If you’ve ever received a package in the mail from a retailer such as Old Navy, Target, or Amazon, chances are you’ve seen a warning suffocation label. These labels are designed to warn parents and caregivers, as well as pet parents, of the dangers associated with plastic bags. How do companies know when a warning suffocation label is needed? And what type of mailing supplies are available to help ensure safety is your number one priority? Let’s find out.
Statistics & Requirements
According to the US Consumer Product Safety Commission, 25 reports are made each year regarding deaths of children who suffocated due to plastic bags, with almost 90 percent of these instances involving children under one year of age. This statistic, combined with research suggesting that suffocation warnings are an effective way to reduce the deaths of infants and children, has prompted some states, cities, and companies to require a warning suffocation label on any mailing supplies that may put children at an elevated risk.
As of 2018, five states — Massachusetts, California, New York, Rhode Island, and Virginia — as well as two major cities — New York City and Chicago — have passed legislation regarding the use of a warning suffocation label on plastic mailing supplies. More than a dozen smaller towns across the county, including Avondale, AZ; Big Stone Gap, VA; East Baton Rouge Parish, LA; Gering, NE; Saint Louis County, MO; South Bend, IN; Stamford, CT; and Weatherford, TX have also enacted similar policies.
Although each state and municipality have specific language that they suggest the warning include, the following warning suffocation label wording is accepted across the board: “Warning: To avoid the danger of suffocation, keep this plastic bag away from babies and children. Do not use this bag in cribs, beds, carriages, or playpens. This bag is not a toy.”
There are also specific sizing requirements in place, depending on the location, with Massachusetts standing as the most comprehensive and restrictive. In general, the following guidelines based on total length and width should meet most requirements for a warning suffocation label on plastic bags and mailing supplies.
- Less than 25 inches — 10-point minimum font size
- 25 to 39 inches — 14-point minimum font size
- 40 to 59 inches — 18-point minimum font size
- 60 inches or more — 24-point minimum font size
As thousands of companies and individual sellers turn to fulfillment by Amazon, it’s more important than ever to pay close attention to the specific warning suffocation label on mailing supplies required by the company. With Amazon’s FBA program, or Fulfillment by Amazon, orders are fulfilled by Amazon for a fee that covers the storage and processing of each item.
To make the process as easy as possible, Amazon requires that items be individually packaged in poly mailers. For example, if you are a retailer who sells sweaters through Amazon, you would separately package each sweater in a poly mailer bag, package the collection of bags into a large container or box, and then ship the item to an FBA facility. When one of your sweaters sells on Amazon, an employee will select the bag containing the sweater, and place it in a box or mailer for delivery.
Amazon has precise requirements for its poly mailers, not only for efficiency but for safety as well. Plastic poly bags for merchandise mailed by FBA must meet the following standards:
- The thickness of the bag must be at least 1.5 mil.
- The poly bag must be transparent.
- Poly bags with a 5-inch opening or larger (measured when flat) are required to have a warning suffocation label, either printed on the bag itself or attached as a label. Failure to apply a warning suffocation label to your mailing supplies may lead to the items being re-bagged.
- The suffocation warning needs to be placed in a prominent location on the bag, and in a font size that is legible and size appropriate for the bag.
While neither eBay nor Esty has their specific requirements in place — assumingly because the products themselves are fulfilled by individual merchants who are liable for their mailing supplies — Target and Walmart have warning suffocation label policies similar to FBA. Also, grocery retail giant Kroger released a memo in 2017 detailing its requirements for “all private label products.”
Best Practices for Poly Mailers
When deciding if a warning suffocation label is necessary for your mailing supplies, it’s always better to lean towards the “better safe than sorry” approach. As the previously mentioned retailers require, adding a warning suffocation label to any poly bag with an opening of at least five inches should be standard practice. Regardless of the location of your company, you may send a product to a customer in a location that has legislation on warning suffocation labels. (Need help picking the right mailer? We’ve got you covered!)
Suffocation is at its highest risk among infants. While we often imagine a child-placing the bag over their head intentionally, children can become entangled in plastic bags, causing the plastic to create a seal over the child’s nose and mouth. Unfortunately, children at the highest risk for suffocation are unable to read a warning suffocation label. However, providing a reminder to consumers can help avoid disaster due to accidental carelessness.
Adding a warning suffocation label to your poly mailers makes sense both financially and morally. Although it may seem like an obvious statement, limiting your company’s liability can help prevent unnecessary lawsuits if an unfortunate incident should occur in the future.
Types of Labels for Mailers
While most of the instances we’ve discussed have implied a warning suffocation label printed directly onto the poly mailer, there are several options available when it comes to ensuring your mailing supplies are compliant.
Clear plastic self-seal poly bags are available in a variety of sizes. In addition to a warning printed in English, these bags have taken the extra precaution to offer a warning suffocation label on all of its bags in three languages: English, Spanish, and French.
If you have already purchased mailing supplies and are interested in adding a warning suffocation label, these stickers are an excellent option for smaller poly mailers. At two inches square, they are the perfect size to ensure that your bags provide a reminder to consumers to be extra cautious when recycling or disposing of their mailing supplies.
Regardless of what you’re shipping or where adding a suffocation warning label to your mailing supplies is a smart way to avoid any liability. At Shop4Mailers, the safety of our consumers and their customers is one of our highest priorities, which is why we offer a variety of warning suffocation label mailing supplies to meet all of your needs.