Halloween Tips to Protect Kids from Scary Chemicals


What’s spookier than ghosts, witches, ghouls, and goblins on Halloween night? Toxic chemicals. 

Toxic flame retardants, phthalates, and lead may be lurking in some store-bought kids’ costumes, face paints, and decorations. So what’s a parent to do on Halloween?

While we fight for stronger chemical safety regulations to make sure all kids are better protected from toxic chemicals, there are steps parents can take in the meantime to help protect their families—so that Halloween night is a lot more fun, and a lot less scary. 

1. Look out for a “flame resistant” label on store-bought costumes. 

Flame retardants are toxic, unnecessary chemicals. Some of these chemicals have been linked to cancer and others may harm brain development in kids, leading to learning disabilities. These chemicals don’t belong anywhere—and definitely not in kid’s Halloween costumes.

If costumes are treated with toxic flame retardants, they should have a  “flame resistant” label. Look out for the label, and put those costumes back on the shelf. 

2. Seek out face paint made from safe ingredients—or make your own.

A 2015 report from the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics found 10 out of 10 kids’ face paints tested positive for lead. Childhood lead poisoning can result in lifelong challenges, and there is no safe level of lead exposure. Since face paint goes directly on your child’s skin where it can be absorbed into their body, it’s important to be sure that it is safe.

Look for face paints labeled as free from toxic chemicals and heavy metals. It’s also easy to make your own! Google “nontoxic face paint recipe” and you’ll find many fun recipes to try.

3. Avoid PVC and phthalates in costumes and decorations.

In 2014, a study by discovered toxic chemicals in kids’ Halloween costumes and decorations purchased at stores across the country.

Many of the materials tested were made of PVC (polyvinyl chloride). PVC is often treated with toxic phthalates, which are linked to neurological problems and reproductive harm. To make mattes worse, PVC also releases dioxins—toxins that cause cancer—into our air and environment.

When shopping for decorations, avoid plastic labeled with “PVC” or “3,” often found near the recycling symbol. For costumes, look for fabrics labeled “PVC-free” and “phthalate-free.” Avoid fabrics labeled “vinyl.” 

Seek out costumes—or make your own!—made from natural, nontoxic fabrics like organic cotton or wool.

Support our work for safer products. Chemical safety rules aren’t strong enough in the United States, and millions of kids and families across the country are still vulnerable to harmful chemicals in the food they eat, the water they drink—and the Halloween costumes they wear. We’re fighting to change that. Will you make a gift to support our work today?