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Sharon Vail doesn’t carry a huge stock of kid-oriented items at her resale shop on Madison, but everything she does have is now subject to federal regulations that make it risky for her to keep it on the shelves.

In products geared toward kids under the age of 13, the amount of lead is being closely watched under the new Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act, which took effect Feb. 10. Compliance is a must, and penalties can be stiff. But for store owners like Vail, testing is not mandatory. She is literally being asked to guess whether a product violates the new laws.

“Is there lead in it? I don’t know,” Vail said, standing next to a rack of children’s clothing.

Items with more than 600 parts per million of lead are not to be sold in the United States, and the list of products affected by the act is long. Books, clothing, jewelry, toys and anything else a child might touch or put in their mouth.

Resale shops like Vail’s, A Little Bit of Everything, 7314 Madison, are arguing they’re at a particular disadvantage because most of their inventory is either donated or sold on consignment and doesn’t come straight from a manufacturer. This puts an incredible burden on shop owners to pay for testing, clear their shelves, or take a risk.

“I’m a one-person shop, so we’ll see what happens,” Terri Budzyn, owner of Krazy About Kids, said.

Budzyn’s outlet shop at 406 S. Thomas caters entirely to young children and specializes in clothing. Because of the economic downturn, Budzyn has seen a huge demand for second hand clothes, but is nervous now about accepting certain items. Raincoats, she said, are a suspected hazard because of their vinyl properties, but without testing them she isn’t sure. So, she’s not selling them.

On a daily basis, Budzyn checks an online list of recalled products maintained by the Consumer Products Safety Commission.

“We’re vigilantly following what the CPSC is doing, and trying to comply,” Budzyn said.

In August, allowable lead levels will be cut in half, and reduced again in 2011.

Testing for lead would provide more definitive answers for those affected by the legislation, but it is an expensive proposition. The American Library Association estimates it would cost several hundred dollars to test a single book. At the Forest Park Public Library, some 8,000 books targeting kids age 12 and younger were loaned between May 2008 and January 2009.

The expense of testing its children’s books, said Youth Services Librarian Lindsey Kraft, would be exorbitant.

“For us, the ramifications could be that we could not allow kids under 12 in the library, or test every book, which we couldn’t do because it would be too expensive,” Kraft said.

Because of lobbying efforts by the American Library Association, the village’s library – and all others across the U.S. – is exempt from the law until February 2010.

Changes to the new lead law are expected, and legislators and interest groups are trying to develop a more manageable set of rules. As it stands, anyone supplying children’s items to the public – whether it be retail, a garage sale or an online auction site – is subject to the guidelines.

“Rather than applying the lead content provision to products manufactured after the effective date, Congress applied it to all products out in the stream of commerce on Feb. 10, sitting in container ships, in warehouses and on store shelves,” Nancy Nord, acting chairman of the Consumer Product Safety Commission said in a Feb. 5 statement. “Congress has never before enacted such a sweeping consumer product provision in a retroactive manner and the disruptive results of this provision are now being seen in painful ways.”