We all love to get hand-me-downs in the baby equipment department. What you may not know is that your used car seat may be expired. Yes, expired! Last year, I was gloating to Megan Davidson, doula and baby wearer and cloth diapering instructor, about how cheaply I had purchased my infant car seat for my daughter. She asked me if I had checked to make sure the car seat had never been in an accident and also that it hadn’t expired. Um…no. (Gloating over!)
Many parents are not aware that all car seats come with an expiration date printed into the plastic of the seat itself (check the back of your seat). Be very aware of this when borrowing seats from other parents or buying used car seats for your child. Also confirm the history of the car seat – even a seat that appears to be perfect should never be used again after being in an accident. They are a single-use product when it comes to accidents, even ones in which no one was hurt.
The expiration date for car seats is typically 6-7 years after the seat was produced. Manufacturers agree that the plastic in car seats can begin to degrade, although they acknowledge that this weakening does not magically begin to occur when you hit the expiration date, but rather, that some where around 10 years after production they begin to see evidence of compromise in the materials.
This builds in a pretty hefty margin between expiration and deterioration, and I hear many parents argue that this is a ploy to sell more seats and make parents consume more. The expiration date, however, is not simply a reflection of quality control for the safety of the plastic, but also a concern about new information about how to manufacture car seats.
The seat I bought when my son was born in 2002, for example, was then discontinued when they found that 3-point harness seats were less safe than 5-point harnesses, despite looking safer with the additional bar in front of the child. I had to replace that seat when this new information became available. Ten years earlier they had also changed the buckling mechanism on car seats and shifts in technology and knowledge continue to improve the quality and safety of car seats.
Please check your car seats and only use used car seats you know the full history behind. Many websites, including Mothering.com
‘s discussion boards, feature safety information about car seats and reviews of different models available. Review them when buying a new seat, installing your seat, or evaluating whether a used seat is a reasonable option for you.
And since you don’t want anyone else using the expired car seat, please make sure you let others know when you put it out on the curb.
To dispose of it safely:
- Cut and remove the harness, cover and foam cushion.
- Mark the seat as “expired”.
- I haven’t been able to find out if NYC reycling will take used car seats- anyone else out there know? So far I haven’t found anyone in NYC who takes them. You can recycle them here at BabyEarthRENEW if you are willing to pay the shipping costs.