The authorities are carrying out shop inspections following an EU report that found 30 per cent of Christmas lights posed a serious fire hazard.

Standards are falling mainly because of pressure to produce lighting chains as cheaply as possible. This is leading to more electric shocks, overheating and sparks, according to the EU report.

The Malta Standards Authority has a checklist which it uses during inspections of lighting chains. This includes certification, labelling, wire thickness and plug compliance. Consumers are being advised to do the same and be more aware of standards certificates when buying lights.

No dangerous chains were found so far in Malta but consumers should be careful when buying decorations that should always be bought from reputable suppliers, an MSA spokesman said.

He said chains should have three-pin plugs, the wiring should not be too thin and they should have a CE marking, certifying European standards.

"If you see the bulbs detach themselves easily, there's something wrong," he said.

Consumers should also be careful not to leave Christmas lights on when they were out of the house or asleep because if something were to go wrong, like a fire, they would not realise in time to control the situation.

People should also make sure Christmas trees were not placed somewhere close to flammable objects, as a preventative measure.

He also advised lights to be kept out of reach of children.

The EU report said that 41 per cent of dangerous products came from China. Most of them also failed to have proper warning signs or labelling.

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