Real or artificial trees; which do you prefer? It has been debated for a long time which is better. My family has been on the side of the artificial tree for a long time due to how easy it makes everything; I mean we haven’t had to buy a tree in about 6 years and ours is already pre-lit, we just have to hang the ornaments! But after finding out what my tree could be doing to my thyroid and overall health, I may be getting a real tree next year!
The debate of a real vs. an artificial tree typically consists of calling attention to the amazing smell and overall beauty of the real tree, while the opposition points out the ease in which an artificial tree is set up (they don’t even have to leave their house if they’ve had one for a while). Those that opt to go buy a real Fir are constantly getting the warnings of a potential fire hazard and are reminded to constantly water the tree, as well as having to clean up the mess it causes. However, the fire hazard that a real tree poses seems to be worth the risk knowing there are harmful chemicals in my artificial tree.
One of the main components in an artificial tree is a synthetic plastic known as polyvinyl chloride (PVC). In relation to the thyroid and overall endocrine system, PVC usually contains a substance known a phthalates. Phthalates, also known as plasticizers, are a group of chemicals used in various plastic products to make them more flexible and durable. These chemicals are known as endocrine disruptors which alter and cause adverse reproductive, neurological, and immune effects.
Endocrine disruptors like phthalates are released from the product and get into the body wreaking havoc. They can mimic the hormones found in the body (this includes female, male, and thyroid hormones), alter the normal hormone levels (either increase or decrease), and interfere with the natural production.
In addition to having a negative effect on my already subpar thyroid gland, many artificial trees test positive for lead. When lead finds its way into the body, it too gets confused as another substance. The body typically confuses lead with calcium and other essential nutrients leading to various health problems including infertility, high blood pressure, muscle pain, inability to focus/concentrate, and many more.
If you have already purchased an artificial tree or have had one for a while, there are a few things you can do to lessen the risk of inhaling these harmful chemicals. The first is to take your artificial tree outside to be aired out. PVC products release harmful gases when they are first exposed to the air. If you are like me and have had your tree for quite some time, you may consider purchasing another one before your tree reaches 9 years of age. This is the time in which the PVC begins to degrade and weaken causing the exposure rate to increase.
This may seem like a huge hit to those of us that purchase our trees in a box, but there are some healthier options for you if you aren’t ready for a real tree, but also don’t want to continue exposing your family to chemicals.
- Look for PVC-free trees or 100% PE (polyethylene) trees.
- Stay away from pre-lit trees because the lights are not PVC-free or lead free.
- Wear gloves when assembling artificial trees and hanging lights.
Don’t let your home be filled with harmful toxins this holiday season or another other season for that matter!