Halloween is less than one week away and by now you’re likely in the last minute scramble to stock up on treats and costumes. I live in New York City and it’s super crazy around here this time of year as the line between little kid and adult completely disappears. There’s nothing greater than getting on the subway at 10 o’clock in the morning and seeing an adult dressed up as a full sized Lego figurine (true story!).
Now you may not know this about me, but I’m a total scaredy cat. I hate scary movies, and will only watch them on bright, sunny mornings (so by the time I go to bed, I’ve forgotten about it!). I hate haunted houses and things that jump out at me, and I much prefer the cute, fun, or silly costumes to the zombies and other gory, blood drenched ones. No thanks.
But come Halloween, that’s the least founded of my fears. What really scares the crap out of me is what’s in all the costumes and make up that everyone, especially kids, wears. Can you guess? Toxins. Lots of them, and amazingly, some of the worst. What am I talking about? Well the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics recently sent 10 children’s face paints to an independent lab for testing and found that:
- Ten out of 10 children’s face paints contained lead at levels ranging from 0.05 to 0.65 parts per million (ppm).
- Six out of 10 children’s face paints contained the potent skin allergens nickel, cobalt and/or chromium at levels ranging from 1.6 to 120 ppm – far exceeding industry safety recommendations of 1 ppm.
- Snazaroo Face Paint, labeled as “non-toxic” and “hypoallergenic,” contained some of the highest levels of lead, nickel and cobalt found in the study.
That’s CRAZY, right?! The CDC take a firm stance that the only safe level of exposure to lead is ZERO. None at all. But sadly there’s no regulation in the industry that makes these products, so if they want to put lead – a potent, and well established neurotoxin, in a product that’s going to be in direct contact with your child’s body, they can go right ahead and do it.
So what do you do? For your kids, or yourself, on this holiday that’s all about face paint, and dressing up? Well, you can easily pick or design a costume that doesn’t require face paint – that’s pretty easy. Or, if you feel like you just have to dress up like a zombie, or Tammy Faye Baker, try buying your face make-up from a place like this.
But the scary stuff doesn’t stop there – there are the super toxic hair-sprays – neon ones, ones that glow in the dark… Some of these products, particularly the cheap-o ones that you’ll find in those pop-up Halloween stores, are loaded with things like Butane (yes, the stuff in lighters) recognized as a human carcinogen (causes cancer), and colorings and other additives that have been banned for use in cosmetics in the European Union and other countries around the world (but not here in the US). Check for labels that read “Warning: Danger extremely flammable. Do not breathe spray particles. Container may explode if heated.” Would you spray that on or near your own head, let alone your child? No way.
And be mindful of buying vinyl costumes… these are those masks that slip over your head and have that nasty plastic-y smell. What you’re breathing in there are Phthalates – a class of chemical that’s linked to hormone disruption, early onset puberty, and birth defects, as well as vinyl chloride, a known human carcinogen that causes liver cancer. This definitely includes soft fake teeth sets that go into the mouth, which also have high lead levels.
See why this stuff scares me?! The fun, thrill, and excitement of Halloween really takes a back seat to my concern over children’s health when I see them walking down the street covered in face paint. And the hard part is that currently, there’s no real way to know if the face paint you bought contains lead, nickel, chromium, or other heavy metals because FDA has no safety standard for these in cosmetics and federal law doesn’t require them to list them on the ingredient label.
Forgoing face paints altogether is the best option, as is picking costumes made of fabric, not plastic or vinyl. For lots of great holiday activity ideas, check out GreenHalloween.org, or this, this or this site for easy, (mostly)make-up free DIY Halloween costume ideas for kids – big and little!
Keep their costumes safe and worry a little less about all the candy they’ll be eating. There are bigger monsters out there on Halloween!