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Management of Recalled Toys and Other Children’s Products Pursuant to the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act


Questions about the Disposal of Lead-Contaminated Items

The recall of lead-painted toys and other lead-contaminated products has prompted questions about the proper disposal of these items. The Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) was recently passed to establish safety standards and requirements for children’s products. This law went into effect on February 9, 2009, and establishes maximum amounts of lead that may be in products designed for children. Products which exceed these levels may not be sold in the US. As a result, EPA has received many inquiries about disposal requirements for lead-containing children’s products.

Consumers that own recalled or other products that exceed the CPSIA limits, should first seek to follow the recommendations provided in any recall or other notice about the product (recall notices and further information on the CPSIA). Such notices generally recommend returning the lead-contaminated products to the manufacturer. If a consumer cannot or elects not to take or send the lead-contaminated products to the manufacturer, and the consumer is a household (i.e., a residence, hotel, motel, bunkhouse, ranger station, crew quarters, campground, picnic ground or day-use recreation area) then the consumer generally may dispose of these items in their household trash. Consumers that qualify as households are exempted from federal hazardous waste regulations by EPA’s household hazardous waste exemption even if the product would otherwise be a hazardous waste. States and local governments may have additional requirements for disposal of these items in trash. Consumers should consult their state and local government for more information.

If retailers or other consumers that are not households discard the recalled products or items that exceed the CPSIA limits then they would need to comply with the appropriate federal, state and local regulations; they would need to determine if the materials were hazardous waste and, if they were, then they would need to ensure proper storage and treatment, transport, and ultimate disposal.

If manufacturers collect and then discard these materials, then they must also comply with the appropriate regulations; as noted above, they would need to determine if the materials were a hazardous waste, and if so, they would need to ensure proper storage and treatment, transport, and ultimate disposal.

In summary, the key points in managing and disposing of these items are:

  1. Items from households may be disposed of as ordinary household trash (i.e., they are exempt from the federal hazardous waste regulations under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA));
  2. Whoever discards these materials from sources other than households (the generator) is responsible for determining whether they are considered a hazardous waste;
  3. If the items are hazardous, the management and disposal requirements vary depending on the volume of waste being generated; and
  4. The federal regulations establish the minimum set of management requirements, but states may have different or additional requirements, and should be consulted in planning the management and disposal of these items.

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