CPSC Announces Latest Holiday Season Recalls and Decorating Safety Tips

December 12, 2003
Release Number: 04-052

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) is announcing its most recent holiday season recalls and providing consumers with important safety tips. Five recalls announced for the first time today are: Arctic Cat Snowmobiles, Holiday Collection Snow House, Snowman, and Snowflake Candle gift sets, Jack-In-the-Box, Flutterby Winged Horses plush toys, and Children's loungewear sold at Zutopia stores. Other products recalled in the two weeks since CPSC held its annual holiday recall round-up on November 25, 2003 are: Mica Tree Candleholders sold at Coldwater Creek stores, Snow Play Votive Candleholders sold by Home Interiors' direct sales associates, Cloth Santa Decoration Sold at Wal-Mart, and Bear Jack-In-the-Box-Type Toys.

"CPSC is aware of several new products that could potentially cause serious injury or death due to choking and fire hazards," said CPSC Chairman Hal Stratton. "During the holiday season consumers should double-check the gifts on their holiday list to make sure they aren't on our recall list."

In addition to the recall announcements, CPSC is issuing safety tips for holiday decorations. Holiday decorations like candles and Christmas trees add a joyous and festive mood to the holiday season. But when decorations such as these are not used properly, they can cause fires, injuries and death. CPSC is encouraging consumers to look for and eliminate these potential dangers from holiday decorations.

Each year, hospital emergency rooms treat about 12,800 people for injuries, such as falls, cuts and shocks, related to holiday lights, decorations and Christmas trees. In addition, there are more than 13,000 candle-related fires each year, resulting in 140 deaths, 1300 injuries and $205 million in property loss annually. Christmas trees are involved in about 300 fires annually, resulting in 10 deaths, 30 injuries and an average of about $10 million in property loss and damage.

CPSC continues to monitor holiday lights and other decorations at stores nationwide. Since 2002, the Commission, working with Bureau of Customs and Border Protection staff has prevented more than 250,000 units of holiday light sets that contain defects that present fire risks from being distributed in the U.S.

"Candle lighting ceremonies during the holidays are beautiful traditions," said CPSC Chairman Stratton. "However, consumers should remember that unattended, lighted candles can bring tragedy to even the best holiday celebration. These simple safety tips will help prevent many of the holiday decoration-related fires that occur each year." holiday decorating and toy safety tips on this web site.

CPSC suggests following these tips to make your holiday a safe one:

Trees:

- When purchasing an artificial tree, look for the label "Fire Resistant." Although this label does not mean the tree won't catch fire, it does indicate the tree will resist burning and should extinguish quickly.

- When purchasing a live tree, check for freshness. A fresh tree is green, needles are hard to pull from branches and do not break when bent between your fingers. The trunk butt of a fresh tree is sticky with resin, and when tapped on the ground, the tree should not lose many needles.

- When setting up a tree at home, place it away from fireplaces and radiators. Because heated rooms dry live trees out rapidly, be sure to keep the stand filled with water. Place the tree out of the way of traffic and do not block doorways.

Lights:

- Indoors or outside, use only lights that have been tested for safety by a recognized testing laboratory, such as UL or ETL which indicates conformance with safety standards. Use only lights that have plugs containing fuses.

- Check each set of lights, new or old, for broken or cracked sockets, frayed or bare wires, or loose connections, and throw out damaged sets. Always replace burned-out bulbs promptly with the same wattage bulbs.

- If using an extension cord, make sure the extension cord is rated for the intended use.

- Never use electric lights on a metallic tree. The tree can become charged with electricity from faulty lights, and a person touching a branch could be electrocuted.

- Before using lights outdoors, check labels to be sure they have been certified for outdoor use.

- Stay away from power or feeder lines leading from utility poles into older homes.

- Fasten outdoor lights securely to trees, house walls, or other firm supports to protect the lights from wind damage. Use only insulated staples to hold strings in place, not nails or tacks. Or, run strings of lights through hooks (available at hardware stores).

- Turn off all holiday lights when you go to bed or leave the house. The lights could short out and start a fire.

- Use caution when removing outdoor holiday lights. Never pull or tug on lights – they could unravel and inadvertently wrap around power lines.

- Outdoor electric lights and decorations should be plugged into circuits protected by ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs). Portable outdoor GFCIs can be purchased where electrical supplies are sold. GFCIs can be installed permanently to household circuits by a qualified electrician.

Decorations:

- Use only non-combustible or flame-resistant materials to trim a tree. Choose tinsel or artificial icicles of plastic or nonleaded metals. Leaded materials are hazardous if ingested by children.

- Never use lighted candles on a tree or near other evergreens. Always use non-flammable holders, and place candles where they will not be knocked down.

- In homes with small children, take special care to avoid decorations that are sharp or breakable, keep trimmings with small removable parts out of the reach of children to avoid the child swallowing or inhaling small pieces, and avoid trimmings that resemble candy or food that may tempt a child to eat them.

- Wear gloves to avoid eye and skin irritation while decorating with spun glass "angel hair."

- Follow container directions carefully to avoid lung irritation while decorating with artificial snow sprays.

Fireplaces:

- Use care with "fire salts," which produce colored flames when thrown on wood fires. They contain heavy metals that can cause intense gastrointestinal irritation and vomiting if eaten. Keep them away from children.

- Do not burn wrapping papers in the fireplace. A flash fire may result as wrappings ignite suddenly and burn intensely.

See our brochures with holiday decorating and toy safety tips on this web site.