Your child’s car safety seat may look perfectly fine. But looks can be deceiving.
Car safety seats for infants and young children have expiration dates. When the expiration date is reached – usually around 6 years after it was manufactured — the seat is no longer safe to use and it should be disposed of, or even better, recycled for its plastic parts.
The expiration date is stamped on the seat, usually on the bottom. Car seats and booster seats have these expiration dates because the materials degrade over time from sun and heat exposure — weakening their effectiveness in a crash.
Another caution: If you have a hand-me-down child car seat you need to know not only the expiration date, but also the history of the seat. Has it been in an accident? If so, its materials or structure may be compromised and it should not be used again, even though it may look fine.
Parents should exercise caution when obtaining a child car safety seat from any source, other than the original manufacturer or retailer.
Charities and consignment or thrift shops have no way of screening the seats they offer the public to know if they have expired or been in an accident. Anyone picking up a car seat that has been placed with a charity, consignment or thrift shop, or left at the curb for disposal, may be unknowingly putting their child at risk.
The best way to make sure that no one unwittingly uses your discarded child car safety seat is to dismantle it – cut off the straps – and drop it off at a recycling facility. 90% of car seat material can be recycled.
Recycling programs for car seats are just beginning to appear nationwide. Contact your local recycling program to ask if a safety seat can be recycled where you live.
Consider starting a child safety seat recycling program if one is not already available in your community. To start a recycling program, you will need volunteers to collect and disassemble the seats, a collection and storage location, and a buyer for the recyclable components.
If you cannot find a way to recycle your child’s old car seat, cut off the straps and disassemble the seat before discarding it so that the seat cannot be recovered from the trash and used. Write “DO NOT USE” in permanent marker on the seat frame, and dispose of the frame separately from the straps and padding.
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