A federal consumer agency announced fines against four companies Tuesday for improperly selling hooded sweatshirts or jackets that have drawstrings at the neck, posing a safety hazard.

Children's sweatshirts or jackets with drawstrings create a strangulation hazard to children which can result in serious injury or death, the Consumer Product Safety Commission said.

The commission identified the companies as:

—Kohl's Department Stores Inc. of Menomonee Falls, Wis., which has agreed to pay a civil penalty of $425,000. In 2008, Kohl's paid a $35,000 civil penalty for failing to report drawstrings in children's sweatshirts.

—Maran Inc. of North Bergen, N.J. and K.S. Trading Corp. of Moonachie, N.J., which agreed to pay a total of $85,000 in civil penalties.

—Hill Sportswear Inc. of Paramount, Calif., which agreed to pay a civil penalty of $100,000.

About 120,000 Hill Sportswear sweatshirts with drawstring were sold at various small retailers in California and Texas from 2003 through December 2008 for approximately $8 apiece. Due to the serious nature of this hazard, parents are urged to immediately remove the drawstrings from the sweatshirts or return the garments to either the place of purchase or to Hill Sportswear for a full refund.

In November 2008, a 3-year-old boy died in Fresno, Calif., when the drawstring on his Hill Sportswear hooded sweatshirt reportedly became stuck on a playground set strangling him. Hill Sportswear and CPSC announced a recall of the sweatshirts in February of this year.

In agreeing to the settlement, the companies deny CPSC's allegations that they knowingly violated the law.

Federal law requires manufacturers, distributors, and retailers to report to the agency within 24 hours that a product contains a defect that causes a safety hazard or doesn't comply with consumer product safety rules.

The commission issued guidelines in 1996 to help prevent children from strangling or getting entangled in the neck or waist drawstrings in jackets and sweatshirts. In 1997, the clothing industry adopted a voluntary standard for drawstrings that incorporated the CPSC guidelines.

In May 2006, the agency announced that children's sweatshirts or jackets with drawstrings at the hood or neck would be regarded as defective and presenting a substantial risk of injury to young children.