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The holidays can be a magical time, filled with special family gatherings, tasty food, beautiful decorations and thoughtful gifts. But lurking behind every lighted tree, perfectly tied ribbon and even inside your grandmother’s scrumptious green bean casserole, are hidden dangers and toxins that many overlook during the holiday season.
Artificial Trees and Garland
While artificial Christmas trees and decorative garland are convenient and cost effective to reuse year after year, there is one huge issue to consider if you choose to decorate your home with them during the holidays. The bristles of most artificial trees and garland strands are made from flexible plastic –typically with PVC– which contains lead. Studies have shown that lead dust from artificial Christmas trees can be found on tree skirts and gifts after just a few days.
Aside from the toxic implications of lead, artificial Christmas trees are required to be coated with flame retardants. Add to that, leaded strands of lights and ornaments, and your beloved Christmas tree has become one big red flag of caution for your family this holiday season – especially if you have small children and pets with curious hands, paws and mouths.
What You Can Do:
Buy lead-free trees.
If you love the convenience of an artificial tree, but don’t want to expose your family to the toxic materials used to make it, you can purchase one that is lead-free. Christmas In America assures that all of their American-made artificial trees are lead-free. However, they do contain flame retardants. It is required that all artificial trees are flame-resistant. So, if you prefer to use an artificial tree each year, keep that in mind.
If you do suspect that your tree contains lead, take precautions.
Wash your hands thoroughly after assembling and decorating your artificial tree. Don’t hang ornaments or lights low enough for children or pets to reach them. Consider putting a small circular baby gate around your tree to keep pets away from it. And don’t place gifts directly underneath the tree, as they might collect lead-dust over time.
Live Trees and Garland
While live trees don’t contain toxins like lead and flame retardants, they do have their own concerns. The bottoms of freshly cut trees begin to sap up immediately after the cut, making it more difficult for the tree to retain water as it normally would. Because of this, it is best to purchase the freshest cut tree on the lot at the latest date possible to ensure that it won’t dry out before Christmas. Water your live tree daily; and run your hands over the needles often. If the needles fall off easily, your tree is drying out. It is extremely important to make sure your tree is watered often, especially if you string lights on it. An overly dry tree and Christmas lights are the number one reason for Christmas tree fires each year.
You’ll also want to watch your pets around your live tree. Certain types of tree needles are toxic to cats; and sappy tree water can cause stomach issues for both cats and dogs who are often enticed to drink it, as it appears as a “bowl of water” right at their level.
Christmas Lights and Ornaments
We’ve all seen them – photos, that spread like wild fire around social media sites every Christmas – of babies, children and even pets wrapped in strands of Christmas lights. While these photos are super cute and trendy, the act behind it is actually quite dangerous. The majority of Christmas lights on the market are made with lead. So, if you choose to partake in this holiday photo trend, you’ll basically be wrapping your child in a big strand of toxic materials. Not to mention, the dangers of wrapping your child in warm, tiny lightbulbs that are plugged into an outlet and are producing an electric current should just be a big no brainer!
Aside from the lights, it’s also important to remember that bright, shiny ornaments – especially those shaped like toys, candy and food – are super enticing to children and pets. Make sure to place ornaments and light strands high enough on your Christmas tree so that your tiny loved ones can’t get ahold of them.
Gift Wrap and Ribbons
With so many options on the market these days, buying gift wrap, bows and ribbons is almost as fun as buying the actual gift. But a lot of gift wrap is printed cheaply overseas with toxic dyes. Think about the gifts you are wrapping – food, toys, clothing – and your children are handling that paper when they unwrap their gifts that were enclosed in it for days to weeks.
What You Can Do:
Purchase eco-friendly, non-toxic wrapping paper. While it might be a bit more expensive than the bulk rolls you find in the bins at the checkout of nearly every retailer this holiday season, it will give you peace of mind that your family and their gifts are not being exposed to unnecessary toxins.
Aside from the wrapping paper itself, curling ribbon can become a hazard for little kids and pets. Small children can pull the tied, uncut ribbon off of the gifts and wrap it around their necks. And pets – especially cats – have been known to chew on and ingest long strands of ribbon. If ingested, the ribbon can potentially wrap itself around your cat’s intestines and cause serious health issues.
What You Can Do:
Skip the ribbons and bows completely.
This will not only eliminate the risk of your small children and pets getting ahold of them, but it will also save you money on something that will just be tossed as soon as the gifts are unwrapped.
Poinsettias and Mistletoe
While poinsettias and mistletoe are a couple of the most popular plants of the holiday season, it is important to know that they are considered extremely toxic to both cats and dogs. If you have these plants in your house this Christmas, be sure to keep them out of reach of your furry friends. Also look for fallen leaves or berries from these plants daily, as all parts of the plants can cause physical distress and serious illness.
Scented Candles and Incense
‘Tis the season of holiday fragrances! From pumpkin spice to gingerbread to cinnamon and cookie dough, the holidays are often filled with scented candles and burning incense of every tantalizing vice. While burning scented candles and incense is the easiest way to fill your home with the fragrances of Christmastime before a holiday party or family get-together, you should be aware that they could be doing more harm to you and your loved ones than good.
Unless your candles contain 100% organic and naturally-derived fragrances, there is a whole slew of chemicals that could be hiding behind their scent – a potential 3,163 to be exact. That’s right. According to the Environmental Working Group, 1 in every 20 of the 3,163 chemicals that the Fragrance Association listed that can technically be hiding behind the single word “fragrance” in a product are considered to be highly hazardous.
What You Can Do:
Purchase candles from companies you can trust.
We love 100 Percent Pure candles. They are made with vegan soy wax and fragranced with pure, essential oils – free from synthetic chemicals, artificial fragrances and petro chemicals. You don’t have to worry about toxic chemicals waifing throughout your home just so you can replicate your favorite natural scent. And these candles smell AMAZING, even when they’re not burning! You simply cannot beat the aroma of natural essential oils.
EXPLORE AND CONNECT
Just like artificial trees, holiday decor can be made with lead and toxic chemicals. While centerpieces with fake berries might be a beautiful addition to your dinner table, young children and pets could mistake them for real berries and try to eat them. If you decorate with artificial arrangements, be sure to keep them out of reach of all of your little loved ones.
You probably look forward to your family’s big holiday feast each year. While visions of turkey and green bean casserole and potatoes and pie dance around in your head, and the festive holiday spirit puts you in the sharing mood, remember that human food is not good for pets. In fact, while many people think slipping the dog some scraps at the dinner table won’t hurt him; in reality, it could be quite deadly. For a complete list of all the human foods to avoid giving your furry family members this holiday season, check out: Toxic Foods You May Be Giving Your Pets.
Photo credit: Marley Layne’s Closet