Saturday, December 14, 2019

The danger of artificial Christmas trees

My husband and I recently purchased an artificial Christmas tree online.  We live in a condo and we are not permitted to have a real tree, as it is considered to be a fire hazard.  When the package arrived, I received a rude awakening.  There was a label attached to the box warning of toxins and lead poisoning.  Many Canadians and Americans do not have any idea that artificial trees contain lead.  I certainly didn't.  I was only made aware of this because our tree was sent from California, which mandates a lead warning on every box containing an artificial tree.

Here is what the warning label on our package reads:

WARNING: This product can expose you to chemicals, including lead, which is known to the State of California to cause cancer and birth defects or other reproductive harm.  For more information go to

When we purchased our previous artificial tree in a store, there was no such warning label.  This California warning label prompted me to do some research.  Our tree was manufactured in China, as are most artificial trees,.  Most of these "made in China'' trees are made from PVC, a petroleum-based plastic, and lead, used to stabalize PVC.  As a result, lead dust is released into the air.  A 2002 study, conducted by the University of North Carolina at Asheville, found that three out of four artificial trees tested in the United States contained lead.

Artificial trees are particularly hazardous to children, especially those under the age of six, and pregnant women.  In children, lead poisoning can cause serious damage to the brain and nervous system.  Yet, millions of North Americans remain unware that they have a hazard product in their home.  Why is only California issuing a warning about this health risk?  If our tree hadn't been sent from California, we would not have been made aware of the danger.  Why isn't there more publicity about this health hazard?  Unless I've been missing something, the media in Canada, where I live, haven't been giving the matter any attention.

So, what to do about artificial Christmas trees?  Researchers at the University of North Carolina at Asheville have issued the following advice:.

* Keep children and pets away from the tree; do not allow them to touch it.

* If you touch the tree, wash your hands thoroughly before touching your face of handling food.

* Do not vacuum dust from under the tree.  Vacuuming could spread poisonous lead dust through the air.

* Keep gifts away from the tree, to keep lead from coating the wrapping.

All of this doesn't seem worth the effort.  One can't be on guard 24 hours a day and the poisonous lead makes artificial trees a hazard.  That's why our tree remains unopened in its box.  We are between rock and a hard place because we can't use an real tree.  If we want to avoid a heath hazard, it seems that our only choice is to purchase an artificial tree that has not been manufactured in China.

- Joanne