Some consumer safety tips for the holidays.
In the last year or so, it seems that there has been a barrage of news about products we use every day having the potential to cause us great harm. From lead paint on toys to toxic pet food to BPA in our water bottles, the headlines are constantly bringing a new concern to light. Here are a few tips for buying safe and staying safe, both during the holidays and all year round.
Photo by igrigorik
12 Safety Tips for the Holidays
- When buying toys, stick with brand names. With more to lose, larger manufacturers are more apt to keep with quality standards and safety guidelines, and are less likely to knowingly release potentially hazardous products. Larger manufacturers are also more likely to be ahead of the curve in product research and safety.
- Avoid buying toys from deep discounters or dollar stores, as these are frequently produced in and imported from countries with far less stringent regulations. Though it’s a good idea to watch the bottom line by keeping costs down, we still need to make sure we don’t sacrifice our health and safety as consumers.
- Watch out for toys on sale this holiday season. New regulations regarding the use of lead-based products were passed in August 2008, but don’t take effect until February 10, 2009. Some retailers may try to take advantage of this delay by using holiday sales to unload non-compliant merchandise.
- Check labels. Avoid purchasing toys containing phthalate-laden PVC (these products may be marked with a recycling code of 3), as the chemical is believed to damage the reproductive system of boys.
- If you’ve got a specific product in mind, check online retailers such as Amazon. Not only do certain sites offer a better price, but they will also e-mail shoppers if a recall arises for a product that is purchased. Check websites such as the federal government recall listing (recall.gov) for information on recalls.
- Keep Fido and Fluffy safe, too, by thoroughly inspecting any toys that you buy for them. Many dog toy brands have ratings for toughness, or the size dog for which they are appropriate. Even so, check to make sure that there are no loose parts or seams, and always keep an eye on your pets while they are playing with their toys. Throw away toys as they begin to wear out to ensure that your pet doesn’t ingest something that may be harmful to them.
- Watch out for holiday decorations, and use only those that are appropriate for your lifestyle. For instance, if you’ve got a toddler living with you, then you should only use shatterproof tree ornaments, and you should avoid ornaments that look like candy or other edibles.
- Be extremely careful when installing outdoor decorations. Be aware of ice in your surroundings when selecting ladder placement, and be wary of electrical wires in the vicinity.
- Check over any electrical decorations for cord fraying or other potential fire or shock hazards. Throw away anything that is damaged.
- When shopping or running errands, remember that some people get desperate this time of year, especially in a down economy. Always park in busy, well-lit areas, and place any purchases in the trunk of your car where they will be out of sight, rather than in the backseat. Be especially aware of your surroundings when withdrawing cash from an ATM machine. Know how to shop safely and avoid shopping scams.
- Remember that some credit cards offer theft protection for your purchases.
- Regardless of the time of year, keep your doors locked even when you’re at home. When you leave home, if you have an alarm system, be sure to use it.