Watch out for harmful chemicals in halloween products

KIDS and adults who are excitedly getting ready for freaky and fun events for the Halloween  should better watch out for nasty chemicals prowling in some masks, props and face paints being sold in the market.

Tests conducted by the EcoWaste Coalition on a variety of Halloween products revealed high levels of heavy metals such as antimony, arsenic, cadmium, chromium, lead and mercury in some of the samples.

None of the samples provided information about their chemical ingredients to inform and warn consumers.

“Consumers are literally kept in the dark about these creepy substances in some Halloween products.  It’s high time for manufacturers, importers, distributors and retailers to fully disclose the chemical contents of the products they make and sell, and replace toxic chemicals  with safer substitutes,” said Thony Dizon, Coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Project Protect.

Pediatric toxicologist Dr. Bessie Antonio of the East Avenue Medical Center, a resource person on chemical safety of the EcoWaste Coalition, advised consumers to exercise caution when purchasing Halloween products.

“Exposure to heavy metals in consumer products should be avoided as much as possible as these chemicals can cause adverse effects on human health and the environment,” warned Antonio who also serves as Vice-President of the Philippine Society of Clinical and Occupational Toxicology.

Using an X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) analyzer, the group screened 60 products bought from P10 to P350 from top-ranked retail stores in Mandaluyong, Makati, Taguig and Quezon Cities, as well as from a booming bargain toy store in Divisoria, Manila.

The samples were obtained on September 26 and 27 with official receipts and subjected to XRF screening on September 28.

Out of 60 products, 17 (28%) were found to contain at least one toxic metal above levels of concern.

Ten samples, in particular, contain excessive quantities of lead up to 2,091 parts per million (ppm), in violation of the US lead paint standard of 90 ppm.

Out of these 17 tainted products, 7 had more than one toxic metal that raises the potential damage to health due to multiple exposures.

Some of the most toxic Halloween products found by the EcoWaste Coalition include:

1.  A pirate mask for kids that has 2,091 ppm of lead, 1,885 ppm of chromium and 299 ppm of arsenic.

2.  A scary white mask with blood that has 6,749 ppm of antimony and  117 ppm of lead.

3.  A face paint with glitters that has 918 ppm of lead, 198 ppm of chromium, 80 ppm of arsenic and 7.9 ppm of mercury.

“Test results also show that 43 samples  had low or non-detectable levels of heavy metals indicating the technical and commercial viability of producing products without toxic metals,” Dizon said.

The absence or low detection of  heavy metals in some of the samples does not guarantee full product safety as the tests excluded other chemicals of concern such as endocrine disrupting chemicals like phthalates in products made of polyvinyl chloride or PVC materials, he clarified.

As more and more Filipino children take part in the celebration, the EcoWaste Coalition has put forward some ideas to parents to make Halloween safer for their kids:

1.  Encourage your children to explore their creativity and make their own costumes without spending money by using recycled, eco-friendly materials.  Check this site for some creative recycled Halloween costume ideas:

2.  For face painting, especially for extra-ghostly effect, try honey or cold cream mixed with cornstarch (arina), cassava starch (gawgaw) or baby powder (pulbos) and food color.  Get protected against allergenic, irritating and toxic ingredients, read this:

3.  If you really need to buy any of those Halloween stuff, read the product label carefully and, aside from just asking “how much,” know what chemicals are present in the product.  Assert your right to truthful product information, and your right to be protected against hazardous chemicals in products.

4.  Make your children aware of the health effects of toys contaminated with harmful bacteria and chemicals. As a precaution against bacterial and chemical exposure, advise children not to put toys into their mouths, and remind them to wash their hands thoroughly before meals.


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