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Posted on Wed, Oct 26, 2011 : 8:45 a.m.

Ecology Center: Halloween face paint tainted with heavy metals

By Juliana Keeping


A study by found heavy metals in each of 31 Halloween face paints tested for cadmium, mercury, lead and chromium.

Midkhat Izmaylov |

Moms and dads gearing up to turn their kids into vampires and goblins might want to think twice: There’s scary stuff in some Halloween face paint, according to, a project of Ann Arbor-based Ecology Center.

HealthyStuff tested 31 face paint products purchased in Michigan and found one or more toxic heavy metals in all of them, including mercury, lead, chromium and arsenic.

More than half of the products contained cadmium, a reproductive and neural toxicant that can cause brain damage, said Rebecca Meuninck, the environmental health campaign director for the Ecology Center.

The products were purchased from retailers like Target, Halloween City, Party City and Spirit Halloween.

"Children are especially vulnerable to the effects of heavy metals," Kenneth Fletcher, the associate executive director for government relations and outreach for the Michigan Nurses Association, said in a new release. "Heavy metals such as cadmium, mercury and chromium are associated with learning disabilities, brain damage, skin allergies and even cancer."

HealthyStuff has published the results of the study on its website, along with recipes for non-toxic Halloween makeup.

The study comes on the heels of a push from lawmakers and a children’s environmental advocacy group to ban toxic toys in Michigan.

Rebekkah Warren, D-Ann Arbor, announced plans on Oct. 18 to introduce legislation that would protect kids from toxic chemicals in toys at a news conference with the Michigan Network for Children’s Environmental Health.

The Safe Children's Products Act would require the state to create a list of chemicals of concern in children’s products. It also would require toy importers and large manufactures to disclose the presence of chemicals of greatest concern in their children's products.

Jason Beddow, the president of Troy-based Palmer Paint Products Inc. did not have products on the list tested by HealthyStuff.

He said his company tests all of its products to make sure they meet all legal standards, sending face paints off for testing at both a Duke University lab and to a private company. Palmer Paint face painting products are sold at Jo-Ann Fabric, Meijer and Hobby Lobby, he said.

“If we found out our stuff was not within the legal parameters, we would immediately react,” he said.

The testing standards depend on the product, he said. And companies tend to only do what they’re required by law.

Ypsilanti parent Sandra Swan said the results of the study alarmed her. As a before-and-after school coordinator at an Ann Arbor Community Day Care, she said she might push to make face paints used for a haunted house, rather than buy them.

She’s cautious when it comes to using face paints on her 4-year-old-son, Colton, at events like birthday parties.

“There are some that are safe, and some that aren’t,” she said.

Juliana Keeping covers general assignment and health and the environment for Follow special project Viking's War on Facebook and Twitter

Reach her at or 734-623-2528. Follow Juliana Keeping on Twitter


Pixie Belle

Thu, Oct 27, 2011 : 4:43 p.m.

Dear people who don't think this is an issue. Of course the law doesn't cover everything that is bad for your children. It takes a long time for the law to catch up with reality as we live in a democratic country that has many levels of government. Also vaccines do not have high level of heavy metals. Infant vaccines have less metal that breast milk. <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a>


Thu, Oct 27, 2011 : 2:27 p.m.

Don't forget, Ypsilanti library on Whittaker will be having a zombie make over on Sunday for 11 and up. Can't wait.


Thu, Oct 27, 2011 : 3:39 a.m.

Lest anyone get alarmes about nutritional chromium, chromium is beneficial or toxic depending on its valence: hexavalent chromium is toxic (genotoxic carcinogen) and used in industrial processes (not natural), while trivalent chromium is required for sugar and lipid metabolism. SUpplements contain (or at least should contain) the trivalent variety.


Wed, Oct 26, 2011 : 5:55 p.m.

&quot;Heavy metals such as cadmium, mercury and chromium are associated with learning disabilities, brain damage, skin allergies and even cancer.&quot; Hey! Nurse Ken...... CAREFUL! For the sake of public &quot;health,&quot; be sure to point out that, while these things are evil and dangerous for children when painted on the face, they are PERFECTLY safe, REQUIRED even, when injected directly into fetuses, pregnant women, well as you and me......when we're talkin' that wonder of wonders......vaccination!!!!!!!!!

Dennis Hallock

Wed, Oct 26, 2011 : 5:46 p.m.

I would suggest that the Ecology Center also look into what is being sold in our local Walmart Stores. They tend to import most of their products from China.


Wed, Oct 26, 2011 : 4:13 p.m.

So will the face paint labels specifically say cadmium or chromium, etc... or are they couched in some fancy name on the label that someone would need a chemistry degree to decipher?


Wed, Oct 26, 2011 : 4:40 p.m.

Don't count on it, if its in there in amounts higher than allowed by law, it would not be allowed to be on the market or imported into the U.S. On the other hand, who says they will catch it before it goes onto the market?

Juliana Keeping

Wed, Oct 26, 2011 : 3:45 p.m.

This story has been updated with comments from an Ypsilanti parent and Jason Beddow, the president of Troy-based Palmer Paint Products, Inc.


Wed, Oct 26, 2011 : 4:44 p.m.

Truly not trying to be a pistol here, however why would they pay Duke University to conduct a toxicology test and then an independent lab as well? I bet they get a report from the supplier from Duke University and then they verify it independently on their own. If you pay for and get Duke University's approval, you don't need anyone else's approval or verification unless you are not getting it first hand from Duke.


Wed, Oct 26, 2011 : 3:38 p.m.

What about &quot;real' face paint? Like costume shops sell?


Wed, Oct 26, 2011 : 3:35 p.m.

When mercury dental fillings are banned then maybe I'll believe that government is serious about protecting the public from heavy metals. Heavy metals are nothing to trifle with. If you don't see &quot;Made in USA&quot; or don't trust the brand, don't buy it.


Wed, Oct 26, 2011 : 2:54 p.m.

Why did my Doctor (At U of M Hospital) tell me to take chromium? (chromium Picolinate) which is for sale at Drug stores! MOM: Please don't run my life and make more stupid laws! (We have enough already!)


Wed, Oct 26, 2011 : 3:13 p.m.

HealthyStuff you hit the nail on the head! Manufacturers who consume products can demand their suppliers meet their specifications. You don't meet those specs, you don't get the business period.


Wed, Oct 26, 2011 : 3:07 p.m.

There are different kinds of chromium. The one we're concerned about is hexavalent chromium, which can cause the following problems: • lung cancer in workers who breathe airborne hexavalent chromium • irritation or damage to the nose, throat, and lung (respiratory tract) if hexavalent chromium is breathed at high levels • irritation or damage to the eyes and skin if hexavalent chromium contacts these organs in high concentrations The problem with most products on the market place, like RuralMom posted above, is that manufacturers aren't adequately disclosing information ... and our national regulation (Toxic Substances Control Act) is too weak.


Wed, Oct 26, 2011 : 2:47 p.m.

Where are these paints produced? I think I need only one guess.


Wed, Oct 26, 2011 : 2:52 p.m.

Worldwide, not just China! India, Brazil, Germany, Mexico, heck while writing this response my company website got an inquiry to do business with us out of Argentina. Its up to those who import components of paint, coatings, ink etc., to test the materials used and demand suppliers not use shoddy processes in their manufacturing.

Ron Granger

Wed, Oct 26, 2011 : 2 p.m.

How is it that the large suppliers like Target and Walmart aren't testing these paints? I think it goes back to the old adage, &quot;don't ask any questions you don't really want to hear the answer to&quot;, lest it interfere with profits. I thought there were laws that required testing? The national media haven't panicked about this yet.


Wed, Oct 26, 2011 : 2:48 p.m.

Manufacturers that are truly care about this issue, usually send material to be tested for all these substances to places such as Duke University. (I sell pigment, flush color, coatings, in which components come from China &amp; India) What I find amazing is that my little company can do this, in order to supply people who manufacture products marketed to children, so its not that hard to do, nor cost prohibitive. We need to make the Manufacturers care about what they are putting out on the market, who they do business with, you get what you pay for and the cheapest is not always the best.


Wed, Oct 26, 2011 : 2:41 p.m.

I don't think it's retailers' responsibility to perform that kind of tests on their products. Such tests are the responsibility of producers and authorities. However once the faulty products are identified, an official notification should require immediate removal from stores.