Hallowe'en Costume Safety: The Very Real Nightmare?

Updated: Apr 21

After the horrific experience of BBCs beloved Claudia Winkleman on Halloween 2014, and the ensuing 2015 Trading Standards investigation, here at Adexon® we want to spread awareness on how to keep your little ghouls safe this spooky season as Trick or Treating resumes around the country.


This deadly and devastating issue is gaining traction in the mainstream media this Hallowe’en, and local fire stations are now carrying out their own safety tests to test more costumes to raise awareness ahead of the surge to the shops this year.


Matt Harper, Fire Investigation Station Commander from Surrey’s Fire and Rescue Services recently recommended a new way of lighting up our pumpkins this Autumn to help stop deadly costume fires ruining the lives of families across the country. He explains,


“one of the safest things that you can do this Halloween is to swap out your tealights for torches or glow sticks. This can greatly help to reduce the risk of costumes catching fire. Halloween should be spooky, but not dangerous.”[1]

Child's witch costume melting and burning


[2] CE testing

CE testing itself is not necessarily a marker that the toy or costume you intend to buy for your child is 100% safe from ignition and burning, instead, that it is intended to be sold within Europe and has therefore passed a list of essential safety requirements that deem it to be resistant to burning and makes it easier to stop, once ignited.


This CE marking can usually be found on the tag and can help parents and carers have an understanding and surety that the product has passed enough requirements to be considered safe.

Part of this European Standard is passing EN71.



European Standard EN71

To ensure CE requirements, toys and costumes must comply with testing of 13 standards, known as EN71. These 13 safety standards are:


  • EN 71-1: Mechanical and physical properties

  • EN 71-2: Flammability

  • EN 71-3: Specification for migration of certain elements

  • EN 71-4: Experimental sets for chemistry and related activities

  • EN 71-5: Chemical toys (sets) other than experimental sets

  • EN 71-6: Graphical symbols for age warning labelling

  • EN 71-7: Finger paints

  • EN 71-8: Swings, slides, and similar activity toys for indoor and outdoor family domestic use

  • EN 71-9: Organic chemical compounds – Requirement

  • EN 71-10: Organic chemical compounds – Sample preparation and extraction

  • EN 71-11: Organic chemical compounds – Methods of analysis

  • EN 71-12: N-Nitrosamines and N-Nitrosatable Substances

  • EN 71-13: Olfactory board games, cosmetic kits, and gustative games


These standards ensure toys meet minimum safety factors and offer peace of mind for consumers.


UKCA

To seemingly add more confusion into the mix, as of January 2021, due to the changes being brought in around the globe due to Brexit, the UK Government has brought in a new safety mark for products to be sold in the UK: the UK Conformity Assessed marking- UKCA.


Maps showing where safety marking will be from, CE, UKCA, and UKNI

This new marking system will essentially replace the European CE mark[3], which should be out of circulation after January 2022. Any product not featuring the new UKCA lettering at this point should not be allowed entry, or be sold within the UK.


The new marking is only applicable to England, Scotland, and Wales, as Northern Ireland requires CE or UKNI marking to pass through into the country.[4] Consumers are being encouraged to be aware of the potential change in labelling ahead of January.



British Retail Consortium (BRC) voluntary Codes of Practice


Some British retailers have joined together to create a consortium that encourages extra testing for flammability and fire safety, directly resulting in life-changing fancy dress garment fires. Garments brought from these organisations will have extra testing information on the label, as you can see below. [5]



Warning tag, shows costume has undergone extra safety testing for flammability.


Retailers who supported the BRC voluntary Codes of Practice.[6]


ALDI, Asda Stores Ltd, Boots UK Limited, John Lewis plc, Marks & Spencer, Morrisons, Mothercare, Next Retail Ltd, Sainsbury’s, Argos, Tesco Stores Ltd, The Co-Operative Group, Waitrose, WHSmith, Wilko Retail, Christy's by Design, Rubies UK, and Smiffy's.

When buying from retailers, it is important to check the label and ensure that the product you are purchasing has had the additional flammability tests.



Best Advice for Buying Costumes this Hallowe’en.


  • Always buy from a reputable retailer.

  • Always ensure the garments are CE and/or UKCA marked and state that they are flame retardant.

  • Ensure they have undergone additional testing from the BRC- this will be evident on a tag on the garment.

  • Home-made garments are not subject to the same flammability standards and may ignite and burn faster and easier. It may be best to avoid these altogether.

  • Wear clothes under costumes to put another barrier between skin and burning costumes.

  • Completely avoid the use of real candles- instead purchase flickering LED or other battery-operated candles, or even glowsticks, especially inside your pumpkins.

  • Teach all children the basics of fire safety, including STOP, DROP & ROLL (which continues to be the go-to piece of advice from firefighters if someone does ignite.)

  • Add highlighting or reflective strips to increase visibility while out having fun.


__________________________________________________________________________

[1] Quote from Matt Harper, Fire Investigation Station Commander from Surrey’s Fire and Rescue services, from Surrey Live, <https://www.getsurrey.co.uk/news/surrey-news/kids-halloween-costume-engulfed-flames-21797227>, 08.10.2021

[2] Image is taken from ITV, ‘What to look out for when buying your child's Halloween costume,’ <https://www.itv.com/news/2015-10-27/what-to-look-out-for-when-buying-your-childs-halloween-costume> 08.10.2021.

[3] Captec, ‘WHAT DOES THE NEW UKCA MARK MEAN FOR UK BUSINESSES?’, <https://captec-group.com/the-new-ukca-mark-and-what-it-means-to-uk-businesses/ >, 08.10.2021

[4] Captec, ‘WHAT DOES THE NEW UKCA MARK MEAN FOR UK BUSINESSES?’, <https://captec-group.com/the-new-ukca-mark-and-what-it-means-to-uk-businesses/> , 08.10.2021

[5] Image is taken from Which?, ‘Halloween kids costumes from B&M and eBay fail flammability testing,’ <https://www.which.co.uk/news/2018/10/halloween-kids-costumes-from-bm-and-ebay-fail-flammability-testing/> 08.10.2021

[6] BRC, ‘Code of Practice: Flammability Labelling of Children’s toys,’ <https://brc.org.uk/media/159972/brc-flammability-labelling-of-childrens-dress-up-labelling.pdf > 08/10/2021

Cover image from Pexels.com, courtesy of Yuting Gao

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