The Consumer Product Safety Commission on Wednesday fined nine companies a total of $355,000 for selling children's clothes with drawstrings, which pose a strangulation hazard. Dozens of children have died in the past two decades after drawstrings were caught on playground equipment, cribs or other objects, says commission spokesman Scott Wolfson.
A 2-year-old San Jose, Calif., boy died May 21 after the drawstring of his sweatshirt caught on a slide at his daycare center. Children also have died after a drawstring around the waist of a jacket caught in a bus door, the commission says.
Since 2006, children's coats, sweatshirts and jackets with drawstrings around the neck or waist have been considered defective and have been automatically recalled, Wolfson says. The commission fined the companies -- which imported and sold the clothes -- for failing to notify the commission that they were selling tops with drawstrings. It also recalled 8,000 items of clothing.
The commission fined other companies a total of $320,000 in May, also for failing to send notice that they were selling kids' clothes with drawstrings. The commission has been inspecting children's clothing at stores to make sure none are unsafe, Wolfson says, because of a wave of violations.
Parents should cut any drawstrings around the neck or waist in children's jackets, sweatshirts and coats, according to the commission. In pants, drawstrings should not extend out more than 3 inches at either side. Strings also should be sewn in place, the commission says, so that they don't catch on something if pulled all the way to one side.
"This industry must stop violating these guidelines, because they are putting the safety of children at risk," Wolfson says. "This is not a minimal risk. This is a risk of death."
The recalls can be found at www.cpsc.gov/.