In a study conducted by the Ecology Center and released through HealthyStuff.org it was shown that seasonal products, such as masks, plastic “trick or treat” bags, party supplies, and accessories may contain high levels of toxic chemicals.
Toxins such as phthalates, flame retardants, PVC, organotins, and lead were found present in seasonal products. Chemicals like these listed can cause permanent damage to your body, specifically your endocrine system.
All products that were tested in this study were acquired by purchasing them from large national retailers. These stores are common go-to locations for acquiring Halloween goodies and gear.
Toxic chemicals accrue over time and can accumulate from a variety of sources and environments. Unfortunately, a great number of people may be unwittingly exposing themselves to harm through purchase and use of Halloween products.
Jeff Gearhart, research director at Healthystuff.org said, “We found that seasonal products, like thousands of other products we have tested, are often full of dangerous chemicals. Hazardous chemicals in consumer products pose unnecessary and avoidable health hazards to children, consumers, communities, workers and our environment.”
There are three specific substances to be aware of when purchasing your Halloween gear. In order to avoid the danger and possibly irreparable damage of these products, it is best to keep away from materials and products containing PVC (polyvinyl chloride), phthalates also known as plasticizers, and neurotoxins such as lead and Cadmium.
PVC (polyvinyl chloride): PVC, sometimes called the “poison plastic,” causes a great deal of concern due to its prevalence in seasonal products. From its creation to its inevitable disposal this synthetic plastic brings with it a number of environmental and health problems. Primarily, the issue relates to phthalates which are contained in PVC. It is common for this synthetic material to off-gas when it is first exposed to the air. Meaning that the harmful chemicals that were once held within the material are released into the local environment, which can easily be ingested by unsuspecting individuals.
If you have opened a plastic mask or toy fresh from the packaging, you are probably familiar with the “plastic” smell that assaults your nose. This is the smell of off-gassing plastic. Any PVC products you purchase should be aired out away from people in an open outdoor space before usage.
Additionally, any product that contains PVC should be replaced or disposed of after 9 years. After that point the synthetic plastic begins to degrade and weaken, increasing the likelihood of chemical exposure.
Phthalates: PVC often contains chemicals known as phthalates, also referred to as plasticizers, which can harm the endocrine system. Chemicals like phthalates can infiltrate your system by mimicking hormones. These endocrine disruptors cause a great deal of confusion and chaos in the body’s management of hormones. In turn this damages and alters our reproductive, neurological, and immune systems.
Through mirroring any male, female, or thyroid hormones, phthalates disrupt the body’s carefully maintained hormone balance which leads to improper production and faulty hormone functionality. Furthermore, with poor hormone functionality comes impeded hormonal interaction throughout the entire body possibly inducing more severe conditions.
Neurotoxins: Heavy metals such as lead and cadmium are a danger to anyone who ingests or is regularly exposed to them. They are particularly detrimental to children because these materials are capable of staying in a child’s system for long periods of time.
When lead is consumed, the body can mistake it for another substance, usually calcium or another essential nutrient. This can result in serious issues such as muscle pain, inability to focus or concentrate, high blood pressure, and infertility.
As stated in a study by the Ecology Center, it was found that of the face paints they tested, 100% of them contained lead. Needless to say it is important to be aware of the possible chemicals and materials utilized to make children products and avoid them accordingly.
The Facts of the Matter
The Halloween products study was done in order to test seasonal products for chemicals connected to asthma, birth defects, learning disabilities, reproductive problems, liver toxicity, and cancer. Specifically, materials and chemicals including, bromine, chlorine, phthalates, arsenic, and tin were a central focus based upon their toxicity and their tendency to compile toxins over time in people and the surrounding environment.
Following is a brief breakdown by the Ecology Center of notable findings from the HealthyStuff.org study on Halloween products.
- Out of the 106 items tested, 33% of them contained PVC components.
- Of all the products tested, 5% contained lead over 100 ppm (parts per million).
- Tests for phthalate plasticizers were conducted on seventeen vinyl products, two of which had phthalates that had previously been banned by the Consumer Product Safety Commission. A component of one child’s costume was measured at 29 percent regulated phthalates (290,000 ppm) and 340 ppm tin. Additionally, lead was present in the mask at 120 ppm.
- Bromine levels, consistent with brominated flame retardants, was found in 10% of the products. For example, two Halloween “trick or treat” bags contained bromine at 28,000 ppm and 6,000 ppm, respectively. Similar levels of bromine were found in light sets purchased from Walgreen’s and CVS.
- Vinyl products were recognized as being two times more likely to contain tin than their non-vinyl counterparts. 33% of these vinyl products had tin levels associated with organotin stabilizers utilized in item production. When exposed to the body, organotins act as endocrine disruptors interfering with hormone activity. Additionally, they can impede brain development and negatively impact the immune system.
Don’t Get Spooked
Dressing up as a monster, princess, superhero or all three during the Halloween season can be great fun. However, in order to escape the real terror of the holiday, endocrine disruptors and toxins, avoid wearing and purchasing products that contain PVC, phthalates, or neurotoxins like lead. By avoiding these materials, you can have a fun fright-filled Halloween without the dread of toxicity and endocrine disruption looming.