Special to tc• Media
Now that the warmer weather has arrived, families and friends are gearing up for their annual garage/yard sale, or flea market. It’s a great time to get rid of clutter that’s accumulated in basements and garages and an ideal time for bargain hunters to prove that the age-old adage ‘One man’s trash is another man’s treasure’ still holds true today.
However, an emergency room physician at the Janeway Children’s Hospital in St. John’s said that while parents always want what’s best for their children, infant and toddler products bought at yard sales or flea markets may have unintentional safety risks for the child.
“Products that have been sitting in the garage or the basement for a few years may be unsafe for a number of reasons: age, wear and tear by other children, or simply by the fact that they no longer meet today’s safety standard,” said pediatrician Dr. John Martin.
In addition to his role with Eastern Health, Dr. Martin is also an assistant professor of pediatrics at Memorial University.
According to Health Canada, people holding garage sales are legally responsible for ensuring that products being sold, whether new or used, are safe and meet current regulatory requirements.
In a release posted on its website in May titled Facts for Garage Sales Vendors, Health Canada lists numerous items that are banned in Canada. These items include baby walkers, infant self-feeding devices, and polycarbonate baby bottles containing Bisphenol A (BPA).
There are also numerous products that must meet regulatory requirements under the Canada Consumer Product Safety Act. They include baby gates, car seats, children’s sleepwear, corded window coverings, cribs, cradles, bassinets, playpens and strollers.
Baby gates that have diamond-shaped or “V” openings at the top larger than 38 mm (1.5 inches) are illegal to sell in Canada.
“If there is too big an opening, kids can get their heads in there and it’s a choking or strangulation risk,” Dr. Martin explained.
Children can also strangle on cords and beaded chains of blinds and curtains.
Car seats must have a national safety mark and must meet current regulatory requirements. Sellers should always check with the manufacturer before selling or giving away a car seat.
“Once a car seat has been in an accident it has to be replaced, and that’s something a lot of parents aren’t aware of,” Dr. Martin said.
Loose-fitting children’s sleepwear (nightgowns, bathrobes and loose pyjamas) made of cotton, cotton blends or rayon should never be sold or used on children as they could burn easily.
It’s also illegal in Canada to sell cribs that do not meet the current regulatory requirements. Health Canada does not recommend using cribs older than 10 years, as they are more likely to have broken, worn, loose or missing parts and be missing warnings and instructions.
Dr. Martin said he has treated babies at the Janeway who have fallen out of a crib and have gotten bumps, bruises or fractures. However, he has not seen any child seriously injured from the fall.
Playpens with protruding bolts or torn vinyl or mesh should never be used. Playpens must not have more than two wheels or casters or the ability to attach additional wheels. Those selling or buying a playpen should ensure that all locking mechanisms work and that set-up instructions are included.
Strollers and carriages made before 1985 should not be sold as they may not meet regulatory requirements.
The Janeway is one of 10 pediatric hospitals and several general hospitals in Canada participating in the Canadian Hospitals Injury Reporting and Prevention Program (CHIRPP).
An initiative of the Public Health Agency of Canada, CHIRPP is a computerized information system that collects and analyzes data on injuries to people (mainly children) who are seen at the emergency rooms at these facilities.
Dr. Martin is a CHIRPP regional director. The fact that he doesn’t recall any child in this province being seriously injured in recent years from the products highlighted in this story is evidence that the word is getting out about unsafe products.
“A lot or retailers have gotten onboard with this as well. They realize there are some really strict regulations and that products deemed safe a year ago could now be deemed unsafe,” Dr. Martin said.
As a new father, Dr. Martin said, he’s done a lot of research before buying baby products. Parents and caregivers not in a position to conduct their own research should turn to reliable sites like Health Canada, he said.
Dr. Martin said people should remember that – if in doubt – throw it out.
“If you are unsure of a product don’t sell it or if you are looking to buy a product that you’re unsure of – walk away. Sometimes a deal really is too good.”