From the website HealthyStuff.org:
If there is one thing no one wants with their Halloween costume, it’s toxic chemicals. But that may very well be the case according to the results of our new HealthyStuff.org study of 106 common Halloween related products purchased from retailers including CVS, Kroger, Party City, Target, Walmart, and Walgreens. The products were tested for chemicals based on their toxicity or tendency to build up in people and the environment. These chemicals include lead, bromine (brominated flame retardants), chlorine (vinyl/PVC plastic), phthalates, cadmium, arsenic, tin (organotins), and mercury.
The results showed that 33 of the 106 products contained vinyl (polyvinyl chloride, abbreviated PVC). Two items contained high levels of phthalates that were recently banned in children’s products, including a Walmart Toddler Batman Muscle Costume. Vinyl products were also twice as likely to contain tin—indicating the presence of organotin chemicals—as non-vinyl materials. Five of the 106 products were measured to have high levels of lead and an additional seven had lower lead levels.
Ten of the products, mostly decorations and party accessories, contained levels of bromine consistent with the presence of brominated flame retardants. These items included:
- Kroger retailed Disney Cars Trick-or-Treat bag
- Party City retailed Silver Princess Tiara
- Kroger retailed Flicker Halloween Light String
- Walgreens Living Solutions Orange Pumpkin Lights set
- CVS retailed Spooky Village Halloween LED C3 Lights Set
Finally, almost one-third of the products contained antimony, which is used as a catalyst in synthetic fabric production and at higher levels, as a flame retardant.
The study also documented an ongoing shift away from phthalate plasticizers in many products. Fifteen of the vinyl items tested were plasticized with less-toxic DOTP, which we hope indicates that companies are becoming more chemically conscious.
So... to avoid unnecessary toxic chemicals, here are some tips for having a GreenHalloween!
Creative Costumes: Skip the store-bought plastic or vinyl costumes, especially masks. Vinyl may contain hormone-disrupting phthalates. Thirty-three of the 106 tested Halloween products contained vinyl, including two items containing phthalates that were recently banned in children’s products.
- Opt for costumes made with cloth.
- Buy used costumes from a local theater troupe or dance studio.
- Visit thrift stores or yard sales. Old prom dresses are perfect for princesses, brides, or scarier variations thereof.
- Try ebay—be sure to filter your search to include only pre-owned items.
- Raid your own (or your dad’s) closet. A red flannel shirt is like the Swiss-army knife of costumes, enabling you to choose from fisherman, lumberjack, construction worker, and more.
- Reuse some otherwise less interesting household items for costumes:
Make up and Masks: Vinyl and other plastics are even worse when they cover your or your child’s face. Halloween make-up may contain heavy metals or ingredients linked to cancer and other health concerns. Instead:
- Use face paint and pencils made from clay or other natural ingredients, such as Natural Earth Paint, Terra Firma Cosmetics, and Nova Naturals.
- Make your own edible face paint with these recipes.
- Make a paper-mache mask using an empty milk jug, strips of used paper, wheat flour and water.
Carving Pumpkins: Don’t let all those good pumpkin guts go to waste!
- Make a Halloween snack: Rinse the seeds, pat dry, and coat with a little oil, or melted butter, and salt. Spice them up with chili powder, curry, or another favorite. Bake for 45 minutes to an hour at 250 degrees. The seeds are a great source of magnesium, iron, and protein.
- The pulp can be steamed for half an hour, then served similarly to squash or used as a base for soups, muffins, quick breads, and pies.
- Feed the garden, too! Add your pumpkin to your garden compost bin instead of disposing of it in the trash. It’s easy to start if you don’t already compost: break up the pumpkin and layer it with raked-up leaves and other yard waste in an outdoor area. Keep moist and turn regularly. Learn more
Trick or Treating: Ten percent of the products we tested contained levels of bromine consistent with brominated flame retardants, including two Disney-themed Trick-or-Treat bags. Leave potentially toxic bags and one-time use plastic buckets on the shelf.
- Use old pillow cases or reusable shopping bags
- Don’t buy plastic pumpkins
- Decorate a paper grocery bag with construction paper
- Oatmeal cylinders or ice cream cartons can transform into candy totes
- Give out organic candy and snacks. If you can’t find organic candy locally, try naturalcandystore.com.
Decorations: Decorating for Halloween shouldn’t bring unnecessary toxics into your home. Vinyl wall stickers can contain regulated phthalates, such as the Disney Wall Art set we tested which contained 16% regulated phthalates.
- Cut and paint egg cartons to make bats and spiders or use toilet paper rolls to create a whole host of characters, like witches, scarecrows, and mummies.
- Stuff old clothes with leaves and place them outside. You can make a paper mache face for it as well!
- Use outdoor solar lanterns and old white sheets to create ghosts that seem to float in midair as they light up your walkway.
- Reuse old decorations, preferably non-vinyl, from previous Halloweens.
- Cut out construction paper bats or other shapes and tape them to a branch to make a decoration like a bat tree.