What kid doesn't like a glow stick? They are a year-round object of fascination and with Halloween coming up, they can be found everywhere. Other than the fun they bring to kids, they are also used as a way to ensure your trick-or-treaters are seen in the dark on Halloween. Before reading up on glow sticks, I had no idea what made them work. I've never bought them before, so I had the same questions you most likely do: What is inside of a glow stick? How does a glow stick glow? Are glow sticks safe? What are some alternatives to glow sticks? I'm going to answer those questions for you.
There are many recipes for glow sticks, but the most common one contains the following: dibutyl phthalate (part of the phthalate family which are all known hormone disruptors), hydrogen peroxide, phthalic ester, phenyl oxalate ester, and a glass tube all encased inside of the plastic stick.
The glow is due to the chemical reaction between the ingredients inside if the stick. You activate the glow stick by cracking the glass bulb inside of it and when the contents of the glass bulb mix with the contents of what is inside the stick, you activate the chemical reaction that causes it to glow. This chemical reaction is called chemiluminescence.
Technically, if used correctly, there is no danger to your child using glow sticks. However, if the contents of the glow stick is released, that is where the trouble starts. Before giving your child a glow stick, be sure that it is not cracked or leaking.
If the liquid comes into contact with skin, it will cause irritation. If ingested, it will cause mouth and throat soreness. If it gets into the eyes, it will burn and sting. Not to mention, there are glass shards inside of the stick from the broken glass bulb. If any of these things happen, refer to this glow stick safety info and call your local poison control centre for directions on what to do.
In addition, glow sticks are made of plastic, which is not an eco-friendly choice so they are NOT safe for the environment. The sticks are one-use, so after it has finished glowing, it gets tossed into the trash and will sit in a landfill for a very long time. The chemicals inside of the sticks are not safe to flush down the toilet or wash down the drain because those chemicals will then become part of our water system.
Glow sticks are not only unsafe for your children if broken, they are also a danger to pets who will no doubt chew on them if given the chance. So if using, please be especially cautious with them around your pets. If your pet has ingested any of the contents of a glow stick, contact your local poison control centre or vet.
If you feel that glow sticks are not for you and your family, there are alternatives you can try. I did some research and I was not able to find any eco-friendly glow sticks (if you know of any, let me know in the comments!), so consider flashlights (kids LOVE flashlights), glow in the dark or brightly coloured clothing or accessories, or special theme related (Halloween, Christmas, Canada Day etc.) LED lights. Get creative!