N E W Y O R K, Oct. 21, 2003 -- 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.
Children should wear well-fitting, sturdy shoes. Oversized high heels are not a good idea.
Tie hats and scarves securely to prevent them from slipping over children's eyes and obstructing vision.
If your child wears a mask, make sure it fits securely, provides adequate ventilation, and has eye holes large enough to allow full vision.
Swords, knives and similar costume accessories should be made of soft, flexible material.
Warn children not to eat any treats before an adult has examined them carefully for evidence of tampering.
Carefully examine any toys or novelty items received by trick-or-treaters under three years of age. Do not allow young children to have any items that are small enough to present a choking hazard or that have small parts or components that could separate during use and present a choking hazard.
Keep candles and jack-o'-lanterns away from landings and doorsteps where costumes could brush against the flame.
Remove obstacles from lawns, steps and porches when expecting trick- or- treaters.
Indoors, keep candles and jack-o'-lanterns away from curtains, decorations and other combustibles that could be ignited. Do not leave burning candles unattended.
Indoors or outside, use only lights that have been tested for safety by a recognized testing laboratory. Check each set of lights, new or old, for broken or cracked sockets, frayed or bare wires, or loose connections. Discard damaged sets.
Don't overload extension cords.
Source: Consumer Product Safety Commission (http://www.cpsc.gov/)