By Jennifer Johnson, Education & Outreach Specialist
Disclaimer: I am a very protective mother. I am the foodie who only serves fruits, vegetables and whole grain crackers for snacks. The amount of environmental health information that I read on a daily basis has led me down an organic, toxic-free path for myself AND my family. You may want to bear these things in mind when I tell you that Christmas decorations make me nervous.
From what I read and stories that I hear, lead is the biggest concern for small bodies in Christmas décor. Artificial trees tend to be extremely high in lead. Christmas lights tend to be fairly high in lead. Red napkins (yes, really) tend to be high in lead from the red dye used to make them so cheery. The best way to deal with these concerns is to avoid them! If the decorations that have been carefully hid away in your attic or grandma’s attic for much of the year are must-do holiday traditions, make sure that hands are washed very well with soap and water after touching any of these possible lead sources. Make sure that kids are not handling artificial trees and lights, and no one should dab at their dribbling chins with red napkins.
Another way to protect small bodies from lead is to damp dust regularly. Lead (and lots of other really scary things) hangs out in the dust in our homes. Children tend to play on the floor more than adults and their toys and fingers seem to always be in or near their mouths. We want to make sure that those little hands and what they touch are as clean as possible.
Children are more susceptible to the harmful effects of lead because their bodies are still developing. Lead builds up in bodies; this is why there is no safe dose of lead. Thankfully, lead has been taken out of gasoline, paint, and we are still trying to get it out of children’s toys once and for all. Lead affects the way that bodies and brains work and regular exposure to it, even if it’s only seasonally, is not good for kids, or anyone else.
For more safe holiday ideas visit our website on Holiday Recycling Tips.