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Did you know that when you bring home a Christmas tree you get more than just needles ?

It’s that time of year again and many of us will be purchasing trees and wreaths for the holidays. There are of course real and artificial options for our trees and wreaths. Let’s discuss what to expect and how to keep your home safe. Want to be as non-toxic as possible and have a great holiday…keep reading as you can make great choices.

Bugs, Mold, Pesticides, Herbicides, Terpenes, Sap, Flame retardants and Pollens:

When you shop for a tree remember that you’re also bringing home potential bugs, mold, new odors and pollens. And you thought it was just a cute natural tree, read on.

When you purchase a tree did you harvest it live or was it shipped from elsewhere ? If it was shipped from somewhere it was wrapped and during shipment would have been exposed to both moisture and heat. As a Pure Living reader, you know that this will encourage both bacterial and fungal growth coupled with a place for more bugs to breed. There should be less of this concern if the tree was local and did not travel or was stored for a period of time.

Generally, the molds, pollens or tree scent (terpenes) will not cause allergy or health issues for most of us, with exceptions. It’s important to be aware of those who may be more sensitive, including your pets. While we consider these issues do you or others in the household have asthma or other reactions including allergic reactions to pollens ?

Have you ever noted a change in your household members with the holiday season ? Some reactions to have you take note, are a runny nose, sneezing, sinus infections, overall fatigue, behavior changes, itching or even hives.

Factoid: Did you know that in medicine there is a disorder called Christmas tree syndrome ?

When purchasing a live tree:

One of the easiest ways to eliminate pests and debris is a good shaking of the tree, prior to placing it in your home. The best is a high-speed shaker on site where you purchased the tree. This approach removes a lot of debris and with a stiff breeze will decrease the pollen count. Not an option, how about outside at the purchase site a vigorous leaf blower exposure or as a last resort spraying the tree with a hose and then shaking as much as possible ?

You did check if it’s from a pesticide/herbicide-free farm ? Remember your going to be living with this item in your home for weeks, so no it’s not a small issue. Yes, organic trees may contain a higher amount of beetles, mites and spiders which are very commonly found on spruce, pine and fir trees however, the trade-off is well worth it.

Artificial trees:

Not surprisingly most artificial trees are manufactured in China and made from PVC, a petroleum-based plastic that’s associated with a number of cancers and to top it off,  lead is used to stabilize the PVC and phthalates make the plastic more flexible. This means endocrine and neurological disruptions. 

Did you know that Christmas trees are exempt from being lead-free, unlike many other consumer products ?

The lead and phthalates problem is that as the tree degrades it results in dust in your air and on surfaces all over the home, exposing everyone. The real issues are your children and pets as both are going to be playing closer to the dust. There are dozens of studies that show the amount of these chemicals are highest in these populations because of their higher respiration rate and location.

Now that I have your attention if you do have an artificial tree wash your hands after touching it and don’t vacuum,  without a HEPA filter unit, under or around the tree, as it will distribute the dust and toxins.

Now for some good news, not all artificial trees are as much of a  toxic load. Some are made from polyethylene or polypropylene however manufacturers can and do mix these plastics with PVC. How to know…. ask and hope your given real information.  There are limited manufacturers who have PVC, fire-retardant-free trees. Ikea has been at the forefront with removal of some of the toxins in their tree products including the PFOAs of forever chemicals.

Tree options:

Have you ever thought of using a wooden tree or a DIY option ? There are cardboard Christmas trees or perhaps a totally different species of potted tree would be a consideration? How about plan B,  thoughts on having your tree live outdoors, in sight and even live outside ?

Take Aways:


Live tree options:

Find an organic tree farm/source

Shake the tree aggressively at the site

and see above to clean….

Remember to check if anyone is reacting to the tree

Recycle your tree

Artificial trees:

Purchase American or European-made products

Avoid  the PVC based items and check and avoid those that are chemically fireproofed

Wash your hands after touching the tree/wreath

Only use a real HEPA filter vacuum or wet dusting

Have a HEPA based air purifier running full time