Glow sticks or any type of glowing products are so much fun and can turn any event or occasion into a marvelous glowing masterpiece. They can provide learning experiences and fun for both children and adults. As a frequent Pinterest user and blog reader, I've seen TONS of really cool activities that you can do with glow sticks. After all, glow sticks are cheap—you can buy a pack that contains ten glow sticks at the dollar store.
Before I go any further, I just want to make it clear that the main purpose of writing this article is to provide readers with valuable information and to bring awareness. It's not about calling out other bloggers, or finding fault with what they're writing.
The use of glow sticks for activities and science experiments isn't the issue, however, it does become an issue when those fun activities involve breaking open those glow sticks to reveal what's inside.
Some of the most common children's activities I've seen, involve breaking open glow sticks to make glow-the-dark slime and bubbles. You shouldn't be doing this, and this shouldn't be advised on blogs or anywhere else for that matter.
ARE GLOW STICKS HARMFUL?
An intact glow stick is not harmful as long as it's used for it's intended purpose. Glow sticks obviously become harmful when you cut them open because the inside contains glass and chemicals. So, broken glass is one hazard.
I'm fully aware that glow stick packaging states that they're non-toxic—but it also states that you shouldn't puncture or cut them open. The whole point here—keep what's inside the glow stick inside that thick plastic encasing and you have a fun, safe product. It's as simple as that!
Even though glow sticks are labeled as non-toxic, they still contain chemicals. While these chemicals are not fatally dangerous, they still need to be respected.
THE SCIENCE BEHIND GLOW STICKS
Glow sticks are usually made one of two ways. Some are made from a chemical called dibutyl phthalate and some contain small glass vials which hold mixtures of phythatic ester and hydrogen peroxide. Phenyl oxalate is the chemical that surrounds the little glass vial. Once the vial is broken, the phyhalic ester, hydrogen peroxide and phenyl oxalate get mixed together and this is what causes that fascinating luminous glow.
ALL HYDROGEN PEROXIDE ARE NOT CREATED EQUAL
You may be wondering how harmful hydrogen peroxide can actually be if it's used as a first aid for cuts and abrasions. That's the problem, the hydrogen peroxide we use as a cleaning agent is a diluted version. On the other hand, hydrogen peroxide found in glow sticks is much stronger—so strong that it's corrosive to the eyes, skin, and respiratory tract. This Hulk version of hydrogen peroxide is not by any means meant to be handled or combined with other chemicals.
This chemical is used to soften plastics as well as making them flexible. It's also found in different types of glues, dyes, inks, and nail polishes.
Another chemical added to plastics to give flexibility. It also gives plastic its durability and transparency. As you may already know—due to health concerns, phthalates are being removed from products. This is the chemical that's responsible for the glow. It reacts with the hydrogen peroxide and that's what causes the illuminating effect.
GLOW STICK DANGERS
The chemicals in glow sticks can burn, sting, and irritate skin, eyes, mouth, and the throat (if ingested).
Glow stick chemicals are also very harmful to pets!
WHAT TO DO IN CASE OF A GLOW STICK EMERGENCY
If a glow stick does happen to get broken open and ingested or gets in the eyes, it's recommended that you immediately flush the affected area with water and call your local poison control center right away. You should continue to flush the affected area for a least 15 minutes unless directed otherwise by poison control.
SIGNS TO LOOK FOR IN PETS
Keep a close eye out for the following:
1. Excessive drooling
2. Eye irritation
3. Nose irritation
4. Mouth irritation
Reading up to this point may have convinced you to never use or buy glow sticks again, but that really isn't necessary. Use common sense, take proper precautions, follow the warnings on the packaging, and use glow sticks for they're intended purpose.
STILL WANT TO CREATE THOSE FASCINATING GLOW ACTIVITIES YOU HAVE PINNED?
Fortunately, there are some ways to re-create those fun glow activities you saved on Pinterest by using substances that aren't harmful.
SAFE ALTERNATIVE WAYS
You can use tonic water to get a glowing effect. It's non-toxic and of course—completely safe.
There's also a product you can purchase called Glow Powder. Glow Powder is REALLY COOL! Glow Powder is zinc sulfide. You can use this powder to mix with an array of different liquids such as glue. Glow Powder is awesome because it can make almost anything glow! The best part about this product—it works over and over again. You never have to worry about it dying out or losing its glow over time like glow sticks do. If you would like to find out more about Glow Powder or to purchase Glow Powder click the links below. *Please note that the below links are affiliate links. If you choose to click on any of these links and make a purchase, I will receive a small commission from your purchase. Thanks!
*PLEASE NOTE: ZINC SULFIDE IS NON-TOXIC, BUT SHOULD BE USED WITH CAUTION AND CARE.
It's not recommended to combine Glow Powder with bubbles. You should always keep it away from the face (especially the eyes and throat). This is definitely a product that needs close adult supervision!
GLOW-IN-THE-DARK BUBBLES JUST AREN'T WORTH IT
While the thought of glowing bubbles floating around at night sounds incredibly fun, it's just not worth the time and effort. It really doesn't work well. Since the bubble wall is extremely thin, it can't reflect light to glow. This holds true for homemade glow-in-the-dark bubbles and glow-in-the-dark bubbles you can buy at the store. Plus, they can be dangerous if the bubble solution is swallowed or the bubble pops in your eyes.
BLACK LIGHT BUBBLES ALTERNATIVE
If you just have to try glowing bubbles (I get it, seriously I do!), do it the safe alternative way by using tonic water. The tonic water is safe if swallowed and it glows under black light.
If I had to stress the most important factor here, it's to ALWAYS treat all chemicals with respect. Use the proper cautions and care regardless of how they're labeled or advertised (even if they're listed as non-toxic). Adult supervision is a MUST when using any kind of chemical. It's not a matter of avoiding everything could be potentially dangerous, it's a matter of using common sense, researching the activities you're considering trying and truly understanding the science behind it.
*Any time you consider buying glow-in-the-dark products such as water beads, slime, bubbles, face paint, finger paint, bath paint, dimensional fabric paint, puffy paint, etc. always make sure to take a look at the ingredients.
Upon researching the ingredients used in two big craft companies Tulip and RoseArt, unfortunately, I was not able to find the ingredients to any of their glow-in-the-dark products they offer. Tulip does offer a very vague Material Data Safety Sheet online that states the ingredients in their Dimensional Fabric Paint formulation is a trade secret. All ingredients in the formula are non-hazardous, unless specified in Sections 3 and 15. Section 3 states that the HMIS Hazard Ratings for this product is rated at a Product Health of 1 which is a slight health hazard.
Please considered sharing this article to help spread awareness about the dangers of glow sticks and other glow-in-the-dark products. I encourage you to join me in keeping our little one's and our beloved pets safe. Plus, you'll also be sharing safe alternatives to fun glow-in-the-dark activities and experiments!
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