Lead in Christmas Lights

December 4, 2008 | 6 Comments

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Last year CNN released a report on the toxic dangers of Christmas Lights, and what they have found is that analysis of four common brands of lights have levels of lead that experts say are high enough to be dangerous to children.  Yes, DANGEROUS to children.

The lab ran a standard procedure “wipe test” to see how much lead from the coated PVC cords would wipe off onto someone’s hands. (We think this test is  great information for a parents because our babies and toddlers are constantly putting their hands in their mouths).

The levels were of big concern, far exceeding the allowed amount for children.  A child’s recommended limit is 15 micrograms, and the test results ranged from 3.2 to 132.7!

The dangers really occur once you have touched these lights and eat something without washing your hands.  Again, our babies are constantly touching and putting their hands into their mouths, so these high levels are alarming for the health of our kids.

Dangers of Lead Exposure for our Babies

The following quotes were taken directly from CNN’s report. (Dr. Transande is a specialist in children’s environmental health at New York’s Mount Sinai School of Medicine).

“There is no level at which lead exposure is safe,” Dr. Trasande said. “Even at one microgram/deciliter — the lowest level in a person’s blood stream that we can detect — that level has been associated with cognitive impairment in children.”

“I wouldn’t needlessly expose [children] to a lead-based hazard that could have significant lifelong consequences for that child’s cognitive capacity or their attention or other health problems,” Trasande said. He recommended leaving lights off trees entirely.

Safe Alternatives to Toxic Christmas Tree Lights

The feeling of Christmas probably just wouldn’t be the same with out all the decorative lights. I mean they are everywhere, inside and out.

Here at our place we haven’t really decorated for the holidays.  We will be traveling, so we haven’t really desired to put up the lights, the tinsels, or the wreaths this year. But that doesn’t mean that we will still not be around all of the festive decorations, Granny will have it all decked out.

So whether your place is decked out or not, it is almost certain that at this time of year there will be the potential for some type of exposure to Christmas lights.

We like to spread the Holiday Cheer and not go all bah-humbug on you, so here are some safe alternatives to maybe still keeping those Christmas Lights out this year:

  • Wear gloves, and only let adults handle.
  • Keep all lights at a high enough level that curious toddlers can not reach.
  • Wash hands after touching any Christmas lighting.
  • Be extra careful when you are out at relatives/friends houses. They may have lots of interesting lights in reach for your curious baby.

Energy Efficient Christmas Lights

And of course, SafBaby suggests choosing a more energy efficient alternative when choosing your lights.  LED Lights saves energy!  Using 80% less electricity, these lights also costs less than a dollar per season to operate.

Available at Amazon: LED Energy Saving Christmas Lights – Outdoor or Indoor

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Category: Holiday Safety

  • Julie

    Hmmmm… Would this be a concern for all types of electrical cords, then? All cords are coated in PVC, aren’t they?

  • safbaby

    Most power cords contain lead, so you ALWAYS WANT TO KEEP THEM AWAY FROM CHILDREN!

    In product manuals for your computer, TV, lamp etc., you may see this warning:
    “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”.
    Keep in mind, California is the only state that requires the warning label!

    If you can’t hide power cords from children, you can wrap cords in cotton cloth.

  • Lynn

    Why are power cords coated in this substance? Isn’t there any alternative?

  • Anonymous

    I think I read somewhere else that lights (and other electrical stuff) that is RoHS compliant (some standard in Europe), there’s no lead? or at least minimal levels? Feel free to correct me if I’m wrong. Just something to look into… although I gather RoHS compliant products aren’t readily available (if at all) in the US because it’s a European thing. Sigh.

  • safbaby

    Lead and PVC is used in power cords because it makes the plastic more flexible so it doesn’t fray or break, so there is no risk of electrocution. I don’t know of a safe alternative at this time but will look into it.

    About RoHS:
    (also see our article http://www.safbaby.com/what-do-all-the-marks-and-symbols-on-toy-packages-mean)

    RoHS compliant electronics still may contain lead but specifies maximum levels to 1000 ppm.

    Hope this answers your questions.

    Best,
    Sandra at Safbaby.com

  • Ove Ofteness

    If I’m not mistaken, lead helps as a fire retardant.
    It’s alarming how so few people are aware of this danger.

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