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Q&A: Are Christmas tree lights covered in lead?



Question: Are Christmas tree lights covered in lead — and are they hazardous? I am not normally paranoid, but I just read an article on how the presents under the Christmas tree get covered in lead dust …

Christine Climer replies: The wires of many electrical devices, including Christmas lights, are insulated inside a plastic (PVC) coating. Some sort of stabilizer must be added to the PVC so that it will be heat resistant. PVC stabilizers commonly include metals such as lead, cadmium and tin.

The concern with these Christmas lights is that the lead will leech out of the PVC and be deposited on your hands while you are decorating. Lights containing lead that are sold in California must carry a Proposition 65 warning label, but those sold elsewhere contain no warnings. Lights manufactured in the United States are less likely to contain lead.

Do not allow your children to handle Christmas lights. Wash your hands thoroughly after handling them yourself.

You should also be aware that those Christmas lights aren’t the only things to be cautious about when selecting your holiday decor. Artificial Christmas trees made of PVC also contain stabilizers.

Researchers at the Environmental Quality Institute at the University of North Carolina-Asheville have found that some PVC trees release lead dust into the air and onto the ground and presents underneath the tree. Your children can breathe the dust and contaminate their hands while touching the ground or unwrapping gifts. As we all know, lead exposure is of particular concern during childhood.

To find out if your holiday decorations contain lead, click this link to order a $10.00 dust test kit from CWLTI.

© Christine Climer

Christine Climer is a registered nurse with experience in pulmonary disease, pediatrics, home health, hospice and early childhood education. She specializes in the promotion of child and family health in Best Baby Nurse in Dallas, Texas. When she’s not busy with her daughter and twin boys, Christine enjoys researching health issues and gardening.

5 Responses to “Q&A: Are Christmas tree lights covered in lead?”

1 Stephani says:

While putting up our artificial trees this past week, I became dizzy and nauseated. Both trees were assembled two days apart and I had the same symptoms lasting about 1.5 hours each time. I made sure to wash my hands when the task was complete and never touched my mouth or face while assembling. Assembling the two trees are the only two abnormal things I had in common on these two days. I am a healthy person and do not usually have dizzy or nausea spells. Is this a sign of lead poisoning? And should I do anything about it? Any insight is much appreciated.

2 publisher says:

If you’re concerned about lead, I would search online for information on whether you can have sudden onset lead poisoning. I don’t think it works quite so fast though - I do think it takes a while.

What I assume is that you had a reaction to the chemicals on the needles of the tree. I will often have dizziness and nausea when I am around chemicals, fresh paint, and new clothes and blankets that need washing.

You may want to ask someone else to put up and take down your trees and if you continue to have symptoms, you may not be able to use them at all.

Don’t feel badly about real trees as they’re planted specifically for cutting and tree farms give our atmosphere a ton of oxygen that wouldn’t have been there without them.

You may also switch to a live tree in a pot that you can plant at the park or in your back yard. These would not have the same amount of messy needles dropping through the holidays.

Good luck!

3 Becky says:

Sorry to be nitpicky, but I’d actually rather have leeches on my Christmas tree (not that I’d ever cut down a tree just to park it in my house for two weeks anyway) than have lead dust leach onto my hands or into the air.

4 Miren says:

In 2006 after reading in your website your comments about lead in artificial trees and ornaments we through away all our cristmas decorations and artifial tree. We bought a farm raise christmas tree and made home made ornaments. We have two children under 6 years of age and take no chances with there health.
I looked for Christmas lights whose wires are free of lead but haven’t found any till now :(

5 DCarroll says:

I’d like to say that I live in Kentucky. I bought brand new lights from a Walmart here, which contains the Product 65 Warning label for lead. Who said on here that those are only sold in California?! I bought them right here in KY and hate to say it but ALL lights have it…if they didn’t, they would be a fire hazard. Lead is not a conducter. It’s a protectant. It has to be on the lights…wash hands a lot. I have 3 kids. There is no other choice.

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