It’s the most wonderful time of the year and many of us are excited about decorations, feasts, and celebrating with friends and family. As one of the most significant ways to mark the beginning of the holiday season, it’s time to get our Christmas trees ready.
For several reasons—space limitations, debris, pets, price—artificial Christmas trees are a go-to for many people. But with all of its added convenience, an artificial Christmas tree comes with a huge concern: off-gassing.
In this blog post, we will share some best practices to keep in mind when putting your artificial Christmas tree out. You can enjoy all of the indoor sights of this joyous season, while keeping your home safe.
Tis’ the Season for… Toxins? Hazardous Chemicals in Artificial Christmas Trees
PVC and phthalates
Most artificial trees are made with one of the most dangerous types of plastic: polyvinyl chloride (PVC). The chemical used to make PVC, vinyl chloride, is a group 1 carcinogen. Vinyl chloride is linked to an increased risk of liver cancer, lung cancer, brain cancer, leukemia, and lymphoma.
PVC itself is also one of the most significant sources of phthalates, a class of chemicals used to soften plastics. Also referred to as plasticizers, phthalates are what makes that plastic Christmas tree have soft, pine-like needles.
Phthalate exposure—whether through absorption, ingestion, or inhalation of a living room Christmas tree—can produce a range of adverse health effects. Through the process of off-gassing, sitting around the tree may expose children and adults to the suspected carcinogen, immune disruptor, and reproductive toxin.
Making things worse, lead is often used to stabilize the PVC, making it easier to work with. Over time, lead particles may be released from the artificial Christmas trees. Even at low levels, lead reaching a child’s blood stream (through inhalation) may negatively impact their intelligence, attention span, and cognitive capabilities. There is NO safe blood lead level in children, and the effects of lead poisoning may be permanent.
To minimize the risk of strings of holiday lights catching fires, most artificial trees have been treated with flame retardants. There is a growing body of evidence linking flame retardants to adverse health effects. Worse, they can bioaccumulate (build up) in people and animals over time, increasing the risk of:
- Reproductive toxicity
- Endocrine and thyroid disruption
- Immune system impacts
- Fetal and child development impairment
- Impaired neurological function
Safely Decorating for the Season: 3 TIps
While these are all risks to be aware of, we don’t want to end this article with a “Bah, humbug!” So, here are some things to keep in mind as you prepare your home for the holidays:
- Look for safer artificial Christmas trees: Look for artificial trees advertised as being “PVC-free,” “chemical-free,” or “flame retardant-free.” Many companies now offer non-toxic artificial trees made of 100% PE (polyethylene), which is a safer alternative to PVC. Also, try to find one that doesn’t have flame retardants.
- Opt for a real Christmas tree: While a real Christmas tree may up the risk of mold allergies, it’s generally considered a safer alternative to ones made of plastic.
- Reduce your exposure to off-gassing: Like any plastic product, an artificial tree will have its highest levels of off-gassing shortly after being purchased. That said, try to buy an artificial tree well in advance (a year or longer) so that it can be stored away from humans while it off-gasses. Consider having your Christmas tree in a room that isn’t frequented for relaxing or eating, too.
Have a Ho-ho-home That is Safer with an AirPurifier
One of the best things you can do during the holiday season and beyond is use an air purifier. Like a gift that keeps on giving, an AirDoctor Air Purifier will help to rid your indoor air of dangers posed by artificial Christmas trees, holiday candles, fireplace use, and more. The holiday season should be a time for joy and celebration, not worry. Unwrap an AirDoctor for peace of mind this season.