Q: I am a children's pastor. We have replaced all of our cribs, in light of the new regulations banning certain ones from being used, sold, or donated in this country. We have a missionary we support in South America who runs an orphanage. They have children sleeping on the floor, and they are very interested in our old cribs. They visited several months ago and they have a plan for making the cribs safe with a simple conversion that will not allow the sides to drop. My question is, since they are in another country, is it legal for us to ship these cribs to them?
A: In June 2011, the first of a two-stage process to implement the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act's new regulations for the sale, distribution, and use of nursery cribs in the United States went into effect. On December 28, 2012, the second stage begins.
The first-stage involved a ban on traditional drop-side cribs, including any immobilizers and/or repair kits to remedy them; stronger wood requirements for all crib slats; anti-loosening devices for all crib hardware; stronger durability for all crib mattress supports; and more rigorous safety testing for all cribs documented by manufacturers.
The second stage of the process disallows the use of any noncompliant cribs by a child care facility. All churches that offer fee-based services are affected. Churches that don't charge a fee still must weigh the risks of using noncompliant cribs, since an injury or death resulting from the use of a noncompliant crib may not be covered by the church's general liability insurance policy, and a victim's family could file a civil lawsuit against the church and its board.
The first stage of the new regulations also requires older, noncompliant cribs to not be placed "in the stream of commerce," and to be disposed "in a manner that the cribs cannot be reassembled and used. Noncompliant cribs should not be resold through online auction sites or donated to local thrift stores," according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, the agency overseeing the regulations.
There is no definition of "stream of commerce" in the regulations, so it is impossible to say if the crib rules would apply to a U.S. church donating noncompliant cribs to a church in a foreign country. I would note that the U.S. Supreme Court issued a ruling a year ago defining "stream of commerce" narrowly in an unrelated context. I would encourage you to contact the CPSC directly (via a toll-free call at 1-800-638-2772 or via online submission form) for a definitive answer to this question if you desire to move forward with your plans, in light of what we already know about the new regulations here in the United States.
Securing Cribs in Your Church's Nursery, a downloadable resource from Church Law & Tax Report, provides more details on the effects of the new regulations on churches.
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