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Halloween may be the spookiest time of the year for all the wrong reasons, according to a study released Thursday by Ecology Center’s HealthyStuff.org. The Michigan-based environmental watchdog, which tested 106 popular Halloween costumes, accessories, and party supplies from retailers such as CVS, Party City, Target, Walmart, and Walgreens, found “elevated levels” of toxic chemicals that have been linked to asthma, birth defects, learning disabilities, reproductive problems, liver toxicity, and cancer.
TRICK NO TREAT
“We found that seasonal products, like thousands of other products we have tested, are full of dangerous chemicals,” says Jeff Gearhart, research director at HealthyStuff.org, in a statement. “Poorly regulated toxic chemicals consistently show up in seasonal products. Hazardous chemicals in consumer products pose unnecessary and avoidable health hazards to children, consumers, communities, workers, and our environment.”
Gearhart’s team tested Halloween products for chemicals based on their toxicity or tendency to accumulate in people and the environment, including lead, brominated flame retardants, polyvinyl chloride, phthalates, arsenic, and organotins, some forms of which can impact the developing brain and damage the immune system.
Some products, such as a Batman “muscle” costume for toddlers, contained multiple hazardous substances, such as lead in the inner lining of its mask, phthalates and tin in the belt, and bromine in its fabric.
On the flip side, HealthyStuff.org test data showed that many Halloween products don’t contain dangerous chemicals, demonstrating not only the possibility of safer products but also the positive impact of growing consumer and regulatory pressure.
“Our nation’s biggest retailers have a responsibility to their customers to sell safe products, especially when it comes to our children,” says Mike Schade, who directs the “Mind the Store” campaign for Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families, a national coalition working to get America’s top retailers to disclose, eliminate, and safely substitute toxic chemicals.
“Their considerable market share gives them the power and the responsibility to demand safer chemicals and products from their suppliers,” he adds. This new testing underscores the need for big retailers to ensure products on their shelves, such as Halloween costumes, don’t contain toxic chemicals.”
Looking for treats, not tricks? HealthyStuff offers tips on how to stay safe this Halloween:
1. Contact your favorite retailer and ask them to sell nontoxic supplies.
2. Avoid vinyl products: select cloth and natural materials for costumes and decorations.
3. For makeup, use paint and pencils made from clay or other natural ingredients; make your own masks instead of purchasing one from a store.
4. Use old pillowcases or reusable shopping bags for trick-or-treating.
5. Avoid plastic decorations; use paper, cardboard, leaves, or other natural and recyclable materials, instead.