I’m trying not to spread a dark cloud around Christmas but since this website is about a journey – there is something I wish I knew when it came to holiday decorating many years ago. I wish I knew that plastic wreaths, fake trees and light strings may contain lead. Actually, not to sugar coat this topic, I would say most contain lead. When HealthyStuff.org tested Christmas lights in 2010, most resulted in a ranking of lead; actually 4 out of 5 light strands. 28% contained lead at such high levels they wouldn’t be able to be sold in Europe. The chemical is not found in the lights themselves, but in the bendy plastic the lights are attached to and with many families letting kids help with indoor lights or pose for pictures with holiday lights, a compound like lead isn’t to be taken lightly. Lead effects our brains and we worry about children’s rapidly developing nervous systems which are particularly sensitive to the effects of lead. Also, pregnant women need to take extra caution too – let somebody else handle the tree and lights this year!
My friend and toxic ingredient beauty editor Danika was talking about professional photographers using Christmas lights as props in pictures by wrapping them around children. The pictures are very cute but obviously people don’t know the level of toxins that could be transmitted through the skin by doing this! I’ve also seen pictures similar with parents using lights with children for Christmas cards – not a good idea. Do you know they recommend that people wear gloves and then wash hands after handling Christmas lights? The same is true after handling fake Christmas trees, wreaths, or garlands. It’s really why the debate of fake vs. real at Christmas is clear – it’s a little sad to chop down a live tree at Christmas, but trees that have been farmed without sprays are a much better option then bringing a piece of toxic plastic into your home. Not only is it not safe to touch, but you are then stuck knowing that there is no way to dispose of these items after breakage occurs or they are no longer fashionable (remember those fake white Christmas trees from the 80s?) So save yourself long-term grief and possible stress by finding alternatives to plastic this Christmas.
Of course we all love Christmas lights so look for RoHS compliant lights if needing new lights for the holidays. This means the product is restricted from being manufactured with the six hazardous materials that can be used to make various types of electronic and electrical equipment. According to Wikipedia, RoHS is often referred to as the lead-free directive, but it also restricts the use of the following six substances:
Hexavalent chromium (Cr6+)
Polybrominated biphenyls (PBB)
Polybrominated diphenyl ether (PBDE)
The only place you might find these lights is IKEA and remember to check that the tag of the cord reads RoHS compliant. This of course doesn’t mean that the cord is PVC free..only lead free so I would still caution that Christmas lights stay out of reach of children and parents wash hands after handling.
My friend Alicia from The Soft Landing has written about this topic over the years and put together the perfect graphic for you to share with friends to warn of holiday toxins to avoid with children. She gave me permission to include it in this article and it’s a great summary of how to childproof for the holidays. Thank you Alicia!
I would also add synthetic air fragrance to a list of unknown household pollution this time of year. For more information on why you’d want to avoid spray or diffusers that off-gas chemicals into your home click here. I hope this article assists you before purchasing Christmas lights or plastic greenery for the holidays. If you have purchased trees or light strands and are concerned – take them back to the store and let a Manager know you are looking for lead-free options.
A Greener Christmas Plan