Ho Ho Humbug! Philadelphia Holiday Lights May Contain High Lead Levels

The Grinch appears to be alive and well this Christmas, Edith A. Pearce warns. A new study shows that the majority of holiday light strands sold in Philadelphia and across the U.S. may contain more lead than federal product safety standards permit in children’s products. That’s not news Philadelphia parents want to hear after decorating their homes and Christmas trees with holiday lights.

In a study of 68 holiday lights sold under popular brand names in Philadelphia stores, researchers found that 79% contained detectable amounts of lead. Even more disturbing, warn The Pearce Law Firm, 54% of the lights tested contained 30 times more lead than the federal children’s safety limit of 600 parts per million (ppm). Because holiday lights are not marketed to children, they are not required to meet child safety standards. Edith Pearce warns parents that the potential risk to their children could be significant and that the high levels of lead found in some holiday lights could also pose a risk to adults. Lead is known to cause serious neurological and reproductive injuries.

Holiday light testing was conducted by the Ecology Center, a nonprofit environmental organization based in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Lead is a manufacturing component of the vinyl used to coat holiday light wires and bulb sockets. Researchers at the center tested popular varieties of holiday lights for several hazardous metals and chemicals, including lead, cadmium, arsenic and PVC. Test results found detectable lead in 4 out of 5 holiday light products. Nearly a third of the lights tested contained lead levels greater than 1,000 ppm, enough to make them illegal in Europe. California requires a warning label on electrical cords that contain a lead level of 1,000 ppm or greater.

Philadelphians are urged to keep holiday lights out of children’s reach and wear gloves and wash their hands after handling holiday lights.