardless of if all the components that product is assembled from have already tested safe! THAT along with the retroactivity of the law (remember we don’t have a problem with lead tainted children’s products as a whole) and broad scope are the main problems with this law.

    Congress has placed a huge, expensive burden of redundant testing on the end assembler and not on the component manufacturer which is where it needs to be. The economic damage that will, and already is, being caused by this law is unconscionable. Right now, today, business owners are not buying the product (already independently tested and documented safe) they normally would at this time of year because they will not be able to afford the government mandated redundant testing. Businesses are liquidating the children’s product they have now and are not planning to replace it. Some businesses are even shutting their doors because of the uncertainty.

    If you call the CPSC and ask them about how the law will be implemented or how it will affect you they either say “we don’t know” or you will get conflicting answers!

    As a very small “manufacturer” myself – I sew custom children’s clothing – on Feb. 10th I will not be allowed to sell my designs even if I have documentation from ALL my suppliers regarding lead content/testing. I buy mainly organic, earth friendly and usa made items whenever possible!!!

    I support lead COMPONENT testing for our children!

    I cannot believe even mypennypile thinks this law, as it is currently written, is a great addition to our lawbooks. This law is driving all the small companies, built on supplying a quality and safe product to America’s children out of business. NOT because they have a “toxic” product but because they can’t afford to redundant test a product that is already proven safe through it’s components – then mypenny will only be left with Target, Walmart and China to purchase from.

    I’m disgusted with our lawmakers…

  • doserbud

    Voice your opposition to the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act by mailing one used piece of clothing (please mail clean clothing only) to your Senators and Congressmen. Let them know how you feel about this new law.

    By mailing your Senators and Congressmen the used clothing it will draw more attention to the situation than just a letter. A letter takes up little office space, the clothing will pile up and become an eye sore. Imagine if each Senator and Congressmen received just 1,000 letters with a piece of clothing in it. That’s 1,000 pieces of clothing. It’s hard to ignore that.



    Link to my blog post. I’m shocked I’m the only commenter so far to disagree some. To each their own!

  • Erin

    I too am a consignment shop owner (hi Mercedes!) and I can’t believe that such a thing like this would pass. It is overwhelming to think of all the aspects of our daily lives this law would affect. Not to mention my business, that I have put every last penny of my savings into, and we’ve only been open since August…to lose it all now…I can’t even think about that.

    I’ve written to my senator and can only hope that this does not go any further. Until then, my doors will remain open and I’m still accepting toys and clothes. I check every single toy on the CPSC website and subscribe to their email list of recalled children’s items. I work hard to make sure that the items I sell are safe, my kids play here too!

    Let’s keep making a fuss to everyone we can and make our voices heard!

  • lighten up francis

    why does everything have to be about children?

    if there is one thing that bothers me, it is groups tugging at emotions by exploiting children. think about the children, protect the children, save the children. stop it!

    i don’t see how children are different from anyone else. what if you have a big 10-year old that wears clothes from the juniors department? why stop at age 12? are people over age 12 immune to the effects of lead?

    so why not test everything? according to some of you, testing for lead will cause stores to go out of business. so i guess we can’t test everything, because then we can only get toys at places like costco, which will cause prices to go up due to lack of competition, then we can’t afford that new “dance-n-go elmo” and OMG WHAT WILL WE DO?!?

    why did it take this for people to be disgusted with lawmakers? oh, it’s because now you’re affected by it. remember when gas prices were high, you were upset because it affected you. remember when the bank bailout happened, you weren’t upset until you realized it kind of affected you. remember when your neighbor’s mother died from cancer, kind of affected you, upset. travolta’s kid, we don’t care because it has nothing to do with us. and why are people so convinced that this will destroy the economy? because it has personal investment.

    think of the law this way: some lawdog pitched this lead-testing idea because it was “for the children”. no one can vote against that, because then they’re viewed as not caring about children. checkmate.

  • Andrea

    I found this article from pennypile’s article. My husband is in the business of children’s toys. He has gone through countless hours of training about this new law. Target, Wal-mart, Toys R’ Us, etc have been warned about this for months and months now and have sold/liquidated most of the toys that have not been tested (think about those “awesome” Christmas sales). A lot of the toys on the shelves right now were manufactured AFTER these companies knew about the impending law and have already been tested and passed, therefore they are exempt. It is possible to test these things before the laws come into place. So, Target, Wal-mart, etc are prepared and are not going to go into a mad panic when Feb. 10 rolls around.

    As far as consignors, yard sales, etc go, the law does not apply to them in the same way. Go to Her most recent post about it clears up a lot of the misconceptions (sorry, I don’t have the direct link).

    As far as pennypile goes, I think you guys were a little hard on her. She has a wonderful blog and is very interested in helping others save money. She was just expressing her opinion, there was no reason to personally attack her.

    I understand the helpless feelings everyone has about this. It could potentially affect my livelyhood too, but I think it’s being blown out of proportion on the internet and scaring people unneccasarily. Good luck to everyone!

  • April
  • Lisa Fischer

    it was just on my local news that they wanted to clarify this act…it’s only going to be for NEW clothes/toys that have to be tested, not used. So YEAH!!

  • Ruby
  • Pingback: Update to End of Second Hand Clothes Post | Common Sense With Money()

  • December

    Unless you are a manufacturer of kids products…..Calm Down resellers will have no problems……

    This is the 3rd and 4th paragraph from the ACTUAL bill.

    The new safety law does not require resellers to test children’s products in inventory for compliance with the lead limit before they are sold. However, resellers cannot sell children’s products that exceed the lead limit and therefore should avoid products that are likely to have lead content, unless they have testing or other information to indicate the products being sold have less than the new limit. Those resellers that do sell products in violation of the new limits could face civil and/or criminal penalties.

    When the CPSIA was signed into law on August 14, 2008, it became unlawful to sell recalled products. All resellers should check the CPSC Web site ( for information on recalled products before taking into inventory or selling a product. The selling of recalled products also could carry civil and/or criminal penalties.

    Read the whole thing here.

  • I signed the petition and contacted my Senator about this. Thank you for posting.