Parents beware! Halloween is really tricky for families seeking to lay down healthy and green holiday traditions. Without careful planning, Halloween can be a toxic minefield for families.
Most parents call out candy as the main culprit when it comes to unhealthy habits at Halloween. After all, candy is a well-known star villain when it comes to national health problems. Americans eat about 24.5 pounds of candy per capita, according to a study by the U.S. Census Bureau. Additionally, studies show one in three children born in 2000 may develop diabetes if they don’t clean up their diet and get active, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
But candy is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to spooky habits at Halloween.
Most of us are pretty clueless when it comes to the witch’s brew of toxins in everyday Halloween costumes, candies, foods, candles and other decorations. A little bit of education can take the fear factor out of Halloween for families who value their health.
Top 5 Toxic Tricks & Green Halloween Tips
TOXIC TRICK #1: PVC, the most toxic plastic for children’s health and the environment, is popping up in children’s costumes. It’s spooky that many vinyl products are laden with endocrine disrupting chemicals and toxic fumes.
GREEN HALLOWEEN TIP: If you’re not sure what the costume is made out of, ask the store or manufacturer whether or not it contains PVC and phthalates. Make your own costume out of safe materials – or trade costumes with friends.
TOXIC TRICK #2: If the kid next door dresses up as Frankenstein, that’s cute! But when it comes to foods – say no to freaky Frankenstein concoctions. It’s best to avoid GMOs (genetically modified organisms) and engineered Frankenstein foods. Also avoid commercial candies and pre-packaged snacks that are typically chocked full of synthetic additives, such as dyes and colorings (i.e. tartrazine, annatto and carmine); emulsifiers and stabilizers (i.e. gums and lecithin); and preservatives (i.e. benzoates, nitrates and sulfites)
GREEN HALLOWEEN TIP: Choose natural sweets, like honey sticks or candies made with pure cane sugar, fruit juice, and natural colors. Read the label of all prepared treats you’re buying to make sure they are free of additives. Look for Fair Trade-sourced chocolates or other brands that donate part of their profits to environmental causes.
TOXIC TRICK #3: Beware of the lack of cosmetic safety regulations in the United States. Many children’s face paints contain lead, a neurotoxin, as well as nickel, cobalt and chromium, according to a study by the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics. Creepier yet, these toxic metals were not listed on the products' ingredient labels.
GREEN HALLOWEEN TIP: Because 100% of face paints tested by the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics showed levels of lead and misleading packaging, families are advised to avoid using face paints on children until safety standards are put in place. Instead, choose costumes that don't require face paint or masks or follow one of these recipes to make your own face paint with food-grade ingredients.
TOXIC TRICK #4: Flickering candles give Halloween its spooky feel, but beware of the spooky chemicals released from the paraffin in wax candles traditionally put inside carved pumpkins. Did you know that paraffin candles are petroleum based?
GREEN HALLOWEEN TIP: Clean up your home and keep your lungs healthy with organic soy candles, which last longer and come from renewable soy bean crops. If you like scented candles, try putting on a pot of hot apple cider to brew with a fragrant natural cinnamon stick and cloves.
TOXIC TRICK #5: National statistics indicate 36 million U.S. children, ages 5 to 13, will grab a bag and head out trick-or-tricking this Halloween. Americans use more than 380 million plastic bags and more than 10 million paper bags every year. Production of plastic bags requires millions of gallons of fossil fuels. Additionally, plastic bags end up as litter, kill thousands of marine mammals annually, and break down slowly into small particles that pollute soil and water.
GREEN HALLOWEEN TIP: Save the landfill from overflowing with scary plastic trash by choosing an eco-friendly reusable bag for your trick-or-treaters. Re-purposing your child’s lunchbag, a canvas shopping bag, or even pillowcase is an eco-friendly trick to avoid throw-away bags and the moulded plastic jack-o-lanterns.
P.S. Interested in learning more about green Halloween? Like us on Facebook for more tips throughout the month of October: https://www.facebook.com/ecolunchboxes
Contributing writer Sandra Ann Harris is the founder of ECOlunchbox specializing in zero plastic lunchware for families seeking to reduce their dependence on plastics, which are petroleum based and hazardous to human health and the environment. Harris lives in Lafayette, Calif. with her husband, two school-age children, three chickens and pet terrier pooch Hobow.