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Published on Dec 08, 2010 by Edgar Snyder

Avoid Dangerous Holiday Decorations

Holiday decoration dangers

Lead is present in more products than you may realize, including holiday decorations, consumer advocates say. Although there's no data on how much lead people absorb from decorations, there is no such thing as a safe amount, so being careful is the best bet.

Here are some of the most dangerous products and what you can do about them:

1. Christmas lights – Almost all strands of Christmas lights contain lead because manufacturers use it in the PVC that insulates electrical wires. Unfortunately, the chemicals used in the lights aren't listed on their label.

What you can do – Two of the safest places to buy lights are Ikea and EnvironmentalLights.com, says Samantha Blum, co-founder of Safbaby.com. Both companies say that their lights meet the Restriction of Hazardous Substances guidelines used by the European Union. If you can't buy new lights this season, you should wear gloves when handling your old lights.

2. Christmas trees – Artificial Christmas trees are also made with PVC.

What you can do – If possible, experts say you should switch to a live tree. About 98 percent of Christmas trees are grown sustainably, and it's even possible to find organic ones that aren't treated with pesticides.

3. Candles – Lead can also be present in candles, such as ones with metal wicks. When these candles are lit, lead is vaporized into the air, causing people to breathe it in. This is particularly dangerous for babies and pregnant women.

In addition, scented candles normally get their aroma from artificial fragrances made with phthalates, which can affect the hormonal system.

What you can do – Buy 100 percent beeswax candles, experts say. You can also boil cloves and cinnamon sticks on the stove, poke cloves into oranges, or hang fresh greenery to achieve a natural holiday scent.

Source: "Advice on avoiding a toxic Christmas." USA Today. December 7, 2010.
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