Update December 2018: While this study is from 2007, we do not know if changes have been made to Christmas lights to address these unsettling levels of lead. Subsequent studies by HealthyStuff.org in 2010 and 2014 on not only Christmas lights but a wide range of Christmas decorations, show that toxic heavy metals are still being detected and at very high levels.)

By Safe Baby Healthy Child Founders Sandra Blum and Samantha Fox Olson

Last year CNN released a report on the toxic dangers of Christmas Lights and what they have found is that analysis of four common brands of lights have levels of lead that experts say are high enough to be dangerous to children. Yes, DANGEROUS to children.

The lab ran a standard procedure “wipe test” to see how much lead from the coated PVC cords would wipe off onto someone’s hands. (We think this test is  great information for a parents because our babies and toddlers are constantly putting their hands in their mouths).

The levels were of big concern, far exceeding the allowed amount for children. A child’s recommended limit is 15 micrograms, and the test results ranged from 3.2 to 132.7!

The dangers really occur once you have touched these lights and eat something without washing your hands. Again, our babies are constantly touching and putting their hands into their mouths, so these high levels are alarming for the health of our kids.

Dangers of Lead Exposure for our Children 

The following quotes were taken directly from CNN’s report. (Dr. Transande is a specialist in children’s environmental health at New York’s Mount Sinai School of Medicine).

“There is no level at which lead exposure is safe,” Dr. Trasande said. “Even at one microgram/deciliter — the lowest level in a person’s blood stream that we can detect — that level has been associated with cognitive impairment in children.”

“I wouldn’t needlessly expose [children] to a lead-based hazard that could have significant lifelong consequences for that child’s cognitive capacity or their attention or other health problems,” Trasande said. He recommended leaving lights off trees entirely.

Safe Alternatives to Toxic Christmas Tree Lights

The feeling of Christmas probably just wouldn’t be the same with out all the decorative lights. I mean they are everywhere, inside and out.

Here at our place we haven’t really decorated for the holidays. We will be traveling, so we haven’t really desired to put up the lights, the tinsels, or the wreaths this year. But that doesn’t mean that we will still not be around all of the festive decorations, Granny will have it all decked out.

So whether your place is decked out or not, it is almost certain that at this time of year there will be the potential for some type of exposure to Christmas lights.

We like to spread the Holiday Cheer and not go all bah-humbug on you, so here are some safe alternatives to maybe still keeping those Christmas Lights out this year:

  • Wear gloves, and only let adults handle.
  • Keep all lights at a high enough level that curious toddlers can not reach.
  • Wash hands after touching any Christmas lighting.
  • Be extra careful when you are out at relatives/friends houses. They may have lots of interesting lights in reach for your curious baby.

Update: We found RoHS compliant holiday lights in the US! See our post Are You Looking for Lead-Free Christmas Lights?