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Dangers lurk at your local garage sale, Health Canada warns

Carolyn Morris
Shine On
May 18, 2012

Are you spring cleaning mode? Planning to make a few bucks on those old children's toys? Well, if they happen to be lawn darts or include small magnets, they might be better suited to the garbage bin.

"There's a lot of potential risks for buying second-hand items, some products are banned, or damaged," says Suzane Aboueid, a senior project officer at Health Canada's Consumer Product Safety Directorate. "People may not be thinking safety when they're buying at a garage sale. They're thinking more about the deal."

This week, Health Canada released an advisory and fact sheets for garage-sale vendors and shoppers, especially concerning products intended for children. The tips are just as relevant for those of us who use the online garage-sale equivalents of Craigslist or Kijiji.

Also see: Ex-wife exacts revenge on husband by selling stuff in garage sale

Some of the warnings are obvious — second-hand cosmetics or used plastic baby bottles — but others aren't so evident. At the risk of sounding alarmist, there are some unexpected dangers to look out for when scouring for local deals.

For example, their list of common garage sale products that are outright banned in Canada includes, along with the old baby walkers and lawn darts with elongated tips, something called "jequirity beans."

"Jequirity beans are a type of bean that's used in maracas, or rattles that you might get in a foreign country," explains Aboueid . "But they're highly toxic. If it breaks, and a child injests it, it could be fatal."

Also banned are infant self-feeding devices, which are contraptions that prop up baby bottles so children that can't grip the bottle can still drink on their own. They used to be on the market, but were found to be choking hazards.

Some old nightwear is made of highly flammable cotton, kids' costume jewelry can contain lead, and small magnets can be swallowed and create blockages or tears in a child's intestinal walls.

Also see: Ways to stay safe during your outdoor adventures this summer

Other things to watch out for are old car seats, cribs, or baby gates. Not only might they be out of date when it comes to current safety standards, they could also be missing important instructions and labels.

"We have certain labeling requirements for cribs or car seats," says Aboueid. "If they're missing those labels, then it's illegal to sell them."

Just like stores that have to follow safety regulations, vendors of used items are also responsible for the products they're selling under the Canada Consumer Product Safety Act.

Who knew you could be holding an illegal garage sale by selling your child's old stuff. Or that picking up a local deal could be a risky endeavor.

Bargain buyers, and sellers, beware.

Watch the video below for some basic gardening tips.

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