Paul Fuller, chief fire officer of Beds Fire and Rescue Service, took part in BBC TV’s Watchdog programme to warn parents about the fire risk of children’s fancy dress costumes.
The programme, which was broadcast at 8pm last night (May 14), coincided with Claudia Winkelman speaking publicly for the first time since her eight-year-old daughter was badly burned when her halloweeen costume caught fire.
Mr Fuller said: “These costumes are not covered by current children’s clothing regulations, and the safety standard for them can be as little as a ‘keep away from fire’ label.
“This is not good enough and is putting children’s lives at risk.”
To raise awareness of the risk the programme highlighted how quickly some children’s costumes burn if touched by a naked flame like a candle.
CFO Fuller is a trustee of the Children’s Burns Trust, a charity concerned by the inadequate regulation of children’s fancy dress clothing. Fancy dress costumes have grown in popularity in recent years, partly sparked by tie-ins with animated films and blockbuster action films.
Mr Fuller added: “People do not realise just how quickly a princess costume will catch fire and the fire spread. The design of costumes, with flowing robes, capes or petticoats means they could easily catch fire from a candle or flame and swiftly engulf a child in flames.
“At the moment fancy dress costumes are not necessarily fire proofed or fire retardant. They are classified as toys, not clothes. Fire safety for toys is based on the ability of children to drop a burning teddy bear or doll or to run away from a burning play tent or wigwam. It often amounts to no more than having a ‘keep away from fire’ label on the package but you can’t drop a burning costume or run away from it.
“Burn injuries are difficult to treat and once a child’s skin has been burned it does not regain its flexibility and grow as the child does. This means a young burns survivor may have to endure years of painful surgery as they grow and develop.
“We are not asking for new legislation. We want fancy dress costumes to be included in same safety standards as children’s nightclothes. It is a simple classification change from toys to clothes and will help protect our children from this preventable risk. We also want manufacturers to understand the risk and bring their costumes up to the standard of children’s nightclothes.
“This is not a matter of cost, more expensive costumes are not necessarily safer. Parents should be aware that costumes do not meet the same safety standards as clothes. They should treat them as a high risk particularly around the open flames that you might find at Halloween, a birthday party or an outdoor barbeque.”