We get it, Valentine’s Day is a polarizing holiday, but whether you like it or not, you may find yourself involved in a gift exchange at least once in your life. With hundreds of gift guides floating around on the internet, the solution seems easy: pick up some chocolates and on-theme candies, and maybe even your partner’s favorite fragrance if you’re feeling fancy. If this sounds like your game plan for next week, we hate to burst your bubble, but many of these common Valentine’s Day gifts contain toxic ingredients.
Before you make any purchases, take a look at this list of toxic gifts and our suggestions for safe alternatives:
1. Dark Chocolate
Does your significant other prefer dark chocolate? If so, you might want to ask them for their second favorite sweet treat. For fans of the “healthier” alternative to milk chocolate, this news might be bitter: Consumer Reports (CR) announced in December that some dark chocolate bars have toxic levels of cadmium and lead. Brands tested include Hershey’s, Trader Joe’s, Ghirardelli and more.
As an alternative, try purchasing dark chocolates with lower cacao percentages. CR’s testing suggests that cadmium levels increase with the percentage of cacao, so opt for a 65% bar over a 70% one.
2. Chocolate-Covered Strawberries
This seemingly healthy treat isn’t listed here for the reason you might think. While the type of chocolate could be an additional issue, it’s the strawberries we’re warning about.
For the seventh year in a row, last year’s annual Dirty Dozen report by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) found that strawberries retain the most pesticide contamination of any fruit or vegetable tested, even after they’re washed.
The EWG recommends buying organic whenever possible to avoid exposure to most synthetic pesticides. However, since organic produce isn’t affordable for all, try one of the EWG’s Clean Fifteen. Pineapple, honeydew melon and kiwi are among the fruits that made the list of fruits and vegetables with the lowest levels of pesticide residue.
To make these alternatives reminiscent of chocolate-covered strawberries, you can likely find them pre-made at a specialty store or make it a homemade gift by dipping them in a chocolate of your choice (if using dark chocolate, remember, the lower the percentage of cacao, the better).
3. Waffle Makers
While we’re on the topic of homemade gifts, let’s talk about breakfast. If breakfast in bed is part of your plans and waffles are on the menu, double-check the brand of your waffle maker. Mamavation reports that most brands are using toxic PFAS “forever chemicals” and nano-titanium ceramic as a non-stick coating on their waffle makers.
For example, don’t let the cuteness of Dash’s Express 8-inch Heart Waffle Maker distract you. Even though it’s advertised as “free from PFOA,” Mamavation flagged this brand’s waffle makers as containing a toxic PFAS coating.
Many more waffle makers were also flagged as dangerous, so be sure to check this list for yours. If yours is listed, take a look at their list of non-toxic waffle makers and consider a new purchase.
4. Spangler Candy Company’s Valentine’s Day Sweethearts
If your partner is a fan of classic candies, stay away from Spangler Candy Company’s Valentine’s Day Sweethearts. While these are iconic, they’re also toxic. Made with known carcinogen, Red Dye 3, CR has urged consumers to avoid buying this popular candy.
The FDA requires manufacturers to list Red Dye 3 as an ingredient on food labels, so when searching for an alternative, be sure to choose one without this dye, such as YumEarth Organic Valentine’s Heart Gummies, which don’t contain any artificial dyes.
Perfume and cologne are very common Valentine’s Day gifts, however, they may be more dangerous than just causing headaches to those sensitive to scents. The EWG notes that the term “fragrance” listed in perfume, cologne and body spray ingredients may be a cocktail of the 3,100 stock chemical ingredients that are hidden from consumers. Not many brands disclose that their formulas contain synthetic chemicals like phthalates and PFAS.
As an alternative to such products, we suggest searching for fragrances that are made without toxic chemicals and are instead scented with natural ingredients such as essential oils. When in doubt, the EWG’s Skin Deep cosmetics database lists over 85,000 products that have been tested for dangerous ingredients.
6. Essential Oils
On a similar note, use caution when gifting essential oils to pregnant women, as some are known to be dangerous. Good Housekeeping advises pregnant women to avoid all essential oils until their second trimester. Additionally, they should skip using cinnamon, clove, rosemary, clary sage and jasmine oils altogether as they can cause uterine contractions resulting in miscarriage or preterm labor, according to research by the National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy.
At the end of the day, Valentine’s Day is a time to celebrate the love we share with others, but it’s also important to consider the impact of our gift choices on our health and the environment. By being mindful of the gifts we give, we can ensure that our loved ones are safe, healthy and happy.
Happy Valentine’s Day!
— Vineet and Miguel
This Valentine’s Day, make sure that not only your gifts but your activities are safe! Take a look at last year’s newsletter for common injuries to avoid.