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Your regular update for technical and industry information

Technical guideline about drawstrings safety on children's upper outerwear in US market

June 2019 - Relevant for: Softlines

A drawstring is a non-retractable cord, ribbon, or tape of any material to pull together parts of upper outerwear to provide for closure. Drawstrings on children’s clothing are hidden hazard that can lead to deaths and injuries when they catch on such items as playground equipment, bus doors, or cribs.

What is the hazard associated with drawstrings?

The drawstrings on children’s upper outerwear can be caught and snagged on other objects causing ‘strangulation’ or ‘entanglement’ and lead to deaths or injuries to the young children. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) staff is aware of 18 deaths and 38 nonfatal incidents associated with neck/hood drawstrings on children's outerwear between January 1985 and September 2009, involving children 18 months to 10 years of age. The most common incident scenarios involved drawstrings getting entangled on playground slides, where the toggle or knot on the drawstring got caught in a small space or gap at the top of the slide. Incidents also occurred when the long, trailing drawstring at the waist of a jacket was caught on the closed door of a moving school bus.1

 drawstring 1  drawstring 2

Hood and neck drawstrings can become entangled on playground equipment, cribs, and other common items.

Waist drawstrings can become entangled in a bus door.

What are the legal requirements in US on safety specification for drawstrings on children's upper outerwear?

The CPSC has enacted the rule “16 CFR Part 1120 - Substantial product hazard list”2 and according to this rule, children’s upper outerwear with drawstrings is considered to be a "substantial product hazard" if it does not conform to the requirements of the voluntary standard ASTM F1816-97 - Standard Safety Specification for Drawstrings on Children's Upper Outerwear.

[Note: ASTM International withdrawn the old version of the standard ASTM F1816-97 and reinstated new version ‘ASTM F1816-18’ in November 20183. However, the CPSC incorporated the old version of the standard ‘ASTM F1816-97’ by reference in the regulation.]

See below for the requirements on drawstrings in this standard:

Hood and neck area of children's upper outerwear in sizes 2T to 12

At the waist and bottom of children's upper outerwear in sizes 2T to 16

  • Drawstrings are not allowed.


Alternative closures:
CPSC recommends that children's upper outerwear have alternative closures, such as snaps, buttons, velcro, and elastic.

drawstring 3

  • The length of drawstrings at the waist and bottom of children's upper outerwear shall not be more than 3 inches outside the drawstring channel when the garment is expanded to its fullest width.
  • No toggles, knots, and other attachments are allowed at the free ends of drawstrings
  • If a waist or bottom drawstring is one continuous string, it must be bar tacked (i.e., stitched through to prevent the drawstring from being pulled through its channel).

drawstring 4

What does "upper outerwear" include?

The standard defines "upper outerwear" as "clothing, such as jackets and sweatshirts, generally intended to be worn on the exterior of other garments". This definition excludes underwear and inner layers, but it includes lightweight outerwear that is appropriate for use in warmer climates. Pants, shorts, and skirts which are not intended for the upper portion of the body are excluded from the scope of the standard.

What are the equivalent numerical sizes if garments are labelled with non-numerical size system?

The CPSC provided a guideline in the regulation 16 CFR 1120.3(b)(2)4 about the relation between the numerical and non-numerical size system.

See below table for the non-numerical sizes and their equivalent numerical sizes.

Girls and Boys

Non-numerical sizes

Equivalent numerical sizes

Smaller than Large (L), including
Extra-Small (XS), Small (S), and Medium

Smaller than size 12

Large (L)

Size 12

Extra-Large (XL)

Size 16

Larger than size Extra-Large (XL)

Does not necessarily mean that the item is not equivalent to a size in the range of 2T to 12, or in the range of 2T to 16. The CPSC may use any other evidence that would tend to show that a garment is a size that is equivalent to sizes 2T to 16.

[1] CPSC’s Recommended Guidelines

[2] 16 CFR Part 1120 | Substantial product hazard list

[3] ASTM F1816-18 | December 2018

[4] CPSC’s guideline on non-numerical size

[5] Drawstrings in Children's Upper Outerwear: Frequently Asked Questions


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