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Your Guide to Low-Toxin Christmas Trees


Christmas isn’t considered Christmas without a Christmas tree for many! Then there's the question: should you opt for an artificial Christmas tree or a real one? But have you ever thought about the toxins that might be contained in each option? While artificial trees are easy and convenient, they often contain toxic materials like PVC and flame retardants. On the other hand, real trees come with their own set of concerns, including pesticides, mold, and allergens. In this guide, we'll explore the risks associated with both options, how to manage those risks, and provide you with alternatives for a low-toxin and eco-friendly Christmas tree.


The Risks of Artificial Christmas Trees


Here are some common toxins found in many artificial Christmas trees:

  • Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC): Most artificial Christmas trees are made from PVC, one of the most toxic types of plastic. PVC contains chlorine, which can produce dioxins and furans, known to cause various health problems.

  • Flame Retardants: Artificial trees typically contain flame retardants. These chemicals have been linked to endocrine disruption, thyroid dysfunction, cancer, lower IQ, and other health issues.

  • Lead: Lead is often used as a stabiliser in PVC products, so artificial trees may contain lead, which is particularly harmful, especially for children.

  • Let's face it, plastic is undeniably harmful to the environment.


How to Reduce Toxin Exposure with Artificial Christmas Trees


If you choose an artificial tree, here are some steps you can take to minimise your toxin exposure:

  • Wash your hands: After handling and decorating the tree, wash your hands to minimise toxin absorption.

  • Keep your home clean: Regularly dust and vacuum your home to reduce exposure to toxins that settle in dust.

  • Use an air purifier: Indoor air pollution can be worse than outdoor pollution. An air purifier with a HEPA filter can help.


Are Real Christmas Trees Safe?


Real Christmas trees have their own set of concerns, including pesticides, mold, and allergens like pollen:

  • Pesticides & Herbicides: The pine trees are often sprayed with pesticides and herbicides, potentially bringing these chemicals into your home. Sprays used in NZ for pine are associated with skin and eye irritation and even liver damage.

  • Mold: Real trees can harbour mold, which may be problematic for individuals with mold sensitivity.

  • Other Allergens: Real trees can also bring allergens like pollen and sap into your home, triggering allergies in some individuals.


How to Reduce Toxin Exposure With a Real Christmas Tree


If you choose a real tree, here are some steps to take to minimise your toxin exposure:

  • Ideally, you would go organic or spray-free. A great way to find out is to contact your local Christmas tree seller and ask which sprays they use.

  • Spray off your tree: If you are unsure if your tree is spray free, spray it down with water before bringing it inside to reduce pesticide residue.

  • Keep your home clean and use an air purifier: Regular cleaning and the use of an air purifier can reduce exposure to toxins and allergens.

  • Go for a Potted Tree: Consider trees that can be potted or balled and then planted in your garden after the holiday season.


Unconventional Alternatives for Non-Toxic

  • Handcrafted Wooden Trees: Handcrafted wooden trees made from untreated wood are eco-friendly and reusable – The Waste Free Home does a great option - https://thewastefreehome.co.nz/products/wooden-christmas-tree-made-to-order

  • Potted Plants: Use houseplants like fiddle leaf, ficus, or citrus trees as your holiday tree.

  • Outside Trees: Decorate a tree outside your home and enjoy the view from indoors.


A completely traditional, low tox Christmas tree option, unfortunately, isn't easy to find. However, if you cannot part with the tradition of tree, you can take steps to minimise your exposure to any harmful substances. If you are able to part with the tradition, then there are some out of the box alternatives like a wooden tree or decorating a tree outside in the garden! Or be like us and opt not having a tree and create a new family tradition!


References:

https://www.osha.gov/lead/health-effects#:~:text=Epidemiological%20and%20experimental%20studies%20indicate%20that%20chronic%20exposure,and%20subtle%20cognitive%20effects%20attributed%20to%20prenatal%20exposure.

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