Alt-Health: Halloween Safety

Ah…Halloween. What other time of year can girls dress with aplomb as slutty goth prom queens or a band of cartoon villains, zombies and super heroes approach any door and demand candy without having the police called on them? This holiday is the perfect excuse for all of us to don a mask and assume the fantasy of our choice without censure or criticism. But there are dangers that can lurk in the shadows of disguise.

We have all been warned about razor blades in our candy and sex offenders who lurk on side streets, but those stories are, for the most part, urban legends. The truth is, unless you are trick or treating in a gang neighborhood, you face more danger from your Halloween costume and make up than you do from psychopathic predators. Every year, kids and adults alike are plagued by itching eyes, red blotchy skin and allergic reactions that they could have easily avoided. Here are some tips from the experts.

First: makeup. The cheap special effects kits in the Halloween aisle often contains artificial dyes, fragrances, waxes and oils. Unless oozing sores are actually the look you’re after, it’s a good idea to read the label before you are seduced by the price. If you want a spectacular exaggerated look, try professional theater makeup instead. You may pay more, but consider the cost of a painful case of contact dermatitis, and the misery of looking like you were hit in the face by a fryolator, and you will realize it’s worth it.

People tend to use everything from duct tape to super glue to get horns, fake beards and fingernails to stick, but the wrong choice of adhesive can send you to the emergency room. Again, look for products that are approved for cosmetic or stage use. This is especially true if you are going to be applying prosthetic skin; find something high quality, not from the bargain aisle. Those products are usually latex based. Many people are allergic. Before applying foreign gunk to your face, do a patch test on the underside of your arm first. If it causes redness or itching, don’t use it.

When you are going for gore, you probably don’t consider what’s in that fake blood. Most of these sticky serums contain a red dye that can cause irritation. You can find recipes online to make your own with corn syrup, flour and food coloring that are much safer to use.

Now let’s talk costumes. At the Ecology Center, a screening facility for hazardous additives, researchers put 106 Halloween items to the test, all sold at top retailers including CVS, Party City, Target and Walmart. Some products contained multiple chemical hazards. Thirty nine percent of the vinyl products contained high levels of tin, which can damage the developing brain and immune system. Thirty-three out of 106 Halloween costumes and products tested contained PVC components. In some, products were found that have been banned for use in children’s products by the Consumer Product Safety Commission. A ghoulish 5% of products were found to contain lead exceeding 100 ppm. The good news is that many of the costumes turned out to be just fine. But don’t take chances; wash anything you wear.

Decorative contact lenses can create an awesome otherworldly look and put your zombie, ET or killer cat over the edge, but if you get these lenses from anyone but a licensed eye doctor, you are risking serious, and sometimes permanent, damage to your eyes. All contact lenses are classified as medical devices by the FDA and require a valid prescription, whether they are corrective lenses or merely ornamental. Although you can buy decorative lenses through the internet, beauty salons and even convenience stores, DON’T. According to a survey by the American Optometric Association, 16% of Americans have worn decorative contact lenses for purely cosmetic purposes. Of that group, 26% purchased them without a prescription; numerous cases of serious harm have been reported, ranging from bacterial infections to irreversible sight loss.

One last thought — in 2016 the American Chemical Society produced a video showing how to calculate exactly how much candy it would take to kill you. You might want to check this out before you attack that sack of sweets: acs.org/content/acs/en/pressroom/reactions/videos/2016/how-much-halloween-candy-would-kill-you-video.html

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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