Below are XRF Test results for the tree described here.
This is a faux Christmas tree branch sample sent to me by a reader in Australia. She said it is about 40 years old – which would put it at c. 1980! It has two different color needles in the sample – a dark green and a light green – with a brown metal spine. All tests are done for a minimum of 60-seconds each (unless otherwise noted) and repeated multiple times on each component, to confirm the results. Results shared here are accurate, science-based, and replicable. [This tree was definitively negative for Mercury, Arsenic and Antimony.]
Needle-only sample test results:
- Lead (Pb): 15,200 +/- 400 ppm
- Cadmium (Cd): 110 +/- 9 ppm
- Selenium (Se): 46 +/- 17 ppm
- Silver (Ag): 10 +/- 4 ppm
- Gold (Au): 145 +/- 39 ppm
- Zinc (Zn): 37 +/- 17 ppm
- Indium (In): 18 +/- 8 ppm
- Titanium (Ti): 937 +/- 225 ppm
Test with needles and spine in the scope:
- Lead (Pb): 19,300 +/- 700 ppm
- Cadmium (Cd): 107 +/- 14 ppm
- Silver (Ag): 18 +/- 7 ppm
- Palladium (Pd): 12 +/- 5 ppm
- Iron (Fe): 116,900 +/- 3,500 ppm
- Manganese (Mn): 650 +/- 267 ppm
- Indium (In): 37 +/- 14 ppm
- Titanium (Ti): 683 +/- 244 ppm
How much Lead is “too much” Lead?
Anything 100 ppm Lead or higher in the substrate (the base plastic or metal or other material) of an item intended for use by children manufactured today in the United States or anything 90 ppm Lead or higher in the paint, glaze or coating (also of a modern item “intended for use by children” manufactured today) is considered illegal, and unsafe for children to handle or play with. This vintage artificial Christmas tree came in at 19,300 ppm Lead in areas that a child could and would easily touch. This was not illegal in 1980, and is not illegal today!* That said, items that children might reasonably come in to contact with SHOULD – as a rule – be entirely negative for Lead (or failing that, at least under 90 ppm).
With the level of Lead found, I would not consider this tree safe to have in a home under any circumstances (with children or without) and would recommend disposing of it asap.
*Regardless of the year manufactured, artificial Christmas trees are not considered to be “items intended for use by children” and so are have never been regulated for total content of heavy metal toxicants like Lead, Cadmium and Antimony.
That said, most (but not all) newer artificial Christmas trees (made in the last two or three years – post 2017) are likely – but not guaranteed – to be Lead-free. [If these newer trees are the plug-in pre-lit types, they may instead have unsafe / high levels of Antimony (which is known to cause cancer in rats). It’s possible (as with the tree sample in this post, link) that the Antimony is not in the branches of a newer pre-lit tree itself, but only in the electrical cords and lights.]
What should I do for a Christmas tree, then?!!!
In general my advice (across the board) is this:
- Avoid artificial Christmas trees (specifically the faux ones that were designed to look like a real Christmas tree and are made of plastic and metal).
- This past year several of my friends shared pictures with me of wooden “CTSO“s (Christmas-tree-shaped-objects) – that they either fabricated or bought; these Lead-free options were equally fun for the kids, and quite functional for displaying ornaments!
- Alternately, I love the idea of using a live potted houseplant in the place of a Christmas tree!
- We are Jewish, and don’t normally have any kind of Christmas Tree — but last year my youngest son was so smitten with the idea of having one, I let him buy a small rosemary bush from the grocery store – and decorate it for the holidays!
Below are some photos from the tree my friend, Angela made with her family for their Christmas in 2020. She has also offered to make these for sale to my readers, so please let me know if any of you are interested, and I will pass your contact info along to her! Continue reading below the images. Thank you!
Some additional reading for those who are interested:
- Other faux Christmas trees I have tested.
- Other Christmas items I have tested.
- Christmas light strand examples I have tested.
- Details about the testing methodology used for the test results reported on this blog.
- Please watch this video about how to most efficiently search the blog (if you have not yet seen it!) Thank you!
Thank you for reading and for sharing my posts. Please let me know if you have any questions; I will do my best to answer your questions personally as soon as I have a moment (which may take a while as there were 1.165 million readers here on the Lead Safe Mama site in 2020 alone!)
This is disturbing to learn. I had never heard of lead in artificial trees until finding your website. We had a vintage tree that we put up each year, even in my kid’s room. This year it was on our wall to wall carpet. It is now in the trash, and I’m trying to figure out how to clean the carpet. I’ve been met with a lot of resistance and shoulder shrugs when I try to tell people about these things. While I am ridding my own home of leaded items, one at a time, I am trying to figure out who I should start writing to and bothering to try to make some waves about all the lead in our every day items. It’s unacceptable.
Thank you for commenting. Wet shampoo the rug at least two or three times with a good laundry detergent with surfactants.
As to who to write to – I don’t think anyone “higher up” is listening – so our best course of action on this is talking to our friends and neighbors and encouraging them to listen.
Thanks for your response. Is it safe to say that ALL vintage artificial trees are/were leaded?
I would say that is a reasonable general assumption!
Brenda Dubé says
I’m curious what harm the tree has though when it is something that just stands? Does the lead get on our hands while decorating? Does it give off a vapour we breathe in? Are new, current artificial trees safe? What makes a tree vintage? Thank you
It gets on your hands, it adds to the Lead burden of the dust in the home. New ones have Antimony (causes cancer in rats). Vintage is 20+ years. These questions area all addressed in detail in some of the other related posts on Christmas trees and other posts on the blog.
Start here: https://tamararubin.com/2018/11/artificial-christmas-tree-c-2008-costco-as-high-as-5896-ppm-lead/
and here: https://youtu.be/vDqTi5KSQt0
and here: https://tamararubin.com/2020/03/what-is-vintage-what-is-antique-some-definitions-to-help-you-determine-if-your-cherished-items-are-likely-to-be-toxic-or-not/