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Kids' Stuff: Be Wary When Buying Used

If you're a new parent watching expenses this holiday season, it can be tempting to buy secondhand toys, cribs, playpens and car seats at thrift stores or yard sales.

But doing so without checking for safety problems could put your child at risk. In 2011 alone, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) recalled more than 100 children's products and toys due to safety issues.

While a 2008 federal law made it illegal to sell recalled items, they often turn up at yard sales, consignment shops, or online auction sites. Knowing how to tell the good from the bad can help you save money while protecting your family from harm.

Across the Board

No matter what you need, these general precautions apply:

  • Check for recalls. Visit the CPSC website to check for recalled products and to sign up for recall updates via email.
  • Don't buy without a manual. This is especially important for items such as car seats, playpens and cribs that must be adjusted or assembled. Without a manual you run the risk of doing so improperly, which could endanger your child.


Don't buy a used crib without double-checking that the item has not been recalled. The CPSC has recalled more than 11 million drop-side cribs in which infants have been injured, some fatally, since 2007. Stricter CPSC safety standards for new cribs took effect in 2011.

Whether your baby's crib is new or used, it's important to check it frequently for broken or loose parts.

Car Seats

Don't buy a car seat in these cases:

  • It's too old – usually more than six years.
  • You don't know whether it's been recalled or in a crash.
  • It doesn't come with an instruction manual that specifies how to install it safely in your vehicle and restrain your child.


Buying used toys saves money and keeps them out of landfills. To make sure these items are safe, look out for:

  • Lead paint. Exposure to lead can cause brain damage as well as hearing and sight disabilities. To be safe, avoid used toys with flaking paint.
  • Toys made with PVC, BPA, and phthalates. Avoid toys with a “V,” #3 plastic resin, or #7 recycling stamp on the bottom.
  • Mercury. In particular, necklaces made in Mexico are often filled with mercury.

Remember, whether you're buying new or used baby gear or accepting free hand-me-downs, double-checking all items for safety is a must.

For more information, visit the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

Sources: Consumer Product Safety Commission, Krames Staywell

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