2010-12-17 / Columnists

Notes On Consumer Affairs

Holiday Safety
By Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer

AUDREY PHEFFER AUDREY PHEFFER It is official: the holiday season has arrived. Festive holiday decorations are going up and smart shoppers are making their lists and hunting for bargains. While the holidays are a time for joy and revelry, some extra caution is needed to protect your family from certain hazards associated with common holiday products and traditions. Here are a few tips to ensure that you have a safe holiday season.

When purchasing a live tree, check to make sure the tree is fresh. To test for freshness, tap the butt of the tree trunk on the ground. If the tree is fresh, it will not lose too many needles. If you are purchasing an artificial tree, only purchase those that are labeled “fire resistant.” When setting up the tree, place the tree away from fireplaces, radiators, or portable heaters. In order to keep a live tree from drying out and becoming a fire hazard, cut a few inches off the bottom of the trunk to enhance water absorption, and be sure to keep the tree stand filled with water.

All tree lights, even new ones, should all be checked before they are hung. Make sure all bulbs work and that there are no frayed wires, broken sockets, or loose connections. Replace any missing or defective bulbs. Look for lights that bear the UL (Underwriters Laboratories) mark, which indicates that the lights have been tested for safety. Do not plug more than three standardized sets of lights into an extension cord. Before using lights outdoors, check to see that they are certified for outdoor use. To keep outdoor lights in place, use hooks or insulated staples instead of nails or tacks. Always turn off all lights when you go to bed or leave the house because the lights could short out and start a fire.

Candle fires peak in December. In order to prevent a fire, keep candles at least a foot away from combustible or flammable items, especially bedding. Approximately forty percent of candle fires start in bedrooms. Make sure that candles are out of the reach of children and pets and that they are placed away from drafts. Candles should be placed in heatresistant holders. Never leave a candle unattended. Lighted candles should never be used on a tree.

In homes with small children, avoid decorations that are sharp or easily breakable. Also, keep small decorations or trimmings out of the reach of children. It is also a good idea to avoid decorations or trimmings that closely resemble food or candy, because young children might be tempted to eat them. Be sure to remove all package wrappings and bags after the gifts have been opened, because these items pose choking or suffocation hazards to small children and may pose fire hazards if near a flame.

When selecting a toy for a child, be sure to choose a toy that is suited to the child’s age, abilities, skills, and interests. Choosing a toy that is too complicated or advanced may pose safety hazards for young children. Children under age three can easily choke on small parts contained in toys or games.

Under federal law, toys intended for children under age three cannot contain parts less than one-and-a-quarter inches in diameter and two-and-a quarter inches long. Before allowing your child or a child in your care to play with a new toy, read the instructions carefully.

To learn more about holiday safety, consider viewing the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission’s brochure on the subject at www.cpsc.gov/cpscpub/pubs/611.pdf. For more information on safe lighting, visit the Underwriters Laboratory’s consumer website at www.ul.com/con sumers.

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