Our article series about real vs. artificial trees and plants has covered:
We can’t discuss real trees/plants versus artificial ones without mentioning the safety concerns. There are two main concerns: poisonous species, and fire hazards. Christmas trees and plants are often a concern for both of these problems.
Most varieties of real Christmas trees – firs and pines in particular – are mildly toxic if a small amount is consumed. This is definitely more of a concern for pets than people, but there have been cases of babies and toddlers ingesting tree oil or needles. These needles aren’t designed to be digested and they can cause internal punctures, irritation, and distress.
Christmas tree water is also a health concern for babies and animals. The water in the stand may contain fertilizer, bacteria, or mold. It can also catch the oils and needles from the tree, making the container even more toxic.
Just about every popular holiday plant and flower is toxic to cats and dogs. Mistletoe, poinsettias, holly, amaryllis flowers, lilies, daffodils, and Christmas cacti are all dangerous to keep in a home with pets. They can cause problems that range from very mild to completely lethal. Chewing on a fir tree might cause your dog or cat to drool excessively, but just a few bites of a Christmas lily can result in death.
Most varieties of dry, living plants and trees can be flammable, but Christmas trees are the biggest fire risk each year. ABC News recently published an article titled “Nearly 160 fires per year started by Christmas trees, report claims”. They note that:
Forgetting to keep your Christmas tree watered could have deadly consequences, according to the National Fire Protection Association.
According to the NFPA, nearly 160 house fires per year are sparked by Christmas trees. These fires caused an average of three deaths, 15 injuries, and $10 million in direct property damage annually, the NFPA said.
It’s important to note that only 2/3 of these fires involved natural trees. Artificial Christmas trees can also be fire hazards. Most holiday tree fires are caused by “electrical distribution or lighting within the tree”. Many others were due to placement near a heat source, such as a candle or space heater.
That’s why it’s extremely important to choose the right location and decorations for your Christmas tree. It should be placed in an open area with at least three feet of space around it, away from lights, appliances, or electrical equipment.
Be sure to select fire-safe Christmas tree lights and use surge protectors appropriately. Common sense measures are important also. Decorating a tree with real lit candles, for example, is a bad idea.
You can and should look for fire resistant artificial Christmas trees. Not all brands or styles come in this option, but it should be a priority to consider when shopping. Here at TreeScapes & PlantWorks we are vigilant about potential fire hazards. The majority of our trees are made with our UltraLeaf-IFR®, (Inherently Fire Retarding) artificial foliage.
We do make artificial pine, scotch, and fir trees, but we don’t specifically create Christmas trees. So, you shouldn’t expect to find our proprietary foliage on artificial holiday trees.
Look for words like “fire resistant”, “fire retardant”, and “fire safe” when shopping. Keep in mind, though, that these can all still be flammable. The risk is just reduced.
Underwriters Laboratories (UL), a product safety testing organization, initiated new standards for Christmas trees in 2010. Now, you can look for the UL mark on the tree box and product description. This indicates that the tree is certified by UL for fire and electrical hazards. You can also find Christmas lights that have passed their tests and have the UL mark on their packaging.
No matter what you prefer, real or artificial trees and plants, there are safety concerns to keep in mind. Ultimately, though, there are options so that everyone can enjoy their favorite greenery, and keep the whole family safe.
TreeScapes & PlantWorks is committed to helping the environment, one tree at a time. That’s why we will donate to have at least one tree planted for every fabricated, replica, or preserved tree we sell!