Sen. Schumer on Halloween Paint: Health Threat or Political Theater?

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lead in face paintSenator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) is afraid of face paint but does that mean you should be?

In the scientization of politics trope, China is an easy target and no one wants to defend lead, so Sen. Schumer has invoked a science-y sounding activist group named the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics. It's a coalition of environmental fundraisers like the Breast Cancer Fund, which, it may not surprise you to learn, does very little for breast cancer research but instead scares people about common chemicals they link to breast cancer. View that group along side of the Environmental Working Group and Friends of the Earth, both of which do no research and instead scare people about common chemicals they link to everything else.

First of all, the report from the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics on face paint is from 2009, the year after a controversy about lead in Chinese goods so alarmed the media that the Consumer Product Safety Commission instead banned ... phthalates. Really? Hmm?

Using similar illogic, in 2015 Senator Schumer again invokes lead and China, whose scientific and Asian otherness are always terrifying to environmental activists, and the people who donate to them.

The real question is, why did Sen. Schumer wait six years to hold his press conference and plead for safer Halloweens? How many kids needlessly died before he finally made us aware of this risk?

Well, none.

Lead is bad, and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stipulate that the lead level in drinking water needs to be zero. A level of 0.015 parts per million (ppm) requires action, which is absolutely valid.

The products the activist group found in 2009 ranged from from .054 ppm to .65 ppm. Obviously, China has gotten the message since then, but face paint from there is not banned, but perhaps some trace amounts of lead could slip through.

But of course, the essential difference here it that kids are applying the paint to their faces -- and not drinking it. And while Schumer's Squad might want you to think the absorption level through the skin is the same as by swallowing the product, that is completely wrong.

Despite the activists, Sen. Schumer vows the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics will not rest until the FDA tests every tube of face paint entering the country because "parents deserve to have a guarantee that it is safe."

The evidence-based world knows there are actually no instances where it can be guaranteed safe, and there are no instances where this face paint has been unsafe. Writing on the fringe, anti-science site which calls itself Natural News, a doctor who does not believe in medicine writes a lot of scary words about toxic cosmetics like this face paint, but can't list a single instance where they harmed anyone.

Meanwhile, on average, 22 Americans die from attacks by cows each year.

So if face paint is far less likely to harm your child than a random cow attack, it's safe to apply some of it and have some fun at Halloween.