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Etsy cracks down on skulls, drugs, lighter fluid for sale

The online artisan e-commerce site updates its Prohibited Items list, banning "the sale of human bones" and certain thermometers because of the "corrosive and toxic properties of mercury."

Real human skulls are no longer allowed to be sold on Etsy.
Screenshot by Dara Kerr/CNET

Just when it seemed like Etsy was the perfect place to pick up some human bones, poison, or drug paraphernalia, the online artisan e-commerce site announced it was banning these products and more.

It actually seems a bit laughable that Etsy had to earnestly state that it was forbidding these items, which include all smokeable products, human remains or body parts, hazardous materials, motor vehicles, and drugs -- but it did.

Here's what Etsy policy manager Lauren Engelhardt wrote in a blog post last week:

The Policy Team at Etsy is continually working to ensure that our rules balance the perspectives of our community (both shoppers and sellers) as well as the needs of Etsy as a company. In pursuit of that balance - though odd as it may sound - we've spent long hours over the past several months extensively researching some offbeat and fascinating topics, from issues surrounding the sale of human bones to the corrosive and toxic properties of mercury. All this research has led us to a set of important updates to the Prohibited Items list in the DOs & DON'Ts of Etsy.

There are a couple of humorous notables in the Prohibited Items list, such as "smokeable products," which bans tobacco and "herbal smoking blends," but does include a loophole for incense. Another is human remains or body parts -- detailed as skulls, bones, articulated skeletons, bodily fluids, preserved tissues, and organs -- which are forbidden, but human hair and teeth are apparently OK.

This new list of banned products are being added to a Prohibited Items list that already existed on Etsy, which included alcohol, live animals, pornography, firearms and/or weapons, and items that demean people based on race, ethnicity, religion, gender, gender identity, disability, or sexual orientation.

Engelhardt wrote that the e-commerce site will be reaching out to people who sold these items to notify them that it is no longer allowed. "We're taking care to help sellers understand the new rules and ensure their listings are in compliance," she wrote. "In some cases, listings may need to be removed. In other cases (such as the new rule about medical drug claims), it may be possible for a seller to edit the listing information and keep the item up for sale."