Wednesday, December 03, 2008


Finding Non-Toxic Christmas Decorations

Just a little holiday consumer warning here. We have two active toddlers, so getting a real tree for Christmas is unappealing for many reasons, including time and maintenance required and dropping pine needles that the children might pick up. True, maybe buying a live tree gives good vibes and supports a certain economy (almost carbon neutral, not including fertilizer and trucks). But the visual effect of a Christmas decoration is what kids require indoors, and we encourage them to hug live trees outside.

After the sticker shock (over 100 dollars, something of an investment), I bought a tree at Target. Only after we opened it did I see the new toxic lead plastic warning labels now required by Proposition 65 for any product to be sold in California. "Wash hands after using"? Give me a break, kids are going to touch a Christmas tree, and lead is horribly damaging to children!

So I read online that lead is added to plastic to make it more flexible, including all power cords. That's right, Christmas lights and extension cords should not be touched by children! Lead doesn't have to be used, there are more expensive alternative additives, but profits win out over health unless legislated.

Imported Chinese products are going to have the highest lead levels, so it's just another reason to avoid Chinese products. I can't believe the attitude I've read about in China this year, where dead children from melamine are chalked up to the growing pains of a developing nation. Melamine causes kidney failure and is often added to falsely boost protein levels in milk and other products, like the pet food that killed thousands of cats and dogs in the US last year. It's criminal, it's murder, plain and simple.

I also found online a lot of misinformation about the lead Christmas trees, like people saying it's not a big deal (oh yes it is, including lead dust that accumulates on the christmas gifts!) or, if lead warnings aren't visible then it's not present (the labels are only required if made for California sales, there's no national standard so you could just find non-California products).

This is obviously just another case of the millions of toxic consumer products that will be revealed in the coming years. Over 100,000 chemicals have been invented for consumers since WWII, and fewer than 1% have been even inadequately tested.

For example, nanotechnology particularly scares me. This is the new under-regulated science of making super-tiny chemicals that can go directly into your bloodstream and brain through your skin, and they're increasingly added for stupid competitive effects like making sunblock lotion more transparent (light transmitting) as you smear it all over yourself. Keep this in mind and avoid anything that says nanotech or micro or seems otherwise suspiciously re-invented.

So back to finding non-toxic Christmas decorations. Power cords all have lead, just don't let the kids handle them. But for safer trees, you can order US made (to the highest standards) from the following companies: or

When you feel ready (sooner or later I think we all will) consider contacting your government officials on this and other toxic product issues.

Happy and safe holidays to you and your loved ones!

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