Families are being urged to shop with responsible retailers in the run-up to Halloween later this month.
The warning comes from the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) following the horror suffered by BBC presenter Claudia Winkleman and her daughter Matilda in 2014, when the little girl’s costume caught fire after it came into contact with a naked flame.
RoSPA has been working with the British Retail Consortium and its members to develop a new testing standard for the flammability of children’s dress-up costumes, which goes beyond the current legal level.
The new voluntary standard means that costumes which have undergone strict testing should have a burn rate of 10mm per minute. Currently, the standard is 30mm per minute.
Companies that have tested their costumes to this new standard will be allowed to print: "this garment has undergone additional safety testing for flammability” on their labelling. They are also being asked to use more prominent fire safety labelling on packaging and on sew-in labels.
Sheila Merrill, RoSPA’s public health adviser, said: “Accidents involving children’s Halloween costumes can happen very quickly – they only need to come briefly into contact with a candle or other naked flame for disaster to strike.
“The potentially-horrific injuries can leave lifelong scars, and not just physical ones. The distress felt by a child and their family and friends in an incident like this is immeasurable.
“I’d urge parents to shop with well-known retailers, and double-check all the labelling to ensure that costumes have passed the proper flammability tests.”
David Bolton, head of product safety at the British Retail Consortium added: “We have led the way in developing guidance and tools to help all companies, not just our members, test products to a standard above current regulations to give their customers the reassurances they rightly demand.
“While the BRC Code of Practice is a valuable tool for all companies, we are still recommending that the UK Government and EU authorities revisit the legislation to ensure all products on the market are effectively regulated to reflect the hazards presented by today’s style of costumes, including the fabrics and finishes used.”