"Even outdated children's coats can pose risks, experts say." That warning nicely captures the spirit of this hysterical (in both senses) USA Today exposé of yard sales, those snakepits of recalled toys and no-longer-approved apparel. In what way can outdated children's coats pose risks? Health writer Kim Painter never quite gets around to telling us. Presumably she is not referring to the risk of taunts from peers who are scornful of your child's out-of-style hand-me-down clothes. Possibly she is thinking that an older coat might have a drawstring around the hood, which "can cause strangulation." Or maybe she means that the buttons could be attached with thread that the Consumer Product Safety Commission later deemed inadequately thick; after all, such buttons, if swallowed and lodged in a child's windpipe, can cause suffocation.
Painter also wants parents to be "extremely cautious" about "used cribs or other nursery gear," since "anything over five years old may not meet safety standards." The phrase "death trap" appears. Yet Painter is not talking about a crib that's so rickety it could collapse at any moment or so worn that your baby could be impaled by shards of wood; presumably you would notice such hazards. She is talking about a crib that's just like the one in which you, or even your older children, slept for years without injury, but that has been retroactively declared unsafe by government regulators. For Painter, who is dismayed by the fact that most people fail to return recalled products even though the government says they should, exercising independent judgment in assessing and addressing a putative hazard is unthinkable.
Some toys, for instance, have been recalled because they contain small, powerful magnets that, if removed and swallowed by a toddler, can cause internal injury. Upon hearing of this risk, you could a) immediately put the toy in a secure container and rush it back to the retailer before this lurking evil kills anyone in your family or b) decide to keep the toy away from little kids who might disassemble it and swallow the pieces. As far as Painter is concerned, only the first course of action is acceptable. Not panicking is not an option.
Painter is so mistrustful of your judgment and common sense that she warns you to "never buy or sell a used car seat or bike helmet [emphasis added]." Why? "If it has been in an accident," she explains, "it might not work properly." If you're the one selling a car seat or bike helmet, wouldn't you know whether it had been in an accident?
[Thanks to Jennifer Abel for the tip.]