The most wonderful time of the year is upon us! Decorations and music and lights – Oh My! If it doesn’t bring an instant air of joy, I don’t know what will! Well, now… my intention with this post is not to put a damper on all of the wonderful things about this time of year, but only to encourage everyone to exercise some caution and be aware of the faults that lurk among the joy! In case you couldn’t tell by the above photo, I’m talking about lead. Yes, lead… lurking in our decorations- in our homes!
Ok, so if you know nothing about lead or why I’m even broaching this topic, here’s a quick crash course for you directly from the EPA:
Lead is a naturally occurring element found in small amounts in the earth’s crust. While it has some beneficial uses, it can be toxic to humans and animals causing of health effects.
Lead can affect almost every organ and system in your body. Children six years old and younger are most susceptible to the effects of lead.
Even low levels of lead in the blood of children can result in:
In rare cases, ingestion of lead can cause seizures, coma and even death.
Lead can accumulate in our bodies over time, where it is stored in bones along with calcium. During pregnancy, lead is released from bones as maternal calcium and is used to help form the bones of the fetus. This is particularly true if a woman does not have enough dietary calcium. Lead can also cross the placental barrier exposing the fetus the lead. This can result in serious effects to the mother and her developing fetus, including:
Lead can also be transmitted through breast milk.
Lead is also harmful to other adults. Adults exposed to lead can suffer from:
Learn About Lead [https://www.epa.gov/lead/learn-about-lead#lead]
“Lead poisoning causes irreversible health effects and there is no cure for lead poisoning.”
(As a side note, please don’t judge me on the horrible grammar of the EPA! I use direct quotes!)
In short, lead is highly toxic and many serious issues come with lead exposure and lead poisoning, especially in children and babies. Let me say that again, ESPECIALLY IN CHILDREN AND BABIES:
“Lead is particularly dangerous to children because their growing bodies absorb more lead than adults do and their brains and nervous systems are more sensitive to the damaging effects of lead. Babies and young children can also be more highly exposed to lead because they often put their hands and other objects that can have lead from dust or soil on them into their mouths. Children may also be exposed to lead by eating and drinking food or water containing lead or from dishes or glasses that contain lead, inhaling lead dust from lead-based paint or lead-contaminated soil or from playing with toys with lead paint.” [Emphasis added.]
Learn About Lead [https://www.epa.gov/lead/learn-about-lead#lead]
In case you’re not quite sure where I’m going with this yet, here are a couple clues.
Two thoughts might come to mind next:
“Lead is used as a stabilizer in PVC. When PVC is exposed to sunlight, it begins to break down and produce lead dust that can be inhaled or passed from fingers to mouth. Chewing on vinyl items can also expose us to lead.
Where Lead Hides [http://hydra.usc.edu/scehsc/pdfs/D-1-3-2%20Where%20Lead%20Hides.pdf]
“A recent California proposition led to awareness that lead is a stabilizer in the Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) jacketing that covers conductors in Christmas lights. The objective of this study is to examine the level of accessible lead in Christmas lights. Following U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA) Lead Inspectors’ procedures, researchers at Cornell University and in Nebraska conducted wipe samples and total lead content samples of newly purchased and older Christmas light sets. Samples were analyzed for lead content. Lead was present in varying amounts on all samples. The amount of lead from the Nebraska samples, normalized to length of strings, was independent of analyzing laboratory, analysis method, age of string, and repeat sampling, both immediately and after extended storage. A later analysis of these same strings by the Cornell team showed diminished quantities. Amounts of surface lead normalized to crude estimates of the area of light string indicated surface concentrations in excess of U.S. EPA clearance level for lead on window sills. Whether exposure to lead in Christmas lights affects blood lead levels in humans is unknown. No standards exist for lead content in this product, and no protocols exist for conducting tests on it. Therefore, consumers may wish to exercise caution to reduce possible exposure.” [Emphasis added.]
^^ “NO STANDARDS EXIST…”
Ok, so it’s true and you run over to your lights and your tree and check all the warning labels but find nothing! Surely the photo above must be fake and fear mongering, right?
“The warning is required by California’s Proposition 65. It requires a warning label on any product containing a substance known to cause cancer or birth defects that’s sold in California. Lead is listed as a carcinogen, but it’s more widely associated with neurological damage.
Wire coating and cords are usually made of PVC plastic, which may contain lead. Lead is used in PVC for several reasons. For wires and cords, lead makes the plastic more flexible and reduces the risk of fire. Lead is also used in many PVC products to stabilize their color. Lead in PVC products can disintegrate into lead-laced dust….
The amount of lead in the lights and other consumer products with warning labels may vary considerably. It’s not clear if enough lead is released to pose a risk to human health. Some tests show that lead could come off on hands. Note that nearly all appliance cords are covered with PVC that contains lead.
The CHEC recommends the following:
Worthy of special note: ARTIFICIAL TREES ARE ALSO MADE OF PVC!
But wait how do I know it’s still there if there is no label? Maybe it’s not?
“‘Just because there is not a label doesn’t mean there isn’t lead in a cord?’
‘Exactly,’ Koeppen agreed. ‘A company can have lead in the cord and not sell it in California, so it’s not going to have a label. If you see the label, you know there’s lead in the cord but, if you don’t see a label, it doesn’t mean there’s no lead. Most of these have lead in the cords.’” [Emphasis added.]
Concern About Lead: It’s Not Just Toys [http://www.cbsnews.com/news/concern-about-lead-its-not-just-toys/]
And after YOU are done decorating, please wash your hands, especially before picking up the baby!
Look, I’m not saying that one exposure is going to cause monumentous amounts of neurological damage or cancer, I’m simply asking and encouraging you to exercise caution, especially with your children near. In a world of so many risks and so many factors, there are plenty of things that are out of our control, but this one is not. We can choose to make better and safer decisions, and we can choose to protect ourselves and our children in small ways every day. Know better, Do better. Honestly, if you wouldn’t let your child play with an electrical cord in general, why would you let them play with Christmas lights? Their lifelong health is worth more than a fleeting photo op.
Please also note that if your light strands or trees (inside or outside) have any sign of deterioration it is time to let them go! These items could not only present larger concerns with regards to lead, but also electrical and fire hazards!
Who is “Research Mama?” I’m a mom who discovered a passion for the blessings of nature. After experiencing the benefit of natural remedies over prescriptions, I became very curious about the claims of the natural community and the verification behind it.
This is my blog to help share the information that I have found that solidifies the claims that you see time and time again. I hope you will receive the information with an open mind and note that I’m sharing it for the sole purpose of validating that it is there. Anyone reading it can make their personal choice to utilize it or not. That’s it!