For many people, when you put the words “holiday decorations” and “toxic” in the same sentence, they think of things like poisonous plants (lilies, holly, or mistletoe – turns out poinsettia’s are only mildly toxic) and their pets. In fact, if you google ‘holiday decorations’ and ‘toxic’, most of the hits you’ll get are actually about pets.
While these plants can be dangerous to our furry friends (and little kids) there are plenty of other holiday decorations that can be toxic that we need to be mindful of! Here’s a short list of some of the worst, and what you can do instead!
While scented candles may make your home cozy and inviting, then can also deliver a dose of hormone disrupting chemicals. Scented candles are made with phthalates, a hormone disrupting chemical that can easily alter the hormonal balance in your body. For children, exposure to any chemical that interferes with hormones is cause for concern as their small bodies are still developing. This can lead to things like ADHD/Hyperactivity, asthma, and even obesity. This goes double if you’re pregnant, as exposure to synthetic hormones while pregnant can result in neurological and/or developmental problems in your child.
There’s no reason your house needs to smell like anything other than fresh air! But, if you really want it to smell like the holidays simmer a small pot of cinnamon sticks, whole cloves, and orange peels in water on the stove – this will have your house smelling amazing in no time!
Christmas Tree Lights
Everyone loves decorating the Christmas tree, but make sure the only ones touching the lights are parents. Tree lights, especially older ones, are often made with lead, which over time can break down into lead dust. Touching the lights can leave lead dust residues all over little fingers, which then end up in mouths. The state of California actually labels tree lights and other appliance lights with the following warning: “Handling the power cord on this product will expose you to lead, a chemical known to the State of California to cause birth defects or other reproductive harm. WASH HANDS AFTER HANDLING”
The plastic wire coating is also made with the same phthalates found in those scented candles. Have mom or dad do the lights, and make sure they wash their hands afterwards!
Alternative: Look for light that are RoHS compliant. You’ll find this on the label on the package or on the wire tag itself. RoHS, which stands for Restriction of the Use of Certain Hazardous Substances in Electrical and Electronic Equipment is a European Union directive which bans the placing on the EU market of new electrical and electronic equipment containing more than the agreed levels of lead, cadmium, mercury, hexavalent chromium, polybrominated biphenyl (PBB) and polybrominated diphenyl ether (PBDE) flame retardants. Thankfully the agreed levels of these chemicals are very very low. To the best of my knowledge, the US has no similar policy in place.
Tree ornaments are often passed down from generation to generation. Unfortunately many older decorations were made using leaded paints, which over time can chip, flake, and degrade into lead dust. Children who handle these ornaments and then put their hands in their mouths, or eat with their hands will go on to ingest lead, which as you know, is a highly dangerous heavy metal. Sadly some new ornaments are also made with lead.
Leave the older, potentially lead paint covered ornaments for when kids are older, and/or use them only on the top parts of the tree where they can’t reach Decorate the lower parts of the tree with handmade kid-friendly ornaments! Check out Heather Vo’s cool Pintrest collection of DIY kids Christmas ornament ideas!
Obviously, these are just a few of the things you’re bringing into your home during the holiday season, but start with these three, and you’ll feel better about creating a safe, cozy, and healthy environment to celebrate in!