Halloween, concerts, college parties, goodie bags- glow sticks, glow sticks everywhere. Glow sticks are pretty cool -no two ways about it. Every time my kids score a glow necklace or bracelet there is an abnormal amount of excitement: “Mom, can we bend them? Mom, is it dark enough yet?” Halloween is our favorite time of year to break out glow sticks of every color to “light up” our parade from home to home in search of candy. Recently a used, green (think the color green for the moment) glow stick made its way to the top of one of our bookcases. There it lay until morning when we discovered that it had leaked everywhere and managed to work its way through the finish on the bookcase.
After seeing the amount of damage done by one little, supposedly non-toxic, glow stick, I began to question the “greeness” of those gleaming sticks.
According to Wisegeek, the chemicals used to create the glowing reaction in glow sticks are usually hydrogen peroxide and a mixture of phenyl oxalate ester and florescent dye that gives the glow stick its color. The hydrogen peroxide floats around in a glass tube inside the plastic glow stick and once the tube is bent the tube breaks and the glowing begins.
Here’s some food for thought on glow sticks:
It is not my intention to be the Halloween Grinch-just want to be sure we have all the facts so we can make educated decisions.
- Glow sticks are a single-use product which we throw into the garbage after use. The discarded glow sticks are then sent to our overflowing landfills where they lay for many, many years.
- They are made from plastic, which is derived from petro-chemicals and is energy-intensive to make.
- If the chemicals used to make the stick glow are released from the container they are damaging to the environment and can be flammable.
- If spilled on skin, the chemicals can cause reactions from skin irritations to vomiting and nausea.
- When released from the container the chemicals will eat away at various surfaces-as shown by our poor, wooden bookcase.
Alternatives to glow sticks
- Cell phones
I know these are not half the fun of glow sticks…..but perhaps it’s time we all thought about the impact our fun is having on the planet.
This year I am going to think twice before handing out those glow sticks to our neighbors.
What will you do?