The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission establishes rules that children's clothing manufacturers and retail vendors must follow for the well-being of children. Regulations have been in existence for many years, but the newer rules and standards are part of the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) that was originally scheduled to go into effect in February 2009. The details of the CPSIA and subsequent modifications, postponements and clarifications have been published so consumers can have the most current information about safety rules for children's clothes.
The CPSC issued guidelines for drawstrings on children's outerwear in 1996, which were later incorporated into a voluntary standard for clothing manufacturers. Outerwear for children should not have drawstrings that could get entangled in playground equipment, fences or tree branches, according to the CPSC.
Wearing apparel, including clothing and costumes, must be constructed of textiles that meet stringent flammability tests before they make it to the retail environment. Only items made from class one and class two textiles -- they have a flame spread time of less than seven seconds -- may be used for children's clothing. Hats, gloves, footwear and outer garments are exempt from this mandate and sleepwear has a stricter regulation.
Children's clothing labeled or marketed as sleepwear must be flame resistant and self-extinguish if a flame from a candle, match or lighter comes into contact with the clothing item. This rule applies to sleepwear from size nine months to size 14. Sleep garments should also be "tight fitting." Whether or not a parent chooses to dress her child in sleepwear can't be regulated, but if parents know what kinds of safety measures are in place, they can make more educated decisions.
Sure, the baby-sized blue jean jacket or sequined slip are adorable, but if they bear buttons, bows, tassels, beads or other embellishments that could come loose and become a choking hazard, they aren't safe for your little one.
Loosely knitted clothing such as sweaters, booties, hats and mittens can also be a hazard. Tiny fingers and toes can get caught in the gaps between threads.
New clothing that you purchase from a retailer in the United States is subject to federally-mandated regulation, but it's important to remember that these rules and regulations change over time. If you shop at a thrift store, inherit hand-me-downs or dress your child in handmade clothing, those items may or may not pass muster according to the most current guidelines.
- United States Consumer Product Safety Commission: The Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA)
- American Apparel and Footwear Association: Sleepwear
- Consumer Reports: Baby Clothes Buying Guide
- Boston Children's Hospital: Airway Obstruction
- U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission: Requirements for Clothing Textiles
- CPSC: Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008
- Thomas Northcut/Digital Vision/Getty Images