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Consumer Product Safety: Its Application to PRCs

January 2010
By: Anne O'Connor
The Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008 (CPSIA) is a federal law that regulates the resale/redistribution of used consumer products. This law applies to pregnancy resource centers (PRCs) that distribute used items to clients through Earn While You Learn and similar programs. It is unlawful to distribute recalled products. There are strict limits for lead in paint and for lead content. Additionally, certain types of phthalates (found in plastics) are permanently prohibited in certain toys and children's products that can be placed in a child's mouth.


The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has developed a guidebook that will help PRCs better understand what they can and cannot do. This CPSC Handbook for Resale Stores and Product Resellers was created to help distributors of used products understand the new law and existing regulations, which can be quite confusing. The purpose of the Handbook is to help resellers identify the types of products that are affected and to understand how to comply with the law, so that unsafe products are kept out of consumer hands. We urge every PRC to download this Handbook and assign someone on staff to review it for implementation. It can be downloaded at www.cpsc.gov/cpscpub/pubs/thrift/thrguid.pdf.

CPSC's laws and regulations apply to anyone who sells or distributes consumer products. This includes thrift stores, consignment stores, charities, and even individuals holding yard sales and flea markets. A consumer product is any product that is found in or around the home, a school, or in a recreational setting, including furniture, appliances, rugs, curtains, bed linens, wearing apparel, jewelry, toys, sports equipment, and electronics. The CPSC website has a lot of information and can be found at www.cpsc.gov.

While PRCs are not required to test products for safety, they cannot knowingly distribute products that do not meet the requirements of the law. You can legally protect yourself by screening products when they are donated. As always, ignorance of the law is not an excuse. More importantly, we do not want to distribute products to our clients that have the potential to cause harm to anyone, especially a child.

The Handbook goes into detail about the products that cannot be distributed:

Products that have been recalled by CPSC.

Toys, furniture, and other articles intended for use by children with paint or other surface coatings containing lead over specified amounts.

Products primarily intended for children age 12 or younger with lead content over a specific amount.

Certain toys or child care articles that contain any one of six prohibited chemicals known as phthalates, which are primarily used as plasticizers.

Other products that violate CPSC's safety standards, bans, rules and regulations or otherwise present a substantial product hazard.
PRCs should be particularly alert regarding nursery furniture and other infant items. Products used in the nursery, especially cribs and bassinets, have caused deaths and have been the subject of many recalls. A staff person should regularly check the CPSC web site recall list (www.recalls.gov) and understand the specific things to look for on cribs, play pens, and play yards.

Anne O'Connor is General Counsel for National Institute of Family and Life Advocates (NIFLA). She has been involved with promoting the civil rights of the unborn since 1987. For more information, go to www.nifla.org.




Commonly Resold Children's Products from the CPSC Handbook
Bicycles and other related products (such as trailer bicycles and jogger strollers)OK to distribute; a two-year Stay of Enforcement allows resellers to put new and old bikes and parts out for sale
Items made entirely of wood (without paint, surface coatings or hardware)OK to distribute
Clothes, Blankets and other items made entirely of Dyed or undyed textiles (cotton, wool, hemp, nylon, etc.) Dyed or undyed yarn Non-metallic thread, trim, hook-and-loop (Velcro) and elasticOK to distribute
Clothes with rhinestones, metal or vinyl/plastic snaps, zippers, grommets, closures or appliquésBest to test, contact the manufacturer, or do not distribute
Inexpensive children's metal jewelryBest to test, contact the manufacturer, or do not distribute
Jewelry and other items made entirely of: Surgical steel, Precious metals such as gold (at least 10 karat), sterling silver (at least 925/1000), Precious and semiprecious gemstones (excluding a list of stones that are associated in nature with lead), or Natural or cultured pearlsOK to distribute
Children's books printed after 1985 that are conventionally printed and intended to be read (as opposed to used for play)OK to distribute; however, books with metal spiral bindings have been recalled for lead paint


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