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N.Y. state demands thrift stores comply with ban on child drawstring apparel

By Laila Kearney

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Dozens of New York thrift stores selling children's clothing with drawstrings have received cease and desist letters as part of a clampdown on the sale of products that the state has long banned in retail outlets, officials said on Tuesday.

New York prohibited the sale of most children's clothing with drawstrings in 2003, after a series of strangulation deaths, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said in a statement.

"With these warning letters, we are sending a clear signal that thrift shops, like all retailers, must comply with the law – that they cannot sell clothing that puts children at risk of injury, strangulation and death," Schneiderman said, adding that he also hoped the move would raise parents' awareness of the issue.

The 46 thrift stores that received letters this month were ordered to stop selling illegal drawstring garments immediately and to remove such items from their shelves.

The establishments have so far complied with the state's orders, Schneiderman said.

In a sampling of New York used clothing stores, about 90 percent sold illegal drawstring children's clothing, including shirts, sweatshirts and pants, the attorney general's office said. Some of the garments may have been purchased before the ban went into effect and subsequently donated to charities.

The Salvation Army, which operates close to 100 retail stores in New York to support its 12 adult rehabilitation centers in the state, received letters for 13 of its local stores. Goodwill Industries received letters for 10 stores.

"There's no question it's a difficult job when you consider the sheer volume of donations we ask our people to screen," Salvation Army Lieutenant Colonel Hugh Steele said in a statement about how the banned clothing ended up on store shelves.

"The fact these items are one-of-a-kind means it's not as simple as removing a certain rack, as it does for retailers of merchandise."

Steele said the Salvation Army has advised its donation screeners to reject banned drawstring clothing and other potentially hazardous items.

Drawstrings are allowed at the waist of a children’s garment sized from 2T to 16 if they meet certain length and construction requirements.

The strings, which have strangled children by catching on cribs, playground equipment and car doors, caused 26 deaths and 58 injuries between 1985 and 2011, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.

Federal regulators imposed guidelines on drawstring use on children's clothing in 1996.

(Reporting by Laila Kearney; Editing by Frank McGurty and Eric Beech)

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