By Safe Baby Healthy Child founders Sandra Blum and Samantha Fox Olson
It is quite frustrating to find RoHS compliant Christmas lights in the United States.
The RoHS (Restriction of Hazardous Substances) symbol indicates that the product restricts certain dangerous substances commonly used in electronics and electronic equipment. The RoHS is a European Union directive that states electronic equipment cannot contain more than a certain amount of lead, cadmium, mercury, hexavalent chromium, polybrominated biphenyl (PBB) and polybrominated diphenyl ether (PBDE) flame retardants. See here for more information.
Although RoHS compliant electronics still may contain a very small amounts of lead, the maximum levels can not be more than 1000 ppm. Lead and PVC is used to insulate the wiring because it makes the plastic more flexible, not prone to fray or break, to avoid risk of electrocution. However, excessive levels of lead were found on the surface of Christmas light wiring. (See our post Lead in Christmas Lights for details on how all four popular brands of Christmas lights tested were found to have shockingly excessive levels.)
This year, Tamara Rubin of #LeadSafeMama, tested holiday lights from Target and Walmart that were labeled lead-free but not RoHS compliant. She found extraordinarily high levels of antimony on different parts of the lights. This is one set of results from the plastic base of the lights. See others here.
- Arsenic (As): 60 +/- 24 ppm
- Chromium (Cr): 198 +/- 124 ppm
- Antimony (Sb): 36,700 +/- 1,500 ppm
- Bromine (Br): 97,900 +/- 4,000 ppm
- Zinc (Zn): 110 +/- 27 ppm
- Vanadium (V): 827 +/- 316 ppm
- Titanium (Ti): 2,012 +/- 594 ppm
While it is easy to find RoHS compliant Christmas lights in Europe, it is almost impossible to find them clearly labeled in the US. I have contacted a few manufacturers and sellers in the US but the ones who got back to me don’t know what RoHS is and the others did not reply.
Most cords in the US may contain high amounts of lead, so you ALWAYS WANT TO KEEP THEM AWAY FROM CHILDREN! If you live in California, you will see that product manuals for your computer, TV, lamp etc. have the following warning: “Handling the power cord on this product will expose you to lead, a chemical known to the State of California to cause birth defects or other reproductive harm. WASH HANDS AFTER HANDLING.”
Here are some guidelines on how to properly handle Christmas lights and cords:
- Wear gloves and only let adults handle.
- Keep all lights at a high enough level that curious toddlers cannot 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.
- If you can’t hide power cords from children, you can wrap cords in cotton cloth.
Who is Selling RoHS-Compliant Christmas Lights?
Swedish Furnishings Store IKEA is! Ikea was my last hope and I am happy to hear they comply with even stricter requirements then EU RoHS.
To my question: “I was wondering if you know if the Christmas lights sold in the US by Ikea are ROHS compliant.”
Ikea’s response was: “Yes, IKEAs chemical requirements on electrical and electronic articles is based on EU RoHS and other countries’ chemical requirements, meaning our articles comply with even stricter requirements then EU RoHS.”
Update: A recent attempt to confirm that IKEA still carries RoHS-compliant Christmas Lights was unsuccessful. They may continue to carry these lights but we can no longer confirm. It’s worth inquiring when visiting the store.
A company called Environmental Lights used to carry RoHS-compliant Christmas Lights. They now refer customers to Reinders. Reinders does carry RoHS-compliant Christmas lights but you may want to check if the particular product you are buying is in fact RoHS-compliant. These lights may or may not be manufactured in China.
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published Nov. 12, 2010 by SafBaby’s Co-Founder, Sandra Blum and has been updated for accuracy.