Safety warning issued over flammable Halloween costumes

Concerns have been raised over flammable children's Halloween costumes. Picture: Greg Macvean
Concerns have been raised over flammable children's Halloween costumes. Picture: Greg Macvean
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CHILDREN dressing up for Halloween could be killed or scarred for life by flammable costumes, a prominent video blogging channel has warned.

Video bloggers working for Channel Mum on YouTube tested fancy dress outfits from seven of the UK’s most popular stores and found each one caught fire in just six seconds or less.

Alarmingly, within just 45 seconds, more than half the clothes had burned a third of the way up or higher.

TV presenter Claudia Winkleman’s eight-year-old daughter, Matilda, was in a witch’s costume when it brushed against a candle almost 12 months ago.

She has had several operations and her surgeon has also called for tougher fire safety laws on fancy dress.

With more than half of children and 15 per cent of adults planning to don fancy dress this Halloween, the report raises serious safety questions.

The UK government has ordered Trading Standards to carry out spot checks on costumes to see if they meet safety standards.

But due to a legal loophole, fancy dress costumes are classed as toys to be played with and not worn and therefore only have to be tested to lower flammability standards than pyjamas or nightwear.

While some stores have promised this year their costumes will meet the higher fire safety standards required for youngsters’ nightwear, there is currently no legal requirement for them to do so.

Channel Mum founder Siobhan Freegard said: “Some stores promised they have tightened up Halloween outfit safety, but our video shows the flames ripping through children’s costumes in seconds.

“Clearly much more needs to be done to help families stay safe. Every parent knows Halloween is the ‘perfect storm’ for children’s safety.

“Kids are dressed up, very over excited, munching on trick or treat sweets and in large groups which all means accidents can - and will - happen.

“We need stringent safety regulations and far clearer labelling so parents know if there could be a potential problem with an outfit. Let us hope no more children are injured this Halloween before tougher action is taken.”

Speaking of Matilda’s accident earlier this year, Ms Winkleman said: “I bought her costume from a supermarket, she wanted to go as a witch so she had a witch’s hat and a cape and some stripy tights and a sort of long flowy skirt thing.

“We could not put her out. Her tights had melted into her skin. She went up, is the only way I know how to describe it. It was not like fire I had seen before. She was screaming, all the kids there were screaming.”

Worryingly, a One Poll survey of 2,000 mums found a quarter wrongly believe regulations have been tightened to make costumes safer, while a further 55 per cent are unsure if they have changed.

But four in ten are “very worried” about the safety of their child’s outfit. Just one in seven parents believe shop bought costumes are safe and the same number know a child who has been burned or injured whilst wearing a Halloween costume.

The concerns have led parents to take a huge raft of extra safety measures this year. While two in five will carve pumpkins, more than half (52 per cent) will swap candles for LED battery lights inside their vegetable.

Almost half (43 per cent) have axed the use of tea lights and candles anywhere, while seven per cent have banned their children from dressing up altogether.

And a third will not let their children out trick or treating without two or more adults to watch over them and ensure they keep away from naked flames.

The safety fears have also led to a revival in home made costumes. This year 41 per cent of families say they will opt for homemade over shop bought outfits, as they believe them to be safer.

Last year 21 children were admitted to hospital as a result of their clothing either igniting or melting. Parents are now calling for tough new safety laws on Halloween costumes and all children’s fancy dress.

Three quarters of mothers want stringent laws to ensure all children’s dressing up clothes are flame retardant. More than half (54 per cent) support the introduction of a safety mark for all kids’ fancy dress, not just Halloween.

A further 47 per cent say the Government needs to ensure there are stricter tests for Halloween before costumes go on sale, while 45 per cent insist stores must attach very prominent warning labels if they can catch fire easily.