Unsafe and in Our Town

January 9, 2019

Exploding toilets may sound like the punch line to a joke but they are no laughing matter if you have been using one. Community Closet received a postcard notice that a toilet we’d purchased had been recalled, so happily we haven’t experienced an exploding toilet first hand. This is just one of the hundreds of products recalled annually and an issue we take very seriously.

 

The last thing a business wants to hear is “you’re now under federal regulation,” but just over a decade ago, the US was flooded with lead-tainted and unsafe toys and products from China making 2007 the “Year of the Recall.” Concern for consumer safety, particularly children, resulted in 2008 federal legislation and included the Danny Keysar Child Product Notification Act, named after an infant who died in a recalled crib, and the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) with the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) as regulator.

 

Under the CPSIA if a second-hand store sells a product that had been recalled they could face legal penalties. While the CPSIA was very clearly in response to children’s products, it resulted in regulating all products now, not just the children’s items that caused the initial response.

 

Community Closet began using the federal public database, saferproducts.gov, which averages over two dozen safety complaints daily, and have logged the recalls we’ve found. After 9 years of examining donations and removing hundreds of unsafe items from resale, we now have a good record of consumer products that were sold locally and have been recalled.

 

While we have developed a list of what recalled items we see most, we’d like to caution everyone that this is not meant to be inclusive of everything that is unsafe or recalled in Park County. Instead, please think of this information as the “tip of the iceberg.” The best tool for a consumer is to check the CPSC database at www.saferproducts.gov which is updated frequently, except during government shutdowns. All three Community Closet stores (the thrift store, Curated Closet downtown, and the Alley Annex overflow store) will be distributing free magnets for customers as a handy reminder of the webpage.

 

While accepting donations, we often ask the donor to wait while we check an item to see if it’s recalled. Folks will often respond with “It’s not old, it’s fine.” Unfortunately, nothing could be further from the truth as many brand-new items are recalled, not just older items.

 

My biggest surprise has been the number of times we as a business have purchased items that were later recalled. I would have thought the odds were against us; a small business in a small town. And we’re diligent about buying commercial grade products from reputable dealers.

 

When you purchase a product, if you filled out the registry information and mail it back to the company you purchased from, you are likely to get a recall notice, as we did with our toilet. But most consumers these days don’t bother filling out the paperwork or don’t want to be then included on mailing lists, so once you walk out of a store with a purchase you are on your own to follow up and find out if an item has been later recalled.

 

Here's our Top Ten Recall List to give you an idea of the range of recalled products, and as a reminder that you may have recalled items in your home and should check the CPSC database to protect your family. Kitchen appliances, heating and cooling units, light fixtures, and exercise equipment are at the top of the list in addition to products for children. 

 

  1. Coffee Brewers - 2018’s most frequently seen item was the Keurig Mini coffee maker sold between 2009 and July 2014 , it was recalled in December 2014. At the opposite end of coffee fashion is the ranch staple and one of the first recalls, Corning percolators.

  2. Slow Cookers/Crock Pots – we see a steady stream of recalled slow cookers and crock pots from three different manufacturers: Hamilton Beach/Proctor Silex, Holmes Group, and WalMart.  

  3. Toasters, Food Dehydrators and Juice Extractors –We’ve seen several models of recalled toasters due to fire hazards come in on a regular basis over the years including several Hamilton Beach products. Additionally food dehydrators have been recalled and - beware of whirling blades in Juice Extractors.

  4. Exercise equipment – A search of the database reveals nearly 100 different exercise products have been recalled. We see a lot of the recalled AbLounge units. It is also extremely important to make sure small kids stay away from grownup equipment that has not been designed with them in mind. Sadly Mike Tyson’s four-year-old daughter died after entangling her neck in a loop that hung from her mom’s treadmill.

  5. Outdoor equipment - Just when you really need something, like an avalanche transceiver, it’s kind of scary thinking about how it could fail before it was ever used. Or maybe the harness that came with your tree stand for hunting isn’t reliable. There have also been over 30 recalls of mountain bikes and their components.

  6.  Fans & Heaters – 150 different models and makes of fans have been recalled, and we

    see a lot of the Lasko Box Fans which were recalled after the manufacture of nearly 5 million units. Heaters, too, can be dangerous, with 162 different heater recalls and Oil-filled Electric Heaters are particularly problematic and are in our community. A number of ceiling fans have been recalled over the years (think fan blades flying out and hitting people) and I encourage anyone with a ceiling fan to climb up and take down the manufacturers’ name and model number to check at www.saferproducts.gov.

  7. Lamps – one of the largest recalls and one that people frequently attempted to donate are free-standing Halogen Torchiere lamps, 40 million of these units have been recalled due to halogen-bulb fires.

  8. Products that restrain children – this often-recalled category is so critical that our insurance company prohibits us from selling strollers, cribs, car seats, or any product that restrains a child. You will never find these products in our stores, but know that to date 132 recalls have been issued on strollers, 204 recalls on cribs, and 64 recalls on car seats. Always check with the www.saferproducts.gov before purchasing any used child restraint product and periodically check for changes in status you purchased new. When you purchase any new kids’ product you should fill out the registry/warranty form to keep abreast of recalls.

  9. Toddler Beds, Bumbo seats and folding chairs – of the 36 recalled Toddler beds we have seen a significant number from Graco. Bumbo baby seats have been all the rage, but be sure to read the safety guidelines and keep your child on the floor, not on raised surface. Also, we’ve seen enough of these Summit children’s folding chairs donated to know they were sold locally.

  10. Toys - there have been so many toys recalled but the largest number we’ve seen locally include: Easy-Bake Oven (partial finger amputation!), Toy Barn/FarmDora the Explorer, Thomas the Tank Engine Wooden Railway toys, trampolines, Basketball hoops - we see the Fisher Price version the most, and Kid’s bicycle pull-behind. Additionally, we see a large number of magnet building and stacking toys that pose ingestion hazards for small children.

 

While the original prospect of product safety regulations was daunting for us, I can see the good that it has done over the years by removing unsafe products from our community and educating folks about what risks faced by consumers these days.

 

On January 13, 2019 Community Closet is hosting a 

Safety Sunday event from noon – 2 pm. We’re partnering with the Greater Gallatin Safety Coalition to include a safe car seat clinic with a certified child seat technician who gives regular clinics at Livingston Fire & Rescue. Free car seats will be offered to those who meet eligibility requirements. Come enjoy grilled cheese sandwiches made on George Foreman Grills (no recalls!) and learn more about safety issues and recalls. We’re also giving away handy magnets with the federal public database product recall webpage www.saferproducts.gov.

 

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