With Halloween just around the corner, many parents are scouring their local stores in search of costumes for their children. With all of the laws governing the flammability of blankets, children’s clothing, and costumes, one might think that all of the costumes that are available for purchase would be perfectly safe- but are they? Unfortunately, not all costumes that are sold at local discount stores and specialty shops comply with federal apparel flammability standards, causing some children’s trick-or-treating experience to go up in flames.
According to the Requirements for Clothing Textiles, 16 C.F.R. Part 1610, which covers “any costume or article of clothing that people wear”, class 3 textiles, which have a flame spread time of less than 3.5 seconds, cannot be used for clothing. In 2010, the Good Housekeeping Research Institute (GHRI) tested eleven popular children’s Halloween costumes for flammability, using the testing techniques outlined by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. They primarily focused on costumes that were made with iridescent fabric or had sparkles glued onto them. Alarmingly, one of the costumes they tested, the Sparkle Pixie by Easter Unlimited, failed miserably. While two of the other costumes technically passed the test, (the Disney Princess by Disguise and the Elegant Witch by Rubies) some of the fabric used to make these costumes still burned in 4.2 seconds and 5.3 seconds respectively.
Other, similar tests have been conducted to determine the flammability of children’s costumes around the nation, and these tests reveal results that are just as disturbing. The rope like trim on a cheerleader costume, for example, was lit causing the entire costume to burn in less than three minutes, and a plush Lil Monster costume designed for a toddler was completely destroyed by fire in under three minutes as well.
How to Reduce the Risk
Fortunately, there are a few things parents can do to help ensure that their children’s Halloween costumes are safe.
Selecting a Costume
- Read the Label: Look for costumes that are made from crushed velvet, nylon, wool, or polyester. These fabrics tend to melt or burn more slowly when exposed to flames instead of flaring up. Avoid costumes made from more flammable fabrics like cotton, linen and acetate.
- Wigs, Beards and Masks: Select wigs, beards, masks, and other accessories that are made from flame resistant materials. Avoid items that are extremely long or billowy because they are more likely to be exposed to an open flame.
- Shimmer: It’s best to avoid shimmery costumes and those with sparkles. Although some of these types of costumes are not highly flammable, it is impossible to tell just from looking at them.
- Flowing Material: Try to avoid costumes with dangling ties or scarves, flowing sleeves or skirts, and capes. These types of costumes are more likely to brush past an open flame.
- Price: Remember that price is not always an indication that a costume is less flammable. In fact, the Pixie costume that failed the test by GHRI was priced at a whopping $40, while a Fairy Tale Princess costume by Rubies was priced at only $25.
Making a Costume More Flame Resistant
Use these over the counter ingredients to make children’s Halloween costumes less flammable.
- 4 ounces Boric acid
- 9 ounces Borax
- 1 gallon warm water
Mix the ingredients together and soak the costume thoroughly. Allow to drip dry.
Maintain a Safe Environment
According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), there are a number of things people can do to help keep things safe for trick-or-treators.
- Use battery operated candles or flashlights in jack-o-lanterns. If using real candles, be sure to place jack-o-lanterns far away from doorways or walkways.
- Avoid torch lights. Use flash lights, battery operated lanterns, glow sticks, or battery operated candles instead.
- Keep hay bales, corn stalks, and other flammable Halloween decorations well away from open flames and other heat sources like light bulbs and heaters.
- Maintain clear doorways and walkways and introduce a planned emergency exit to children attending Halloween parties.
Additionally, it is essential for children to understand how they should respond in the event that their clothing catches fire. Parents should teach children to stop, drop, and roll while covering their face with their hands.
According to the NFPA, Halloween ranks in the top five days of the year in which there are fires due to candles, and many Halloween-related accidents occur when children’s Halloween costumes catch fire due to being exposed to candles or open flames. Unfortunately, these accidents often result in severe burn injuries that require extensive medical treatment. Additionally, children with burn injuries sometimes suffer from post traumatic stress disorder- a mental disability that affects some people for the rest of their lives. A personal injury attorney can help victims determine who should be held liable for their injuries so that they can receive adequate compensation.