Health Tip – Dec. 6 – Hazardous Holiday Decorations

Filed under: Dee Dee |

Although holiday decorations can be beautiful they can also present health and safety hazards.

Angel hair is finely spun glass, which can be irritating to the skin, eyes, and the throat if swallowed. Wear gloves to avoid eye and skin irritation while decorating.

Bubble lights contain a small amount of methylene chloride, which is also found in paint removers. Nibbling on an intact light or one “opened” light may cause mild skin or mouth irritation only.

Candles consist of wax and synthetic materials, which are non-toxic. Small amounts of non-poisonous colors and scents are added, however, small chunks pose a choking hazard to small children. Never use lighted candles on a tree or near other plants or trees. Always use non-flammable holders, and place candles where they will not fall.

Ornaments can be made of glass, thin metal, styrofoam, or wood. If a child swallows a piece of an ornament, it could cause choking and/or blockage in the intestines. Antique or foreign-made ornaments may be decorated with lead-based paint, however lead toxicity is unlikely from small, one-time occurrence.

Commercial Christmas tree preservatives usually contain a concentrated sugar solution and are considered non-toxic. Homemade solutions containing aspirin or bleach can be potentially harmful if a large amount is swallowed.

Fireplace color crystals are attractive to children and can look like candy. They contain powders of heavy metal salts such as copper, selenium, arsenic and antimony. If swallowed, they can be very irritating to the mouth and stomach. They can also cause burns in the mouth and throat. If large amounts are swallowed, it may result in heavy metal poisoning.

Icicles and tinsel may cause choking or obstruction, especially in cats or small dogs. Old tinsel may contain lead and tin, they may be toxic with repeated ingestion.

Snow scenes are plastic globes filled with water or glycerin. When shaken, snow appears to fall upon a Christmas scene. The “snow” is calcium carbonate, which is non-toxic. Sometimes the water may be contaminated with bacteria and food poisoning may result. The symptoms of food poisoning include vomiting, diarrhea, and stomach cramps.

Many snow sprays contain acetone or methylene chloride. This solvent can be harmful when inhaled. Briefly inhaling the spray in a small, poorly ventilated room may result in nausea, lightheadedness and headache. Longer or more concentrated exposures can be more serious. Carefully follow container directions. Be sure to have the room well ventilated when you spray. Once dry, the snow particles are non-toxic.

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