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Non-Toxic Christmas Tree Guide: How to Decide (2023)

Non-Toxic Christmas Tree Guide: How to Decide (2023)

The classic Christmas debate: should you get a real Christmas tree or a fake Christmas tree? When I was growing up my parents always bought a real tree so I have fond memories of the smell and feel of a real tree.

Once I had kids I tried a real tree for a couple of years but with a wild toddler and a freak bug incident (more on that later) we switched to a fake tree because it just seemed easier.

Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only. This is not medical advice. I am not a doctor. All opinions are my own.

However, once I started getting into the natural lifestyle I realized fake Christmas trees are made of plastic and therefore come with a slew of toxic chemicals. What a bummer! I started to realize it might not be the best option after all.

If you’ve read any of my other blog posts about toxins in things such as sports bras, shaving cream, or tampons you know I always say when you find out something is toxic you can’t freak out! You have to be able to weigh your options and make the best choice for your family.

Non-Toxic Christmas Tree Guide: How to Decide

I do wish however that this information was more mainstream. The holiday season is enjoyed by so many children and artificial trees are actually on the list of potential hazards to children’s health! I find this to be quite concerning considering children are the ones that normally gather around Christmas trees to play and open presents.

Fountunalty there are many safer options for Christmas trees that are made without harmful chemicals, real Christmas trees, and other unique Christmas tree ideas (I tried one this year and we love it!)

Let’s get into it!

Are Artificial Christmas Trees Toxic?

Unfortunately, most artificial Christmas trees contain toxic chemicals because they are made of plastic. Fake trees can contain all kinds of chemicals and heavy metals due to being made of plastic therefore they are not the best option, especially for homes with kids or pets.

If you are trying to limit chemical exposure in your home getting a fake tree is not your best bet. Before we go over the best options, here are some of the chemicals commonly found in fake Christmas trees.

Non-Toxic Christmas Tree Guide: Fake Christmas Tree

Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC)

PVC is a plastic that gives the pine needles of the tree a softer touch and gives the tree a reduced chance of catching on fire. However, it is a double-edged sword because although it seems to have pros it also has cons.

PVC contains phthalates which are known endocrine disruptors. This means having a PVC tree in your home poses health concerns.

Heavy Metals

A study from North Carolina State University in 2002 actually concluded that three out of four artificial tree tests contained lead. This lead can be spread in dust particles and put into the air in your home.

This is particularly concerning for small children as it can lead to lead poisoning. Lead poisoning can cause irreversible nervous system and brain damage in children.

Since many people in the USA use PVC artificial trees, this issue could affect about 50 million households! The reason not many people are aware of the potential lead in critical Christmas trees is that it is only required that Christmas trees be labeled for potential lead in the state of California.

Flame Retardants

Chemical flame retardants are another toxin found on most artificial trees. The idea behind them is that they would help in case of a household fire but recent research shows they actually can do more harm than good!

The reason they are harmful is that flame retardant chemicals have been linked with a variety of unpleasant human health effects such as:

  • fertility issues and birth defects
  • endocrine disruption
  • neurodevelopment impairment
  • thyroid dysfunction
  • altered sexual development
  • cancer
  • hyperactivity
  • lower IQ

With this wide range of health effects, you would think they would ban flame retardants on household items. Some banning has been done on certain upholstered furniture and children’s products but they are still allowed on Christmas trees.

The reason you don’t want flame retardants in your house is that they can “off-gas” which means the molecules from the plastic are in the air and end up in dust. You will eventually breathe those in. Once they are in your body they stay there and can start to cause adverse health effects.

Unfortunately, they are not easily detoxed from the body so being exposed all the time can make the health effects worse. In my opinion, if you’re going to do a fake plastic tree it’s better to keep it outside to the off-gassing isn’t happening inside your home and negatively affecting the indoor air quality!

What Kind of Christmas Tree to Get Instead

If you are concerned about fake holiday trees that are made of PVC plastic you can opt for an artificial tree made of safer plastics. You can find some natural Christmas trees that will have fewer chemicals.

Look for a fake tree that is made with mostly PE plastic instead of PVC. Unfortunately, many trees you find may still have flame retardants so it’s important to ask questions and make a decision that is best for your family.

Tabletop PE Christmas Tree

This tabletop Christmas tree is made of 100% PE plastic and is a better option than a PVC tree!

Non-Toxic Christmas Tree Guide: How to Decide (2023)|Just Jes Lyn

National Tree Company Pre-Lit ‘Feel Real’ Christmas Tree

This pre-lit Christmas tree is also made of PE plastic instead of PVC plastic which makes it a better choice.

Non-Toxic Christmas Tree Guide: How to Decide (2023)|Just Jes Lyn

What’s the Deal with Real Trees?

With all the debate about artificial trees, it seems easier to just get a live tree. Real trees are certainly a better option but they don’t come without a few pitfalls of their own.

Unless you buy organic Christmas trees most conventional real trees are going to be sprayed with pesticides and herbicides and could also contain mold or other allergens.

Non-Toxic Christmas Tree Guide: Real Christmas Tree

Mold

Bringing a real tree into your home will always run the risk of mold coming along with it. Most of the time mold won’t bother people but some people with mold-sensitive issues could have problems with this. Be aware of everyone’s health in your home before you bring home a real tree.

Pesticides and Herbicides

Real trees are most times treated with pesticides ad herbicides so you will be bringing these things into your home. Unfortunately, they have been linked to many health issues such as Parkinson’s, infertility, cancer, and ADHD. 

If you want to avoid these chemicals you could search for an organic Christmas tree farm near you or you could go out into the woods and find one that hasn’t been treated if you know the owner of the land!

Allergens

Real trees can also have pollen and sap on them that can cause allergic reactions in some people. If you struggle with these allergies a real tree may not work for you.

Bugs

This may be an isolated experience but one year we bought a real tree, brought it home, and it was infested with mosquitos! We live in Florida so that could have something to do with it but no matter what I tried I could not get rid of them.

It was just a swarm of them living in the tree and we eventually had to throw it out! So remember when bringing something from nature inside your home that there is always a chance of bugs.

How to Protect Your Home

If you do decide to set up a synthetic plastic Christmas tree the best way to stay safe is to follow these safety guidelines to keep you and your family safe from harmful chemicals

  • Wear gloves when touching your Christmas tee, putting it up and down, and decorating it
  • Do not let your kids touch the tree since young children are the most at risk for harm from the chemicals
  • Do not handle the tree if you are pregnant
  • Buy a fake tree made in the United States so it has less chance of containing lead
  • Use an air purifier with a HEPA filter when you have your tree set up to clean the air of the off-gassing from the tree

Unique Christmas Tree Ideas

If you don’t want to put up a fake tree or a real Christmas tree you still have plenty of options to decorate for Christmas. These unique non-tree ideas will be a conversational piece for the entire holiday season!

Book Christmas Tree

I made a book tree this year and it was the best idea ever! I stacked all the books and used fairy Christmas lights and I love it!

book Christmas tree

Wood Christmas Tree

A wood Christmas tree will add a rustic flair to your living room!

Non-Toxic Christmas Tree Guide: How to Decide (2023)|Just Jes Lyn

Rosemary Christmas Tree

A rosemary tree is a small but gorgeous and wonderful-smelling Christmas tree idea!

Non-Toxic Christmas Tree Guide: How to Decide (2023)|Just Jes Lyn

Felt Christmas Tree

A felt Christmas tree is easy to put up and take down. It’s a good option for toddlers because they can’t knock it over and they can play with it!

Non-Toxic Christmas Tree Guide: How to Decide (2023)|Just Jes Lyn

Wrapping Up Non-Toxic Christmas Trees

This Christmas season whether you decide to get a live Christmas tree, a non-toxic fake one, or go the nontraditional route the most important part is that you and your family feel safe and have a fun Christmas.

Sometimes stressing about toxins can actually be worse than the toxins themselves so it’s a good idea to weigh your options but ultimately doing with brings you the most joy and allows you to be without stress!

Merry Christmas!!

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