Recalls in Review: A monthly spotlight on the trending regulatory enforcement issues at the CPSC.

As children head back to the classroom this Fall, the CPSC issued a news release reminding parents to “Think Safety First” as kids return to schools.  Recognizing that many back-to-school shopping carts also include new clothes and pajamas, we look back at CPSC regulatory actions involving Children’s Sleepwear in this month’s installment of “Recalls in Review.”

The Consumer Product Safety Commission has regulated the flammability of children’s sleepwear since at least the 1970s.  In addition to other safety standards imposed on children’s products, children’s sleepwear is governed by Federal Safety Standards for the Flammability of Children’s Sleepwear based on sizing of the garments (16 CFR Part 1615 and 16 CFR Part 1616).  The regulations apply to any product of wearing apparel, such as nightgowns, pajamas, or similar or related items, such as robes, that is intended to be worn primarily for sleeping or activities related to sleeping.  Specific items—including diapers, underwear, and certain infant tight-fitting garments—are exempted from the definition of children’s sleepwear.

The CPSC began monitoring the safety of children’s sleepwear more closely in 2011.  At least 82 recalls of children’s sleepwear have been conducted since 2001, with 77 of those recalls occurring after 2010.  Only a handful of related recalls were conducted prior to 2001.  However, at least 11 civil penalties relating to children’s sleepwear were issued between 1980 and 2001, with somewhat dated fines ranging from $3,500 to $850,000.

Children’s sleepwear-related recalls have targeted several different types of sleepwear, including traditional pajama sets and separates, bathrobes, nightgowns, loungewear, and infant sleep sacks.  The most commonly recalled type is traditional pajamas, although robes account for the next highest category with seventeen percent of all children’s sleepwear recalls.

According to the information provided by the CPSC recall announcements, ninety-eight percent of the recalls since 2001 address the risk of burn posed when the garments fail to meet the federal safety standards for the flammability of children’s sleepwear.  However, a May 2021 recall of an infant sleep sack addressed a risk of suffocation—the size of the neck opening was too large for the intended age group, which could allow an infant’s head to slip into and be covered by the sleep sack.  One other recall of children’s footed pajamas in January 2011 addressed a choking hazard.  The metal snaps that attached a hood to the pajamas could come off and be swallowed by young children.

The Commission is notably proactive in monitoring the safety of children’s sleepwear.  Although the CPSC is often alerted to product issues through consumer complaints and incident reports, nearly all children’s sleepwear recalls are conducted despite having no reported incidents involving the product.  Only one of the recalls since 2001—a June 2012 recall of children’s lounge pants and boxers—noted an incident involving the product, which caught fire.

The most common remedy offered by recalling firms is a refund of the purchase price (85% of the recalls).  Less often, the remedies offered may include a choice between refund or replacement of the product, or only a replacement product.  More than half of the recalls since 2001 (57%) instruct consumers to return the product to the recalling firm in order to receive their refund or replacement item.  Consumers can monitor recalls of children’s sleepwear on or Safer for violations of the federal flammability standards.

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About Recalls in Review:  As with all things, but particularly in retail, it is important to keep your finger on the pulse of what’s trending with consumers.  Regulatory enforcement is no different—it can also be subject to pop culture trends and social media fervor.  And this makes sense, as sales increase for a “trending” product, the likelihood of discovering a product defect or common consumer misuse also increases.  Regulators focus on popular products when monitoring the marketplace for safety issues.

As product safety lawyers, we follow the products that are likely targets for regulatory attention.  We share our observations with you through Recalls in Review.