Be Cautious with Halloween Face Paints
< Oct. 28, 2009 > -- Halloween face painting for little trick-or-treaters may need to be reconsidered, according to a new report released this week.
The report listed test results for 10 face paint products, the types widely available via the Internet or in craft or Halloween stores. The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics released the report, titled Pretty Scary: Could Halloween Face Paint Cause Lifelong Health Problems?
"All 10 face paint products tested contained lead, and six out of 10 had known skin allergens, including nickel, cobalt, or chromium, at levels above recommendations of industry studies," says Stacy Malkan, the campaign's co-founder and a co-author of the report. Malkan is also the author of Not Just a Pretty Face, a 2007 book detailing what she sees as the potentially hazardous ingredients in cosmetics.
Ingredients Found Dispute Label Claims
For the new report, Malkan says, "We looked for a range of heavy metals, and we didn't find mercury or arsenic. Other countries have found those in face paints. We did unfortunately find lead in all the products." Experts agree that exposure to lead can cause developmental and behavioral problems.
Then there were the labeling problems, with some products claiming to be hypoallergenic when they were not. One product "was advertised on the package as nontoxic and hypoallergenic, [and] had some of the highest levels of nickel, cobalt and lead," Malkan says.
The lead found ranged from 0.054 parts per million to 0.65 parts per million. Four of 10 products had nickel, ranging from 2.1 to 5.9 parts per million; two of 10 had cobalt, with levels from 4.8 to 5.5 parts per million. Five of 10 had chromium, ranging from 1.6 to 120 parts per million. According to the report, levels of each should not exceed 1 part per million for consumer products.
Earlier this year, a face paint from China was recalled by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) when some children had rashes and itching; the FDA later found microbial contamination in the product.
More Oversight and Regulation Called For
Malkan says more oversight is needed by the FDA to regulate products, including face paints. Cosmetic products and ingredients are not subject to pre-market approval by the FDA, except color additives. Recalls of cosmetics are done voluntarily by manufacturers or distributors if products are found hazardous or deceptive; the FDA can take regulatory action through the federal court system.
But Malkan and others believe this level of oversight is not sufficient.
Recourse for Parents
What should parents do? Using the face paint just once a year "is probably not going to do anything at all [health wise]," contends Dr. Dennis Woo, former chair of pediatrics at Santa Monica-UCLA and Orthopaedic Hospital, Santa Monica, Calif., who reviewed the report. But he says he is surprised by the amounts of heavy metals found in the face paints. "We should start looking at this stuff. There's no reason these heavy metals need to be in cosmetics."
His colleague, Dr. Wally Ghurabi, chief of emergency services, Santa Monica-UCLA and Orthopaedic Hospital, believes that even once-a-year use of the face paints may not be worth it. "Concerned parents should skip it," he says. If those who apply the paints aren't careful, and get the paint too close to the eyes or nose, that could be potentially harmful.
Malkan, too, votes that parents avoid face-paint use in children. But if you are using them, the FDA advises that parents:
Another option is to "go natural," says Jessa Blades, a natural makeup artist and green living expert based in New York City. First, look up "safe" or green cosmetics on the campaign's Web site. Then, consider black eye pencil for whiskers. Or mix a quarter teaspoon of the spice turmeric with unscented lotion to make "war paint."
For fake blood, mix corn syrup, Castile liquid soap, and a dash of red food coloring, Blades says.
Always consult your child's physician for more information.
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More About Lead Exposure and Poisoning
Lead poisoning can affect just about every system in the body yet often produces no definitive symptoms. High levels of lead may also cause seizures, coma, and death.
Lead poisoning in children may cause:
Here are some facts about lead poisoning:
Lead is more dangerous to children than adults because:
Children between the ages of 1 and 3 who live in low-income housing built before 1978 are especially at risk. In early 2005, the Consumer Product Safety Commission announced a new policy addressing lead in children's metal jewelry. There have been cases where children who swallowed or repeatedly sucked on jewelry items containing lead developed high blood lead levels. Since 2004, the Commission has recalled over 150 million pieces of toy jewelry that was sold in vending machines and through other outlets.
Always consult your physician for more information.