By WBZ-TV Chief Correspondent Joe Shortsleeve

BOSTON (CBS) – If you’re looking for a scare this Halloween, just take a look at the fine print on some of the decorations that are now on store shelves. Many contain warnings about causing cancer, birth defects, and other reproductive problems.

The reason they can be dangerous is because they might contain lead, cadmium, or mercury. These products contain this warning because of Proposition 65 in California. It requires products with harmful chemicals be labeled to alert consumers. Many manufacturers use the same packaging in other states which is why a consumer will see them in Massachusetts.

Environmentalist Elizabeth Saunders of Clean Water Action in Boston said, “What the Prop 65 warning says is these chemicals have been found by the state of California to cause health problems. If you are using that product and there is a chemical leaching out, you may be impacted.”

We went shopping and found all kinds of examples. For example, there is a necklace that lights up and is marketed as being part of a child’s costume. All these decorations, like figurines of witches and pumpkins and decorative lighting, concern Jenny Piorek who has small children.

“If they put that in their mouth and you don’t know, or they’re touching it and they put their fingers in their mouths afterwards, that is just a scary thought,” said Piorek.

Saunders says it is important to note that Prop 65 only deals with labeling. It has nothing to do with what is inside the package. “If that label is not there, it is not an indication of safety.” It could just mean that the manufacturer made different packaging for products sold outside of California.

There is a push here in Massachusetts to go beyond what California has done with the labeling of products. It could require the manufacturers to change the way they make their products.

Representative Jay Kaufman has sponsored An Act for Healthy Families and Businesses. It would seek to identify safe alternative chemicals, and if one could be found, mandate the toxic substances be replaced.

Companies would get assistance making these changes.

“I think informing the public is a very good first step. If we have a way of making sure those dangerous chemicals are not going to get in the mouths of children, we ought to take it,” said Kaufman.

Advocates say these decorations don’t need to be a public health threat. “There is that particular concern where they are marketed towards children, and it’s a product that doesn’t need to be hazardous,” said Saunders.



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