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Aside from the copious amounts of chocolate and sweets, dressing up has to be the best thing about Halloween. Halloween is the one time of year where you can be almost anything – the more outlandish your costume, the better. And while adults love dressing up, kids love it even more than we do. The thing is that not all children’s Halloween costumes are as harmless as they might appear.

Little fireman

According to the General Product Safety Regulations 2005 all products intended for or likely to be used by consumers under normal or reasonably foreseeable conditions must be safe. For children this means things such as restrictions on hanging drawstrings and limiting any hanging free ends. The Nightwear (Safety) Regulations 1985 go further and ban the supply of children’s nightwear that doesn’t meet flammability performance requirements.

The problem is that as children’s Halloween costumes are classed as toys, they don’t need to meet such strict guidelines. This means that they can have trailing ends and be made from flammable materials which can catch light and burn at a horrifying speed, and legally it’s not a problem. But it is a problem.

In 2014 Claudia Winkleman’s daughter, Matilda, suffered severe burns when her costume caught fire. This terrible accident brought the issue of children’s Halloween safety to the news, and while last year Trading Standards conducted flammability testing on costumes across the UK as a result, how much testing was dependent on local authorities’ budgets (though they were given extra funding last year in order to conduct the flammability tests). However, it hasn’t yet resulted in law changes.

So what can you do to make sure that your child’s Halloween costume is safe?

  • Look on the label for the CE safety marking that shows that the costume meets with toy safety standards.
  • Check also to see if it says that it is “flame-resistant”. Try to avoid those that say “keep away from fire”.
  • Buy costumes that are made from one type of material and avoid layers.
  • Avoid costumes that have trailing parts like tails, tassels and capes.
  • Look for polyester and nylon fabrics which are flame-resistant materials. (Cotton and cotton/polyester blends can be the most flammable).
  • Avoid too much glitter and netted material as these are highly flammable.
  • Buy from a reputable retailer. At present the retailer is responsible for the safety of the costumes they sell.
  • Keep naked flames to a minimum – use LED tealights or equivalent inside pumpkins instead of candles.

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