Ban on Bling? New Lead Rules May Cost $1 Billion in Lost Business; New Restrictions Impact Manufacturers, Retailers, Libraries, Thrift Stores even Church Bazaars

Date: Mar 31, 2009

WASHINGTON, D.C – Unless Congress acts quickly, the world's toughest prohibition on lead in consumer products could cost the U.S. thousands of jobs and millions of dollars says those familiar with the new restrictions. Not to mention taking the sparkle out of kids' costumes, accessories, clothing and more. Think Halloween with no tiara's for princesses or jewels in pirate loot, but the nightmare begins with job loss and warehouses that will have to destroy millions in inventory.

"We all want to protect children from harmful exposure to lead," says Sheila Millar, a veteran consumer product attorney with Washington, D.C.'s Keller and Heckman, LLP. "But the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) of 2008 will effectively ban products - such as rhinestone-studded jewelry, clothing or footwear - that have shown no association with lead exposure in children. This is causing enormous losses for manufacturers and retailers during one of the worst economic downturns in decades. Many of those retailers and manufacturers are small business owners – the very people most affected by this economy." According to a story in Congress Daily on March 20, 2009, the CPSC, "placed the cost of lost business at well over $1 billion."

Recently, on behalf of the Fashion Jewelry Trade Association and other trade groups, Millar asked the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) to exempt crystal and glass rhinestones and beads in children's jewelry, clothing, footwear and accessories. Millar says that the law imposes limits on total lead, rather than requiring the CPSC to assess exposure to harmful amounts of lead. Without an exemption, rhinestones will be banned, potentially affecting a large swath of industry, many of them small businesspeople and retailers.

The CPSIA doesn't just affect makers and sellers of apparel or jewelry, but has a broad impact on other manufacturers and retailers, including those who make and sell electronics products, bicycles, all-terrain vehicles, and sporting goods, and even thrift stores and libraries. In response to a recent inquiry from Congressman John Dingell (D- MI), the CPSC staff outlined options for Congress to consider minimizing the adverse impact and unintended consequences of the CPSIA.

"The staff has offered a thoughtful analysis of the problems, and assesses the impact of inaction at billions of dollars. At a minimum Congress should assure that the nation's product safety agency is able to make decisions based on an assessment of whether there's any real potential for harmful exposure to lead," Millar reasons.

Millar has spent almost 30 years representing corporate and association clients on consumer product and other regulatory issues, and she was actively involved in advocating on the newly passed Consumer Products Safety Act of 2008.

For more information, please contact Tara Busby at (202) 434-4174 or Crystal Rockwood at (562) 682-6482, or visit khlaw.com.