January 16, 2009

Lead law puts clothing makers in a bind

A Feb. 10 deadline banning lead-contaminated children's clothing has U.S. manufacturers scrambling to test their products, industry observers said.

The Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act, passed in 2008, prohibits retailers from selling clothes with lead levels more than 600 parts per million for items designed for children 12 and under, the Los Angeles Times reported Friday.

But hundreds of clothing makers have not yet had their products tested and testing labs are in short supply, the Times said.

Everybody waited till the last minute, and it's not a short-term test, said Ari McKee Sexton, marketing communications manager for Stork Materials Technology.

Tests costs, on average, $800. Yet with the economy the way it is, you can't pass the cost on to the consumer, said Joanne Yamamoto, owner of Mimi & Maggie, which makes girls' clothing in Los Angeles.

Some retailers, such as Neiman Marcus, have said they won't consider buying children's clothing that aren't certified, even though testing has created a bottleneck in the supply line.

It's going to really hurt our business, and we're already struggling because retail is not doing very well, said Anastasia Backstrand, owner of children's clothes maker Tralala Inc.