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CPSC Announces Holiday Season
Decorating Safety Tips
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) is
issuing safety tips for holiday decorations. Holiday decorations, like
candles, lights and Christmas trees, add a joyous and festive mood to
the holiday season. But when these decorations are not used properly,
they can cause fires, injuries and death.
Each year, hospital emergency rooms treat about 12,500 people for falls,
cuts, shocks, and burns due to incidents involving faulty holiday
lights, dried-out Christmas trees and other holiday decorations.
To prevent these injuries, 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 detain unsafe
holiday light sets posing fire risks from being distributed in the U.S.
Christmas trees are involved in about 300 fires annually, resulting in
10 deaths, 30 injuries and an average of about $10 million in property
damage and loss. In addition, there are more than 13,000 candle-related
fires each year, which result in 140 deaths and $205 million in property
"The flickering light of candles can add beauty and tradition to the
holidays," said CPSC Chairman Stratton. "However, when left unattended
or within a child's reach, burning candles can turn your celebration
into tragedy. Following a few simple safety tips can help prevent
holiday decoration-related fires."
CPSC suggests following these tips to make your holiday a safe one.
Take Care of Your Christmas Tree!
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.
A fresh tree will stay green longer and be less of a fire hazard than a dry tree. To check for freshness, remember:
- A fresh tree is green.
- Fresh needles are hard to pull from branches.
- When bent between your fingers, fresh needles do not break.
- The trunk butt of a fresh tree is sticky with resin.
- When the trunk of a tree is bounced on the ground, a shower of falling needles shows that tree is too dry.
Place tree away from fireplaces, radiators and other heat sources. Heated rooms dry trees out rapidly, creating fire hazards.
Cut off about two inches of the trunk to expose fresh wood for better water absorption. Trim away branches as necessary to set tree trunk in the base of a sturdy, water-holding stand with wide spread feet. Keep the stand filled with water while the tree is indoors.
Place the tree out of the way of traffic and do not block doorways. Use thin guy-wires to secure a large tree to walls or ceiling. These wires are almost invisible.
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
Artificial "Spray Snow"
Artificial snow sprays can irritate lungs if inhaled. To avoid injury, read container labels; follow directions carefully.
Holiday Lights... Choose the right type for your
Whether for use Indoors or outside, use only lights that have been tested for safety by a
recognized testing laboratory, such as UL or ETL. This indicates
conformance with safety standards. Use only lights that have plugs
- Check each set of lights, new or old, for broken or cracked sockets,
frayed or bare wires, or loose connections. Throw out damaged sets. Always
replace burned-out bulbs promptly with the same wattage bulbs.
- If using an extension cord, make sure it is rated for the intended use.
- Use no more than three standard-size sets of lights per single extension cord.
- Turn off all lights on trees and other decorations when you go to bed or leave the house. Lights could short and start a fire.
- 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
- The tree can become charged with electricity from faulty lights, and any person touching a branch could be electrocuted! To avoid this danger, use colored spotlights above or beside a tree, never fastened onto it!
- Keep "bubbling" lights away from children. These lights with their bright colors and bubbling movement can tempt curious children to break candle-shaped glass, which can cut, and attempt to drink liquid, which contains a hazardous chemical.
- Before using lights outdoors, check labels to be sure they have been
certified for outdoor use.
- Stay away from power or feeder lines leading from utility poles into
- Fasten outdoor lights securely to trees, house walls, or other firm
supports to protect the lights from wind damage.
- Use only insulated
staples (not nails or tacks) to hold strings in place. Or, run strings
of lights through hooks (available at hardware stores).
- Turn off all holiday lights when you go to bed or leave the house. The
lights could short out and start a fire.
- Use caution when removing outdoor holiday lights. Never pull or tug on
lights - this could cause stress on the connections that could create a
Outdoor electric lights and decorations should be plugged into
circuits protected by ground-fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs) to
protect against electric shock. Portable outdoor GFCIs can be purchased
where electrical supplies are sold. GFCIs can also be installed
permanently to household circuits by a qualified electrician or the skilled
handyman (depending on local codes).
See our article on GFCI's.
Candles and Other Decorations
- 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.
- Keep burning candles within sight and away from other decorations and wrapping paper.
- Never use lighted candles on a tree or near other evergreens. Always
use non-flammable holders, and place candles out of reach of 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 lung irritation, follow container directions carefully while
decorating with artificial snow sprays.
- Place candles where they cannot be knocked down or blown over.
- Use only non-combustible or flame-resistant materials.
- Wear gloves while decorating with spun glass "angel hair" to avoid irritation to eyes and skin.
- Choose tinsel or artificial icicles or plastic or non-leaded metals. Leaded materials are hazardous if ingested by children.
In homes with small children, take special care to:
- Avoid decorations that are sharp or breakable.
- Keep trimmings with small removable parts out of the reach of children. Pieces could be swallowed or inhaled.
- Avoid trimmings that resemble candy or food. A child could eat them!
- 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.
- Before lighting any fire, remove all greens, boughs, papers, and other decorations from fireplace area. Check to see that flue is open.
- Keep a screen before the fireplace all the time a fire is burning.
- When making paper decorations, look for materials labeled non-combustible or flame-resistant.
- Never place trimming near open flames or electrical connections.
- Remove all wrapping papers from tree and fireplace areas immediately after presents are opened.
- Do not burn papers in the fireplace. A flash fire may result as wrappings ignite suddenly and burn intensely.
General Rules for Holiday Safety
- Keep matches, lighters, and candles out of the reach of children.
- Avoid smoking near flammable decorations.
- Make an emergency plan to use if a fire breaks out anywhere in the home. See that each
family member knows what to do. PRACTICE THE PLAN!
- Avoid wearing loose flowing clothes - particularly long, open sleeves - near
open flames - such as those of a fireplace, stove, or candlelit table.
- Never burn candles near evergreens. Burning evergreens in the fireplace can
also be hazardous. When dry, greens burn like tinder. Flames can flare out of
control, and send sparks flying into a room, or up the chimney to ignite
- Plan for safety. Remember, there is no substitute for common sense. Look for and eliminate potential danger spots near candles, fireplaces, trees, and/or electrical connections.
This article provided courtesy the
U.S. Consumer Product Safety
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