Sunday, August 4, 2019

Expiry Dates

Soda can expiration date

Let’s start this article off with a quick quiz.

Which item would you be willing to use if its manufacturer would not guarantee it operated safely and effectively?
(a) antibiotic cream for a cut to prevent infection
(b) sunscreen to protect you from a sunburn at the beach
(c) condom to protect against sexually transmitted diseases and unwanted pregnancy
(d) infant car seat to protect your baby in case of a car crash
(e) none of the above

Maybe you did not realize that, as with foods, many other consumer products have expiration dates. Here are a few to consider.

Antibiotic Cream
The bathroom medicine cabinet is one of the WORST places to store tubes of antibiotic cream (and other medications). Heat and humidity increase the rate of degradation of the chemicals in the ointment. The expiration date that is usually stamped on the crimp at the bottom of the tube is when the manufacturer will no longer guarantee the product’s effectiveness, especially if not stored in a cool, dry environment.

Hydrogen Peroxide
It comes in a brown bottle to protect the chemical from light. The contents of an unopened bottle should remain effective for 3 years, but once it’s opened, it won’t work properly after about 6 months.

To see if older hydrogen peroxide will still be effective in cleaning a cut, pour a bit into the sink. If it fizzes, it is probably OK to use.

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires that sunscreen ingredients remain effective at their original strength for at least 3 years after manufacture.

Some sunscreen containers show the expiration date. If not, use a marker to write the purchase date on the bottom of the container, and throw it away 3 years after.

Do not store sunscreen in excessive heat (like your car in summer) or in the direct sun, as that will increase the rate of degradation. If you took the sunscreen with you to the beach, store it under a towel. And of course, if the product looks or feels “off,” do not use it no matter what the expiration date.

Most packages of condoms have a printed expiration date when the material from which the condom is made begins to degrade. Storage matters. Condoms in individual wrappers break down faster if they are in a warm, moist pace where they can get creased (such as a wallet or pants pocket). If a condom seems stiff, dry or sticky when the wrapper is opened, discard it.

Makeup gets contaminated with bacteria when you apply it. Since you do not want an eye infection, throw away opened mascara after 3 months of use, earlier if it dries out.

For more information about the shelf life of cosmetics, see this information from the US Food and Drug Administration.

Infant Car Seat
Most newer car seats have the expiration date stamped on the bottom. The materials from which the seat is constructed degrade over time, especially when left in a hot environment such as a coxed car during summer months. In general, good quality name-brand car seats will be safe to use for 6-10 years but be cautious of seats you find at garage sales.

If you are concerned about the safety of a car seat, or if you want advice on proper installation, most car seat inspection stations will provide assistance for free. Find a car seat inspection station near you, courtesy of the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Bicycle Helmet
Inspect your helmet for wear every time you use it, which should be every time you pedal. Sunlight degrades the plastic outer shell, and salt from sweat acts against the materials of the lining. Depending on how often you bike, you may need a new helmet every 2-4 years.

Cans of paint typical do not list an expiration date, so it’s wise to use a marker to write the purchase date on the bottom of the can. Unopened cans of latex-based paint will remain good for up to 10 years; unopened oil-based paints last as long as 15 years.

However, paint begins to go bad as soon as the can is opened. You should certainly dispose of any can that has been opened after 2-4 years, earlier if you notice the paint has dried out, molded, or its texture is chunky.

Motor Oil
After storage for about 5 years in an optimal environment motor oil tends to separate and its consistency will change. This compromises its performance in protecting your car’s engine.

Household Batteries
Most of these are labeled with an expiration date, sometimes called a Best If Used By (BIUB) date. Although they may continue to work past that date, parts will have begun to corrode and this makes it more difficult for the battery to transfer electricity to your battery-powered device, so, for instance, the flashlight will start looking dimmer. Read this article to learn why batteries have an expiration date.

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