Artificial Christmas trees: how real are the lead exposure risks?

J Environ Health. 2004 Dec;67(5):20-4, 32.


Exposure to lead has long been recognized as a major public health issue in the United States and other industrialized nations. The health risks associated with low lead levels mean that consumer products (such as those made from polyvinyl chloride [PVC] plastic, which often incorporates lead as a stabilizer) with even moderate lead exposure risks could be dangerous. The purpose of the experiments reported in this article was to test for lead exposure from artificial Christmas trees made of PVC, which are now present in an estimated 50 million U.S. households. The first phase of experimentation tested artificial Christmas trees in the laboratory for lead content in branches, lead transfer from hand contact, and lead dust levels under the tree. The second phase was based on a field-testing survey of households with artificial Christmas trees. Results from these experiments show that, while the average artificial Christmas tree does not present a significant exposure risk, in the worst-case scenarios a substantial health risk to young children is quite possible.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Child, Preschool
  • Dust / analysis
  • Environmental Monitoring
  • Environmental Pollutants / analysis*
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Lead / analysis*
  • Plant Leaves / chemistry*
  • Polyvinyl Chloride / chemistry
  • Risk Assessment
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Time Factors
  • Trees
  • United States


  • Dust
  • Environmental Pollutants
  • Lead
  • Polyvinyl Chloride