Are Your Christmas Tree Ornaments Toxic?

nontoxic Christmas tree

Holiday time means watching out for new toxins

A new study from the scientists at has determined that the beads contained in Christmas tree trimming garlands may not bring much joy to the environment. They may well be toxic.

Beaded garlands from big box stores

The scientists studied the beaded garlands from six different major box stores in November – including Walgreens, Lowes, Home Depot, Target, Walmart, and CVS.

After laboratory analysis, they determined that nearly three-quarters (14 of 19) of the garlands had bromine levels well above the safe zone – above 400 parts per million.

They also found that nearly half (8 of the 19) had higher than 2,500 ppm of chlorine. This is similar to that found among PVC plastic and chlorinated flame retardants.

They also found that 12 of the 19 garlands tested had more than 100 ppm of lead, and one garland had over 4,000 parts per million of lead.

Some of the garlands also had high levels of arsenic.

As the data is reviewed, it appears that one of the worst garlands is Lowe’s 8-foot gold holiday garland, with over 480,000 ppm of bromine, 526 ppm of cadmium, 39,593 ppm of chlorine, 4,161 ppm of lead and over 243,000 ppm of antimony.

While hanging on the tree might not seem so bad, many kids will play with the garlands. Worse, some of the same garlands and beads are used for Mardi Gras – where they are worn around the neck for some time.

Read more:  Flame Retardant Chemical BVO Found in Popular Soft Drinks

Sensitive neck skin

The neck is one of the more sensitive areas of the skin, and beneath the skin lie numerous arteries and lymphatic vessels. As the skin is exposed to these toxins, they will be absorbed into the lymph and bloodstream, where they will increase the body’s toxic burden.

Other Christmas tree ornaments have also been shown to have high levels of lead and chlorine byproducts. Do we really need to replace those beautiful cones natural pine trees produce (see picture inset) with toxic ornaments?

Other toxins to look out for are the lead in many Christmas tree lights, and of course look out for plastic toys and other gifts that contain PVC or high lead levels.

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The older polyvinyl chloride artificial trees (if it’s been in the garage for a few years, it probably is) should also be avoided. The newer polyethylene plastic trees may be less toxic, but why not buy a young pine tree in a pot and plant it in the spring?

Have a safe, non-toxic holiday, and be careful not to give any gifts that have that smelly Chinese rubberized plastic.


Jeff Gearhar t and Karla Peña. The Chemical Hazards in Mardi Gras Beads & Holiday Beaded Garlands. Ecology Center, Ann Arbor, December 5, 2013.

Case Adams, PhD

Case Adams has a Ph.D. in Natural Health Sciences, is a California Naturopath and is Board Certified as an Alternative Medicine Practitioner, with clinical experience and diplomas in Aromatherapy, Bach Flower Remedies, Blood Chemistry, Clinical Nutritional Counseling, Homeopathy and Colon Hydrotherapy. He has authored 27 books and numerous articles on print and online magazines. Contact: [email protected]

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