A new report shows that while deaths from residential fires have been nearly cut in half from 4,500 in 1980 to 2,660 in 1998, those caused by candles have increased dramatically. Candle deaths increased 750 percent from 1980 (20 deaths) to 1998 (170 deaths). In most cases, candles caused house fires when they were left unattended, tipped over and ignited nearby combustibles. Almost half of home candle fires start in the bedroom. Mattresses or bedding are the most common items that ignite, followed by furniture (dressers, desks, and tables) and then curtains. Tealights and tapers are common culprits in candle fires.
A child playing with the candle itself or near the candle is one of the biggest contributors to candle fires. Faced with fire, many children hide in a closet or under a bed leading to tragic fatalities. In fact, children under age 5 have a fire death rate more than twice the national average.
"Candles are no longer used for the occasional dinner party. In fact, only a small percent of candle fires start in dining rooms," said CPSC Chairman Ann Brown. "Candle sales are booming and families are lighting candles in their living rooms, family rooms, dens and bathrooms. Fires from candles have increased dramatically, but they are preventable. Reduce the chance of a fire, by following CPSC's simple safety tips."
- Keep matches, lighters and candles away from children.
- Never leave burning candles unattended.
- Keep combustible materials away from candles.
- Don't put candles in a location where children or pets could knock them down.
- Use only non-flammable candle holders.
- Always trim the wicks before lighting.
The new report shows that house fires have been dropped from 655,000 in 1980 to 332,300 in 1998, the latest year for which data is available. In contrast, house fires caused by candles have increased, from 8,500 in 1980 to 12,900 in 1998.
CPSC standards and compliance activities have contributed to the overall decline in fires and deaths. For example, CPSC's standard for child-resistant lighters has helped reduce fire deaths from children playing with lighters by 43 percent since 1994. Other CPSC standards address the flammability of general wearing apparel, children's sleepwear, mattresses, and carpets and rugs. CPSC staff is working on standard proposals for upholstered furniture and for heating and cooking equipment. CPSC staff is also working with the candle industry to develop safety standards for candles to help reduce fires.
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission is charged with protecting the public from unreasonable risks of injury or death associated with the use of thousands of types of consumer products under the agency’s jurisdiction. Deaths, injuries, and property damage from consumer product incidents cost the nation more than $1 trillion annually. CPSC is committed to protecting consumers and families from products that pose a fire, electrical, chemical or mechanical hazard. CPSC's work to help ensure the safety of consumer products - such as toys, cribs, power tools, cigarette lighters and household chemicals -– contributed to a decline in the rate of deaths and injuries associated with consumer products over the past 40 years.
Federal law bars any person from selling products subject to a publicly-announced voluntary recall by a manufacturer or a mandatory recall ordered by the Commission.
To report a dangerous product or a product-related injury go online to www.SaferProducts.gov or call CPSC's Hotline at 800-638-2772 or teletypewriter at 301-595-7054 for the hearing impaired. Consumers can obtain news release and recall information at www.cpsc.gov, on Twitter @USCPSC or by subscribing to CPSC's free e-mail newsletters.
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