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Resale of Recalled Children’s Products Online

New study reveals danger to online shoppers on Internet auction site


COLUMBUS, OH - 8/6/2007

On average, more than 2 children’s products are recalled each week in the United States.  Recalls on children’s products represent more than 40 percent of recalls by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), and account for more than 50 percent of injuries due to recalled products.  A new study cautions that parents shopping for children’s products on online auction sites should be aware of the potential danger of buying recalled toys and other goods.

The study, published in the August issue of Injury Prevention, found a variety of previously recalled children’s products for sale on the internet’s most popular auction site, with several of the products recalled more than five years ago.

According to the study, during a one-month period, 190 auctions contained or were suspected to contain a recalled children’s item from a target list of 141 products. On average, six bids were placed on each recalled item, with 70 percent of the auctions eventuating in a sale. Most of the recalled items were listed for sale from addresses within the United States, with sellers from Canada, Australia, Great Britain and Ireland also represented.

“Although the CPSC is charged with notifying the public of recalled items, these results demonstrate that potentially hazardous products are still circulating online,” said Gary Smith, MD, DrPH, the study’s senior author and director of the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Columbus Children’s Hospital. “A multi-front initiative to decrease the presence of hazards in online auctions is needed.”

Dr. Smith said this initiative should include increased manufacturer efforts to improve recall return rates; a requirement by online auction sites that sellers verify non-recall status before item posting; and parental checks of the government recall website (www.recalls.gov) before item purchase.

“The primary goal should be to decrease the number of units of recalled products ‘at large’ via interventions to increase product returns for repair or replacement. By decreasing the average life of recalled children’s products, hazardous items will be less likely found for second-hand resale,” said Dr. Smith, also a faculty member at The Ohio State University College of Medicine.

In the U.S., consumer products that either violate safety standards or present a significant risk of injury to the public can be recalled by the CPSC.  Targeted items in the study were randomly selected from the CPSC list of recalled children’s products for 1992–2004. Auction listings on eBay were searched for the 141 targeted recalled items for 30 days.  Dr. Smith cautioned that the search was extensive, but not exhaustive; therefore, the number of hazardous products found during the search period is likely to be a conservative estimate of the true number of recalled children’s products featured in online auctions.

Keri Brown Kirschman, PhD, Department of Psychology at the University of Dayton, was the lead author of this study, which she conducted while working earlier in the Center for Injury Research and Policy.

The Center for Injury Research and Policy (CIRP) works at the local, state, regional, national, and international levels to reduce death and disability due to injuries through research, education, advocacy and advances in clinical care. CIRP aims to improve the scientific understanding of the epidemiology, prevention, acute treatment, rehabilitation and biomechanics of injuries. CIRP educates health and other professionals, policy makers, and the public regarding the importance of injuries, injury research and injury prevention. CIRP provides leadership in the development, implementation and scientific evaluation of public policy regarding control of injuries. CIRP provides leadership and technical assistance in injury research and prevention science.

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