Artificial Christmas Trees – An Eco Disaster?

There may be more reasons to avoid artificial Christmas trees than you think.

Artificial Tree

The Real vs. Artificial Debate

Many people prefer a real tree over a fake one because they love the fresh pine scent.  For others it’s a tradition to kick off the holiday season by looking for the perfect tree at the Christmas tree lot or by taking a trip to a cut your own Christmas tree farm.  And for a quickly growing group of folks in Los Angeles, the latest Christmas tradition is to adopt a live tree for the holidays.  But besides the fact that artificial trees lack the magic of a fresh tree, fake trees have serious pitfalls.


Most fake trees are imported from China and manufactured in factories where migrant workers earn about $100 a month according to this article from the Washington Post.  And for those concerned about our dependence on oil, the primary material in artificial tress is PVC (polyvinyl chloride) – a petroleum-based plastic.

Environmental Concerns

The PVC that is used to make most artificial trees creates and disperses toxic dioxins during the manufacturing process.  In addition, when an artificial tree is discarded it because a permanent resident in the city landfill.   And while that fact tree sits there for eons it will leach toxic chemicals into the ground which can ultimately affect the health of humans and wildlife via the water supply.


Artificial Tree Lead WarningArtificial Christmas trees pose a lead danger.  In fact, California law requires that artificial Christmas trees carry a warning label identifying the tree as having possible lead contamination and advising people to wash their hands after handling.  In 2002,  Professor Maas of the University of North Carolina-Asheville conducted a study of artificial trees in which he discovered lead in three out of every four trees.

Health Tips for Artificial Tree Owners

If you do have an artificial tree, follow these precautions courtesy of Professor Maas:

– Keep children and pets away from the tree and do not allow them to touch it.

– If you touch the tree, wash your hands thoroughly before touching your face or handling food.

– Do not vacuum dust from under the tree.  Vacuuming could spread lead dust through the air in tiny particles, creating an inhalation danger.

–  Keep gifts far enough away so not to be contaminated with leaded dust.

Life Cycle Analysis

Ellipsos, a consulting firm based in Montreal, conducted a life cycle analysis of artificial Christmas trees versus natural Christmas trees.  The study assumed a life span of six years for the artificial tree and one year for the natural “cut” tree.  They concluded that the natural “cut” tree is a better option than the artificial tree, although the natural tree is not a perfect solution.

For a perfect solution, check out The Living Christmas Company’s living Christmas tree rental service.  We love them!

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