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Experts Offer Tips On Keeping Halloween Safe For Trick-Or-Treaters

Vincent Yu

Halloween is supposed to be full of treats and colorful costumes and a few harmless scares, but health and safety advocates are warning about potential dangers for trick-or-treaters.

More than twice as many children are killed in pedestrian/vehicle accidents on Halloween than on any other day of the year. Dave Phillips, spokesman for State Farm Insurance, said government data shows that 115 children nationwide have died from being struck by a vehicle on Halloween from 1990-2010.

“You would think that most of those fatalities are with the younger kids, the 5-8 range, but surprisingly the fatality spike is actually with the 12-15 year-olds," Phillips said. "Part of the reason for that may be is that’s usually the age when they’ll trick-or-treat unsupervised.”

Most of the accidents occur between 6-7 p.m. when the sun is setting.

Chris Vitale, manager of injury prevention at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, said children are excited, darting between parked cars, not paying attention to traffic.

“We try to make families understand that for the littler kids, 10 and under, that an adult is with them, and that the older kids travel in groups so that hopefully they will be noticed more by people driving cars,” Vitale said.

She advises that reflective strips be placed on the edges of costumes and that the children or accompanying adults carry flashlights or glow sticks.

But before the kids go out trick-or-treating, there are some other potential dangers for parents to consider.

The Ecology Center tested 105 types of Halloween gear for substances linked to asthma, birth defects, learning disabilities, reproductive problems, liver toxicity and cancer and found elevated levels of toxic chemicals in popular costumes, accessories and party supplies.

Rebecca Meuninck, environmental health campaign director with the center’s Healthy Stuff Project, says among the chemicals they found are organotins, which are used to stabilize vinyl plastics and have been linked to hormonal disruption and brain and immune system damage.

“Others that folks may be more familiar with like lead are known neurotoxic chemicals that have a detrimental impact on the brain and that have been regulated in certain children’s products,” Meuninck said. “But it seems that Halloween products unfortunately are falling through a loophole there.”

She said parents should be careful in choosing costumes for their children. 

“I would definitely encourage families to do some research, but there are some things you can do in terms of looking for Halloween costumes that are made from more natural materials like cotton or wool,” Meuninck said.

And when the kids come home with their Halloween treats? 

“We just tell them to bring all of your candy home,” said Children’s Hospital’s Chris Vitale. “Have your parents take a look at it, and then parents can make up their rules as far as what’s  getting eaten and when.”

Kevin Gavin is the host of WESA's news interview program "The Confluence." He is a native Pittsburgher and served as news director for 90.5 WDUQ for 34 years. Since the sale of the radio station by Duquesne University to Pittsburgh EPM, Inc. (now Pittsburgh Community Broadcasting Corp.), he served as Executive Producer of Special News Projects prior to being named as host of "The Confluence" five years ago. kgavin@wesa.fm
Jess was accepted as a WESA fellow in the news department in January 2014. The Erie, PA native attends Duquesne University where she has a double major--broadcast journalism and political science. Following her anticipated graduation in May 2015, she plans to enter law school or begin a career in broadcast journalism.
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