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Unmasking Toxic Halloween Costumes

October 31, 2006

Boston, MA - A conservation group is warning trick or treaters to beware of the materials that make up the scariest part of their costumes. Vinyl is used in many household products, including Halloween masks, but Leise Jones, from Clean Water Action, says surrounding a child's head with a vinyl mask can be unhealthy because of the chemicals used to produce it.

"Most people know that, when they open up a new vinyl product, such as a costume or shower curtain, they smell that strong chemical odor. Those are chemicals being released into the air that could get into the mask-wearer's body and lead to health problems."

A proposed law would phase out vinyl from store shelves in Massachusetts. The plastic industry says vinyl has been used safely for years, and there are health safeguards in place for the manufacturing process.

In addition to costumes, manufacturers use vinyl in a wide range of products, including children's toys and packaging. Jones argues there are many safer substitutes that could be used, but for now she advises, "buyer beware".

"There's no law that requires any labeling on the package, so the best thing to do would be to avoid Halloween costume products that are made of plastic. In most cases, we can assume that they're vinyl, and there are safer alternatives, such as cotton or polyester."

Kevin Clay/Craig Eicher, Public News Service - MA