It's that time of year again, and I can't help but think about the ghoulish chemicals our children are coming in contact with. Add to that the 6.9 billion dollars that Americans are spending on one-time use decorations and costumes this year, and my head starts to spin. But Halloween fun doesn't have to be an unhealthy witch's brew. It can be healthy and green too!
We can tackle the two most worrisome chemical exposures -- costumes and makeup -- while reducing our impact on the earth at the same time.
Safe, Eco-friendly Costumes
Many costume accessories, such as masks, noses and fake teeth, are made from poly vinyl chloride (PVC). The Center for Health Environment and Justice (CHEJ) warns that PVC has become known as the "poison plastic" because it is full of toxic chemicals such as phthalates, chlorine, dioxin and lead. A CHEJ study found that this vinyl can release as many as 108 volatile organic chemicals into the air. Some of these chemicals can cause developmental damage as well as damage to the liver and central nervous, respiratory and reproductive systems. So if you're buying a pre-made costume this year, look for the number three recycling code to help you avoid PVC. You may not have the benefit of a label though, so avoid any soft plastic with a strong "new toy" smell.
But seriously, why buy a potentially unhealthy costume that will likely be worn once? You can save some hard-earned money, and the planet too, with these tips:
• DIY: If you're feeling crafty, you could make your child's costume from safe materials you already have around the house. Not sure it's your cup of tea? Check out these simple costume ideas at Parenting.com and the Mother Nature Network.
• Check consignment and thrift stores.
• Consider swapping: Search for a swap in your area or learn how to organize your own at www.GreenHalloween.org.
Non-toxic Face Paint
Just this month, HealthyStuff.org released an unsettling report about the shocking number of toxic chemicals in kid's costume makeup. They tested products from large retailers, in which they detected potent neurotoxins and carcinogens. Here is what they found:
• One in two Halloween makeup kits tested contained detectable levels of cadmium.
• 100 percent of the products tested contained chromium.
• Other metals detected include: arsenic, mercury and lead
Can you imagine slathering those hidden hazards on your child's little face? I can't, and it makes me angry to think I may have done it without even knowing.
Luckily, you can make your own face paints with great recipes from the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics. And there are a few natural face paints and pencils available if you'd rather not make your own:
• Miss Terra Firma, in partnership with GreenHalloween.org, created a line of non-toxic high performance face paints that are made with only the safest ingredients.
• Nova Natural makes non-toxic face pencils which are made primarily of palm oil.
If you're planning to use your own makeup, be sure to double check it for safety in the Skin Deep Database.
With a little planning and creativity, you can create a safe costume, save a little money and reduce your waste for an all-around green Halloween!
Follow Sloan Barnett on Twitter and on her Facebook Page at https://www.facebook.com/GreenGoesWithEverything.