Since Claudia Winkleman’s daughter was badly burned last year after her Halloween costume caught on fire, the safety of fancy dress costumes has been at the forefront of many parents’ minds.
While the government has ordered spot checks of costumes, and some stores have pledged to undertake additional testing, experts believe that existing U.K. safety standards simply don’t go far enough.
Because fancy dress costumes are treated as toys when it comes to fire safety, they don’t have to meet the high standards that children’s clothing does. Under EN71-2, outfits are set alight in controlled conditions, and for the garment to meet the standard, the flame must not spread faster than 3 cm per second. Anything with a burning rate between 1 cm and 3 cm per second must carry a label saying: “Warning! Keep away from fire”. Those that pass can carry a CE safety marking, however there is growing concern that these can too easily be faked.
Channel Mum vloggers JK and Charlie carried out their own (non-scientific) tests at home using candles and costumes from popular high street shops, and the results make for shocking viewing.
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So far, two of the shops have responded to the tests — Marks and Spencer and Sainsbury’s.
Marks and Spencer said: “We are confident that all our childrenswear meets all the relevant safety regulations and the very high safety standards we set ourselves. Every dress up item is subjected to independent flammability tests under strict laboratory conditions to make sure this is the case.”
Sainsbury’s said: “We have looked at every detail of our children’s dress-up range to improve safety. All of our children’s dress-up outfits meet both European toy and British nightwear flammability safety standards. We want to help make sure everyone stays safe this Halloween and to be aware that all clothes are flammable. We are therefore encouraging our customers to buy LED tea lights for their pumpkins, rather than using normal candles.”
Ultimately, whatever the shops say, the video says so much more. The fact that the costumes meet existing safety standards doesn’t mean much, when it’s widely recognised that those standards fall short.
This doesn’t mean you have to stop your kids from trick-or-treating this year. But be aware of the risks of buying a cheap costume from your local supermarket. Consider making your own, or spending a little more on an outfit that’s going to be a safer option. Here are some tips for making your children’s Halloween adventure as safe as possible:
• Choose costumes made from 100 percent synthetic fibres, like nylon or polyester. Notonthehighstreet.com has a good range of 100 percent polyester costumes.
• Avoid glitter, which tends to be more flammable.
• Skip capes, trains and dangling sleeves, as these can graze lanterns and candles, as well as pose a tripping hazard.
• Use caution when creating DIY costumes. Stick with polyester, nylon, wool and acrylic fabrics, avoiding natural fibres like cotton wool balls. Make sure costumes are not loose fitting.
• Use battery-operated candles in your pumpkins instead of lit ones.
• Never leave candles or lit pumpkins unattended anywhere in your home or near a walking path.