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Christmas is fast approaching, and you want to celebrate it in style. Of course, a huge part of that is the iconic Christmas tree.
Decades ago, families would just walk out on their property and harvest a real tree. Today, however, artificial trees have taken over our Christmas celebrations.
Some of the reasons why people are opting for artificial Christmas trees include:
- Affordability: They are cheaper than real trees.
- Easy to clean/Low maintenance: Cleaning artificial trees is simple and straightforward. No needle shedding to constantly pick up.
- Fire hazards: They reduce the risk of starting a fire.
Unfortunately, fake Christmas trees do come with a list of toxins that few people are aware of.
Want to skip the buying guide and just get my top recommendation? Check out the one below:
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Chemicals Found in Artificial Trees
Typically, manufacturers of artificial Christmas trees use synthetic plastic called polyvinyl chloride (abbreviated as PVC). PVC is also a common ingredient in the construction of pipes, medical equipment, toys, as well as many car interiors.
In reality, PVC is everywhere these days.
The problem is that PVC plastic is toxic to humans. For instance, to make PVC more fire-resistant, manufacturers add metals like lead, tin, and barium!
And it’s not just tiny amounts either.
According to recent research findings, most fake holiday trees feature considerable amounts of lead. Worse still, PVC can release toxic gases (commonly referred to as volatile organic compounds) that irritate the human lungs, nose, and eyes.
Additionally, PVCs contain phthalates,which have been shown to lower testosterone levels in both animals and humans.
Most Christmas trees are crafted with added fire retardants. And according to various research studies, exposing yourself to flame retardants can increase your risk of developing cancer, reduce brain development, and even disrupt hormone function.
The original thought was nice – to decrease the risk of a fire.
Unfortunately, the most common flame retardant used, known as polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) continues to produce toxic effects in human studies.
Continued research has even lead to banning several varieties of flame retardants including brominated tris in 1977 as well as penta and octa PBDEs in 2004.
What other toxic risks are they going to find related to these chemicals?
I don’t know about you, but I don’t want my home to be involved in that sort of experiment.
Lead and Heavy Metals
Verifiable research findings indicate that PVC in artificial trees contain some small amounts of lead.
Remember, exposure to lead can drastically increase your chances of developing hypertension, being impotent, reducing IQ in children, and more.
Problems with Real Christmas Trees
Then there are the people who only ever buy live trees.
Since they aren’t man-made, natural Christmas trees don’t carry the risks associated with chemical manufacturing. But that doesn’t mean they’re free and clear of toxins.
Live trees come with their own set of problems, including:
- Allergies: Real Christmas trees can trigger severe flare-ups in people with allergies.
- Pesticides or herbicides: Just like any other conventionally grown vegetation, real trees are often sprayed with harmful pesticides or herbicides during their growing seasons.
- Mold: Another issue of concern is mold. Live Christmas trees are susceptible to mold infections, which is a problem for the many Americans who have mold sensitivities. And by the way, most people don’t even know they have mold issues. They just walk around sick all the time and don’t know why).
So what’s a family to do? Is it even safe to have a Christmas tree at all?
Rest easy, you can have your tree and enjoy it too. You just need to know what to look for and how to minimize your exposure to toxins during the holiday season.
We hope to help you with that today!
How to Find a Safe, Non-Toxic Christmas Tree
As opposed to old school Christmas trees that feature unrealistic branches, modern varieties look much more realistic.
According to America’s National Christmas Tree Association (NCTA), consumers bought over 21.1 million fake Christmas trees in the year 2017. While Americans still purchased more real trees than counterfeit ones, the gap between the two options is quickly closing.
That’s because artificial trees are being built with higher quality options and more sustainable materials.
One of those options that seems to be the best choice if you want to avoid toxins is the somewhat new PE tree.
100% PE Christmas Trees
These trees are inspired by nature and crafted of real-looking polyethylene plastic that is PVC-free. Most of the time, they are easily identifiable by their “PVC free” label on the box.
The primary benefit of PE trees is the fact that they’re not laced with heavy metals like lead. They’re also much gentler on the environment as far as manufacturing pollution goes.
As for design, families love them because they look far more realistic than traditional PVC trees. Most are crafted to mimic real fir and spruce with long, tapered needles reminiscent of genuine tree foliage.
Be careful though because many trees marketed as PE are actually a combination of PE and PVC. If you want to get as close to a non-toxic Christmas tree as possible, you need to stick to 100% genuine PE trees.
But be warned – they’re very hard to find.
A partial PE tree like the one below is the best I could find (customer service says it’s 37% PE), but check your local stores, too!
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Also, try to find one that does NOT have flame retardants. That can be pretty difficult, if not impossible, so I’ll provide some tips for decreasing toxins in trees below.
PE Trees and the Environment
It’s important to note that a good number of PE trees are 100 percent recyclable.
According to a number of studies, over a span of 20 years, 100% PE Christmas trees become more environmentally friendly over time and can last more than 20 years.
Like you’d do with any other purchase, deciding on the amount you want to spend on a Christmas tree is important.
Be firm and set your budget before browsing or you’ll fall prey to shiny (and expensive) object syndrome.
You can expect to pay between $75 to $300 for a genuine PE tree.
Don’t forget to factor in decorations when shopping! This is particularly important when you’re purchasing an unlighted model, which I suggest as pre-lit trees often contain lead.
When to Buy
Having set your budget, you’ll want to make sure that you get the value of your money back. Buying too early may end up being costlier whereas waiting too long may severely limit your options.
According to different sources, it’s best to purchase artificial Christmas trees during the first 2 weeks of December.
How to Avoid Toxins in Christmas Trees
I have looked and looked, and it is SO hard to find a 100% polyethylene tree. Everything I’ve found so far is a combination of PE and PVC.
At least you’re reducing the amount of PVC, but ideally, you’d want to eliminate it entirely.
If you still want to stick to an artificial tree as opposed to an organic real tree, here are a few tips for reducing your toxin exposure during the holidays!
- After purchasing, take it outside and spray it down with water, allowing it to air dry.
- Let the tree off-gas outdoors for 24 hours.
- Wear protective gloves while mounting and decorating the tree.
- After handling it, wash your hands with soap and warm water for no less than 60 seconds.
- Regularly vacuum around it with a HEPA filter.
- Dust regularly since toxins and chemicals settle in dust.
- Air out your home by opening a few windows at least once a week through December.
We hope this guide helps you find some healthy options for Christmas trees in 2020!
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1569348/ https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2957927/ https://www.christmastreeassociation.org/
Editor and researcher at Detox & Prosper. With years of experience creating a healthy home for my family, I now help others eliminate toxins from theirs! Read my story here.
Ikea has them. All PE and lead/flame retardant free.
Really? Awesome! Thanks so much for letting me know. Gotta love Ikea 🙂
Balsam hill – specifically true needle foliage has a massive line of 100% PE trees! Tons of options
Hi, they do. However, they use Antimony trioxide as a flame retardant. I called yesterday to confirm that all their trees use this as I’d prefer none or a safer alternative. They confirmed it is mixed into all their Christmas tree material. So, that’s a “no” for me. Either the IKEA tree (which is unavailable in my area) or traditional Christmas tree route.
JOSS&MAIN has trees that are a combination of PE and PVC. I haven’t found any that are 100% PE either.
IKEA has pvc free pe trees.
It’s not worth the risk to have a pvc tree.