The Ecology Center, a non-profit organization, recently tested 68 varieties of holiday and Christmas string lights for lead, cadmium, arsenic, and other harmful chemicals and found that 4 out of 5, or 80% of the lights tested, contain lead. 28% of the those light strings that tested positive for lead would have been illegal in Europe as they contained greater than 1,000 ppm (parts per million). In the US, lead levels in holiday string lights are not regulated by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) because they are not considered a children’s toy product. Children’s toy products have a maximum lead safety standard of 300 ppm.
“You cannot sell products with these levels of lead in Europe, but companies continue to dump these types of hazardous products on US consumers,” said Jeff Gearhart, the Ecology Center’s Research Director. “It’s time we had commonsense laws to protect us from toxic chemicals the way virtually every other industrialized country does. We need a major and comprehensive overhaul of our chemicals policies immediately to start phasing out these dangerous substances.”
You can check HealthySite.org to find out the test results of your lights. They list the exact levels of lead, cadmium, arsenic, mercury, chlorine, bromine and tin in each strand of holiday lights tested.
Why should you be concerned? Lead is extremely toxic even in low concentrations. Children’s brains and nervous systems are more sensitive to the damaging effects of lead, and their bodies absorb more lead than an adult’s. Since babies and young children constantly put their hands and other objects into their mouths, they are even more vulnerable to the damaging effects of lead. And, as we have mentioned in prior articles, lead accumulates in the body over time and takes a long time to exit the human body.
Below are some tips to protect yourself and your little ones this holiday season:
1) Wear gloves while handling the holiday string lights and/or the electrical cords.
2) Wash hands immediately after handling the lights and cords.
3) Keep lights out of the reach of small children and your pets. This includes keeping a close eye on little hands while visiting other peoples’ homes.
4) Look for lights that are RoHS compliant. RoHS (Restriction of Hazardous Substances) is law in the European Union and restricts the use of lead, mercury, cadmium, chromium, polybrominated biphenyls (PBB) and polybrominated dephenyl ethers (PBDE).
5) 2 companies that claim to carry RoHS compliant lights are IKEA and EnvironmentalLights.com.
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