Garages sales, yard sales and thrift stores can be full of great bargains. You can find all kinds of trinkets and treasures, but there are some items you should be weary of when searching for that amazing summer deal. Here is a public health perspective on six popular garage sale items.
1) Child Car Seats- Three public health cautions on this item: 1) Expiration, 2) History & 3) Recall. Many people do not know car seats have expiration dates. The expiration date is typically six or seven years for new seats and ten years for older seats. Expired car seats may not meet current safety standards and should not be used. You can find the expiration date stamped in the plastic on the back or bottom of a car seat or on its model number label. Even if a car seat is not expired, it may have been in an accident. Most car seat manufacturers do not allow a car seat to be used after any type of accident, even if there is no visible damage. A final consideration is whether the seat has been recalled. Do not buy a car seat unless you are sure it is not recalled, this is true of newer seats as well as older seats.
2) Bicycle or Motorcycle Helmets- As is the case for most safety equipment, it is important to know whether the item has ever been in a crash. Not all accidents result in visible damage to safety equipment. When you buy a second-hand helmet or other safety equipment, you run the risk of relying on a piece of damaged equipment to protect you.
3) Cribs- There have been many recalls over the years on cribs. Some older cribs may have chipped paint or splintered wood. Additionally, older cribs may not meet safety standards now in place, such as spacing requirements between slats. Also pass on stuffed animals, bumper pads, and other soft items for the crib. Pediatricians now recommend infant sleep environments be kept free of soft items, which have been linked to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).
4) Mattresses & Bed Frames- With bed bugs making their presence well known, use caution when buying mattresses and bed frames. Bed bugs can hide in very small crevices and are extremely hard to get rid of once they've made your home their home. Mattresses also can be full of mites, dandruff, sloughed skin and other remnants of their previous owner.
5) Couches and Other Fabric Furniture- Same as with mattresses, these could be home to bed bugs. Before you buy check every seam for evidence of bed bug "spotting" (brown, black or reddish brown spots of dried fecal matter).
6) Shoes- Adult shoes actually form to your foot. Thus, wearing someone else's broken in shoes could result in foot, joint and back pain. Make sure you check the sole and the insert of the shoe for wear and pressure marks.
The bottom line when buying second-hand products is to think about the unknown. You don't know its history, how it has been treated, or how much it was used. This is especially true when considering baby items or safety products. When considering purchasing these types of items it is important to remember EXPIRATION, RECALL & HISTORY. For more information on recalled products visit the Consumer Product Safety Commission.