The Ecology Center (HealthyStuff.org) tested 68 Christmas light sets and found that a shocking 54% of the products contained more than 300 parts per million of lead in PVC encased cords and light-bulb sockets – a level higher than the CPSC's standard for lead in children’s products.
Products with the highest lead levels included light strands from GE and Home Depot (over 300 ppm) and two sets sold at Home Depot under the Home Accents Holiday and Martha Stewart Living labels (over 450 ppm).
“You cannot sell products with these levels of lead in Europe, but companies continue to dump these types of hazardous products on US consumers,” said Jeff Gearhart, the Ecology Center’s Research Director. “It's time we had commonsense laws to protect us from toxic chemicals the way virtually ever other industrialized country does. We need a major and comprehensive overhaul of our chemicals policies immediately to start phasing out these dangerous substances.”
As we discussed in a recent article, locating PVC-free and lead-safe light strings proved impossible, so your best bet is to focused on tracking down RoHS compliant products. We found Environmental Lights to be an invaluable source of well-researched options and SAFbaby also confirmed that Ikea offers safer light strands as well.
Lead levels in Christmas lights aren't regulated by the CPSC because they aren't considered a children's product. Most families do include their children in decorating for Christmas though, so it's very important to wash hands thoroughly afterward. Also remind children not touch their eyes, nose and mouth during contact, and as I mentioned before, it would be worthwhile for pregnant moms to do the same.
Photo Credit: Flickr, Dan Stefani