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Are Artificial Christmas Trees Hazardous To Your Health?

Dorathy Gass

People have many reasons as to why they go with an artificial Christmas tree, and it really is the age-old debate during the holidays. Still, whether you find it is better for the environment, someone is allergic, or you simply hate seeing pine needles everywhere; each family has their own reasons on why they choose fake to go with a fake Christmas tree. Still, could this tree be harmful to your health?

First and foremost, one must understand what these trees are made of, to truly answer that question. Most artificial trees are made from polyvinyl chloride (PVC), a synthetic plastic that is also used in some toys, medical equipment, and construction pipes. Seems harmless enough, seeing that the not-for-profit organization, the American Christmas Tree Association, claims that PVC is not ‘dangerous’; still there are experts who disagree with this fact.

MSN reports that Dr. Glenn Harnett, Chief Medical Officer of American Family Care, is one of those experts. He states that PVC is a fire-resistant compound that can contain metals like lead, tin, or barium as stabilizers. In fact, a 2004 study found traceable amounts of lead in fake Christmas trees. Harnett adds that PVC can also release dangerous natural compounds which are known to irritate an individual’s lungs, nose, and eyes.

Dr. Bruce Lanphear, at Simon Fraser University has also stated that at times, PVC can have phthalates, acknowledged as endocrine disrupting chemicals that have been proven to decrease testosterone in laboratory animals, as well as humans. At the end of the day, the biggest hazard maybe the fact that it is hard to tell what exactly are in these trees.

How could this be? As Lanphear notes, over 75 percent of chemicals found in products on the market are not tested around toxicity as it relates to reproductive, behavioral or cognitive issues, they are naturally just assumed to be safe. As the U.S. does an insufficient job regulating chemicals, he also notes that some unintended contaminants simply slip through the cracks.

But should you worry about the small chemicals you could be exposed to, at this festive time of year? Because there is such a small window of time, annually that your Christmas tree is up, it is hard to tell. However, Lanphear does note infertility, a decreased IQ in children, and hypertension are all after effects of lead exposure.

Still, there is hope for those who may worry about this, yet do not want to give up their artificial tree. Dr. Harnett notes that PVC will release its harmful gasses when exposed to air; so the longer a family can leave their Christmas tree outside before brining it in, the better. There are also PVC-free trees options out on the market to choose from as well.


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