Halloween can be one of the funnest holidays of the year, but most parents are aware that there are some dangers out there. What some of you might not know, though, is that the danger could start as soon as you put that cute or scary costume onto your kid.
A study released on Thursday from the Ecology Center’s HealthyStuff.org project found that children’s Halloween costumes, accessories, and party supplies often contain high levels of toxic chemicals. The project looked at 106 Halloween product from top national chains like CVS, Kroger, Party City, Walmart, and others, finding that harmful chemicals are present in an unsettling percentage of those products.
“We found seasonal products, like thousands of other products we have tested, are full of dangerous chemicals,” said the research director of HealthyStuff.org. “Poorly regulated toxic chemicals consistently show up in seasonal products.”
The director added that such chemicals “pose unnecessary and avoidable health hazards to children.”
Just what kind of harmful chemicals were present in children’s Halloween costumes and other products? The study found that a Toddler Batman Muscle Costume contained not only phthalates — which have been linked to breast cancers, hormone level changes, and birth defects — but also lead in the lining of the costume’s mask. Thirty-nine percent of vinyl products contained tin “at levels suggesting organotin stabilizers… [which] can damage the developing brain and immune system.”
Thirty-three of the one hundred and six tested Halloween costumes and products contained PVC components, while seventeen contained phthalate plasticizers. Some even contained products that have been banned by the Consumer Product Safety Commission for use in children’s products.
Fully five percent of the tested products contained lead exceeding 100 ppm. Ten percent contained levels of bromine consistent with flame retardants.
One night’s wearing of any of these products is unlikely to result in any serious damage to a child, but the researchers note that the harmful chemicals present in Halloween costumes and products are indicative of a larger problem: these chemicals are prevalent in many products people use year-round, not just at Halloween.
Commenting on the research, the director of the Mind the Store campaign — which calls on retailers to stop carrying products containing harmful chemicals — said that part of the responsibility rests with the stores that sell costumes and other Halloween supplies.
“Our nation’s biggest retailers have a responsibility to their customers to sell safe products,” the director said, “especially when it comes to our children.”
“This new testing underscores the need for big retailers to ensure products on their shelves, such as Halloween costumes, don’t contain toxic chemicals.”
The good news: the study also found that many Halloween products do not contain dangerous substances. The researchers say that this reflects a growing awareness on the part of manufacturers that there are safer alternatives when it comes to manufacturing Halloween costumes and related products.