How To Protect Your Children Against Dangerous and Recalled Toys

If you are a parent, you know how quickly children can go through favorite toys, depending on their age. Kids are rough on recreational products, including toys that can sometimes pose a significant threat to their health and well-being. Nonetheless, parents and care providers want to make sure that children have enough stimulation that encourages healthy learning and development.

A visit to a local department store or specialty toy retailer will tell you everything you need to know about the cost of new toys for kids. Is it any wonder that parents seek cost-saving opportunities through thrift stores, garage sales and online marketplaces like EBay, Craigslist, or Facebook bargain groups? While there is no mistaking the amount of money that can be saved by purchasing gently used toys and accessories for children, there is an increased risk of bringing items into your home that are toxic or dangerous.

How big is the problem with regard to the resale of recalled toys in the United States? In this article, we will demonstrate how easy it is for families to find bargains on recalled, chemically unsafe, or hazardous children’s toys. We will also provide valuable tips for parents to help them research their purchases, and protect their family (while still saving money).

Where Can Families Accidentally Find Recalled Toys and Unsafe Products?

A study conducted in 1999 by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) intended to measure the number of hazardous, recalled toys available at thrift shops throughout the United States. The results targeted banned and recalled products that posed a significant risk of death or serious injury for children.

The results revealed after inspecting 301 randomly sampled thrift store outlets were shocking. National chains such as the Salvation Army and Goodwill accounted for 28 percent of the survey sample, given the popularity of both thrift stores, among an estimated 10,000 general thrift shop locations in the United States – many of which were owned and operated independently.

The survey and inspection revealed that:

  • Sixty-nine percent of thrift shops had at least one product that was hazardous.
  • Three percent of thrift stores carried toy basketball nets, which had been recalled for injury risk.
  • Banned lawn darts were easily found in many thrift store locations.
  • Hair dryers without electrical guards or heat element protection were readily found available for resale in thrift stores. These pose a significant risk of electrocution for children and adults.
  • Banned ride-on battery powered vehicles (Fisher-Price and Peg Perego) which were removed from the market after 180 fires and 10 million recalls and returns were available for purchase.
  • Infant swings, including the brands like Cosco’s Quiet Time, Graco models, and Century’s Lil’ Napper, were found for sale despite recalls due to choking hazards.
  • Used window blinds (while not toys) with looped pull strings had been recalled since 1981 and new designs feature single string pulls, to prevent choking or strangulation from children. Banned blinds were frequently found at thrift store locations.
  • Children’s clothing with drawstrings. The design with strings around hooded outerwear or sweatshirts has been banned for more than a decade; this type of used clothing was easily found in multiple thrift shops inspected.

While the information is readily available to thrift shop owners (chains and privately operated retailers), the speed with which donations are processed, cleaned, and then priced for sale was indicated as a contributing factor. Larger charitable locations experience staffing shortages and difficulty with the arduous task of checking to ensure that every toy has been verified as safe; the job is so daunting, in fact, that many thrift shops have stopped selling toys altogether for fear of liability and personal injury suits.

It is important for parents to understand that, while there are many bargains to be had in a thrift shop, the cost of injury, risks, and fatality is far higher. Parents should not be discouraged from seeking thrift store bargains, but should be aware of how and where to look to find out if items have been recalled for safety concerns.

Safety Resources for Parents and Thrift Shop Owners

Maintaining an awareness of each model of toy or consumer product that is recalled is virtually impossible. However, training yourself to be diligent about checking the status of a consumer product is a responsible and reliable way to ensure that parents and consumers do not inadvertently bring recalled hazardous products and toys into the home or classroom.

The United States Consumer Product Safety Commission provides an updated list of all recalled products on a convenient website that is accessible on smartphones for mobile shoppers. The USCPS Recall Listings page is constantly updated to provide consumers with the most current information to assist in the safe removal of recalled items. While different states have varying laws and methods of disposing of recalled consumer items and toys, defective product law in Bridgeport, Connecticut (for example) provides a “Connecticut Product Liability Act” where manufacturers are required to pay reparation for negligence that leads to injuries due to malfunction, chemical exposure injuries, or even faulty and dangerous packaging.

Thrift stores are not the only location where recalled and hazardous toys can be found for sale. Increasingly, importers are using online sales to distribute toys which are illegal to import, if they have been inspected and determined to be hazardous. The problem is that many disreputable manufacturers do not submit their novelty toys for inspection, and can circumvent the consumer protection fail-safes that exist to protect U.S. consumers.

Remember to check every item (even new items purchased online) against the USCPS Recall Listing page to avoid buying any recalled or unsafe toys and household products.

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