For most parents, the scariest thing on Halloween is the inevitable late evening sugar crash. But forget about the sugar snacks and little monster costumes, there’s something scarier lurking out there: toxic chemicals.

It’s an unfortunate reality that toxic chemicals are widely prevalent in everyday products, even in children’s Halloween costumes. From the fake blood to the monster mask, it can be hard to avoid toxic monsters.

Today, our friends at in the U.S. released a report after testing 105 Halloween products. Their research found phthalates, PVCs, flame retardants and other chemicals with links to serious health concerns in some of the items. Also earlier this year on this side of the border there was a recall of a “Michael Myers” children’s costume due DEHP levels exceeding legal limits. DEHP is considered a probably human carcinogen, according to the International Agency for Research on Cancer so it’s definitely something you want to keep away from your kids.

Some places spooky toxic chemicals can hide:

1. Costumes: Many plastic masks and costumes are made with PVCs– it’s what gives the product that disincentive plastic-y smell. PVCs, aside from emitting strong smells, can bleed toxic additives such as phthalates. PVCs can contain dioxins, which the World Health Organization considers to be a ‘persistent organic pollutant’.  They are highly toxic, difficult to break down or eliminate from the environment and affect numerous organs of the body.

2. Make-up: Play make-up can also contain toxic chemicals including heavy metals. A study from The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics found that children’s face paint contained lead (a metal that is toxic to every organ in the body!) but it won’t be listed in the ingredients list. It is illegal to include lead in cosmetics in Canada intentionally, but it winds up in products as an impurity (meaning below a certain amount, but no amount is safe).To ensure you’re only using safe products, bring our toxic ten chemicals shopping guide with you. What many people are not aware is that terms such as ‘hypoallergenic’ or ‘natural’ are misleading since they are not regulated by Health Canada; what constitutes as hypoallergenic or other related marketing phrases is vague and up to the manufacturer.

3. Glow sticks: While glow sticks can provide endless amusement to kids and adults alike, they unfortunately can contain dibutyl phthalates, a hormone disruptor. Ensure that kids do not break or open the glow sticks in order to avoid exposure to the chemical.

So what’s a parent to do?

The easiest step is to check what the costume is made of. If the label doesn’t include any information, ask the retailer or manufacturer for more details. This serves a two-fold purpose: it allows you to get more information but importantly, it also reminds the retailer or manufacturer that consumers are concerned about exposure to toxic chemicals and pushes for change. If enough people complain to businesses about the chemicals they use, they may consider no longer using those chemicals.

Luckily, it’s easier than ever to find costumes made without PVCs. Most superhero, princess, and movie costumes are made with safer materials and can be found at large retailers.

Take action! Sign up for our quarterly Toxic Nation newsletter to keep up to date on toxic chemicals, check out our resource page for more information on toxics in the home and sign our petition asking for stricter regulations!