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Anchorage customs officers seize potentially dangerous holiday lights from China

Casey Grove
US Customs and Border Protection

Anchorage customs officers have seized a shipment of holiday lights from China that carried a fake safety inspection mark, meaning they could have been dangerous to American consumers.

Officers inspected the shipment of boxes, each about the size of an egg carton, at Anchorage's FedEx sorting facility Nov. 12, customs officials said.

The "UL" stamps on 1,900 boxes that indicated the lights were certified by the Underwriters Laboratory turned out to be counterfeit, said Jeff Lisius, assistant area port director in Alaska for U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

The Underwriters Laboratory tests electronics to make sure they meet safety standards necessary for sale in the United States.

It's unclear if the lights seized in Anchorage were faulty or posed a hazard to potential retail buyers. But they had not undergone testing that, for example, would make sure their wires could hold up to normal electricity levels, Lisius said.

"It could heat up, potentially melt the insulation, and if it's on a dry Christmas tree, you could have a house fire with this and a family could lose everything," Lisius said. "This time of the year, we're always taking a special emphasis looking at things coming in for the holidays, electronics and stuff like that, because they could be unsafe."

Plus, Lisius said, selling the cheaper lights with a counterfeit inspection mark is unfair to manufacturers that follow the rules.

The seized lights had an estimated retail value of $38,000.

"They get destroyed," Lisius said. "Generally they get burned, like a controlled substance."

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