Recalled Toys Sold on eBay Expose More Children to Serious Injury

Toy recalls, like those issued by Mattel and Fisher-Price this month, are meant to get hazardous products away from children. But a recent study shows that recalls don’t always do that. An article in this month’s Injury Journal says that only 20-percent of recalled children’s products are ever returned to their manufacturers. What’s worse is that many of these dangerous toys and other items end up being resold on eBay or at garage sales and thrift shops. As a result, toys with dangerous magnets and lead paint, along with other defective items, can end up endangering even more children.

The Injury Journal article highlights a study done by the Center for Industry Research and Policy at Columbus Children’s Hospital. The researchers chose 141 children’s products that had been recalled between 1992 and 2004 and searched for them on eBay. The items included bassinets, walkers, furniture and riding toys. The researchers discovered recalled items for sale in 190 different auctions. At least one of the items found on eBay, the Evenflo Happy Camper and Happy Cabana portable play yard, had been implicated in the deaths of three children when it was recalled in 1997. The researchers also found that most of the recalled products received multiple bids, indicating that bidders were not aware of recalls. And nearly 70 percent of the items were sold, putting many more children at risk for injury.

EBay does have a policy that prohibits recalled items, but the onus for identifying such products is usually placed on buyers and sellers. The site’s “security and resolution” page has a link to the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s (CPSC) recall website, and both sellers and buyers are encouraged by eBay to check the CPSC site. EBay also takes down auctions if the CPSC informs the company that an item up for bid has been recalled. And the CPSC says that it has worked with eBay to create filters that reduce the chance of a recalled item being sold on the site.

But despite those precautions, recalled children’s toys are being sold on eBay, and it’s a safe bet that those products show up at garage sales and thrift stores as well. The authors of the Injury Journal study say that more needs to be done to make people aware of recalls. With so many children’s products being recalled every year, consumers can barely keep up. Parents and caregivers should sign up for the CPSC’s email alerts, and manufactures should start putting identifying information, like model numbers, on items themselves. Currently, that information is usually placed on packaging, which is often thrown away. The study authors also say that manufacturers should change the names of recalled products after they have been redesigned. That way, anyone buying a used children’s toy or other item could easily discover if it had been recalled.

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