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Greg Webb
Greg Webb
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Safe Consumer Products – What’s Safe, What's Been Recalled and How Do You Know?

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Yard sales, e-Bay and Craigslist are common sources for household items like appliances, baby toys, garden tools and more. We shop there, but are we buying products with known issues? How would we know? It is virtually impossible to research every product one buys, but if one has a question, there are some ways to investigate if a computer and internet connection are handy.

Last week Dancing Easter Chicks were recalled and the Ford F-150 trucks with EcoBoost engines, are facing possible recalls after concerns about the engines' performance. Recalls can be a matter of life and death or, as is the case with the Dancing Chick, a minor issue of a toy too loud for safe hearing. The savvy consumer has to work hard to find out about recalls as manufacturers are often reluctant to talk about potentially hazardous issues unless mandated.

How do we know what is safe? We assume that the products we buy for ourselves, our families and our work-places are safe. We trust the food in the grocery store, products on the shelves in our favorite shops and we assume our cars have been thoroughly tested for any possible malfunction. But, problems occur nonetheless – most of which are preventable. Things get overlooked. Products slip through screening procedures and end up in our homes. And, sometimes, manufacturers are more interested in making a higher profit than they are in being rigorous about safety.

What do you do when you discover there is a bad product in your home? If you are lucky enough to have caught the recall you can often get a refund. It is not easy to keep track of product safety recalls nor do most consumers know where to begin. We cannot obsessively search recall lists for every single item in our homes.

I blog about many recalls as part of my mission to provide folks with important safety information. It has been a revelation to see the number of things that go wrong with manufacturing of everyday items. Take children’s pajamas for instance. Just last week Vive La Fete recalled children’s pajamas for failing to meet federal flammability standards. That’s not a mistake—we have had standards regulating children’s sleepwear for years. How does a company ‘fail to meet’ that standard and manage to get their product on store shelves?

Returning to the topic of E-Bay, Craigslist, Goodwill and yard sales—are you buying items this way? Many of us do, the question is how many of us are doing preliminary research? We often research products when we make big purchases like new cars or appliances. Any internet search can bring up problems but the trick is to be vigilant about doing our homework before we make any purchases- even used infant clothing from a yard sale. I use Google Alerts to pinpoint particular items of interest to me—it’s convenient but not the only, or perhaps most effective, way to find recalls and alerts about defective products.

In an attempt to fully inform consumers, I have compiled a "starter list" for folks of websites that deal with the safety of consumer products and recalls. Take a few minutes to browse through these for useful information, product information and the latest recalls.

Consumer Affairs http://www.consumeraffairs.com/recalls/recalls.htm —a consumer news and advocacy organization. Their website includes consumer news, recall information and tens of thousands of pages of consumer reviews.

U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, http://www.cpsc.gov

USA.Gov http://www.usa.gov/topics/consumer/smart-shopping/recalls.shtml

—this site has links to consumer safety sites on a wide range of products. You can also sign up for their email list of recalls.

Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association

http://www.jpma.org/content/parents/infant-and-child-product-recalls

—This link to their Parenthood blog features a prominent widget showing the most recent recalls.

Kids in Danger: Improving Children’s Product Safety http://www.kidsindanger.org/ — a regular recall segment with up to date information on child specific recalls.

Safer Products.Gov http://www.saferproducts.gov/Default.aspx

—another government site with recalls and related videos. Here you can report unsafe products.

Recalls.org http://www.recalls.org/

—a nonprofit organization runs this very basic site listing all recalls for a range of product.

Automobile recalls http://www.nhtsa.gov