If you're like other people at this time of the year, you're undoubtedly feeling a combination of excitement and dread as the hectic Christmas season approaches.
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Which Holiday Decorations Are Toxic?
- Most Christmas decorations, toys, ornaments, and plants will not harm you, but some may carry health hazards if not handled properly.
- Good hygiene practices, such as hand washing (not just for germs, but also to avoid the possible transmission of harmful substances after touching goods), should be practised.
- This may reduce dangers, particularly for small children who would put their hands in their mouths.
- According to experts, the hype around possibly hazardous Christmas objects such as decorations is often overblown, and the real threat is relatively minimal.
If you’re like other people at this time of the year, you’re undoubtedly feeling a combination of excitement and dread as the hectic Christmas season approaches.
Enjoying Christmas with friends and family is a wonderful way to spend the brutal winter months, but it comes with the added stress of traveling, shopping, among other inconveniences.
In addition, for some families, particularly those with small children, the holidays might raise concerns about possible health hazards.
It’s not unusual to hear warnings at this time of year about unsafe toys, dangerous substances in holiday decorations, and even toxic holiday plants.
The good news is that most of the buzz around these potentially hazardous things is often exaggerated. However, you should be aware of several holiday decoration dangers, particularly if you have children or animals at home.
That’s why we’ve separated fact and fiction regarding four types of Christmas items and the genuine health concerns they may cause.
Source - Real Simple
Ornaments, Lights And Christmas’ Decorations
Yes, all of those lovely tree ornaments, decorations, and even the string of lights you take out of storage once every year may contain harmful compounds.
The most prevalent cause for this is that they may contain lead.
Major news publications, notably Consumer Affairs, have commented on the possibility of lead exposure from Christmas decorations, but it's unclear what, if any, genuine danger these things offer to consumers.
“My sense would be that there is, overall, hardly an epidemic of lead poisoning as a result of folks decorating their trees and putting up their decorations,” According to Dr. Ken Spaeth, head of environmental medicine at Northwell Health in New York tells Healthline.
It might also be hard to determine if your decorations and accessories contain lead.
According to a 2014 survey, 13% of seasonal holiday goods offered at large stores such as Walmart and CVS showed lead levels above an acceptable limit for children's toys. Although the goods are not classified as toys for children, they may be accessed by children over the holidays.
While current decorations made in the United States may not carry lead, if you've been hoarding a box of old Christmas decorations for as long as you can remember, or if you're purchasing inexpensive holiday ornaments online, there's a chance they may.
“Lead is still used in a number of manufacturing processes for consumer items. More so in items manufactured outside the U.S. where standards are usually more lax… It’s very difficult to really feel confident about some products and that would certainly hold true for some of the seasonal and holiday specific items that make their way out to the market starting this time of year,” Spaeth added.
Spaeth does advise, nevertheless, parents should be cautious with their children when it comes to Christmas ornaments and decorations. He points out that, although lead exposure via skin contact is uncommon, it may quickly penetrate the body through the mouth.
“Especially with young children who are more prone to put the item in their mouth. Now you’ve got a very direct pathway for exposure,” Spaeth added.
Toys and the holidays go well together with marshmallows and hot chocolate. However, like seasonal decorations and ornaments, there is a risk of lead or other accumulation of heavy metals, most often via paint, depending on the quality and manufacturing of the toy.
Every year, the U.S. PIRG, a group of consumer advocacy organisations, publishes its “Trouble in Toyland" report on toy safety, which lists the most hazardous toys on the market.
Furthermore, as more electronic presents become popular, batteries are becoming an increasingly prevalent concern, especially for young children.
Dr. Rais Vohra, medical director of the California Poison Control System's Fresno/Madera division, told Healthline that “button" batteries, which are compact and easy to swallow, may be very harmful.
“Those can actually lead to really bad burns and damage to the esophagus as well as to the stomach,” he said.
Plants For Holiday
Nothing screams Christmas like poinsettias, holly, and mistletoe.
They do, however, have a notoriety for being toxic, but not as hazardous as many would have you think.
A toxicity evaluation published in 2012 of the most popular ornamental holiday plants discovered that the majority of ingestions, especially in children, are asymptomatic. That means you shouldn't be concerned about your kid being unwell from a poinsettia.
Nonetheless, according to Vohra, exposures are highly common.
“These things are very beautiful. They are around during the Christmastime holidays. They may be on a kitchen table or on a countertop, and a child can just grab a number of leaves or berries or even a poinsettia leaf and then ingest something that causes a reaction,” he said.
“For the most part though, most kids even if they [ingest these plants] they will probably tolerate it pretty well,” said Vohra.
Ingesting holiday plants may still cause upset stomach, nausea, diarrhoea, and vomiting but seldom results in more severe poisoning.
Paper For Gift-Wrapping
Wrapping paper is fantastic. That is why we are using it to wrap seasonal gifts. However, the ingredients that make it attractive, such as dyes, inks, and other chemicals, imply that it may include dangerous toxins.
“There [are] an increasingly large number of chemicals being used to treat the paper, to colour the paper, to make the paper more elaborate and sometimes that can include the use of heavy metals,” said Spaeth.
However, like the other toys and decorations, where and how the paper is produced has a significant impact on whether or not it includes harmful components.
Using the material and wrapping presents with it will not make you sick, but don't allow children to swallow it.
Also, avoid burning it.
“There are so many synthetic products, if you burn it, you’re likely to be breathing in those chemicals,” said Spaeth.
Most Christmas stuff, presents, ornaments, and plants aren't dangerous, but it's beneficial to ensure they're all appropriately handled, mainly if children are around.
Apply basic hygiene practices, such as hand washing, to avoid germs and minimise the possible transmission of harmful chemicals when you take down that dusty box of ornaments from the attic.
“Kids are kids… Make sure your kids are safe and make sure you know what they are eating and what they are putting in their mouths, and make sure that’s not poisonous,” said Vohra.