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Use caution at garage sales

With garage sale season upon us, Health Canada reminds consumers to put safety ahead of savings, and to use caution when buying secondhand items, particularly those intended for use by children.

Requirements for consumer products are covered under the Hazardous Products Act, which is administered by Health Canada. It is the responsibility of the seller to ensure that the products they sell, lend or give away, whether new, used or homemade, meet current Canadian safety requirements. However, it has been found that products offered at garage sales often do not meet current requirements. Therefore, the buyer must decide if the cost-savings are worth the potential risk associated with purchasing second-hand consumer products.

Health Canada encourages buyers and sellers of second-hand products to stay informed about product recalls, advisories and important regulatory changes. For example, Health Canada issued an advisory on the older, yet still popular Fisher Price Little People figures manufactured before 1991 in order to warn consumers of the choking hazard associated with these toys. (These figures can become lodged in a child’s throat, causing a complete block of airflow which can result in serious injury or death).

In another advisory, Health Canada reminded parents and caregivers of the potential hazards related to the use of drop-side cribs, an item commonly sold at garage sales. Cribs should not be used if they were manufactured before 1986, if any parts are loose or missing, or if there are any signs of damage. Cribs should be accompanied by proper assembly instructions and should not be used if they cannot be assembled as per the instructions.

Protecting and promoting the health and safety of Canadians is of the utmost importance to the Government of Canada. Consumers are urged to carefully inspect all products to ensure they are not damaged, cracked, have missing or loose parts, or missing instructions. Consumers are also reminded to check to make sure that their products are not prohibited in Canada, or subject to a recall.

To find out if a product has been recalled by the manufacturer, and for information on corrective action, please contact the manufacturer or check Health Canada’s Consumer Product Recall database. If you have purchased a prohibited product, Health Canada advises you to destroy the item to prevent its future use, and to dispose of it in accordance with municipal guidelines.

To assist buyers and sellers, Health Canada released two publications in 2009: a booklet entitled Information to Shoppers of Second-Hand Products; and a fact sheet, Facts for Garage Sale Vendors - 2009. The booklet and the fact sheet contain information about products that are banned for sale in Canada and information about the health and safety requirements of products such as: cribs, children’s sleepwear; toys; children’s jewellery; window blinds; hockey helmets; and face protectors.

If you’re planning on holding or visiting a garage sale in your neighbourhood, visit the Health Canada website for more information.

Posted: May 2, 2012

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