Flammable teddy bear wheat bag safety warning

Damien Smith – 7News Sydney – June 20, 2013

FIRST ON 7: Firefighters are warning against the use of wheat bag toys to warm beds, because they can be deadly if instructions are ignored.

7News asked consumer group Choice to conduct a test, with a frightening result.

They might look cute and cuddly, but if the toys are left too long in the microwave they are potential killers.

In the past twelve months fire and rescue attended 32 wheat bag fires where 26 caught alight in the microwaves, and six set beds on fire.

Authorities warn that the products should not be used as bed warmers.

“They will generate heat long after they’re taken out of the microwave oven,” NSW Fire and Rescue Superintendent Tom Cooper said.

There are reports that the wheat bags can start a fire even up to three to four hours later.

Caringbah pensioner Margaret Rae died after a wheat bag set her bed alight in 2011.

Heated wheat bags are often used for pain relief.

A wheat bag manufacturer has told 7News that there is no problem if the instructions are followed. Choice did that for its first test.

“I mean you could touch that temperature, but you wouldn’t want to hold it,” toy tester Chris Barnes said.

There are instructions on the packaging and on the wheat bag itself but not everyone, let alone children reads instructions; and that’s where they can become very dangerous.

Choice set the microwave to 20 minutes, and less than eight minutes later the toy started to burn, giving off toxic fumes.

The Department of Fair Trading wants the wheat bag toys off the shelves, but not because of the fire risk.

“Obviously we’ve got concerns about the product on a number of levels,” Fair Trading Commissioner Rod Stowe said.

“The Velcro [can] be opened and the contents of the bag split and potentially ingested or inhaled.”

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