Time to get out that artificial tree? Hold on: it’s probably a giant dust mop cut from compressed polyvinyl chloride (PVC) sheets. And by the way, lead is used as a stabilizer in PVC products, so you may have a particularly “heavy” tree (in more ways than one) when it comes to protecting your children’s health.
In recent years trees made of less-toxic PE (polyethylene) have hit the market, and their needles look more realistic. But once again, you have a very complex product, entirely artificial, with a huge surface area that wears and degrades into dust…all sitting in your living room.
Maybe it’s time to go back to a living tree, or a tree grown on a farm, then cut (skip the flocking).
So…the relatives are coming over and staying for a week or two? Then it might be time to buy a new sofa or easy chair for grandpa. If you live in Minnesota after July 2018 you can rest assured that four toxic flame retardants in upholstered furniture and children’s products will be off the market. That’s over two years away. Meanwhile, unless you’re a chain smoker, these toxins are unnecessary and have a nasty habit of eventually degrading and rising in microscopic dust clouds every time you sit down. Macy’s has promised to ban retardants in their furniture. Many other retailers and manufacturers are bowing to pressure. Ask questions, and demand documentation—no matter what state you live in.
The list of retardant-impregnated products goes on and on: everything from children’s nap mats to mattresses to changing pads, to the furniture you sit on while nursing the baby, to the office furniture you sit on before returning home to the baby…
Pajamas are a favorite holiday present, and it’s a great pleasure to see the kids padding about the house in new flannels and other fuzzy sleepwear. Writer Courtney at Keeper of the Home offers a fine overview of the pajama conundrum. In short, go with natural fibers only. She also explains that the popular misconception about washing retardants out is not acceptable:
Washing out the flame retardants through using soap instead of detergent and running them through multiple cycles in an attempt to remove the chemicals is a bad idea for several reasons…some fabrics are made from fibers in which flame retardants have been chemically bonded…Flame retardants are added to fabrics that are highly combustible, so taking away that protection, as dangerous as it is, poses a fire hazard in the event your child comes across something that could ignite, such as a candle or fireplace…[and finally] if it is possible to completely remove the fire resistant chemicals, your child is still sleeping in a synthetic fabric, often that which was derived from petroleum.”
Obviously, any threat of fire in the home must be taken very seriously, and the holidays should be a time of utmost caution. For example: open flames and children? Never—forget the candles. Although flame retardants were created (and mandated) because of good intentions, you can explore sensible and safe options.
State of the Market: Flame Retardant Chemicals in Furniture and Baby Products, a guide to companies making furniture without flame retardant chemicals, last updated June 1, 2015, via CEH (Center for Environmental Health)
After Activist Pressure, Macy’s Vows to Ensure Furniture Is Free of Toxic Flame Retardants, October 2015, via BloombergBusiness
Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families via saferchemicals.org
- Six Eco-Friendly Alternatives to Toxic Holiday Decorations via Care2
How To Find Non-Toxic Christmas Trees via thesoftlanding.com