The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) is urging people to look for and eliminate potential dangers from holiday lights and decorations.
Each year, about 8,700 people are treated for falls, cuts and shocks related to holiday decorations. In addition, Christmas trees are involved in about 400 fires annually, resulting in 20 deaths, 70 injuries and an average of more than $15 million in property loss and damage. CPSC conducts surveillance of holiday lights and decorations, and this year prevented the import of 320,398 units of holiday lights that did not meet safety standards.
CPSC suggests following these tips to make your holiday a safe one.
* Artificial trees should be “Fire Resistant.” If the tree catches fire, it will resist burning and should extinguish quickly.
* A live tree should be fresh and green: needles are hard to pull from branches and do not break. The bottom of the trunk should be sticky with resin, and when tapped on the ground, it should not lose many needles.
* Place your tree away from traffic, fireplaces and radiators. Heated rooms rapidly dry out live trees; be sure to keep the stand filled with water. Do not block doorways.
* Only use lights that have been tested for safety by a recognized testing laboratory.
* Check for broken sockets, frayed wires or loose connections. Throw out damaged sets.
* Use no more than three standard-size sets of lights per single extension cord.
* Never use electric lights on a metallic tree. The tree can become charged with electricity and cause electrocution.
* Turn off lights when you go to bed or leave the house.
* Check labels to be sure lights have been certified for outdoor use.
* Fasten outdoor lights securely to protect from wind damage. Use only insulated staples or run strings of lights through hooks. Do not use nails or tacks.
* For added protection, plug outdoor decorations into ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs). Portable outdoor GFCIs can be purchased where electrical supplies are sold. GFCIs can be installed permanently to household circuits by a qualified electrician.
* Use only non-combustible or flame-resistant materials. Choose tinsel or artificial icicles of plastic or nonleaded metals.
* Never use lighted candles on a tree or near evergreens. Use non-flammable holders, and place candles where they will not be knocked down.
* In homes with small children, avoid sharp or breakable decorations. Keep trimmings with small removable parts out of reach and avoid those that resemble candy or food.
* Wear gloves to avoid eye and skin irritation while decorating with spun glass “angel hair.” Follow directions carefully while decorating with artificial snow sprays.
* Use care with “fire salts,” which produce colored flames. They cause intense gastrointestinal irritation and vomiting if eaten. Keep away from children.
* Do not burn wrapping papers in the fireplace. A flash fire may result as wrappings ignite suddenly and burn intensely.
Get a free brochure with more holiday decorating safety tips at CPSC’s web site http://www.cpsc.gov.