Every year as we approach Thanksgiving, I know it’s coming: the weekend after Thanksgiving. And everyone knows the weekend after Thanksgiving is the cue to begin decorating for Christmas. And decorating for Christmas stresses me out because I worry about Christmas tree toxins.
And before you’re all, “Hey Jaclyn, just relax; don’t be so neurotic,” let me just tell you why Christmas tree toxins stress me out, and why you might want to pay a little more attention to them too.
Don’t worry, I’ll tell you how to avoid Christmas tree toxins too!
Christmas tree toxins to be aware of
Many artificial trees are made from PVC, a known carcinogen. Our family avoids plastic in almost all areas of our life (yeah- I clean up a lot of broken glass. Worth it.), so I hate the idea of bringing it in via an artificial Christmas tree.
I especially avoid heating plastics if ever we use them, so not only is a new tree likely to off gas, but any artificial tree is likely to release fumes when placed up against warm Christmas lights.
Lead is also a concern because it’s often used as a stabilizer in PVC plastics.
Not only is lead a concern in PVC-based artificial trees, but lead is usually found in Christmas lights as well. It’s often used in vinyl, the material used to coat light wirings and bulb sockets.
Those cute pictures you see of babies wrapped up and chewing on Christmas lights? Shudder. Just say “no”, no matter how cute they are. Our kids have enough trouble avoiding heavy metals as it is.
Instead, look for LED lights like those sold by IKEA, which adhere to stricter safety standards, or consider skipping the lights (I know, the horror!) in favor of a nice garland like this. You can also find lead-free Christmas lights here.
Many live Christmas trees harbor mold, which is a big concern for our family, as our oldest has mold allergies. Trees are often chopped, loaded, and lined up in bulk with moisture on their branches and needles. Through the course of shipment and storage, that moisture is likely to grow mold spores, which are just waiting to escape into the air of your home upon arrival.
To avoid the mold problem, a local Christmas tree farm employee advised Mr. Incredible to buy your tree fresh (yay for buying local!), and spray it off in the backyard when you bring it home to be safe. Allow it to dry completely before bringing it indoors.
Most artificial Christmas trees are treated with flame retardants. I talked about the dangers of off-gassing in this post about mattresses, and, unfortunately, it seems to apply to Christmas trees as well.
Flame retardant chemicals are suspected carcinogens and can also affect air quality. They’re also often found in furniture and children’s pajamas.
Finally, be wary of pesticides and herbicides used on real Christmas trees. As with any conventionally-grown vegetation, Christmas trees may be sprayed with these harmful chemicals.
I cringe at the thought of disturbing the air quality in my home by bringing in the toxins found in pesticides and herbicides like glyphosate, the active ingredient in Round Up. These toxins are known carcinogens and have been found to cause a number of health problems.
To avoid pesticides and herbicides, look for organically-grown Christmas trees or call around to nearby Christmas tree farms to ask how they’re grown. We found a farm that uses minimal chemicals, sprayed around the trees (rather than directly on them), earlier in the year, which sounds a lot better than mass-produced trees that may be frequently or heavily coated in chemicals.
As with your food, it pays to know your farmer.
Are you concerned about Christmas tree toxins?
While it would be easy to decide to just not worry about these toxins, since it’s such a short time frame of exposure and sometimes it’s better to just enjoy the season and not stress, some people do not have the luxury of ignoring the fact that Christmas trees can harbor toxins. Many children, like my son, will react to the toxins in trees, and some of us don’t want to set our healing back due to exposure.
What we plan to do
Our family is planning to pick up a local tree this year, give it a spray and dry, and use non-toxic decorations like this burlap garland, this adorable pine cone garland, and wooden cranberries. I think I can still create a beautiful, natural tree while avoiding most of the Christmas tree toxins found on typical Christmas trees.
How do you plan to avoid Christmas tree toxins this year?