Posted by Claudia Grazioso on December 7, 2011
Every year around this time, I can’t stop singing Christmas carols. You know, old standards like “Deck the halls with gobs of lead, fa la la la la, la la la…” wait, wait, sorry. Let me start again.
How about “Oh Polyvinyl Chloride tree, oh Polyvinyl Chloride tree, how lead-filled are your branches…”
No, I am not insane, though admittedly by the time I’m done with all of the holiday shopping I might well be. I just happened to discover that those lovely artificial trees that are so easy to put up, so easy to take down (I think my parents’ even have one with an umbrella-type mechanism), the ones that kids love to play under and help decorate? A lot of them are made out of PVC, which has been known to off-gas toxic chemicals to begin with. But if that weren’t bad enough, now studies show that when it comes to artificial trees, over time that PVC breaks down and starts to release lead-dust.
And it doesn’t stop there. Those blinking and twinkling Christmas tree lights that children love to peer at, that shine so beautifully and angelically on their little wonder-filled faces, can also pose a serious lead hazard. Under federal regulations, the lead allowed in products for children is 300 parts per million (and that was supposed to be decreased to 100 parts per million this year). When researchers tested sixty-eight different kinds of Christmas lights sold — lights sold at some major retailers — thirty-seven of them had well over 300 ppm of lead. And seven of them had over 10,000 ppm! That’s more than 30 times the federally-mandated limit for children’s products. Honestly, lead on Christmas trees. What will they think of next?
So short of being the Grinch and chucking the Christmas decorations, what can you do to keep yourself and your child safe? If you have an artificial tree, have the kids enjoy it from maybe a few feet back, and make sure everyone washed their hands after handing the tree or the lights. If you’ve had the same artificial tree for a few years, you might want to consider replacing it — maybe with a real tree that will scent your home, and then leave you with a nice supply of firewood? And remember, real tree or fake, the biggest hazard of Christmas trees is electrical shocks or fires started by faulty wires. So check those lights for any frays in the wiring, if they’re safe put them up, then wash your hands before you cook that holiday meal.
And for next year, “I’m dreaming of a lead-free Christmas….”