This week, bloggers across the nation are taking to their keyboards to raise awareness of the mess that is the current Consumer Product Safety legislation regarding children’s products, and I’m joining them. Monday, I started with an overview of the situation and an introduction to the Handmade Toy Alliance. Yesterday I discussed the outrage that is Mattel getting a free ride out of the legislation.
Today I want to focus on another unintended consequence, the disappearance of legal secondhand toys.
(img courtesy Cody at ScurvyDog Photography)
Even though resellers like thrift stores aren’t required to test and certify their products, they ARE required to refrain from selling toys and other children’s items which would not pass these tests. Quoting from the Handmade Toy Alliance’s FAQ sheet: “The CPSC has issued clarification on 2/9/09 that in order to DONATE an item that has paint or similar coating it must be third party tested. Items for children under 3 will require small parts testing. Donations of products with soft vinyl or plastic, or buttons and zippers should be avoided. “
Further, resale shops ARE required to screen their incoming products to be sure they would pass the testing. These items include “…every product intended for a child age 12 and under, from clothing to bicycles. Toys, clothes, furniture, books, jewelry, blankets, games, CDs/DVDs, strollers, and footwear…” However, since there’s not a reliable way of doing the screening, consignment shops across the country are often choosing to simply not sell these items. Same goes for thrift stores and other recipients of donations- given the uncertainty, many children’s items are refused and wind up with no where left to go but the landfill.
Not only is it hurting the business of the stores themselves, but many families who rely on purchasing secondhand because they can’t afford new are finding their options dwindling. Even garage sales and church fundraisers are not technically exempt, although realistically they would be at pretty low risk for prosecution.
“If you’re going to have a garage sale, be careful what gets sold because if someone gets hurt they can sue you,” said Kathleen Reilly, public affairs specialist for the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.
As someone who believes very strongly in buying secondhand wherever possible, I find this appalling. Where clothing is concerned, children often outgrow items well before they are worn out, and often tire of toys before their useful life is over. What a waste to have to throw these things away. Beyond that, the most eco-friendly item is the one that already exists, and our landfills are full enough already.