Macy’s to Pay CPSC Penalty Over Drawstrings in Children’s Clothing

Macy’s of Cincinnati, Ohio, just agreed to pay a $750,000 civil penalty for failing to report <"">drawstrings in children’s outerwear, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) announced. As we’ve long explained, drawstrings pose strangulation and entanglement hazards.

The CPSC provisionally accepted the penalty agreement; the settlement resolves CPSC staff allegations that Macy’s knowingly failed to immediately report to the CPSC, as is federally mandated, that it sold children’s sweatshirts, sweaters, and jackets with drawstrings at the neck from 2006 through 2010. Children’s upper outerwear with drawstrings, including sweatshirts, sweaters and jackets, pose a strangulation hazard to children that can result in serious injury or death. In agreeing to the settlement, Macy’s denies CPSC staff allegations that it knowingly violated the law.

The sweatshirts, sweaters, and jackets discussed in the penalty agreement were sold by Macy’s and Macy’s-owned stores, including Bloomingdale’s, and Robinsons-May. CPSC staff alleges that Macy’s knowingly sold some garments after a recall had been negotiated. This is illegal under the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) of 2008.

Federal law requires manufacturers, distributors, and retailers to immediately—within 24 hours—advise the CPSC after obtaining information reasonably supporting the conclusion that a product contains a defect which could create a substantial product hazard; creates an unreasonable risk of serious injury or death; or fails to comply with any consumer product safety rule or any other rule, regulation, standard, or ban enforced by CPSC.

In February 1996, CPSC issued guidelines, which were incorporated into an industry voluntary standard in 1997, to help prevent children from strangling or becoming entangled on drawstrings in outerwear garments, such as jackets or sweatshirts. In 2006, CPSC’s Office of Compliance announced that children’s upper outerwear with drawstrings at the hood or neck would be regarded as defective and presented a substantial risk of injury to young children.

Since the industry standard was introduced, fatal incidents involving garments with drawstrings through the neck or hood have decreased by 75 percent, and fatalities associated with drawstrings through the waist or bottom have dropped 100 percent. Sadly, despite the implementation of the standard, the guidelines are too often ignored by manufacturers and, from 2006 through 2010, the agency participated in 115 recalls for noncomplying products with drawstrings.

Effective 2006, CPSC and the garments’ manufacturers and distributors announced recalls of the following children’s garments with drawstrings that were sold at Macy’s, Bloomingdale’s and Robinsons-May:

• Quiksilver Inc. Hide & Seek Hooded Sweatshirts

• Jerry Leigh of California Inc. Harajuku Lovers Hooded Jackets

• La Jolla Sport USA Inc. O’Neill Children’s Sweatshirts

• Dysfunctional Clothing LLC children’s Hooded Sweatshirts

• Macy’s Merchandising Group Inc. Epic Threads Hooded Sweatshirts and Greendog Sweaters

• C-MRK Inc. Ocean Current Boys’ Hooded Sweatshirts

• NTD Apparel Inc. Hello Kitty Hooded Sweatshirts

• S. Rothschild & Co Inc. Girls’ Coats

• VF Contemporary Brands Inc. Splendid Girls’ Hooded Jackets and Vest Sets

On June 29, 2011, the Commission approved a final rule designating children’s upper outerwear in sizes 2T through 12 with neck or hood drawstrings, and children’s upper outerwear in sizes 2T through 16 with certain waist or bottom drawstrings, as substantial product hazards. The final rule can be accessed here.

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