As If Taking Down Your Christmas Tree Wasnât Depressing Enough ⦠Now You Can Worry About Lead!

In all the rigmarole of the holiday season, you might not have heard about the consumer safety hazard associated with Christmas lights (or noticed the fine print warnings on their boxes).

Itâs no secret that lead is used in light stringsâ polyvinyl chloride insulation to prevent deterioration and to guard against fire. But what is a new development this year is the revelation that handling the wiring while you âdeck the hallsâ may result in significant lead exposure.

According to CNN, laboratory tests using the Consumer Product Safety Commissionâs wipe test for lead in polyvinyl chloride revealed that the amount of surface lead on Christmas light strands âfar exceededâ CPSCâs recommended exposure limit for children. Granted, as the manufacturers vehemently exclaim: light strands are not childrenâs toysâthey are not intended to be used by children, who face the greatest health risks from these hazards. After all, little Tommy and Jane should be hanging up their ornamentsânot balancing precariously on a kitchen chair trying to wrap lights around tree branches. Still, the last time I checked, no matter how old you are, there is no âsafeâ exposure level to this highly toxic metal. (For the record, of the four brands testedâWal-Mart, Sylvania, Philips, and GEâ Wal-Mart-brand light strands were the worst, with surface lead levels exceeding 8 times the recommended CPSC-limit for children.)

Whatâs the bottom line? This January, as you face the ever-dreaded task of dismantling your light display, keep the kiddies occupied with their new toys (assuming, of course, that those toys arenât also tainted with lead). As for you, manufacturers are recommending that you wear gloves and wash your hands after handling the light strands, and Iâd suggest you heed their advice.


Belke R, Hunter G ( Christmas lights found with potentially unsafe levels of lead. December 10, 2007.

More like this

By Liz Borkowski  Reports of toys and other products containing dangerous levels of lead continue to pour in, with Curious George dolls and lipstick being the latest items to come under scrutiny. Companies and health officials have to decide what to do about products currently on the market, and…
Once again, toys are turning up with high lead levels â and, once again, it was an advocacy group, rather than the Consumer Product Safety Commission, that did the tests and broke the news. The nonprofit Ecology Center, working with other groups across the country, bought and tested 1,268…
As the recent problems with tainted food, drugs, toys, and other consumer products have made clear, our regulatory system has a lot of holes in it. Part of the problem is the current reluctance of agency appointees to do anything that might burden the industries in question, but thatâs not the…
Here are two separate but related stories. One is about lunch boxes (h/t Melanie of Just a Bump in the Beltway fame). One is about cronyism and sucking up to business in the Bush Administration. First lunch boxes: Story #1, lunchboxes: In 2005, when government scientists tested 60 soft, vinyl…

Hmm, I wonder if this news explains the tree I saw this morning on my way to work: laying at the curb, waiting to be sent to a landfill, *still wrapped in Christmas lights.* Thanks for posting this, Christina.

If you link that in with the fact that many christmas lights arent properly tested for electrical faults either, you get a whole bundle of hazard for your Christmas celebration.

Cheers David.