Are you ready for Halloween?
It can be such a fun holiday, right? Even adults enjoy dressing up for a day.
But most of us would agree-Halloween is for the kids. Some of us look forward to taking them trick-or-treating, while others enjoy school or community parties where we decorate with black cats and skeletons and enjoy tasty treats.
However you and your family may celebrate Halloween, I wanted to warn you about one thing: kids’ makeup.
We see it everywhere this time of year. Kids love it for creating scary faces, and for making themselves look like their favorite heroes.
But parents need to be cautious, because a lot of that makeup simply isn’t safe.
Campaign for Safe Cosmetics Tests Kids’ Halloween Makeup
In 2009, the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics sent 10 Halloween makeup kits to a lab to test for potentially toxic ingredients. The results were disappointing.
They found lead in all of the products tested. They also found chromium, nickel, and cobalt.
As you may already know, lead is very dangerous for children. Because of their behavior and physiology, children are more affected by exposure than adults. They are more likely to ingest lead in house dust because they’re always putting their hands in their mouths, and they also breathe at a more rapid rate, which means they can take in a greater amount of lead in the air.
In addition, it’s estimated that children’s guts absorb as much as 5-10 times greater percentages of lead than adult guts. Their developing brains and nervous systems are also more vulnerable to the detrimental effects of lead.
Even small amounts can cause health problems like developmental delays, neurological disorders, kidney problems, and more.
“Lead can be extremely dangerous for young children,” says John Rosen, M.D., director of the lead program at the Children’s Hospital at Montefiore Medical Center in Bronx, New York, “and can affect their lives forever. It’s better to be conservative and safe and not ever sorry about excessive lead exposure.”
Recent Studies Find Heavy Metals in Children’s Products
Considering what they found in their first study, The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics decided to dig into the issue a little further. After all, 10 kits is a fairly small number. Would they find the same results if they looked into more products?
Together with the Breast Cancer Fund, they set out to answer that question. This time, they purchased 14 Halloween face paint kits, and tested 48 individual items from these kits for lead, cadmium, chromium, arsenic, and mercury-all toxic chemicals linked with health issues.
In addition, they networked with colleagues from around the country to gather 39 additional products from toy aisles and kids’ stores nationwide, including lip balm, nail and makeup kits, shampoos and lotions, and party favors.
What did they find?
- Lead present in nearly 20 percent, and cadmium in 30 percent of the Halloween face paints tested. (Cadmium is a hormone disruptor and has been linked to breast cancer.)
- Heavy metal concentrations were higher and more common in darkly pigmented paints.
- Toluene present in nearly 11 products tested-hiding in the word “fragrance” on the ingredient list. (Toluene is a hormone disruptor.)
- Formaldehyde-releasing preservatives in 3 percent of the products. (Formaldehyde is a known carcinogen.)
- All of the toy products tested listed either styrene-based chemicals or fragrance on the labels, which could indicate the presence of lead or volatile organic compounds (VOCs).
- Lab testing confirmed that 20 percent of the toy products had at least one VOC, with flavored lip balms being the most likely to contain them. These included toluene, styrene (hormone disrupting compound), and ethylbenzene, a possible carcinogen.
Obviously, this isn’t good news for our kids, or the adults who may also be handling these products. (Read the full report here.)
Little Oversight on Cosmetic Products
Many parents believe that if the product is on the shelf, it must be safe, but unfortunately that’s not necessarily true.
The Food and Drug Administration has limited oversight on cosmetics (like Halloween paint and kids’ lip balm), which means companies can use pretty much any raw materials they like to create their products.
Worse, products sold over the Internet don’t have to be labeled, making it more difficult for parents to monitor what’s in them. Fragrances, in addition, are often made up of a cocktail of chemicals that are not listed on the product.
Most of the time we think that our kids are exposed to only miniscule amounts of these potentially dangerous ingredients, which is likely to be true, but the problem is that they’re exposed over and over again.
One child, for instance, may be exposed to the same toxic chemical from her toy makeup-kit, and then her bubble bath, and then her shampoo, and then her body wash, and then her lip balm, and then from the dust in her home.
What can parents do to keep kids safe this Halloween?
How Parents Can Take Action
Fortunately, more and more companies are listening to concerned consumers, and producing safer products without chemicals linked to health issues. Using reports like these, parents can become more savvy shoppers, and bring home only those products they know won’t hurt their kids.
Here are some tips that will help this Halloween and throughout the year:
- Read labels. Avoid products that list things like fragrance, BP-1 or BP-4, BHT, styrene, talc, mineral oil, DMDM hydantoin, diazolydinyl urea, imidiazolydineal urea, epoxy resin, silica, petrolatum, polymethyl methacrylate, and ethoxylated ingredients (those that end in “eth” or terms like PPG and PEG). See the full report for more details on each of these ingredients.
- Avoid kids’ face paint completely.
- Avoid buying kids’ cosmetic products online.
- Try apps like Think Dirty, Healthy Living, and Good Guide to help you find safe products.
- Dust and vacuum your home frequently, and watch what you’re children put in their mouths.
- Test your home paint for lead with a lead testing kit (available at any home improvement store).
- Consider adding your voice to the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics’ petition to Congress.
Have you stopped using Halloween paint in your family?
Source Daniel J. DeNoon, “Lead Poisoning and Kids,” WebMD, August 15, 2007, http://www.webmd.com/children/news/20070815/lead-poisoning-and-kids#1.