Toxic Christmas? Nope

"Children don't ask Santa for a dose of lead in their stockings," begins this article in USA Today, "but consumer advocates say that lead, a potent neurotoxin, is present in a surprising number of everyday products, including Christmas decorations."

Yikes! So our kids are going to get lead poisoning from the decorations now -- not just from gnawing the toys from China?

The article talks about Christmas lights, artificial trees and candles, suggesting they could cause little things like, oh, brain damage. Which is weird because most Americans celebrate Christmas, and (if you don't count Congress) their brains are still working. So let's tackle the "toxins" one by one:

1. Christmas tree lights: The wires of these lights are insulated by plastic and that plastic contains polyvinyl chloride (PVC), which has some lead in it. The article suggests that "families who aren't able to buy new [hard-to-find, rare, non-PVC] lights should wear gloves when handling their old lights."

Gloves? As if it's not impossible to untangle Christmas lights already?

Gloves might make sense if the plastic is crumbling, and you planned to rub it on your fingers and then furiously suck on them. (Mmm!) But otherwise the danger is nil, says Terri Bowers, a scientist at the environmental consulting firm Gradient, where her specialty is lead. Lead does not enter the body through the skin, so you have to eat it for it to have any effect.

P.S. By the time your wire is crumbling, those lights are dangerous for another reason. Think.

2. Artificial Christmas trees: Fake trees are also rife with PVC, which, once again, poses no threat to kids unless they plan to chomp those spiky needles. "PVC is completely safe. It has been tested for over 50 years and there's no evidence that it is harmful," says Elizabeth Whelan, founder of the American Council on Science and Health, who holds a Doctor of Science from Harvard.

3. Candles: "Lead can also show up in candles, such as those with stiff metal wicks," according to USA Today. "Lighting candles can allow lead to vaporize, so that people breathe it in ... Lead is toxic to a baby's brain at any dose ..." The article suggests that if you MUST buy candles, buy the pure beeswax ones.

Can it be true that candles -- humankind's light source for thousands of years -- mangle the mind?

"People burn candles in their homes every day," says Christie Sayes, a professor of toxicology at Texas A&M University. Candles are just one of the myriad pollutants we're exposed to daily. To suddenly single them out as a danger doesn't make much sense.

For her part, Sayes has an artificial tree at home -- and second graders. Is she, a toxicologist, worried about them getting lead poisoning?

"It didn't even cross my mind."

Does she light candles when her kids are around?

"Yes."

And while she doesn't happen to string up Christmas lights, she says, "if I would, I wouldn't use gloves."

Me neither. Have a safe and non-toxic Christmas!

(Which looks exactly like all your old, non-toxic Christmases, complete with fake tree, lights and candles.)

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Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.