I love pulling out the Christmas tree, cranking the holiday music and diffusing that sacred mountain holiday blend to put me in the best mood ever! Holiday joy.. it should be bottled!
I smile every time I look at my cute, decorated tree, and my girls love to marvel at it once it gets dark and it glows with lights.
Now that I’ve plunged into the non-toxic world, I look at the tree and decorations with another, more skeptical, eye. I still love every minute of being festive and you definitely cannot convince me to be rid of it but I’ve promised myself and the House of Intent community to take the extra time to research and understand everything in my home.
So, here’s the scoop on our Christmas trees and decorations.
The tree itself might be my favorite part of our December traditions. And people agree since the National Christmas Tree Association reports 78% of homes in the US display Christmas Trees during the holiday season.
Although real trees can arguably be more eco-friendly as analyzed in this article by the NY Times, they can be covered with pesticides so look for an organic tree. If you do go this route just be sure to spray with natural pesticides before bringing any little creepy crawlers into your home. Once the holiday is over look for recycling programs or have it chipped for mulch.
However, the reality is that 81% of the trees found in the homes of Americans are fake. So, if you’ve chosen artificial what’s in your tree?
Artificial trees are usually made from PVC (polyvinyl chloride), the world’s third most widely produced synthetic plastic. You can find PVC’s in toys, construction pipes, medical devices and other plastic items around your home. Yet despite being widely manufactured and used, PVC has been deemed carcinogenic to humans by the International Agency for Research on Cancer.
PVC is made from dangerous chemical additives including phthalates, lead, cadmium, and/or organotins, which can be toxic to you and your child's health. Additionally, PVC releases volatile organic chemicals (VOC) into the air, gases which can irritate our eyes, nose and lungs.
Because of this risk, the State of California now requires trees containing PVC to display a warning label. But even with these warnings, it can be difficult to tell what is really in your tree.
And what’s the real risk associated with having an artificial tree in your living room for such a short time each year?
We can make guesses and refer to studies but unfortunately right now we are the test subjects! We just need to wait to see how many of us get sick years from now. This all sounds scary, I know. The point is to pay attention, not to panic. The good news is you don’t have to give up the beloved Christmas tree tradition.
Instead I put together some steps you can take to minimize your exposure to toxins.
1. BUY A PVC FREE TREE
For anyone looking to purchase a new artificial tree, try picking a tree that does not contain PVC. You can find trees made from safer plastics, such as polyethylene (PE) or polypropylene (PP) which are both considerably less toxic than PVC, or even recycled PVC.
However, even when choosing a “safer” tree there is still no guarantee that they will be free of lead and flame retardants, so take necessary precautions regardless of what your tree is made of.
2. AIR IT OUT
Whether you already own a tree at home that is made with PVC, you can’t find one made without it, or you’re happy to say you have a PVC free tree but it has flame retardant… it’s still okay!
When you first bring home your tree, or take the tree out of the box from last year, open it outside to let it air out.
Products made from PVC release the most harmful gases when they are first exposed to air, so the longer they breathe outside the better!
3. DON’T KEEP IT FOREVER
PVC plastic releases more harmful chemicals once it starts to degrade. Take pride in reusing year after year but don’t hold onto your tree forever. Know when it’s time to get a replacement which is usually 8-10 years.
3. WEAR GLOVES AND WASH YOUR HANDS
Reduce your physical contact with the plastic by wearing gloves while setting up and taking down your tree. Prevent children and pets from putting any pieces of the tree in their mouths and everyone who touches the tree should wash their hands with soap after.
4. DON’T ADD MORE PVC
When it comes to ornaments and other tree decorations, aim for glass ornaments or other non-toxic options like fabric or paper.
The holidays are the most wonderful time of the year, they bring priceless love and happiness to your home. Enjoy and rest easy knowing just by reading this you’re caring about your family and making it a better home!
Top non-toxic tree options: