Deck the Halls with Safer Options

December 5th, 2014, in Living ToxicFree®, Education

Brittany’s Top Christmas Decorating Tip: When it comes to lighting, artificial greenery, and giftwrap, avoid contact when possible and make sure to wash hands if contact is unavoidable.


Since before they could walk, my children have taken great joy in helping us decorate for Christmas. In years past, it never crossed my mind that their contact with artificial trees, garland, lights and giftwrap were exposing them to harmful toxins, including lead!

Lead? What? Some manufacturers argue that lead is necessary to stabilize cord casings and make the lights heat-resistant. Yet interestingly enough, not only do lead-free stabilizers exist, they are broadly available and in use by various other manufacturers. Unfortunately, if you haven’t specifically sought out these types of lighting, or if you have owned your holiday decorations for years, chances are they contain lead.

In addition to lead, lights are typically made from polyvinyl chloride (PVC), which contains phthalates. According to the Environmental Working Group (EWG), phthalates or “plasticizers,” are endocrine disruptors that have been linked to developmental and reproductive problems.

The best way to avoid these holiday toxins is to go green—use real, fresh, and organic trees and garland in place of artificial ones. Use toxic-free gift wrap or recycle cloth gift bags and never allow children to come in contact with Christmas lighting. If this seems like an impossible or overwhelming task based on your family’s traditions and budget, don’t panic.

Maybe you aren’t ready to ditch all of your Christmas decorations and replace with fresh, organic trees and garland. However, below you will find a few helpful tips you can utilize to protect yourself and your family from toxins and lead exposure during this holiday season.

Steps to Protect Yourself When Using Artificial Decorations and Lighting:

Holiday Greenery

We personally decided not to toss our investment in artificial decorations over the years. However, I decorate our artificial tree myself and purchase a smaller, fresh tree for my children to decorate so they are not touching the artificial tree. They are now old enough to understand when I explain that I don’t want them touching the tree because it contains toxins that aren’t good for them. However, I have friends with infants and toddlers who put a baby gate around their tree to prevent this.

Christmas Lights

We do not let our children participate in lighting the tree, and we try to prevent them from handling lighting to avoid possible exposure to lead. When I handle lighting, I wear gloves I keep specifically for this task, and I wash my hands with soap and water afterwards—as should anyone that comes in contact with strands of Christmas lights. Do your research on what lead exposure does to your health and developing children. This is no joke!  Keeping children away from holiday lighting should be a critical part of your holiday tradition.

Gift Wrap

When you’re purchasing your seasonal giftwrap, you may want to consider toxin-free, greener paper options which you can find online. If you need to use paper you already own, always wash your hands and have children wash their hands as soon as possible after they come in contact with the paper.

Candles and Holiday Fragrances

At one time I loved to fill our home with our favorite holiday fragrances using candles and various air-fresheners. Little did I know at the time, the frequent headaches one of my children and I complained of during the holiday season may have had something to do with the hundreds of toxic chemicals being released into the air and then trapped inside of our home. In fact, some of these very chemicals, such as Benzene, have been linked to numerous hormonal disruptions, and even cancer.

To learn more ways to protect your family from toxins during this holiday season and get a toxic-free tip on how to make your home smell like “Christmas” without using synthetics, tune into this Tuesday’s live, ToxicFree® Christmas webcast!

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