Children's hair straighteners shelved after hundreds of young girls suffer serious burnsChildren admitted to serious burns units increased from 162 in 2009 to 252 last yearFigures are the 'tip of the iceberg' and could be at least ten times higher
00:33 GMT, 2 December 2012
Fears: The Disney Princess Rapunzel Straighten and Crimp appliances have now been dropped by Argos
High street stores are refusing to sell children’s hair straighteners after a dramatic increase in burns injuries.
The brightly coloured straighteners – decorated with pictures of princesses, fairies and cartoon characters – are high on Christmas lists.
But doctors are concerned by the increasing number of girls suffering burns and scars from the electrical appliances, which are being marketed with images more suitable for a toy.
The stores – Argos, Tesco and Asda – acted after worrying new figures from the National Burns Injuries Database.
The statistics revealed the number of children aged under 15 admitted to serious burns units in England and Wales with injuries from adult appliances increased from 162 in 2009 to 252 last year.
But these figures are merely the ‘tip of the iceberg’ and could be at least ten times higher, according to University Hospital South Manchester NHS Foundation Trust, which collates the figures.
Ken Dunn, consultant burns and plastic surgeon at the hospital, said: ‘These represent the worst cases that are referred to serious burns units. We believe the real figure is at least ten times higher because most cases are seen at accident and emergency departments or GP surgeries – where the number of burns incidents are not collated.’
And Jorge Leon-Villapalos, consultant plastic surgeon at the Chelsea and Westminster Hospital, said: ‘We are definitely seeing an increase – at least six a month now. I don’t know why. Maybe straighteners are cheaper and more available.’
The move by the High Street stores is backed by young mother Leanne Fry, whose daughter Lily slipped on Leanne’s hot hair straighteners when she was two. Now four, Lily still has the scars from the burns on her heels.
Mrs Fry, 24, a telephone operator from Yeovil, appealed to parents not to allow girls to use straighteners on their own.
Dangerous: The number of children aged under 15 admitted to serious burns units has increased
She said: ‘Some people don’t realise how dangerous they can be. It is so easy for a girl to get a burn on her face that will be there for ever.
‘I’ve decided I won’t allow Lily to use them on her own until she is at least 15. And my advice to any parents being pestered by their young children for some this Christmas is: Don’t even consider it.
‘Parents should also be very careful with their own straighteners. It is heartbreaking to see your daughter in so much pain – Lily will have the scars on her feet all her life.’
An Asda spokeswoman said they had launched an investigation into the appliances and decided that they are safe. But she added: ‘However, in response to some customer feedback, we have decided to withdraw Hello Kitty, Disney and One Direction branded straighteners and crimpers.’
Items withdrawn by Argos include Disney Princess Rapunzel Straighten and Crimp Straighteners, Disney Rapunzel’s Multi Hair Styler, Hello Kitty Mini Straightener and boy band One Direction branded hair straighteners. Tesco has dropped a Disney Fairies Tinker-bell Straightener.
Dr Amber Young, a consultant paediatric anaesthetist at Frenchay Hospital Burns Unit in Bristol and spokeswoman for the British Burns Association, intends to write to the Government about the problem.
She said: ‘There has to be a health warning about the use of straighteners – and these products should certainly not be marketed to children.’