Are there any trade-offs in childhood health and safety issues? Sue Gunderson, Executive Director of CLEARCorps, says nonono, particularly when the children involved are low-income. CLEARCorps is a non-profit created in the mid 1990s to educate families and communities about lead hazards. Since then it has expanded its mission to healthy families.
The issue has come up within the context of the new rules in the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act, going into effect February 12. [Useful background material on that complex, ambiguous act is available on the website for the Association of Synthetic Grass Installers (ASGI). That's because the artificial-turf industry, whose product contains lead, is affected.]
On February 12th, the rules mandate that all products - both new and used - for children 12 and under need to be tested for lead as well as phthalates [the latter makes plastic products flexible.] Until that testing takes place, the items will be considered hazardous and not be able to be sold. Those found to be hazardous cannot be sold either.
The "used" part is what has gotten on Gunderson's radar screen. For example, in the TRI-CITY HERALD, there is a semi-advocacy article which presents the argument that thrift stores should be exempt from the act. The thrust of that pitch is that given this testing requirement, the low-income would no longer have access to second-hand merchandise for children. Stores selling used merchandise can't afford to do the testing.
Gunderson views the reasoning as absurd. What thrift stores seem to be requesting is for the right to expose children to health and safety hazards. "Let's get our priorities straight," she insists. She goes on to pose this rhetorical question: "Mmmmmm, do we want cheap, second-hand toys that could damage children?" She frames this issue as a "business" one which the thrift-store industry will have to solve just as will every other business impacted by the new act.
Recently, CLEARCorps was awarded a $6.7 million contract for lead remediation in Rhode Island for inner-city housing.