As the parents of young children, my wife and I have purchased or received as gifts everything from car seats to strollers to cribs to toys…the list goes on and on. We try and keep up with safety warnings and product recalls on all the items that will end up being used by our children, but as we recently discovered, our own vigilance isn’t enough.
The biggest problem is simply being made aware about a dangerous toy or piece of baby furniture. Unless you have registered as the owner of a crib later found hazardous, for instance, you may not receive a recall notice. To avoid this, I strongly suggest filling out and sending in those pre-paid postcards that come with every new product. This is the best aid a manufacturer has to notify you in case of a recall.
The second best is to periodically check the Safe Kids website http://www.safekids.org This is a must on every parents website bookmarks as it is continuously updated and lists children’s product recalls going back years. Drop-sided cribs that can injure, mesh “playpens” that collapse, toys with high levels of lead, plush animals whose ears are held on with a spike and button eyes that come off easily, toys that can choke, pajamas that can catch on fire…all listed here.
It’s a great resource to check for a recall you may not have noticed so you can return the item – or avoid buying it in the first place. However, as I said at the beginning of this article, your attention to the products in your home isn’t enough to keep your children away from the danger they pose, nor is the fact the products are no longer being sold at the mall. They’re still out there, and they’re still being sold.
Garage sales and second-hand stores are the huge marketplaces for used children’s furniture and toys. I’d venture to say someone selling their used crib at a garage sale has no idea it was recalled because of a manufacturing defect that causes a side to drop. Worse yet, the purchaser isn’t aware of the danger, and is often someone on a budget and can’t afford a new crib.
Another large group of purchasers are folks who run daycare or babysitting services out of their homes. They’re looking for inexpensive toys and children's furniture – with safety as an afterthought. Unfortunately, there’s also another group that can unwittingly buy recalled and dangerous children’s products: grandparents.
Grandparents, especially those that live out-of-state from the grandkids, will haunt garage sales and used furniture stores looking for things to furnish the spare room when “the kids” come to visit. As loving as this gesture is, it can also mean filling the guest room with recalled toys and baby furniture. As parents, it is up to us to review the grandparents’ purchases. Introducing them to the Safe Kids website is a terrific first step; encouraging them to research before they buy is a lot easier than asking them to remove a defective crib from their home.
My wife and I are under no illusions that we can remove all the dangers our children will face as they go through life. We do what we can do with the resources available, and have had talks with the grandparents about dangerous and defective kids’ products. Keeping our children safe is a priority for us as it is for all parents, and it’s worth a few extra minutes on a website to cut down some of the risks.
In closing, for those who may think I’m being a bit over-protective, let me close with an anecdote from a friend with twin 6-year old boys…seems the boys were visiting the grandparents, and Grandpa had been to a garage sale, where he bought the “perfect” gift for the boys…an old set of Jarts. Big pointed tips and all, banned decades ago, but still for sale. Heads up!