Holiday Decoration Safety Smarts
The dazzle and glitz of holiday decor may tempt new parents celebrating with little ones, but beware: Some traditional trimmings aren't smart for families, says the Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC). Use these tips to decorate safely.
From their hassle-free setup and cleanup to their one-time low investment cost, there are
lots of reasons why families choose fake trees. When buying one, choose a tree that’s labeled fire resistant. According to the CPSC, although fire resistant doesn’t mean the tree won’t catch fire, it does indicate the tree is more resistant to burning. (You’ll still want to position trees far away from radiators or fireplaces, though. And look for fire-resistant trees that don’t contain PBDEs, fire retardants that have recently been reported as neurotoxins—definitely not something you want Baby putting in her mouth.)
Choosing Live Christmas Trees
Has your family opted for the real thing? If you’re not planning on cutting down your own tree to decorate, use these tips for choosing a fresh tree—which will stay green longer and be less of a fire hazard than a dry tree—when you reach the pre-cut lot:
1. A fresh tree is green, with needles that are hard to pull from branches.
2. When bent between your fingers, fresh needles do not break.
3. The trunk butt of a fresh tree is sticky with resin.
4. If you bounce the trunk of a tree on the ground, a shower of falling needles means it’s too dry.
Tree Positioning and Maintenance
For all live trees, cut off about 2 inches of the trunk to expose fresh wood for better water absorption.
Trim away branches as necessary to set the tree trunk in the base of a sturdy, water-holding stand with widely spread feet. Place the tree away from fireplaces, radiators, and other heat sources. Heated rooms dry trees out rapidly, creating fire hazards—check tree stands daily and refill as necessary.
Especially for families with crawlers or toddlers, place the tree out of the way of foot traffic and do not block doorways. Use thin guy-wires to secure a large tree to walls or ceiling. (These wires are almost invisible and won’t interfere with your decorations.)
Light It Up—Safely
Indoors or outside, use only lights that have been tested for safety, according to the CPSC. Identify these by the label from an independent testing laboratory such as UL (Underwriters Laboratories) or ETL (Intertek Testing Services).
1. Check each set of lights, new or old, for broken or cracked sockets, frayed or bare wires, or loose connections. Discard damaged sets or repair them before using.
2. Fasten outdoor lights securely to trees, house, walls, or other firm support to protect from wind damage.
3. Use no more than three standard-size sets of lights per single extension cord.
4. Turn off all lights on trees and other decorations when you go to bed or leave the house. Lights could short and start a fire.
More Lighting Smarts
Never use electric lights on a metallic tree. The tree can become charged with electricity from faulty lights, and any person touching a branch could be electrocuted. To avoid this danger, consider using colored spotlights above or beside a tree.
Keep “bubbling” lights away from children. These lights’ bright colors and bubbling movement can tempt curious children who may break the candle-shaped glass (which can cut) and attempt to drink the liquid inside (which contains a hazardous chemical).
Garland and Tinsel Precautions
Here’s another reason to create new family traditions, even when it comes to decorating: Vintage tinsel and garland may contain lead—the stuff of today’s toy recalls. Buy sparkly new trimmings, instead, and read more about the dangers of childhood lead poisoning.
Decoration Dos and Don'ts
Because Christmas decorations are typically made of glass, delicate metals, tiny moveable (read: breakable) parts, spun glass “angel hair,” etc., keep trimmings away from babies or toddlers or hold off putting them on the tree until Baby is older. Even if you place ornaments up high on the tree, if a child grabbed a branch and the ornament shattered, he could cut himself or swallow or inhale small pieces.
Be Choosy about Ornaments
If you’ve just got to display Baby’s first Christmas ornaments, consider hanging them on a wreath or pine boughs, out of her reach. Also, bad news for the Christmas Pickle: It’s an especially good idea to avoid trimmings that resemble candy or food that may tempt a child to eat them.
Candles on Trees? No Way!
No surprise here: Candles + trees (+ babies) = disaster. Opt for safer ornaments, and skip the candles!
Of course, candles aren’t just a Christmas accessory; Hanukkah and Kwanzaa depend on the lighting of candles, as well. Keep all lighters, matches, and open flames within sight and away from young children. Also remember: Besides holiday greenery, keep lighted candles away from decorations, curtains, furniture, and flowy shirt sleeves. Do not set them on tablecloths which hang low, where a curious child could pull on the cloth and tip the candles over. Always use non-flammable holders. And extinguish all candles before you go to bed or leave the house.
Can you see what’s wrong with this picture? Not only is there no screen in front of the fireplace, a must for families with children, but also that package is dangerously close to the flames. A single spark can ignite ribbons, crumpled wrapping paper, and other flammable objects, says the CPSC. Move items away, use a metal barrier, and never burn wrapping paper, which can ignite suddenly and cause a flash fire. Also, refrain from using fire salts that produce colored flames when thrown on wood fires. (They contain heavy metals which can cause intense gastrointestinal irritation or vomiting if eaten. Keep this away from children!)
Fake Snow Precautions
Artificial snow sprays can irritate lungs if inhaled, says the CPSC. To avoid injury, read container labels and follow all directions carefully. And this messy, glittery snow here can end up in curious babies’ mouths. Pass on this untill they’re older.
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