used helmets on freecycle

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bikefind
Participant
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Anyone else here use freecycle?

Several offers have been posted lately offering used bicycle helmets. Most/all for kids (not to suggest, by noting that detail, that adults’ heads aren’t important too). I wrote to the moderators expressing concern about this, explaining what happens to helmets with use, over time, or of course if it had been in a wreck.

I got a response saying how freecycle isn’t here to educate its members, can’t tell them what to list/not list etc. They said we can only hope people are educated about these and other issues (and mentioned that some items may be being repurposed). I thanked him for his time and energy in writing to me, but as the day goes on, I’m getting more and more frustrated about it. Freecycle *does* tell people what they can and can’t post to some degree- they use a member vote. For a while pets were prohibited for example.

I’m nervous about pushing this but feel sort of wrong not to.

Any thoughts?

Thanks!


StuInMcCandless
Participant
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Speaking from the point of view as a former moderator of Pittsburgh Freecycle, it does take a little bit of sense on both sides of the deal.

Posters should not post junk. If it belongs in the garbage, don’t try to give it away.

OTOH, there’s plain old caveat emptor. ‘Nuff said.


dwillen
Participant
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Yea, it is silly to wear an old helmet that has been dropped who knows how many times. But is it worse than no helmet at all? If these people wearing free-cycle helmets would otherwise not wear a helmet because they don’t want to spend the $30 on it, then by all means, wear the free one. I don’t think you would be out of line informing them of the dangers of using (or giving away?) secondhand or old helmets. Seems like there should be a program setup to exchange old helmets for new ones somewhere.


bikefind
Participant
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“If these people wearing free-cycle helmets would otherwise not wear a helmet because they don’t want to spend the $30 on it, then by all means, wear the free one.”

What I worry about are people who might buy a new one if they understood the risks in wearing a used one, but they don’t so they figure they’ll save a few bucks.

“I don’t think you would be out of line informing them of the dangers of using (or giving away?) secondhand or old helmets.”

Ethically, socially, I agree. But as far as the group goes, all you’re allowed to post are offers, wanteds, takens and receiveds. Any concerns are to be addressed solely to the moderators (which is what I did, and got a response basically saying nothing would/could be done). If you break the rules, they start issuing strikes, and with three you’re out of the group.

“Seems like there should be a program setup to exchange old helmets for new ones somewhere.”

Yes!


rachel_ding
Participant
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Yeah… I agree with Stu and dwillen.

I think people realize that when they get something used, they are using it at their own risk (unless it comes with a guarantee, of course).

If they got rid of helmets, they’d have to get rid of a lot of other sports-safety equipment too (knee-pads, football helmets, etc)… which would suck, since it’s cool that kids/families can have access to free stuff like that if it’s in decent shape. Hopefully most people are smart about not using totally beat, cracked, and smushed equipment.


dwillen
Participant
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I guess you could directly email the people offering the helmets if you aren’t allowed to post to the group. Find some well written and provide a link?


edmonds59
Participant
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Ok, disgusting. It’s hard to imagine someone so cheap they would buy a used helmet over the cheapest $20 Walmart helmet, which, as it’s been said would do a fine job.

It’s not hard to imagine that a poorly informed person would by a used helmet expecting it to protect as well as new one. Used knee pads, hockey sticks, roller blades will all work almost as well as new ones, fine. Helmets absolutely will not. Helmets lose their protective capability SITTING ON THE SHELF. That’s why they are required to have a date stamp on the ANSI sticker. And apparently, uninformed people are buying these thinking that they are meeting the law in putting these on their children.

I would think that for legal reasons this group (I am completely unfamiliar with it) would have a flat policy against any used helmets.

I know that the folks at Children’s Hospital, Injury Prevention department, get pretty passionate about helmet use, you might want send someone an email and just get their opinion of this.


Steven
Participant
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The Bike Pittsburgh web site has a “Safety” page (on the menu under Resources), but it doesn’t even mention helmets. Maybe it should, and should in particular mention the issue of used helmets, and when to replace one. Links to the Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute at http://www.bhsi.org/replace.htm or the Snell page at http://www.smf.org/faqs.html on this issue might be appropriate.

I don’t think prohibiting helmets on freecycle is appropriate, just education on the issues. And such info seems more appropriate on a bike web site than a recycling web site, since there are lots of other ways people might acquire a used helmet.

As to whether helmets somehow lose their protection just sitting on the shelf, I’m not sure that’s so. The Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute link above seems to dispute that, and suggests that some notions of spontaneously degrading helmets are just rumors. The Snell link says helmets could degrade over time, but using lots of qualifiers like “may” and “possibly”. (And of course they’re funded by helmet makers.)

(This message didn’t take, the first few times I tried to post it, so I’m changing around its links. Hoping it doesn’t decide to post all my tries later.)


edmonds59
Participant
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I’m really surprised those institutes aren’t stronger on their positions. I may be interpolating from what I know of motorcycle helmets, the construction of which is essentially the same (the risk of failure being a little greater), but the prevailing wisdom in that world is to use a helmet 5 years then junk it. If you go to a “track day” or actually race, they check the ANSI or Snell sticker, and they check the date, if it’s out of date, you’re a no go.

Still, used helmet? Gross.


bikefind
Participant
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“I may be interpolating from what I know of motorcycle helmets, the construction of which is essentially the same (the risk of failure being a little greater), but the prevailing wisdom in that world is to use a helmet 5 years then junk it.”

Wow. Didn’t know that.

I guess that’s part of why I get so concerned when information isn’t put right out there. I can be really oblivious to important things, even when I’m trying to pay attention / seek out what I need to know. So when I hear caveat emptor stuff, I think, great, but some of us seem to be inherently better at that than others, and so those others are just basically screwed.

So I don’t know. I realize FreeCycle isn’t in the habit of making rules to protect members from themselves, but I guess I’d like to see a list of cautions and advisories, maybe on the post that goes out once a month or so. It could include advice about helmets, a link to a recall list website, other specific items people might not know to be cautious about. I know what I should do at this point, which is write to the mods again and make this suggestion/request. I just get really nervous bothering them, so it’ll take me a while to psyche myself up to do it.

@dwillen: re directly emailing people who post those offers, I have a feeling that’s frowned upon, but I’ve been sifting through the rules and haven’t found anything to that effect. Maybe I dreamt it. Thanks for the ideas. Thanks to everyone for your thoughts on this.


pratt
Participant
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according to the Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute there really isn’t a set life span for bike helmets

from http://www.bhsi.org/replace.htm

“Occasionally somebody spreads rumors that sweat and ultraviolet (UV) exposure will cause your helmet to degrade. Sweat will not do that. The standards do not permit manufacturers to make a helmet that degrades from sweat, and the EPS, EPP or EPU foam is remarkably unaffected by salt water. Your helmet will get a terminal case of grunge before it dies of sweat. Sunlight can affect the strength of the shell material, though. Since helmets spend a lot of time in the sun, manufacturers usually put UV inhibitors in the plastic for their shells that control UV degradation. If your helmet is fading or showing small cracks around the vents, the UV inhibitors may be failing, so you probably should replace it. Chances are it has seen an awful lot of sun to have that happen. Otherwise, try another brand next time and let us know what brand faded on you.

At least one shop told a customer that the EPS in his three year old helmet was now “dried out.” Other sales people refer to “outgassing” and say that the foam loses gas and impact performance is affected. Still others claim that helmets lose a percentage of their effectiveness each year, with the percentage growing with age. All of that is nothing but marketing hype to sell a replacement helmet before you need it. There is some loss of aromatics in the first hours and days after molding, and helmet designers take account of that for standards testing. But after that the foam stabilizes and does not change for many years, unless the EPS is placed in an oven for some period of time and baked. The interior of your car, for example, will not do that, based on helmets we have seen and at least one lab crash test of a helmet always kept in a car in Virginia over many summers. Helmet shells can be affected by car heat, but not the foam. The Snell Memorial Foundation has tested motorcycle helmets held in storage for more than 20 years and found that they still meet the original standard. EPS is a long-lived material little affected by normal environmental factors. Unless you mistreat it we would not expect it to “dry out” enough to alter its performance for many years.”

edit: sorry Steven had already posted a link to this


edmonds59
Participant
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My goodness, apparently there is strong advocacy for used helmets.

Anyway, from UPMC Childrens Hospital; “We recommend against buying a used helmet, because you never know how it has been used before.”

They have a program called the Hard Head Patrol, and there is a free helmet program that has a whole raft of locations through the year where people can get their kids new, stink-free, helmets. Bikefind, to satify your concerns, the best use of your time might be to post links to the UPMC programs for people to find, and let it go at that.

http://www.chp.edu/CHP/hardheads

http://www.chp.edu/cs/Satellite?c=eHA_Content_C&cid=1189460082377&pagename=CHP%2FeHA_Content_C%2FCHP%2FTemplate%2FCHP_Layout_04_Content_Page_Template


Steven
Participant
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Testing beats prevailing wisdom. Snell’s test shows (at least some) 20 year old helmets still meet the standard.

Does anyone know of actual testing that shows some helmets degrading in normal use, so they no longer meet the standard after a period of time? Or is the idea that they go bad entirely based on some manufacturer’s speculation?


edmonds59
Participant
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Apparently, Snell.

Still couldn’t get me to use somebody elses used helmet, nor would I pass one on to someone else, or their child, that’s just stupidity. If I crash one, I throw it out. When they get nasty, I throw them out.

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