Halloween hazards: beware button batteries

Consumer Protection has issued a Halloween warning about potentially deadly button batteries and other hazards found in some novelty items and trick-or-treat costumes.

The agency’s product safety inspectors have been out and about ahead of Halloween and have identified a number of non-compliant products.

A zombie face mask and a skull hat were both found to have button batteries that easily fell out of unsecured plastic cases. A silicone eyeball flashing ring has been recalled because the outer material could tear and expose the unsecured button batteries inside.

In Australia, one child a month is seriously injured after swallowing or inserting a button battery.

“Small children are drawn to these shiny round batteries and you may not even know they have swallowed one,” Commissioner for Consumer Protection Lanie Chopping said.

“Button batteries can get stuck in a child’s throat and cause serious damage in under two hours, producing long-term health problems or, tragically, sometimes death.

“These batteries are commonly found in Halloween novelty items with flashing lights or sound effects. The products may not have a battery case that is screwed shut or similarly secured. For example, when we did a drop-test of the zombie mask, all three button batteries spilled out on the first go.”

Ms Chopping advised parents to supervise children using any battery-operated items and to check all Halloween decorations and costumes to ensure battery cases are secure.

Consumer Protection’s alert follows the ACCC’s launch this week of the ‘Tiny batteries, big danger‘ awareness campaign and a warning from a grieving Gold Coast couple whose three-year-old daughter died after swallowing a button battery. An illuminated wristband handed out to more than 30,000 spectators at the AFL Grand Final was also recalled this week due to concerns about the button batteries.

Other Halloween hazards include:

  • flammable clothing such as capes and sleeves, which can rapidly ignite if they come close to a candle or naked flame;
  • fluorescent glow sticks and bracelets, which contain chemicals that could cause skin irritation if they are broken, chewed or cut;
  • face paints or crayons, nail polishes, temporary tattoos and make-up, which should have cosmetic labelling and an ingredient list in English; and
  • novelty contact lenses, which do not require a prescription and can be sold anywhere. Consultation with an eye care professional is recommended to avoid irritations, infections, complications or blindness through incorrect use.

“Businesses at all levels of the supply chain must ensure their products comply with Australia’s product safety laws,” Ms Chopping said.

“This will prevent harm to consumers and provide protection from compliance issues and the cost of consumers returning products.”

Product safety and recall information can be found at www.productsafety.gov.au.

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