Spooky Secret Exposed: Halloween Products Loaded with Chemical Poisons Cadmium, Lead and Mercury

13 October 2011, Quezon City. Beware: 42 of the 60 Halloween products (70%) tested by a toxic watchdog were found to be contaminated with excessive amounts of health-damaging chemicals.

This is the eerie truth unearthed by the EcoWaste Coalition from a test it initiated to determine if Halloween products that are popular among children and adults contain heavy metals.

“Our test reveals that some Halloween products are unsafe for children due to their highly toxic ingredients and should be pulled out from the market at once,” said Thony Dizon, Coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Project Protect.

In collaboration with QES (Manila), Inc., local dealer of X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) analyzer, the products were screened for toxic chemicals such as antimony, arsenic, cadmium, chromium, lead and mercury.

The group purchased the Halloween products from popular retail outlets in the metropolis on October 8 to 11 and analyzed with XRF on October 12.

The samples, costing P5 to P499.50 were obtained from Landmark (Trinoma), National Book Store (Shangrila Plaza Mall, SM City North EDSA, Q-Plaza), Shopwise (Makati), Toy Express (SM City North EDSA) and Toys R Us (Robinsons Ermita), and from bargain shops in 999 Shopping Mall and the New Divisoria Center in Manila.

The XRF, a portable device that shoots beam into the material and then measures certain chemical elements in less than a minute, is widely used by regulatory agencies and private companies in the USA.

Among the Halloween products tested were accessories, costumes, hats, masks, face paints, decorations, screamers, trick or treat buckets and toys.

Out of 60 samples, 42 (70%) had at least one toxic metal such as antimony, arsenic, cadmium, chromium, lead and mercury above levels of concern.

None of the 42 products found with chemicals of concerns indicated that they contain such toxic substances.

Of the 60 samples, 36 (60%) were found to contain cadmium above 75 parts per million (ppm), the limit proposed under H.R. 4428, the “Children’s Toxic Metals Act” bill of the USA. An unlabelled red plastic devil mask from Landmark had 199 ppm of cadmium.

Ten samples (17%) exceeded the 90 ppm regulatory limit for lead under the US Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008. A pull string skull toy bought from shop number IQ 2-4 in 999 Shopping Mall tested with the highest levels of lead at 3,463 ppm, as well as chromium at 3,771 ppm.

Two samples (3%) had mercury above the 1 ppm limit for cosmetics set by the Food and Drugs Administration of the Philippines, including a crayon body paint product with 239 ppm of mercury from Anding’s Toys and Flowers, Inc. in New Divisoria Center.

Cadmium, lead and mercury are among the 28 chemicals and chemical compounds in the Philippine First Priority Chemicals List that the Department of Environment and Natural Resources had established to likely cause unreasonable risk to public health, workplace and the environment.

The tests also showed that 13 samples (22%) contained more than one toxic metal that raises the health risk due to multiple exposure. For example, a key chain with a witchlike pumpkin design had antimony (476 ppm), cadmium (187 ppm), chromium (2,306 ppm) and lead (2,683 ppm).

Of the 60 samples, nine were face and body paint products, six of which provided chemical information on their labels and seven claimed to be “safe” or “non-toxic”. However, all seven “safe” or “non-toxic” products turned out to be tainted with cadmium. In fact, all nine face and body paint products were found toxic, including expensive branded products bought from National Book Store that registered with high levels of cadmium from 104 ppm – 180 ppm .

Only 5 of the 60 samples had the mandatory license to operate (LTO) number on their labels, and 55 had either no labels or incomplete labels, depriving buyers with basic information such as the product brand and name, its manufacturer or distributors, contact details, age suitability and precautionary instructions.

To address the problem with toxic children’s products, the EcoWaste Coalition reiterated its call to the industry not to manufacture, import, distribute or sell toys and other articles intended for children that contain chemicals of concern.

As both Halloween and Christmas get closer, the EcoWaste Coalition urged concerned government agencies to launch a unified campaign with the civil society and the mass media to rid the market of untested, unregistered and unlabelled toys and other children’s products.

“It will be extremely hard for consumers to ascertain which children’s products are really free of toxins. The government and the industry need to guarantee that only products that have been proven safe for children, registered and labelled are sold in the market,” Dizon emphasized.