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Does the U.S. Require Suffocation Warnings on Plastic Bags for Non-toy Items?

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Does the U.S. Require Suffocation Warnings on Plastic Bags for Non-toy Items?

  •  I am a manufacturer of outdoor power equipment. Some of our manuals and small parts ship in plastic bags. We ship worldwide; it appears both Canada and Europe are primarily interested in suffocation warnings on bags for toys. Do any of the states or cities in the U.S. that require suffocation warnings on plastic bags require such warnings on bags for non-toy equipment?
  • Is there a minimum size below which the suffocation advisory is not needed on plastic bags?

In the U.S., legal requirements for "child suffocation" warnings on certain plastic bags exist in five states and two cities: California, Massachusetts, New York, Rhode Island, and Virginia, and New York City and Chicago. There are no federal legal requirements on this issue.

It is beyond the scope of this site to provide a comprehensive review of all state and local legal requirements. However, the state and local laws are consistent in applying the warning requirement only to plastic bags that are thinner than 1 mil (1/1000 of an inch). The laws vary with respect to the size of the opening that will trigger a warning requirement. Some specify a particular minimum size opening in inches (i.e., Rhode Island specifies 5 inches in diameter when formed into a circle, and Massachusetts and New York specifies 7 inches in diameter), while California targets bags "large enough to fit over a child's head." Some laws apply only to bags with a minimum combined length and width.

In response to the second question, while the warnings are designed to protect children, the types of plastic bags requiring a warning vary by jurisdiction. In Rhode Island, for example, the warning requirement applies to plastic bags "intended for household use or for packaging articles intended for household use."

We suggest that you consult with qualified legal counsel to help determine your specific legal obligations.

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