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Snopes is Wrong on the CPSIA

*Edit* January 10, 2012: With this entry still garnering lots of hits I want to point out there have been MANY changes to the CPSIA and subsequent guidance issued by the CPSC. For up-to-date info, please visit www.cpsc.gov.

For anybody who isn’t familiar with Snopes.com, it’s an interesting site. They search for facts on urban legends and rumors, then say if those rumors are True or False. I have personally used their site on numerous occasions, but after what I read today, Snopes is dead to me.

Snopes chose to “fact check” the claims of the CPSIA making it illegal to sell used and second hand children’s items. I’m using “fact check” loosely here, folks, because Snopes said it is False! They Quote this line from a recent CPSC release:

Sellers of used children’s products, such as thrift stores and consignment stores, are not required to certify that those products meet the new lead limits, phthalates standard or new toy standards.

The problem here, is that in the same release the CPSC goes on to say the following:

However, resellers cannot sell children’s products that exceed the lead limit and therefore should avoid products that are likely to have lead content, unless they have testing or other information to indicate the products being sold have less than the new limit. Those resellers that do sell products in violation of the new limits could face civil and/or criminal penalties.

So the CPSC has basically said ‘Hey, it’s OK to break the law, as long as you don’t get caught’. What?! When is it EVER OK to break the law?

Furthermore, Snopes makes an incorrect statement about pre-existing inventory. For clarification I will tell you the law first, as it is written under the CPSIA. No pre-existing inventory can be sold as of February 10th if they are not proven to meet the lead requirements. However, pre-existing inventory that contains phthalates are still OK to sell as of the same date. Here is what Snopes had to say on this:

The new law requires that domestic manufacturers and importers certify that children’s products made after 10 February 2009 meet all new safety standards and comply with the lead ban.

You see the difference between the actual law and what they’ve written? Well one would think ‘Hey, let’s contact them and let them know about the inaccuracies of their article’, but guess what? Fashion Incubator , the group widely credited with raising the most awareness on the CPSIA impact to begin with, reports people have already tried this.

Snopes has refused to change their article.

Knowing what I do about the CPSIA and the comments Snopes made has led me to feel I can no longer view them as the wonderful debunking crew I once thought they were.

If a reseller of children’s clothes uses their article as legal advice and winds up getting fined, I would not at all be surprised to see Snopes being sued.

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14 comments on “Snopes is Wrong on the CPSIA

  1. Kathleen
    January 15, 2009

    There’s no way to leave a comment on your other entry (thanks for the mention).

    FWIW, I googled “snopesiswrong.com” and lo and behold, there was no such site! Can you believe the url is available? Or rather, I should say, it WAS available. Heh.

  2. grecowoodcrafting
    January 15, 2009

    Ah yea, I believe you need a 1000Markets.com account to comment there.

    Congratulations on your new URL acquisition! Let me know once it is up and running 🙂

  3. Mommaofmany
    January 16, 2009

    I’m glad you posted on this. I checked there and was disappointed with their explanation.

  4. B. Durbin
    January 17, 2009

    Snopes is best for internet memes; it’s at its worst when dealing with modern politics and law. That doesn’t mean that they’re entirely untrustworthy but they are somewhat partisan and they rely a little too heavily on major media reporting rather than primary sources about certain topics. Basically, they don’t do deep research.

    Expect a change from them ONLY if there are major stories on the issue. Forbes just did and article on the subject; perhaps you could use that link in a follow-up email?

  5. Heather Idoni
    March 3, 2009

    “People BELIEVE what we say, yes they do!
    Whatever we say they’ll believe that it’s true!

    They won’t check their own facts; they’ll rely upon us —
    We’ll lull them to sleep and they won’t make a fuss!…”

    http://www.easyfunschool.com/snopes_is_wrong_about_the_cpsia_spoof_seuss_story.html

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  7. Terrible Ted
    October 21, 2009

    Snopes is reliable moreso than any news agency. Your response to the CPSIA and selling used toys is ridiculious. If they clearly says
    “However, resellers cannot sell children’s products that exceed the lead limit and therefore should avoid products that are likely to have lead content, unless they have testing or other information to indicate the products being sold have less than the new limit. Those resellers that do sell products in violation of the new limits could face civil and/or criminal penalties.” meaning if it has too much lead and the seller has easy access to the information, you can’t sell it.
    Some how you sound as if you are in the toy distribution business and see a potential cash windfall coming you way. Quit salivating.

    Your interpretation of said rule are incrediblty naive.

  8. grecowoodcrafting
    October 21, 2009

    Actually, Terrible Ted, the only one seeing a toy windfall come their way may be Mattel, but that’s a different CPSIA story unrelated to Snopes.

    The CPSIA specifically states that any items that do not meet the allowed lead levels (currently 300 parts per million for lead content, 90 ppm for paint and surface coatings) is a BANNED HAZARDOUS SUBSTANCE.

    The CPSC themselves recently issued guidance aimed specifically at resellers (link below). Their advice? “Products cannot be sold if they have more than the allowable limit of lead content.” How is a reseller supposed to know if some randomly donated item meets the allowed limit? If it isn’t one of the few items excluded due to scientifically knowing those items are inherently at or below allowable limits (unfinished wood or textiles, for instance) the ONLY way to know is to test the item.

    What if they sell something that doesn’t meet the allowed limits? It’s a $100,000 fine per infraction and a felony violation.

    The CPSC even goes on to say in their resellers guide that they recommend resellers test items! That goes against your interpretation of “easy access”, don’t you think? Is it required? Technically not in the sense that a GCC is required, but to not test any questionable items is putting yourself at risk. Many mom and pop consignment shops cannot simply take on that level of potential liability.

    Also, Snopes mistakenly says that this law is not retroactive (that these levels only apply to items made after February 10, 2009). Incorrect, which is why the CPSC sated any book printed before 1985 cannot be sold or donated. Because up until 1985 lead was still used in some inks, and you know how kids just love to eat books.

    And just as an FYI no, I’m not a toy distributor. I am a father of 2, a woodworker who handmakes wooden toys and a member of the Handmade Toy Alliance. Here’s the link I promised:

    http://www.cpsc.gov/cpscpub/pubs/thrift/thrguid.pdf

    -John

  9. grecowoodcrafting
    October 21, 2009

    Whoops! I actually goofed and forgot the CPSC recently determined pre-1985 books are no longer intended for children, but are rather “vintage” items for adults. They are currently OK to sell and donate again.

    -John

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  13. tronvillain
    November 14, 2014

    Either that criticism was never accurate, or it was accurate for a month (or less) until Snopes updated their article back in February of 2009, because what the article claims isn’t what Snopes says.

    For example, what they say Snopes says: ” The new law requires that domestic manufacturers and importers certify that children’s products made after 10 February 2009 meet all new safety standards and comply with the lead ban.”

    What Snopes actually says: ”
    The new law requires that domestic manufacturers and importers certify that children’s products sold after 10 February 2009 meet all the new safety standards and comply with the lead ban.”

    Maybe it’s just out of date you say? It would be a little irresponsible to continue to make such claims (including “Snopes has refused to change their article.”) once they are no longer true, but okay. Except… they had the time to say this:

    ” *Edit* January 10, 2012: With this entry still garnering lots of hits I want to point out there have been MANY changes to the CPSIA and subsequent guidance issued by the CPSC. For up-to-date info, please visit http://www.cpsc.gov.”

    But not the time to mention that the Snopes article was updated three years earlier. I guess it’s all about the hits eh?

    • GrecoWoodcrafting
      November 15, 2014

      I left this in place not because of the hits (which now, nearly 3 years since that edit, are few and far between) but to preserve the context of the conversations that followed. It’s not like this is blowing up, though. Yours is the first comment in over a year and a half. But to satisfy your curiosity, if it had never been accurate I would never have posted it. Read through my blog. It’s not the kind of place you find conspiracy theories and wild accusations.

      Thank you for stopping by and I hope you enjoy your weekend.

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