Chemical Free Living:
The real villains of Halloween: Toxic Costumes & Face Paint
Between the fun of dressing up, using your imagination and hanging out with your friends eating candy, Halloween may seem like it’s all treats and no tricks. While we wish that were true, there are some downsides to Halloween when it comes to toxin exposure. We’ve identified the three scariest toxic bad guys to watch out for this October, so you can spend your time worrying about better things – like avoiding the house that gives out toothbrushes! Read on for your top 3 tips for a non-toxic Halloween this year.
The Top 3 Things To Avoid For A Non-Toxic Halloween
1. Toxic Face Paints and Makeup
Common face paints and conventional makeups (like lipsticks) often contain lead, a serious health hazard especially in children, as well as other allergenic metals like nickel, cobalt and chromium. Personal care products, like makeup are poorly regulated in the US. The FDA does not require companies to disclose ingredients on labels, so even reading labels isn’t a foolproof way to avoid toxin exposure. Major loopholes allow for manufacturers to hide health hazards like parabens and bury phthalates within industry terms like “fragrance” because fragrance ingredients are considered “trade secrets”.
Some facts: nearly 50% of face paints tested in a recent report contained at least one hormone-altering ingredient, and 20% of the face paints contained lead. Another report by the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics found 10 out of 10 face paints tested to contain lead.
That said, we understand that your trick-or-treating tiger must have whiskers! So, mom bloggers to the rescue. Mommypotamus has this great recipe for homemade non-toxic Halloween face paint and EcoChildsPlay.com rounded up some great ideas for making your own non-toxic face paint. As she notes in her post, it’s worth pursuing a safer route as children and teens’ developmental stages make their exposure to hormone-altering chemicals even more concerning.
2. Costumes and masks
While a non-toxic Halloween homemade costume might be best, we know a lot of kids have their hearts set on a storebought cartoon villain. In their post 10 Ways To Have A Great Halloween, womensvoices.org gives some great tips on identifying toxin-containing Halloween costumes. The main issue here is that many costumes are made of PVC (“vinyl”) and are likely to be contaminated with lead and phthalates, a family of chemicals that are used to make plastic more flexible and also found in personal care products (yep, like face paint!), and are linked to hormone disruption, cancer, respiratory problems and birth defects. Yikes.
Another study confirmed that an assortment of popular character Halloween costumes and accessories contained flame retardants that posed a serious health risk. Flame retardants may sounds like a good idea in theory, but in practice they can contain a host of toxins, heavy metals and chemicals. They’re linked to health problems like thyroid disruption, memory and learning problems, lower IQ and advanced puberty, and may not even be effective at reducing flammability. Some ways to lower your exposure: buy used or borrow, and let them off-gas outside for at least a day before they’re worn. Better yet, make your own! Womensvoices.org suggests this great roundup of Toddler costumes that can be made from pajamas, and, of course, Pinterest is full of ideas!
3. Treat Bags (and what goes in them!)
By now we’ve probably beaten the perils of plastic into your head, but beyond the important health risks for humans big and small, plastics are a serious threat for our oceans and our environment as a whole, as they injure and poison marine and wildlife, disrupt natural habitats, and leach harmful chemicals into groundwater. Invest in a reusable, nontoxic treat bag like these or these. They’re cute and they’ll last a whole childhood. Or, you can always go retro and use a pillowcase.
Consider going the non-candy route (without getting your house egged!), by swapping out cheap, plastic trinkets for quality toys and treats. They’re going to get enough candy, but what kid doesn’t love a mini-flashlight or (just make sure it’s non-toxic!) play clay, as suggested in this post of 27 Great Candy Alternatives. Hand out toothbrushes at your own risk.
Make this Halloween a great one for your kids, by helping them avoid some of the seasonal decor-industry’s most common toxic pitfalls. Our own synthetic costume and corn-syrup fueled Halloween memories may make us wax nostalgic, but with a little research and some DIY skills, you can create the trick-or-treating memories that childhood dreams are made of, with nary a phthalate in sight.
And, once the trick-or-treating is done, if there is melted candy on a car seat or a fruit popsicle stain on a princess dress, don’t fear! We’re here to help with our toxic chemical free cleaning system that’s as effective as bleach, but safe enough to clean every magic wand and fairy wing in your minivan.