Aside from the well-known and documented hazards of Halloween, like treats tainted with sharps and poison and pedestrians hit by cars, there are a few others that might never cross your mind.
Poison centers around the country get hundreds of calls around popular holidays like Halloween. The chemical that makes the sticks glow is called “dibutyl phthalate.” If it gets out of the stick and onto your body, it stings and burns. If it gets in your mouth, your lips and tongue will glow, and you probably swallowed some or all of it, which irritates your throat and makes it feel sore. If it gets in your eyes, your eyes will swell and hurt and feel sensitive to light. While glow sticks are not deadly, the chemical inside them, if it leaks out, can cause a lot of discomfort and pain and give you a good Halloween scare.
The infamous Halloween hazards of poison and sharps hidden in treats are not the only ways candy presents real Halloween hazards.
Sorbitol is an artificial sweetener used in many candies, especially diet candies. As little as 10 grams of Sorbitol can cause gastrointestinal problems ranging from mild gas to severe diarrhea. And children may be affected by consuming less than 10 grams.
The black version of this old-fashioned Halloween favorite contains a sweetening agent called “glycyrrhizin,” which causes potassium levels in the body to fall. Low potassium levels cause some people, especially older adults over age 40, to experience a life-threatening cardiac event such as arrhythmia, high blood pressure, swelling, and congestive heart failure. This is especially true for individuals over age 40 who also have a history of heart disease or high blood pressure. Just a few ounces of this candy, which is made from a low-growing shrub that grows in Greece, Turkey, and Asia, can land you in the hospital or, worse, the morgue.
If you are over age 40 and enjoy licorice, don’t eat more than two ounces at once and don’t eat it every day. According the FDA, eating just two ounces of licorice daily for two weeks can cause an irregular heartbeat.
Licorice can also interfere with some medications and dietary supplements. The FDA recommends you ask a health care professional if it is safe for you to eat Licorice is you are taking any medications.
Some costumes, decorations, and toys present Halloween hazards because they are coated with paint that contains lead – more lead than the FDA’s 0.5 ml. allowable limit for lead in products intended for use by children.
Lead enters the body through the lungs during breathing and through the mouth when lead particles are swallowed after something containing led is put in the mouth. A very small amount of lead can make you sick, and lead stays in the blood for months and is stored in the bones for 30 years or more. Higher does can kill you. Lead damages the heart, the body’s ability to make bone marrow, the kidneys, and, most frequently, the brain and nervous system. Some of the symptoms of lead poisoning, when they are present, are weakness, fatigue, depression, irritability, forgetfulness, and, in children, hyperactivity.
Children are especially at risk for lead poisoning because their bodies absorb 50% of the lead they ingest. It takes very little lead to poison them and they are affected very quickly. The EPA refers to lead as “the most significant environmental health hazard for children in the United States” (https://www.epa.gov). Children who are poisoned by lead usually do not seem sick, according to the CDC.
I Thought That Was a Decoration!
It’s Halloween. We expect to see fake mangled, bloody corpses and bloody weapons in plain view. But there are numerous documented cases of real dead bodies mistaken for Halloween pranks and of real criminals in costume with real weapons mistaken for innocuous trick-or-treaters. Halloween provides the perfect cover for the all-too-real wicked and macabre.
Last Halloween in an Ohio town, several contractors working in the area ignored what they thought was a Halloween zombie hanging on a neighborhood chain-link fence, as did one of the neighbors, who also thought it was a Halloween prank. It turned out to be a real woman who had been brutally beat to death.
On Halloween of 2013 in Brooklyn, New York, a person dressed in a “Scream” mask shot to death a 19-year-old man.
On Halloween of 2005 in Delaware, a body hanging from a tree was ignored by passersby who thought it was a Halloween prank. It was the real body of a woman who had climbed into the tree and hanged herself.
We are Advanced Bio Treatment, and we care about the communities we serve. We want to help you protect yourself and those you love by giving you a heads-up on some Halloween hazards that you might not be aware of. Should you need our services, please call us at 800-295-1684. We give free quotes, provide emergency services, work with your insurance company, and respond 24/7/365.