According to an inspection campaign conducted by the FPS Economy in Belgium in 2020, nearly four in five children's clothing items that were examined did not comply with safety regulations.
The action allowed the clothing in question to be withdrawn from the market. The action followed the 2019 findings of the European Rapid Alert System for dangerous non-food products, that clothing was the third most reported product category for dangerous products in 2019.
In total, the FPS Economy inspected 168 garments for children up to the age of 14. Of these, the FPS sampled 39 items for further inspection.
Risk of strangulation
The FPS Economy focused in particular on the cords and accessories attached to children's garments. These have played a role in the past in a number of fatal accidents involving children in Europe and elsewhere.
The cords usually end in a knot or stopper which can cause small children to become entangled in playground equipment such as slides. Older children can also become entangled in moving vehicles such as buses (doors), ski elevators and bicycles. This can lead to serious injuries or fatalities from strangulation or entrapment.
The checks carried out during the campaign showed that 31 of the 39 garments from the Belgian market that were sampled did not comply with safety regulations. In fact, 28 of them posed a serious or high risk.
Corrective actions were requested for all the garments presenting a risk. The FPS are pleased that most of the market players involved have taken the necessary actions. This shows the usefulness of such a campaign, which they will re-launch in 2021.
Parents can rest assured that the results of the campaign do not reflect the situation of the entire Belgian children's clothing market. Indeed, for this campaign, FPS Economy staff were specifically looking for non-compliant and potentially dangerous products on the Belgian market.
This standardization on the safety of children’s clothing is closely followed-up by Edwin Maes in the Centexbel Standards-Cell “Safety & Health”.
Fashion designers, producers, importers and retailers of children's clothing are welcome to contact Edwin Maes, who is the Centexbel consultant "Clothing textiles".
Producers, importers and retailers of children’s garments can submit their articles to the Centexbel physical laboratory in Zwijnaarde to evaluate their safety according to the requirements of the applicable standards.
The European Committee for Standardization has developed a set of documents to evaluate the safety of children’s clothing and to check their compliance against the requirements of the General Product Safety Directive (GPSD).
The CEN documents (see below) are based on CEN/TR 16792:2014 – Safety of children’s clothing – Recommendations for the design and manufacture of children’s clothing – Mechanical safety, that includes the following mechanical hazards and associated risks:
- Ischaemic injuries caused by loose or untrimmed threads on the foot or hand area of garments becoming wrapped around fingers or toes, or by entrapment of fingers or toes in open fabrics (e.g. crochet) or in fabrics with long float stitches.
- Entrapment of the penis in a slide fastener (zip)
- Injuries from sharp objects
- Choking and aspiration: Buttons, toggles, and many other garment attachments (including rubber and soft plastics items, such as badges) can be a potential hazard, particularly to children under 36 months, if the item becomes detached from the garment. Aspiration (where items are inhaled via the mouth or nose) is possible if detached parts are sufficiently small to pass into the trachea or lungs, for example beads, diamanté and sequins.
- Swallowing: In most cases a detached item that has been swallowed will pass into the stomach and should eventually pass through the body with food without causing harm. Notable exceptions are sharp objects, button cell batteries and magnets.
- Magnets: If more than one magnet, or one magnet and a ferromagnetic object (for example iron or nickel) is ingested, the objects can attract to each other across intestinal walls and cause perforation or blockage, which can be fatal.
- Strangulation and entrapment: Garments manufactured with cords, drawstrings or loops present a potential risk of strangulation and, entrapment.
- Slipping, tripping, and falling: Accident statistics show that the majority of tripping and falling accidents are caused by poorly fitting garments.
- Restriction of vision and hearing: Garments with hoods, and certain types of headwear, have the potential to increase the risk of the child being involved in an accident.
- Suffocation: Accident statistics suggest that suffocation accidents involving children’s clothing are rare. However, there remains a risk of suffocation in babies under 12 months if a garment has a hood constructed from materials which are impermeable to air.
CEN Documents on Safety of children’s clothing
CEN/TS 17394-1:2021 – Textiles and textile products – Part 1: Safety of children’s clothing – Security of attachment of attached components to infants’ clothing – Specification
Provides requirements for security of attachment for clothing components that are considered as small parts such as buttons, press fasteners, rivets, sequins, diamantes (or pieces of these components) which fit entirely within the small parts cylinder without compression, for infants’ clothing.
EN 17394-2:2020 – Textiles and textile products – Part 2: Safety of children’s clothing - Security of attachment of buttons – Test method
Defines a test method for security of attachment of functional and decorative buttons to clothing including garments such as gloves, hats, scarves, hosiery, ties, and textile belts.
The scope of this document is limited to sewn-on buttons, toggle buttons and tack buttons.
CEN/TS 17394-3:2021 – Textiles and textile products – Part 3: Safety of children’s clothing – Security of attachment of metal mechanically applied press fasteners – Test method
Test method for security of attachment of functional and decorative metal mechanically applied press fasteners to children’s clothing including e.g. gloves, hats, scarves, hosiery, ties, and textile belts.
Eyelets and rivets cannot be tested by this method as the integrity of the component when attached to textile fabrics is destroyed in the gripping action. Eyelets and rivets shall be assessed as described in CEN/TS 17394-4. The scope of this document is limited to metal mechanically applied components.
CEN/TS 17394-4:2021 – Textiles and textile products – Part 4: Safety of children’s clothing – Security of attachment of components except buttons and metal mechanically applied press fasteners – Test method
The method described in this document complements EN 17394-2 and CEN/TS 17394-3, and is applicable to all other components including labels, badges, sequins, rhinestones, rivets, eyelets and non-metal press fasteners, which are too small to be gripped in test equipment jaws or their integrity is disrupted by gripping.
The performance requirements are provided in CEN/TS 17394-1.
The method is an extremely aggressive wash method developed to assess if the components remain attached after multiple washings.
It is specifically applicable to clothing, where the detachment of these components might result in accidents to children.
The following items are covered by other CEN Technical Committees and are therefore out of scope of the above listed documents:
- childcare articles
- shoes, boots and similar footwear
- toys (disguise costumes including carnival costumes are examples of clothing which are also toys and fall within the scope of the Toy Safety Directive)
- other articles sold with clothing