Scary product safety issues at Halloween
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With Acting Commissioner for Consumer Protection David Hillyard
The tradition of wearing costumes at Halloween has been around for centuries but it’s some of the more recent dressing-up trends that give Consumer Protection cause for concern. In the lead-up to October 31st, we send product safety officers out to WA stores to inspect Halloween-themed items, which pose a risk to children, but we also need parents and carers to be aware of hazards.
Children can suffer severe burns or death if clothing they are wearing catches fire. Costumes including capes and draping sleeves are often made of synthetic material and a naked flame, such as a candle in a pumpkin, could cause the fabric to ignite.
Generally flammable items will have a ‘high fire danger, keep away from fire’ warning sign on the packet (there is a mandatory labelling standard for children’s nightwear in Australia). Take note of the advice.
Last year a UK TV presenter spoke out about her young daughter’s witch costume and tights catching alight by coming into contact with a candle during ‘trick or treating’. The little girl, who had to be rolled to put the fire out, has since undergone multiple surgeries for the skin burns.
Flashing items with button batteries
Woolworths has recently issued a national recall of spinning ghost and pumpkin Halloween wands because they can crack open causing the button batteries to fall out. Woolies also recalled a Halloween flashing tumbler and goblet because the button batteries could be accessed too easily.
It’s common for children under five years old to be taken to Australian hospital emergency departments after swallowing button batteries, which can get stuck in a child's throat and burn through the oesophagus within two hours. Tragically there have been deaths. Those who survive can require feeding and breathing tubes and multiple surgeries.
Products like flashing witches noses, devil horns or earrings might not be aimed at young children but that doesn’t mean they won’t get into tiny hands.
- Check battery compartments on toys are secure (do a drop test) and supervise children playing with battery-operated toys.
- If a child swallows a button battery do not let them eat or drink, do not make them vomit and seek immediate medical attention. You can also speak to The Poisons Information Centre on 13 11 26 for additional treatment information.
In WA, report battery-operated toys with unsecured covers, or any product you think might be unsafe, by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or calling 1300 30 40 54.
Glow sticks / bracelets
Infants or children can be exposed to chemicals if glow sticks or bracelets are chewed on or broken. The fluorescent liquid contents may cause irritation to the eyes, skin or mouth.
- Check glow sticks won’t break easily by giving them a tug.
- Don’t let children chew glow bracelets and do not cut them off.
Make up / fake blood etc.
There needs to be cosmetic labelling in English on Halloween face paints or crayons, nail polishes, temporary tattoos and general makeup, so consumers can make an informed purchasing choice.
- Check ingredients and make sure your child is not allergic to anything in the product.
- Consider a patch test on skin.
Novelty contact lenses
A prescription is not required and there is no age restriction on purchases of novelty contact lenses, which can be sold anywhere. However, consultation with an eye care professional is recommended because certain pre-existing conditions can mean contact lenses are not suitable for some people.
Even if there is no medical reason to avoid using contact lenses, a professional testing session with an optician is advisable to avoid eye irritations, infections or blindness through incorrect use.
- Follow any safety and care instructions (including how many uses before replacement).
- Ensure lenses are sterilised with appropriate solution before putting them in.
- Do not leave them in too long (if unsure how long, ask your optometrist).
- Never share lenses with someone else.
Further product safety information about all of these products is available at: www.productsafety.gov.au
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