Without going into the history and traditional meaning of Halloween, these days October 31st is seen simply as a night for kids to dress up and have fun with the added bonus of treats a plenty being dished out.
However, there is a darker side to halloween and it doesn't involve any real life witch craft, ghouls or ghosts - it comes in the form of allergies and more menacingly the toxic chemicals used in Halloween costumes.
For families with kids that suffer from allergies, Halloween can be a 'tricky' time indeed. Without careful supervision and precautions kids can end up eating foods to which they are allergic, particularly hidden allergens such as unexpected food additives. Even the vigilant can be caught out by cross contamination as safe treats come into contact with allergenic treats in bags and containers and kids share between themselves.
It's not only foods that can be allergens. Make up, hair dyes and costumes made of latex are examples of potential danger areas for kids with contact allergies that can result in Eczema and nasty rashes.
In an article in the Staten Island Advance, Dr. Rita Malhotra-Kuczabski a licensed physician and mother, who must deal with her own allergies, provides some great safety tips and ideas for alternatives to the traditional door-to-door trick or treating on Halloween night for parents with atopic kids.
You can read the article here: 'Trick-or-treat for kids with allergies'
Then on the darker side there is the issue of toxic chemicals that find their way into cosmetic products and costumes for Halloween. Most parents would assume these have been tested and deemed safe but sadly this is often not the case. Europe has taken a lead with its REACH (Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and restriction of CHemicals) legislation to try to ensure harmful chemicals are banned but it is no small task to assess the safety of the tens of thousands of chemicals already in use in cosmetic products. This is even without bringing up the issue of how all the many chemicals act when in combination! In the US there is even less regulation so it is not uncommon for known toxic chemicals to find their way onto store shelves.
In an article in the San Diego Reader we learn that the hormone disrupting chemicals known as phthalates can be found on store shelves in brightly coloured lipsticks meant for Halloween of all things! Even Halloween make-up, hair dyes and other products found in the large stores such Target and Walmart often contain suspected human carcinogens.
I'd recommend any parent read this article before they get their kids ready for the Halloween festivities tomorrow night: 'The Scariest Part of Halloween'
This is all frightening stuff for any parent but armed with the information in these two great articles you can ensure that Halloween is both fun and safe for your kids.
Happy Halloween folks!