Customs warns against potential hazards of festive lanterns and light sticks (with photos)

29 Sep 2006

With the upcoming Mid-Autumn Festival, Customs and Excise Department tested the safety of toy lanterns after conducting 136 spot checks on retailers supplying lanterns and light sticks.

Eight models of battery-operated toy lanterns, 16 models of traditional paper lanterns, and five models of light sticks were sent to the Government Laboratory for safety tests.

Of these models, six traditional paper lanterns and three light sticks passed the tests. Safety testing on six traditional paper lanterns by Government Laboratory is continuing.

The remaining eight battery-operated toy lanterns, four traditional paper lanterns, and two light sticks were found with problems.

Eight battery-operated lanterns did not carry the required instructions on safe battery usage such as "Do not mix old and new batteries" and "Do not mix alkaline, standard (carbon-zinc), or rechargeable (nickel-cadmium) batteries". The battery compartment was also not marked to show the correct battery polarity and voltage.

Among the eight models, one contained small batteries which could be removed easily with bare hands without the use of a screw driver or household tools. This might pose choking hazards to young children. Government Laboratory subsequently confirmed the risk as low.

Four traditional paper lanterns did not carry any safety warning in respect of sharp edges and sharp points.

Two light sticks were found without the identification markings, that is, the name and address of the local manufacturer, importer, or supplier, on the packaging.

To protect consumers' interest, the Department would investigate to see whether the suppliers have supplied unsafe lanterns and light sticks. The Department may prosecute or serve written warnings to those concerned.

Among the eight tested samples of battery-operated toy lanterns, six were musical with sound-producing features. The Government Laboratory confirmed that these samples had complied with the requirement of the peak emission sound pressure level prescribed in the current European Standard for toys that emit continuous sound.

Acting Chief Trade Controls Officer, Mr Stephen So Kwok-cheong, today (September 29) reminded parents to watch out for potential hazards of lanterns and light sticks when selecting such toys for their children.

The potential risks posed by these unsafe lanterns included burns caused by battery overheating or the high temperature from the burning candle when hanging the paper lantern.

Customs tips to guard against potential risks are as follows:

In 2005, the Department conducted 122 spot checks on various retailers supplying battery-operated toy lanterns, traditional paper lanterns and light sticks.

One person was prosecuted for supplying unsafe toy lanterns and 48 suppliers were served with written warnings for supplying unsafe toy lanterns, traditional paper lanterns and light sticks under the Toys and Children's Product Safety Ordinance/Regulation and the Consumer Goods Safety Ordinance/Regulation as appropriate.

Under the Toys and Children's Products Safety Ordinance and Consumer Goods Safety Ordinance/Regulation, it is an offence to manufacture, import or supply a toy or consumer goods unless the toy or consumer goods complies with safety standards or general safety requirement.

The Ordinance carries a maximum penalty of a fine of $100,000 and imprisonment for one year on first conviction, and a $500,000 fine and two years' imprisonment on subsequent conviction.

To report about unsafe toys and children's products and consumer goods, including toy lanterns, consumers can write to the Consumer Protection and Prosecution Bureau, Customs and Excise Department at 11/F, North Point Government Offices, 333 Java Road, North Point or call the Customs 24-hour hotline at 2545 6182.

Ends/Friday, September 29, 2006

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