Consumer product safety

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Every day, parents and caregivers make choices about what products to buy for their children. Learn what to look for to keep your kids safe and to prevent injuries from consumer products. 

Key points

  • Always follow the manufacturers instructions for use, including if the use of after-market add-ons is allowed. 
  • Be sure to check that second-hand items are in good condition with no missing, loose or broken parts.
  • Check Health Canada’s recall list often, to be sure your products are safe for use.
  • Always follow age and size recommendations for each product. Products are designed and tested based on these recommendations. 

Consumer products include a wide range of items that can be purchased by Canadians. For kids, these can include toys, safety gear (such as helmets), clothing, and many other household items. Many of these products may be marketed for use by children, but that does not mean they have been tested for safety. It is estimated that almost half of injuries experienced by children and youth are related to consumer products.

Products can cause injuries based on several factors:

  • Poor product quality – the product does not follow the national standards for product design.
  • Unsafe product characteristics – the product contains hazardous elements such as sharp edges.
  • Improper product use – people are not using the product how it is meant to be used. 
  • Absence of safety devices – individuals are not using the recommended safety features and devices, such as wearing a helmet while riding a bicycle. 

Product safety standards 

Not all products in Canada have been tested for safety, even children’s products. Before purchasing products, check the manufacturers website to see what testing has been done and if there are national organizations that have tested the product. For example, Transport Canada applies the National Safety Mark sticker to every car seat and booster seat that is legally sold in Canada. 

Be cautious of products that have not undergone safety testing. These may require more supervision when children are using them. 

Children’s toys are regulated by the Canadian Consumer Product Safety Act under Toys Regulations. However, not all children’s products fall within these regulations, such as bunk beds. When items do not have a Canadian regulation, following American safety standards is recommended. 

Product recalls

Product recalls can occur if the product has been deemed unsafe. This can apply to the entire product, certain parts of the product, all of the products on the market or only certain batches of the product if a manufacturing error has occurred. You can find out if there is a recall a few different ways: 

  • If you registered for a product’s warranty at the time of purchase (either online or by mail), the product manufacturer can notify you directly. 
  • The product distributor may post notices of a recall on their website or at their place of business. 
  • You may hear about important recalls on the news. 
  • You can visit Health Canada’s recall website

If you or your child have been injured by a product, you should report this to Health Canada. This can help to track which products are causing injuries and prevent other people from being hurt. 

Product safety tips 

There are a few ways you can reduce the chances of injury due to consumer products:

Be cautious of second-hand items 

  • While many products can be safely purchased second-hand, be sure to check that the product is in good condition with no missing or broken parts. Check if there are labels that explain how the product has been tested for safety, and how the product is designed to be used. 
  • Check for product recalls using Health Canada’s recall website
  • For some products, knowing the history of the product can impact its safety. For example, car seats that have been in collisions should not be reused, and bicycle helmets that have experienced a fall may not work properly. 
  • Find more information on second-hand products at https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/buying-second-hand-products.html.  

Be careful using after-market add-ons

  • Many products are tested for safety in their original state. Adding extra features may impact the way the product can be used. For example, some seat covers can prevent a car seat from properly fitting in the vehicle.

Do your research before purchasing items in another country 

  • Not all products bought online or in other countries meet Canadian standards, or they may have been banned for use in Canada due to safety concerns. Before buying, check that the product has not been banned or recalled. 

Products to consider

Button batteries 

  • Button batteries are small, coin shaped batteries that can be found in many children’s toys, electronics, and remotes. If chewed or swallowed, they can cause severe burns to a child’s mouth and throat. 
  • Choose products that have battery compartments that are sealed with screws to prevent children from accessing them. Check products regularly to ensure that batteries are properly secured, and the product cannot be easily opened. 
  • For more information, see Button battery injuries.  

Car seats 

  • Car seats help to keep infants and children safe in your vehicle. The safest car seat is the one that fits your child’s height and weight, fits your specific vehicle, fits your budget, and that you can properly use each time.  
  • Purchase a car seat that is labelled with the National Safety Mark (sticker with a maple leaf). This shows it has been tested and approved for use in Canada. 
  • Complete the car seat recall card included with your car seat. This will allow the manufacturer to contact you directly if there have been any recalls. 
  • For more information on choosing a car seat, see Car seat safety for infants and children

Choking hazards 

  • Common causes of choking in children include balloons and small toys. 
  • Be sure to throw away broken balloon pieces quickly. Mylar (foil) balloons are a safer option, as they break into smaller pieces that do not block a child’s airway. 
  • Use a cardboard toilet paper roll to test if an object is small enough to be a choking hazard. If the object can pass through the roll, it can become a choking hazard. 

Magnets 

  • Small magnets may be found in toys, jewelry or on the fridge within reach of children. If a child swallows more than one magnet, the magnets can become attached across the walls of different organs such as the intestines. This can cause serious injury.
  • Once these magnets are attached, it can be difficult to separate them without medical help. If your child has swallowed multiple magnets, seek medical assistance immediately. 

Backyard playgrounds 

  • Backyard playgrounds need to be anchored properly into the ground to prevent tipping. Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions to assemble the playground. Ensure the playground has barriers to prevent falling and that children use the equipment how it is designed to be used.
  • If you are buying a backyard playground, purchase one that complies with American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) guidelines. 
  • Inspect backyard equipment regularly to ensure it is not damaged and that all bolts are tight. 

Baby equipment 

  • Babies are at a greater risk of choking and strangulation. Be sure the products you use cannot break apart and have no detachable pieces or long strings. 
  • Check that equipment meets national safety standards and that there are no active recalls. 
  • Find out more about specific baby equipment in Baby equipment safety

Regardless of the products you use or purchase, always check that the product is in good working order with no broken, loose, or missing pieces. Read and follow the instructions that come with the product to be sure you are using it correctly and that your child is within the age and size requirements. 

Last updated: May 13th 2024