Avoid potential hazards of Christmas decorations


In the 32 years, he's been selling Christmas trees, Shawn Wilk often recommends people get them "flocked."

"In a way, what happens with the 'flock' on it, it kind of makes it flameproof," said Wilk. "The flock doesn't burn."

But in young hands, the flocking material doesn't always end up on the trees.

"Once it gets into the mouth it can be quite irritating and very, very large amounts of it could potentially lodge into your gastrointestinal tract and potentially even cause an obstruction," said Dr. Cyrus Rangan, assistant medical director and director of the Los Angeles medical toxicology education program, California Poison Control.

Holidays novelty items like Christmas lights, hard candy, small ornaments and button batteries are well-known choking hazards. But what could be wrong with tinsel, garland and wrapping paper?

"Anything that is potentially very, very shiny could contain trace amounts of lead and that's one of the things that makes it shiny," said Rangan.

So you don't want kids to swallow any shiny materials, and you don't want to burn them in the fireplace.

"There are a number of other things, including lead and dyes and other metals that may be in there, that could be very toxic when burned," said Rangan.

But Rangan says the biggest holiday hazard to kids is the fact parents are often distracted.

"It's sometimes easy to lose track of our children," said Rangan.

But there is one less thing you can worry about: poinsettia leaves. A review of Poison Control cases reveals very few incidents and the worst case is an upset stomach.

"In general these are safe to have in the house, just make sure you're watching your children when they're around them," said Rangan.

Shawn Wilk always reminds people to keep check their lights, keep the trees away from candles and make sure it always has plenty of water. He believes these seasonal reminders really do help.

"I've never heard anything about any of my trees in my areas catching on fire, so that's good," said Wilk.

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