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

"Most manufacturers now recommend that helmets be replaced after five years, but some of that may be just marketing. (Bell now recommends every three years, which seems to us too short. They base it partially on updating your helmet technology, but they have not been improving their helmets that much over three year periods, and we consider some of their more recent helmets to be a step backwards, so we would take that with a grain of salt.) Deterioration depends on usage, care, and abuse. But if you ride thousands of miles every year, five years may be a realistic estimate of helmet life. And helmets have actually been improving enough over time to make it a reasonable bet that you can find a better one than you did five years ago. It may fit better, look better, and in some cases may even be more protective. For an alternate view that agrees with the manufacturers, check out the helmet FAQ of the Snell Foundation. Snell knows a lot about helmets and their views on this subject should not be dismissed lightly, even though we disagree with them.
Somebody is spreading rumors that sweat and Ultraviolet 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. UV can affect the strength of the shell material, though. Manufacturers put UV inhibitors in the plastic for their shells that control UV degradation. If your helmet is fading, maybe the UV inhibitors are failing, so you might consider replacing 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." That is highly unlikely, 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. 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.

In sum, we don't find the case for replacing a helmet that meets the ASTM or Snell standards that compelling if the helmet is still in good shape and fits you well. "
 
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