Holiday Season Decorating Safety Tips
WASHINGTON, D.C. - It's that festive time of year again - Time to string
the lights, hang decorations, put up Christmas trees, and bring out the
candles to celebrate the holidays. To keep the holiday season a merry
one, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has decorating
safety tips for consumers.
"No matter how people plan to celebrate the holidays, special care
should be taken when decorating," said CPSC Chairman Hal Stratton.
"Following CPSC's safety tips can help prevent holiday traditions from
turning into tragedies."
Each year, hospital emergency rooms treat about 12,800 people for falls,
cuts, shocks, and burns due to incidents involving faulty holiday
lights, dried-out Chris tmas trees and other holiday decorations.
Christmas trees are involved in about 300 fires annually, resulting in
an average of 10 deaths, 40 injuries and about $7 million in property
damage and loss. In addition, there are more than 15,000 candle-related
fires each year, which result in 140 deaths and $307 million in property
loss, but consumers should still take precautions with their lights and
other holiday products.
To prevent incidents associated with holiday decorations, CPSC monitors
holiday lights and other decorations sold at stores and on the internet.
CPSC works with the Bureau of Customs and Border Protection to identify
and prevent unsafe holiday light sets posing fire risks from being
distributed in the U.S.
Trees and Decorations:
- When purchasing an artificial tree, look for the label "Fire
Resistant". Although this label does not mean the tree won't catch fire,
it does indicate the tree is more resistant to burning.
- When purchasing a live tree, check for freshness. A fresh tree is
green, needles are hard to pull from branches and do not break when bent
between your fingers. The bottom of a fresh tree is sticky with resin,
and when tapped on the ground, the tree should not lose many needles.
- When setting up a tree at home, place it away from fireplaces and
radiators. Because heated rooms dry live trees out rapidly, be sure to
keep the stand filled with water. Place the tree out of the way of
traffic, and do not block doorways.
- Use only non-combustible or flame-resistant materials to trim a tree.
Choose tinsel or artificial icicles of plastic or nonleaded metals.
Leaded materials are hazardous if ingested by children.
- In homes with small children, take special care to avoid sharp or
breakable decorations, keep trimmings with small removable parts out of
the reach of children who could swallow or inhale small pieces, and
avoid trimmings that resemble candy or food that may tempt a child to
- To avoid eye and skin irritation, wear gloves when decorating with
spun glass "angel hair."
- To avoid lung irritation, follow container directions carefully while
decorating with artificial snow sprays.
- Indoors or outside, use only lights that have been tested for safety
by a nationally-recognized Testing Laboratory, such as UL or ETL/ITSNA.
Use only newer lights that have thicker wiring and are required to have
safety fuses to prevent the wires from overheating.
- Check each set of lights, new or old, for broken or cracked sockets,
frayed or bare wires, or loose connections. Throw out damaged sets.
- If using an extension cord, make sure it is rated for the intended
- Never use electric lights on a metallic tree. The tree can become
charged with electricity from faulty lights, and a person touching a
branch could be electrocuted.
- When using lights outdoors, check labels to be sure they have been
certified for outdoor use and plug them in only ground-fault circuit
interrupter (GFCI) protected receptacles.
- Turn off all holiday lights when you go to bed or leave the house. The
lights could short out and start a fire.
- Keep burning candles within sight.
- Keep burning candles away from items that can burn easily.
- Always use non-flammable holders and keep away from children and pets.
- Keep lighted candles away from trees, other evergreens, and
- Extinguish all candles before you go to bed or leave the house.
Get free brochures with holiday decorating (pdf) and toy safety tips at
CPSC's web site.
- Use care with "fire salts," which produce colored flames when thrown
on wood fires. They contain heavy metals that, if eaten, can cause
intense gastrointestinal irritation and vomiting. Keep them away from
- Do not burn wrapping papers in the fireplace. Wrappings can ignite
suddenly and burn intensely, resulting in a flash fire.
- Place a screen around your fireplace to prevent sparks from igniting
nearby flammable materials.
Topics | News | Christmas Corner
Reprinted with permission U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.