Parents should be careful when buying costumes for their children. The shocking news of the serious burns suffered by Claudia Winkleman’s daughter after her Halloween costume caught fire indicates that reform of the legal standards covering these products should be seriously considered.
According to the CTSI, 32 RAPEX notifications regarding chemical and flammability hazards relating to children’s fancy dress costumes were issued last year. Worryingly, the annual average of notifications during the last eight years was seven notifications, meaning that 2014 saw a 357% increase in the number of notifications relating to this type of toy, leading to concerns that unsafe, poor quality costumes are entering the European market.
Matilda, eight, was in a witch’s costume when it brushed against a candle at a house in London last year. Winkleman told BBC One’s Watchdog programme: “We couldn’t put her out … her tights had melted into her skin”. Matilda has had several operations, and her surgeon is calling for tougher fire safety laws on fancy dress outfits. Children’s nightwear has to meet strict standards of fire safety (specifically EN 14878:2007), but the requirements for costumes are less stringent – they are treated as toys when it comes to flammability and fire safety, and so fall only under EN 71-2. In the US, on the other hand, the scope of the legislation covering clothing flammability is broader. The Requirements for Clothing Textiles, 16 C.F.R. Part 1610 covers “any costume or article of clothing that people wear”.
This is not an isolated incident – the surgeon concerned referred to a “mini epidemic” of paediatric burn injuries “in certain periods of the year”. Clearly this presents an unacceptable level of risk not only to individuals like Matilda, but also to retailers and distributors – who have to take into account not only the moral implications of which products they choose to sell, but also the associated legal and reputational risks to their business.