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Post date: December 22 2003

Report Finds Recalled Products Still Pose Threat

Attorney General Spitzer today released a report concluding that hazardous items - mostly children's products - continue to be resold in thrift stores and other second-hand stores.

The report, which recommends increased public awareness through educational campaigns as well as legislative reforms, was issued after investigators shopped at 112 thrift stores in various regions of the state and found that 63 percent were selling products that have been banned or recalled, or do not meet current industry-wide safety standards.

"The resale of recalled and possibly hazardous products poses serious health and safety concerns to New York residents," Spitzer said. "It is imperative to raise consumers' and thrift store operators' awareness of these problems through public education and through new laws."

Specifically, investigators found that hazardous products were for sale in 76 percent of stores shopped in Albany; 70 percent of stores shopped in Rochester; 60 percent of stores shopped in New York City and Long Island; 63 percent of stores shopped in Buffalo; 83 percent of stores shopped in Syracuse; 100 percent of stores shopped in Westchester; 50 percent of stores shopped in Binghamton; 33 percent of stores shopped in Utica; 100 percent of stores shopped in Watertown; 50 percent of stores shopped in Plattsburgh; and 28 percent of the stores shopped in Poughkeepsie.

By and large, investigators found hazardous infant and children's products on sale at thrift stores. Drawstring clothing, which has been associated with at least 22 deaths and 48 non-fatal injuries nationally, was the item most frequently found in thrift stores. Children's drawstring clothing has effectively been banned by voluntary industry standards since 1997, and its sale is now prohibited by state law in New York. Other hazardous items found for sale in thrift stores included:

  • cribs and playpens that fail to comply with safety standards;

  • recalled infants swings, carriers and car seats;

  • infant walkers that don't comply with industry standards;

  • bean bag chairs that lack warning labels and have pellets that can be ingested and cause asphyxiation in children;

  • infant bath seats and bath rings that lack warning labels;

  • hair dryers that lacked immersion protection devices to guard against electrocution; and

  • halogen lamps that have been recalled or violate industry standards due to fire hazards.

These very products - although still available in thrift stores - have accounted for nearly 500 deaths, mostly of children, tens of thousands of injuries and dozens of house fires nationally.

Spitzer's office commenced an investigation following a critical report issued by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission that determined that 69 percent of second-hand stores throughout the country were selling hazardous products. Investigators from the Attorney General's office then set out to determine whether the problem persisted in New York State and found that it did.

In an effort to improve safety, the report recommends increasing public awareness through education designed to reach consumers and thrift store operators. Specifically, Spitzer's office has produced posters and will be distributing them to thrift stores throughout the state. The office also has published a consumer brochure providing important information about many of the most commonly-found hazardous and recalled items.

In addition, the report makes recommendations to improve laws and regulations related to the sale of recalled and other hazardous items. Specifically, it supports:

  • Passage of a Congressional bill that requires manufactures to certify that infant and children's products have been tested for safety by independent laboratories;

  • Amending federal law to make injury information more publicly accessible;

  • State legislation making it unlawful to sell or lease recalled or dangerous children's products supplementing the Attorney General's existing authority to pursue manufacturers, distributors and sellers of such products;

  • Prohibiting confidential settlements when a child has been injured or killed by a consumer product; and

  • The use of product registration cards for certain types of children's products so that manufacturers can contact owners directly.

Assemblyman Jeff Klein: "I applaud Attorney General Spitzer's efforts to enhance consumer information concerning the presence of any unsafe products in thrift stores. My longstanding involvement in consumer issues has included sponsorship of the New York Children's Product Safety Act (A 6450). I look forward to working in partnership with the Attorney General – legislatively and administratively – to heighten consumer awareness of all unsafe and recalled products."

Rachel Weintraub, Assistant General Counsel for Consumer Federation of America: "As the annual toy buying season proceeds, parents and other consumers should be wary of purchasing their presents from thrift stores. Before buying any product, especially one for a child, check to see if the product has been recalled by going to Unfortunately, no one can assume that a product is safe just because it is on a store shelf. Consumer Federation supports Attorney General Spitzer's efforts to improve product safety and we urge other Attorney Generals, as well as state and federal legislators, to follow his lead."

Nancy Cowles, Executive Director of Kids In Danger: "This report from the Attorney General highlights the problem with our current children's product safety system. Without adequate pre-market testing, too many dangerous products make their way into homes and childcare centers and recalls are ineffective in removing them from the stream of commerce. We applaud the Attorney General's call for stronger testing requirements as well as strengthening New York law to remove unsafe products from second hand stores." Kids In Danger is a non-profit organization dedicated to protecting children by improving children's product safety.

To request copies of the Thrift Shop Initiative report, the educational brochure or the "Know the Products You Sell" posters, consumers should contact the Attorney General's consumer help line at (800) 771-7755.

This investigation was handled by Assistant Attorneys General Joy Feigenbaum and Leslie Neustadt of the Consumer Frauds and Protection Bureau.

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