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Environmental connections to public health >>

Tips for safer (face) painting this Halloween... and beyond

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

It's the Thursday before Halloween and my kids haven't quite decided what to be. Top runners at this point (it changes daily) are pretty standard: witch and princess.

And no, I'm not sewing their costumes from scratch (far from it, actually: I'm midnight emailing friends whose kids have cool costumes to borrow).

So when I read this week's report about lead in face paints, I was (for once!) glad to be behind. Now I can praise the beauty of plain faces under pointy hats and crowns BEFORE promising to paint them.

What's wrong with face painting? Nothing - IF the paints are safe for our skin, especially the more sensitive skin of little trick-or-treaters. But if there's a chance of lead in the paint, and other heavy metals, too (think: nickel, chromium, and cobalt), it's a better bet to skip the paint. The potential of short and longer-term allergic reactions to heavy metals isn't worth the risk, nor is the possibility of adding to a child's lead burden. Paint safely if you paint For those of us who have already promised or just want to paint already, here are some tips from the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics for safe face painting this week (and beyond):

  • Choose costumes that don't require face paint or masks (which may also contain toxic chemicals and impair vision and breathing).
  • Make your own face paint with food-grade ingredients. The Campaign put together a few recipe ideas.
  • If you do use face paint, keep it away from kids' mouths and hands so they don't ingest it.

Why so cautious? Because it's been determined that there is no safe level of lead exposure.


And since lead and other heavy metals aren't exactly listed on the label and products aren't required to be tested for safety, it takes expensive tests like the ones used in this report to know whether your face paint is safe or not. Sure makes shopping for a Halloween costume harder than it needs to be.

BUT. The most serious lead exposures are from house paint While avoiding lead exposures of any kind is prudent and makes sense to most parents, focusing your attention on the most likely routes of exposure is important.

Most children are exposed when they eat lead paint chips (it was allowed for house painting before 1978) or inhale lead dust during home rehabilitation. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has excellent tips on preventing your children from coming into contact with lead.

Read the full report from the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, "Pretty Scary: Could Halloween Face Paint Cause Lifelong Health Problems?"

[Many thanks to Flickr CC & L2F1 for the great Spider Man face]


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