Glow sticks are extremely popular this time of year. You can find kids sporting them at summer fireworks shows, evening baseball games, backyard barbeques and during bike rides at dusk. My 8-year-old loves to bend them into bracelets, necklaces and headbands and wear them while we stroll along the beach after sunset.
While I’m game for the glow, other parents are not as thrilled to see their kids playing with the popular, yet potentially poisonous neon sticks. Many moms and dads question the contents of glow sticks. After all, if the liquid inside the sticks can make plastic light up like a carnival ride, what can it do to a child’s skin?
Obviously, if the glowing material was extremely hazardous, the sticks wouldn’t be available to consumers. Most glow-in-the-dark novelty items are filled with a chemical called dibutyl phthalate which is commonly found in glue, nail polish, dyes and perfumes.
The good news about the substance is that it is not a poison; rather, it’s an irritant. Regardless, parents should take precautions before giving kids the gift of glow sticks. For starters, never allow a child to suck or chew on a glow stick. In fact, kids shouldn’t be placing glow sticks near their mouth at all. In addition, warn your children not to use the sticks as weapons. Doctors say they see far more incidents of kids poking an eye with the end of a plastic glow stick than consuming the glowing chemical.
If dibutyl phthalate gets in your child’s eyes, rinse the affected area with clean water for 20 minutes. The chemical will make your kid’s eyes sting and tear, but the tearing is good, as it helps extract the chemical. If dibutyl phthalate comes into contact with your child’s skin, wash the area with soap and water. Finally, if your child swallows dibutyl phthalate, doctors say to rinse out the mouth, have your son or daughter drink a little milk, and then call the poison control center at 1-800-222-1222.