Does your family break out holiday lights and decorations after the turkey and pumpkin pie have been gobbled up? Many people begin putting up their holiday lights and decorations starting Thanksgiving Day through December. Putting up holiday lights is a tradition for many people and it can create a festive atmosphere. We encourage you to understand the health and safety risks of decorating your home with holiday lights before hanging them in and outside your home.
1. Is there lead hiding in your lights? Believe it or not, most holiday lights in the United States contain lead. One study found that four ordinary brands of holiday lights have high enough lead levels to harm children. Lead is found in PVC (polyvinyl chloride), which is used to insulate the holiday lights to prevent water exposure. Over time, the PVC breaks down from sunlight exposure and heat, releasing lead as a form of dust. If you choose to hang holiday lights, hang them at a high enough level so children will not be tempted to play with them. Wear gloves when you put up the lights and wash your hands after you’re done decorating. If you hang holiday lights inside, damp dust frequently to reduce lead exposure in your home.
2. Replace damaged bulbs and outdated lights. If you have any damaged bulbs on your holiday lights, replace them if possible. Broken bulbs can be a safety hazard for children and pets. You will also save energy by replacing damaged bulbs. Unplug your lights before you replace damaged bulbs. If your lights are beyond repair, purchase LED holiday lights. They are made with epoxy lenses which are much more durable than glass bulbs and are the more energy efficient option.
3. Hang lights carefully and conscientiously. Avoid piercing holiday lights with nails or staples because that damages the cords and can create a potential hazard. Try wrapping holiday lights around hooks or nails, or purchase plastic clips to hang the lights up. Avoid wrapping lights around hot electric sources such as home theaters, stereos and water heaters. Keep holiday lights away from heat vents and electric heaters. The additional heat may damage and even melt your holiday lights. Keep indoor holiday lights away from drapes, furniture or carpeting. Place cords in low-traffic areas where they won’t be a tripping hazard or be worn out due to being stepped on.
4. Use extension cord(s) safely. Do not overload an extension cord. Find out the wattage rating of your extension cord and holiday lights before plugging the two together.
5. Hang only weather resistant lights outside. If you are hanging holiday lights outside, make sure they are rated for outdoor use or are marked waterproof. Do not use indoor holiday lights outside, that can be an easy way to blow fuses or start a fire.
6. Use ladders safely. If you plan on using a ladder to hang your holiday lights outside, there are several ladder safety measures you can take. Pay attention to the weather forecast; pick a dry day with calm winds. Choose a ladder size that is appropriate for the job and inspect it before using it. While you are up on your ladder, make careful moves as sudden movements may cause you to lose balance, and have a second person available to spot you.
7. Turn off your lights. Before you go to bed or leave your house, turn off your holiday lights. You will save electricity by turning your lights off and reduce the risk of a fire.