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Halloween Costumes "Mask" Danger for Some WA Kids

October 25, 2010

SEATTLE - Halloween costumes are supposed to be scary, but Washington parents may not realize quite how scary. They probably don't expect to expose their children to lead and other chemicals when getting them ready to go trick-or-treating. But in recent tests, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) has found lead and chromium in face paint, and other contaminants, such as P-V-C, in masks and spray-on hair color. Leeann Brown, press associate in the toxics department at the EWG, says it's hard to know what's safe, because reading the labels doesn't always help.

"We found many of these were imported, and there wasn't much information available to the consumer. But people should be aware that the contaminants we found weren't listed on the label. We had to test for them to find them."

Many of the items tested and found to contain harmful substances came from unknown companies, or companies that don't list phone numbers or addresses. So, parents are urged to do a little research on Halloween products, or just make their kids' costumes this week, at home.

Pediatrician Marny Turnvil is not surprised by the findings. She says more than 80,000 chemicals are approved for use in consumer goods, and with little safety testing, children are at greater risk today than in past generations.

"They are starting their lives with a bigger body burden of chemicals to begin with because we have exponentially increased the number of chemicals in our society every ten years since 1940."

"Safer Halloween" tips are online at

Chris Thomas, Public News Service - WA