N E W Y O R K, Oct. 21 -- Halloween can be the spookiest time of year for parents who have to worry about possible trick-or-treating dangers and hazardous costumes.
There have been at least 16 cases in which children under 15 years of age suffered burn injuries involving Halloween costumes since 1980, including one death, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission. In 1997, a 12-year-old girl in Texas died from burn injuries she suffered when her homemade Halloween costume ignited after she brushed up against a jack-o-lantern.
Eight of the victims were age seven or younger; five were between 8 and 12; one victim was 14; and two were of undetermined age.
In eight of the incidents, the source of the flame was a candle or jack-o-lantern. In three incidents, the children were burned by part of a costume (a battery-powered mask, a flashlight and a citronella torch). In the other five incidents, the source of the fire is unknown.
CPSC Chairman Hal Stratton says parents can make this year's holiday a safe one by following these safety tips on costumes, treats and decorations.
When purchasing costumes, masks, beards and wigs, look for flame-resistant fabrics such as nylon or polyester, or look for the label "Flame Resistant." Flame-resistant fabrics will resist burning and should extinguish quickly. To minimize the risk of contact with candles and other fire sources, avoid costumes made with flimsy materials and outfits with big, baggy sleeves or billowing skirts.
Purchase or make costumes that are light, bright and clearly visible to motorists.
For greater visibility during dusk and darkness, decorate or trim costumes with reflective tape that will glow in the beam of a car's headlights. Bags or sacks also should be light colored or decorated with reflective tape. Reflective tape is usually available in hardware, bicycle and sporting goods stores.
Children should carry flashlights to see and be seen.
Costumes should fit well and not drag on the ground to guard against trips and falls.