Christmas is one of my favorite times of the year. I love the traditions, seeing friends and family, the never-ending sweets and snacks and now, the excitement of seeing it through my babe’s eyes!
I think I speak for many of us when I admit it can also be incredibly stressful – getting to all the events, buying presents and then, on top of that, decorating the house AND the tree!
It can get very frustrating when you want to make everything festive and also have concerns on potential harmful exposures for you and your family. Did you know that most Christmas lights contain lead and that majority of the decorations are made with harmful chemicals like flame retardants, leeching plastics, toxic paints and metals like lead, cadium, mercury, arsenic, and bromine? Our friends at HealthyStuff.org did a study in 2014 of 69 seasonal holiday products and found that over ⅔ contained at least one of these chemicals at levels of concern.
I had no idea the amount of chemicals I was eagerly putting all over my house until I started researching more. It became incredibly overwhelming. I figured I may just be stuck with a Charlie Brown tree and a festive-less home. Then I discovered a few options and alternatives I wanted to share with you that have made my home ready for the holidays just like it always does, with a few modifications!
If you want a live tree — I chose to go with a real tree. I called several growers in the area and found one that last sprayed herbicide and pesticides on their crop in July. That felt like long enough that I wasn’t having a tree coated in chemicals coming into the home.
Want to cut down a tree? Use this site to find a farm close to you!
If you prefer an artificial tree — I have one I have used for the many years I was a cat mom. I definitely don’t want to throw it away but I don’t want to use it while little baby hands could be touching it (and then putting those hands into her mouth). Artificial trees generally have flame retardants on them and contain PVC (polyvinyl chloride) which can contain and release lead dust into the air.
Honestly, I don’t have many options here for you as most of the artificial trees are made of things I definitely don’t want in my home and absolutely don’t want my baby in contact with. If you MUST go this route – either buying one at a big box store or utilizing one you already have in storage – wash your hands after setting up the tree, try your best to keep little hands away from it and set up a HEPA filter in the same room as the tree.
One safe alternative are IKEA trees! They are made with polyethelene and polypropelene (two MUCH safer plastics!) They come in 3 sizes – 86.5” ($49) can be viewed here. The 69” ($29) here. And 55” ($15) here.
Want Christmas lights that don’t contain lead? Want safer electronics in general? (It’s often the PVC insulation over the wiring in MANY electronics that cause the exposure since they can contain lead and phthalates) Your best bet is to look for ROHS compliance. Thanks to the European Union for creating this certification to protect their consumers, the amount of toxic chemicals in products with this label are incredibly minimal, if any at all.
I was so thankful to find the following ROHS certified lights affordable and right on Amazon:
It’s really unfortunate that there really aren’t too many alternatives to those bright plastic garlands, tinsel and bows. Here are some of the results from the HealthyStuff.org study I mentioned above:
- Walgreen’s retailed Santa Hanging Décor: 1,400 ppm bromine, 1,300 ppm chlorine, 290 ppm antimony.
- Lowe’s retailed Beaded Garland: 11,000 ppm bromine, 16,000 ppm chlorine, 600 ppm lead, 2,100 ppm antimony.
- Lowe’s retailed Silver Bells: 120,000 ppm chlorine, 370 ppm lead, 290 ppm antimony.
- Kroger retailed Red Bead Garland: 13,000 ppm bromine, 17,000 ppm chlorine, 140 ppm lead, 3,900 ppm antimony, 150 ppm tin.
- Kroger retailed Silver Jingle Bell Door Hanger: 150 ppm arsenic, 1,900 ppm chlorine, 170 ppm lead, 1,500 ppm tin.
- Walmart retailed Poinsettia Wreath: 900 ppm bromine, 6,500 ppm chlorine, 830 ppm lead, 230 ppm antimony.
- Target retailed Decorative Tree: 1,400 ppm chlorine and 2,100 ppm lead.
- Target retailed Holiday Swag Bundle: 2,400 ppm bromine, 24,700 ppm chlorine, 670 ppm antimony, 152 ppm tin.
- CVS retailed 18 foot Lighted Garland: 65,800 ppm bromine, 310,000 ppm chlorine, 170 ppm lead, 10,200 ppm antimony, 2,300 ppm tin.
- Dollar Tree retailed Decorative Bows: 426,000 ppm chlorine, 1,100 ppm tin.
I have found a lot of natural wood decor options (like these untreated pine cones) and while I don’t want toxins in the home, I personally want something with some color and POP on the tree and around the house. What I chose to do this year was buy boiled wool garland to brighten up the tree. You can buy loose wool balls and create your own (more cost effective) or buy them pre-strung! There is also this incredibly affordable nontoxic PET plastic garland!
Christmas is a little different around here than before I learned about the toxins in everyday products and even more so now that there is a little one who likes to touch (and taste) everything. Hopefully, a few of these items might help make your decorating a little easier. May you have a stress-free, enjoyable holiday season filled with love and lots of (nontoxic) sparkle!