Christmas is right around the corner, meaning millions of Americans are proudly displaying Christmas trees in their homes.
A growing trend over the last few years has been artificial Christmas trees, but experts are now warning that these trees aren’t as good an idea as they may seem.
Most artificial Christmas trees contain polyvinyl chloride (PVC), a common plastic used in construction pipes, toys, medical devices, and car interiors. Though the American Christmas Tree Association claims PVC is safe for humans to be exposed to, it actually contains various properties that can be harmful.
Inquisitr reports on what the dangers are:
Metals, such as lead, tin, or barium, are added to PVC to make it more fire-resistant. Past studies have shown that small amounts of lead have been found in fake trees.
Dr. Glenn Harnett, chief medical officer with American Family Care, says the danger is even in the air.
“PVC also releases gases known as volatile organic compounds, which are gases that can irritate the eyes, nose, and lungs,” he explained.
According to Dr. Bruce Lanphear, a professor at Simon Fraser University, PVC can also contain phthalates, a chemical proven to lower testosterone in lab animals as well as humans.
Unfortunately, there is no real way of knowing if an artificial Christmas tree is making you sick. Since many household items share the same chemicals, it may be difficult to pinpoint. Additionally, many chemicals have not been thoroughly tested for toxicity but are assumed to be safe.
Lanphear explained there is no standard method to accurately measure the effects of being exposed to an artificial Christmas tree six hours a day, one month a year, for 10 years. He added that humans are exposed every day to a variety of things that contain lead and phthalates. Even limited contact with these toxins can adversely affect fertility and reduce testosterone levels.
Exposure to lead increases the risk for hypertension and infertility, and in children, it can negatively affect IQ. Even the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has warned that there is no safe level of lead exposure.
Is there a way to reduce your exposure to the potentially harmful chemicals from an artificial Christmas tree?
When PVC is exposed to air, unsafe gases are released, so it is a good idea to leave the tree outside for as long as possible. It is also a good idea to dispose of the tree before it gets too old since gases tend to dissipate as PVC breaks down.
“The longer you’re able to let the tree air outside of your home, the better. And then don’t hold onto it forever. PVC plastic begins to weaken after nine years,” Harnett advised.
Another way to avoid potential chemical exposure is to buy a PVC-free artificial tree made from polyethylene. Not known to leak toxic chemicals, polyethylene is considered safer by most health experts.
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