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No matter how you celebrate the season one thing is for sure: These are the days of surprises. They might come under a tree or a menorah. They may appear on a table or at the door, but they'll be there. Some surprises, however, no one wants to see, namely those uninvited holiday hazards that pop up between here and the new year.
Though the holiday season is a joyful moment in time, it's traditional trappings can sometimes leave large lumps of metaphorical coal not just in our stockings but all around our homes. When it comes to being naughty not nice, the Grinch has nothing on unwanted holiday party crashers like these:
A menu of hormone disruption. When we eat canned foods, that's often what we put in our holiday tables thanks to can linings containing bisphenol-a, a toxic chemical that can escape into canned foods. Skip the canned pumpkin and cranberry sauce and make your own from scratch.
The gift of phthalates. These chemicals are used to make vinyl soft and flexible. Unfortunately, they tend to make vital cellular processes all squishy, too. It's a good reason not to give toys or other items made of vinyl.
Lead under your tree. Believe it or not, toys still contain lead. The U.S. Public Interest Research Groups 2013 Trouble in Toyland report finds this neurotoxin in all kinds of toys, notably imports from countries with lax laws. Be wary of metal or soft plastic toys, painted toys, and play jewelry.
Lead on your tree. Unless you're using candles (which nobody thinks is a good idea), your Christmas tree is likely wrapped in lead, which is used to keep tree light cords flexible. Cords won't give off fumes or leave lead behind. You just need to avoid touching them. So wear disposable gloves when you do and keep the kids away.
Global warming. Yes, it's cold outside, but we don't need to heat the climate so swap your conventional lights for LED lights. You'll save up to 90% of the electricity (and greenhouse gases!) used to light the night. And you'll never need buy another strand.
Indoor air pollution. If you use an artificial tree, it's likely made of polyvinyl chloride, which can contain lead and release toxic fumes, especially when warmed by lights. That's not the kind of holiday atmosphere you're looking for, so consider a natural tree instead.
Pesticides. But make it an organic natural tree because conventional Christmas trees are typically be treated with any number of pesticides - at least 25 different types are approved for use on tree farms, and many of them are extremely toxic.
Benzene and toluene. These aren't the names of missing reindeer, but rather two of the toxic petrochemicals emitted by paraffin-based candles, which add more than a warm glow to holiday gatherings. Choose soy or beeswax candles instead.
Greens you shouldn't eat. String bean casserole is fine, but watch those holiday plants. Seasonal greenery like holly plants and berries, mistletoe, and yew are toxic to various degrees, especially to kids and pets. Keep them (and the ER!) out of reach.
Preventing unhealthy holiday surprises like these will keep your ho-ho-ho from turning into oh no-no-no. And that, dear friends, is exactly what we wish for you and yours this season!
About the Inkslinger
The Inkslinger has written about environmental issues for over 20 years and is a freelance writer for some of America's most iconoclastic companies and non-profits. His true loves include nature, music of the Americana/rock and roll variety, interior design, books, old things, good stories, pagan rituals, and his wife of 24 years, with whom he lives in an undisclosed chemical-free rural Vermont location along with his teenage daughter and two infinitely hilarious Australian shepherds.