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While the holidays still do damage to our pocketbooks and stomachs from overindulgence, it’s hard to imagine a time when Christmas was dangerous to our health. Our property restoration company has dug up some ghosts from Christmases past — namely holiday decorations that posed fire and health risks. If you still have some of your grandmother’s old tinsel or lights, stay safe before you trim the tree or deck the halls. Contact us for safe biohazard cleanup if you come into contact with anything made from asbestos or large amounts of lead, and be sure to use safe lighting to avoid fires.
The history of lighting up a Christmas tree with candles is said to go back to 17th century Germany and was brought over to North America in the early 19th century. As the candles posed such a risk, people used to light their tree intermittently while keeping an eye out for any sparks. The close watch only worked some of the time, as many trees did go up in flames. Eventually, insurance companies put out a disclaimer and refused to pay for fire damage and clean up resulting from candle-lit Christmas trees. The practice soon fizzled out and was replaced with electric lighting.
According to the Smithsonian, it wasn’t Thomas Edison, the inventor of the incandescent bulb, who was the first to hang electric lights on a Christmas tree, but his assistant Edward H. Johnson. The vice president of Edison's Electric Light Company, Johnson decorated a tree with 80 specially made red, white, and blue bulbs and displayed it in his parlour window.
While most electric lights today are safe with proper inspection and handling, they can still overheat if left on for long periods. Fire cleanup experts recommend that you place all Christmas lights, including LED, on a timer, or unplug them before you retire or are away from home.
Some decorations to this day contain small traces of lead, flame retardants, tin compounds, and phthalates. However, they are not as hazardous as they were in our grandparents’ day. Some of the toxins found in older Christmas decorations have been known to cause severe health issues such as cancer and even death. They include:
'Tis the season to be jolly (and safe!): Follow our tips on How to Protect Your Home from the Elements in Winter.
Proserve DKI has provided property restoration services to Fort McMurray and Wood Buffalo residents since 1976. Contact us for restoration and clean up from the damage caused by water, wind, sewer, fire, and smoke. We are also certified for biohazard cleanup and offer safe and effective mould restoration and asbestos removal and remediation.