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Secondhand Products and Recalls: 3 Safety Tips

Jan 20, 2023
child pack and play

I love a good bargain, but I also want to keep my kiddo safe and healthy. So, before we bring any products into our home - whether we bought them from a store or a neighbor or they were given to us by a well-meaning family member or friend - we always check to see if they’ve been recalled.

There is a new recall for a nursery product about every two weeks in the U.S., and up to 80% of recalled children’s products remain in homes following a recall. Chances are if you have kids in your home, you also have a recalled product in your home.

The 2008 Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act made it illegal to sell recalled items, but this law is hard to enforce and many sellers don’t realize their products have been recalled. That’s why it’s important to do your homework before buying or accepting secondhand items.

There are several products that are often in the news for recalls:

  • Inclined sleepers like the Fisher Price Rock ‘n Play. In fact, all inclined sleepers are banned as of the May 2022 Safe Sleep for Babies Act.
  • Dressers, including several from IKEA. Regardless of the price, brand, or size, all dressers should always be anchored to the wall to prevent tip-overs. Learn more about furniture and TV tip-overs, including prevention tips, here.

Several other product categories have had updated safety standards in the last 15 years. For example:

  • Cribs: Only use cribs manufactured after 2011, which is when safety standards were changed, to make sure you are using the safest model. Earlier cribs often have a drop-side and other characteristics that have led to injury and death. Even with repair kits, these older cribs can still be dangerous. Baby spends so much time in the crib - make sure it’s a safe one.
  • Portable cribs, playards, and playpens: Use a playpen manufactured after 2013, which is when the latest safety updates were issued. Earlier pack & plays can collapse easily and have led to injury and death.
  • Baby walkers: While the safety standards for baby walkers were updated in 2010, because of the lack of benefits and the serious injuries that result from use of baby walkers, we support the American Academy of Pediatrics’ call for a ban on the manufacture, sale, and importation of baby walkers in the US. Canada banned the manufacture, sale, and importation of baby walkers in 2004. Parents should not buy a baby walker for their child, and if they have one, they should remove the wheels and dispose of it. Baby activity centers or exersaucers are safer alternatives.

If you’re buying secondhand products, here are a few tips to make sure they’re safe:

  • Check for recalls. If you’re buying online, ask for a photo of the packaging, label, or sticker with product information. You’ll need the brand, model name, and date of manufacture. You can even use the serial number if available. Use this information to look up the product at recalls.gov. While you are there, sign up to receive alerts about future recalls.
  • Check the condition. Once you bring a product into your home, make sure all the parts are there and nothing is broken.
  • Register the product. When you bring a new (or new to you) product into your home, make sure to register your purchase with the manufacturer. This will ensure you’re notified if the product is recalled. There’s usually a postcard that comes with the product or the packaging might direct you to complete a form on the manufacturer’s website. If you no longer have the registration card or the manual, you can check online or simply search for the model name and/or the word “register” on the manufacturer’s website.

Some products, including car seats and bike helmets, should never be bought secondhand. Car seats and bike helmets aren’t as effective once they’ve been involved in a crash and it’s hard to know if this has happened. These products also expire after several years (they have a sticker listing their expiration date), but many people ignore that.

If you see a recalled product being sold online or at a garage sale you can politely tell the seller that it’s an unsafe product and suggest they throw it away rather than sell it. The 2008 Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act made it illegal to sell recalled items so they could actually be cited by the CPSC. Many sellers don’t realize their products have been recalled.

If you have a recalled product, stop using it! Products are recalled because they are not safe. The recall notice (found at www.recalls.gov) will tell you if you need to return the product for a refund, order a replacement part to make the product safer, or if you should simply throw it away.

Center for Injury Research and Policy
Read more about home safety

Featured Expert

Laura Dattner, MA
Center for Injury Research and Policy

Laura Dattner is a research writer in the Center for Injury Research and Policy. With both a health communications and public health background, she works to translate pediatric injury research into meaningful, accurate messages which motivate the public to make positive behavior changes.

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700 Children’s® features the most current pediatric health care information and research from our pediatric experts – physicians and specialists who have seen it all. Many of them are parents and bring a special understanding to what our patients and families experience. If you have a child – or care for a child – 700 Children’s was created especially for you.