13 October 2013

Consumers Warned against Hazardous Chemicals in Halloween Products

Press Release
Consumers Warned against Hazardous Chemicals in Halloween Products

13 October 2013, Quezon City.  A toxics watchdog has cautioned Halloween event organizers and revelers from procuring items that may contain undisclosed toxic substances.

The EcoWaste Coalition made the precautionary warning as assorted Halloween-themed displays and products have started to appear in shopping malls and discount stores.

“Our investigation indicates that some Halloween items are laced with health-damaging toxic metals.  Instead of adding excitement and fun to the celebration, these products may in fact endanger children's health,” said Thony Dizon, Coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Project Protect.

“Toxic metals are known to cause harm to adults and kids alike.  But children are more vulnerable to harm from these substances because they consume more food and water and inhale more air per unit of body weight compared to adults,” said pediatrician Dr. Bessie Antonio, Vice-President, Philippine Society of Clinical and Occupational Toxicology.

This is the third consecutive year that the group has analyzed Halloween products using a screening device called the X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) spectrometer.

In 2011, the group detected excessive levels of antimony, arsenic, cadmium, chromium, lead and mercury  in 42 out of 60 samples (70%).  In 2012, 17 out of the 60 samples (28%) were found tainted with such metals.

For this round of analysis, the group bought 90 products costing P20 to P200 each from various retail outlets in Manila and Quezon Cities, including leading department stores and bargain shopping malls.

Among the products analyzed for toxic metals were Halloween costumes, decors, masks, scary props, candy containers and body and face paints.

Out of 90 samples, 20 (22%) were found to contain at least one toxic metal above regulatory limits.  Lead, a potent neurotoxin that is particularly harmful for kids, was detected in 18 samples above the allowable limit of 90 parts per million (ppm).

“While welcoming the significant drop in the number of tainted Halloween products this year compared to the sampling we did in 2011, we remain apprehensive over the continued sale of items with undisclosed toxic ingredients that can get on children’s hands or end up in their mouths,” Dizon said.

The 10 Halloween products with the highest levels of lead include:

1.  A “horror spider” costing P65 had 3,987 ppm of lead.

2.  A green pumpkin pail costing P80 had 2,730 ppm of lead, 1,425 ppm of chromium and 440 ppm of arsenic.

3.  Another “horror spider” costing P65 had 2,040 ppm of lead.

4.  A “spiders and web” set costing P87 had 1,658 ppm of lead.

5.  A key chain with Halloween witch on a broom stick design costing P50 had 1,291 ppm of lead, 820 ppm of chromium and 172 ppm of arsenic.

6.  A Halloween rainbow wand costing P129.75 had 1,119 ppm of lead.

7. An inflatable toy with scary ghost design costing P36 had 439 ppm of lead, 616 ppm of chromium and 65 ppm of arsenic.

8.  A sound bag with red pumpkin and skull design costing P180 had 379 ppm of lead.

9.  A Halloween party eyeglasses with skull design costing P50 had 241 ppm of lead.

10. A mask with falling eyeball design costing P150 had 226 ppm of lead.

To prevent children’s exposure to toxins in Halloween products, the EcoWaste Coalition recommends that consumers should:

1.  Scrutinize product labels and shun products that fail to provide complete labeling information, including chemical ingredients and health risks if any.  This will apply to all Halloween items, including body and face paints.

2.  Encourage kids to create their own eco-friendly Halloween costumes without spending money by using safe, recycled materials.

3.  Remind children not to put Halloween products in their mouths and to wash their hands after playing with such products, especially before meals, to avoid chemical as well as bacterial ingestion.

As it is truly possible to make children’s products sans toxic chemicals, the EcoWaste Coalition urged manufacturers to switch to clean production practices and only offer safe products that will not cause harm to the health of children and the ecosystems.

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