Around this time of year, it’s inevitable that I see photos of kids happily decked out in Christmas lights. Hey, I know I helped trim the tree when I was young! But there’s a difference between helping put the lights on the tree and deliberately wrapping a kid in Christmas lights. And either way, there may be a hidden danger that has flown under your radar.
Most Christmas lights come bearing California’s Prop 65 warning, which alerts consumers that the products may be carcinogenic and cause birth defects (lead is used in the plastic coating that insulates the wires of Christmas lights). Jeanne Roberts of Greenhome.com writes:
Lighting manufacturers readily admit there is lead in the PVC (polyvinyl chloride) used to insulate holiday lights from contact with water, or to prevent exposed wires which could cause a fire or electrocution … Over time, in the presence of sunlight and heat, the PVC portion of blinds, toys and light strings deteriorates, releasing lead as a form of “dust” indistinguishable from ordinary household dust. [Read more]
In a 2010 USA today article about avoiding a toxic Christmas, three sources of concern are Christmas lights, artificial trees, and candles. The article also discusses ways to minimize exposure. But as was noted by pediatrician Philip Landrigan (Mount Sinai School of Medicine, NY):
…lead-based paint in windows is a far greater source of lead poisoning than individiual [sic] consumer products, especially ones such as Christmas decorations, which are used for only a few weeks a year.
When used normally, your child will likely have minimal exposure to lead. After all, the Christmas lights are meant to be wrapped around the tree, not to be used as a toy. Christmas lights aren’t something that your child should be touching for any extended length of time, and certainly not something to be played with or wrapped around a child’s body.
So it shouldn’t really be a problem. That is, unless you are considering taking it upon yourself to duplicate those “adorable” kid wrapped in Christmas light photos.
And, lead exposure aside, why mess with electricity? We spend so much time teaching our kids not to play with outlets, how it’s unsafe, yada yada yada… but in the pursuit of “the perfect Christmas picture” we fling common sense to the wind? Yes, unfortunately, sometimes life does work that way.
Just like taking portraits on train tracks is a bad idea… it’s a bad idea to risk lead exposure for the sake of a cute photo.
But please ….please… now that you know, please don’t go wrapping your kids in Christmas lights any more.
Some further articles on the topic.