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Hazardous heavy metals contaminate most Halloween make-up, tests show

1 in 2 products contained cadmium
Toxic chemicals linked to allergies, birth defects, impaired learning, liver toxicity and cancer

Consumer product researchers at the nonprofit Ecology Center have released new test data showing the universal presence of chemical hazards in Halloween make-up. The Ecology Center found one or more toxic heavy metals in 100 percent of the 31 Halloween make-up products tested. More than half (16 of 31) of the products tested contained detectable levels of cadmium, a reproductive and neural toxicant and carcinogen. This study comes on the heels of a bill introduced in the Michigan legislature last week to ban cadmium and mercury in certain children's products. The results of the study were posted today at

The study looked for heavy metals such as cadmium, mercury, lead and chromium in Halloween make-up. Products tested were purchased from retailers in southeast Michigan, including Target, Halloween City, Party City and Spirit Halloween. The products were tested for hazardous heavy metals, including lead, cadmium, chromium and arsenic.

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

The results of the study show that these make-up products, which are marketed to children are universally contaminated with heavy metals. A recent study (May 2011) by Environmental Defence (Canada) of adult cosmetics also found that 100 percent of the 49 cosmetics tested were contaminated with hazardous metals. These metals are typically considered impurities and are not subject to the same level of disclosure and regulations as intentionally added ingredients. None of the metals found were listed as ingredients on the product labels.

"Last week I joined a bi-partisan group of senators to co-sponsor a bill to ban the sale of children's toys and jewelry that contain cadmium and mercury," said Sen. Steven Bieda (D-Warren). "With this kind of support across the aisle, I hope to see swift action to protect Michigan children from these hazardous chemicals."

The study also found:

  • One in two (52 percent) of Halloween makeup tested contained detectable levels of cadmium. The maximum level of cadmium detected was 455 parts per million.
  • 100 percent of products contained chromium
  • Other metals detected include: arsenic, 29 percent (9 of 31); tin, 52 percent (16 of 31); antimony 16 percent (5 of 31); mercury 13 percent (4 of 31) and lead 3 percent (1 of 31).
  • The highest levels of cadmium, mercury, arsenic and antimony all exceeded the Health Canada draft Guidance on Heavy Metal Impurities in Cosmetics.
  • Chemicals may be present at levels lower then the detection limit. Cosmetics also contain other ingredients that were tested for and which may be hazardous. The full ingredient lists can be viewed at and consumers are urged to consult the Skin Deep cosmetics.

Examples of Toxic Halloween Make-up:

"When there are so many other alternative ways to enjoy Halloween, it doesn't make sense for parents to expose their children to hazardous chemicals in make-up," said Rebecca Meuninck, environmental health campaign director for the Ecology Center. "I encourage families to use our results to choose safer products and make their own non-toxic Halloween make-up from the recipes on our website."

Make-up was tested by the consumer product testing project, using a High Definition X-Ray Fluorescence (HD XRF) device, which identifies the elemental composition of materials. Results for all product are posted on, where parents can look up the brand names of Halloween make-up tested to see how they scored with respect to toxic chemical content. The site also includes recipes for non-toxic Halloween make-up.

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