Sellers beware: Even at garage sales products must be safe

Selling any used cribs or playpens at your upcoming garage sale? Children's clothes with drawstrings or zippers? Pre-1985 books? Rubber duckies or pool floaties?

Better check them twice.

Just like megasize toy manufacturers and stores that sell products from China, the notoriously broad and confusing federal Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act applies to you and your front yard.

Anyone selling products, even used ones, that have been recalled or banned by the act is in violation. The act covers everything from toys with lead paint to cribs that might strangle babies.

“Ignorance of the law is not an excuse,” warns a 27-page Consumer Product Safety Commission resellers’ handbook, released this month. “But more importantly … you do not want to sell products that have the potential to harm anyone, especially a child.”

Besides people holding yard sales, the law applies to thrift or consignment stores, charities, flea markets and people who sell on auction Web sites, the handbook says.

Unlike manufacturers, resellers aren’t required to test used products for lead and phthalates.

However, they are supposed to educate themselves about safety standards and, somehow, ensure none of their products violates them.

The safety commission will not patrol garage sales, commission spokesman Scott Wolfson said. But store proprietors who knowingly or repeatedly violate the law may be fined.

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