HealthyStuff.org releases new test results for a variety of products throughout the year. This findings section highlights the latest set of test results and discusses overall trends and important findings for each set of products we test.
2010 Holiday Lights Screening
Lead Is Everywhere in Holiday Lights — Lead was detected in 79% (54 out of 68) light sets tested by HealthyStuff.org. HealthyStuff.org tested both the cable insulation and the bulb base on each light set. 31% of the wiring insulation and 70% of the bulb bases tested contained lead.
Lead Level Higher in US Products — 28% (19) of light sets tested at levels over 1,000 parts per million (ppm) lead, a level that would make these product illegal to sell in Europe. European regulations (the Restriction of Hazardous Substances Directive or RoHS) restrict lead in electronics like holiday lights to less than 1,000 ppm.
Most Holiday Lights are Required to Have Hazards Labels: 54% (37) of the light sets tested at levels above 300 ppm. A California Proposition 65 settlement with electronics manufacturers in 2000 requires labels on these products. The label language is shown below:
WARNING: This product contains chemicals, including lead, known to the State of California to cause cancer, and birth defects or other reproductive harm. Wash hands after handling.
Safer Lights are Possible–Many manufacturers are already doing it:two-thirds (69%) of the cable insulationon the light sets did not contain any lead, including many light sets which were made in China. And almost all brands tested had at least one light set which was lead free. Lead-free stabilizers are commercially available and already being used. These results show that manufacturers can make lead-free holiday lights.
To sample the holiday lights, HealthyStuff.org experts used a portable X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) analyzer that identifies the elemental composition of materials. This accurate device has been used by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to screen packaging; the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) to screen food; and, by many State and County Health Departments to screen for residential lead paint.
HealthyStuff.org recommends consumers follow common sense precautions when handling holiday lights, including:
Wear gloves and wash hands when handling holiday lights.
Keep lights and cords out of reach of small children and pets when possible.
Look for lights that are RoHS compliant lights. RoHS or the Restriction of Hazardous Substances directive is law in the European Union and restricts the use of lead, mercury, cadmium, hexavalent chromium, polybrominated biphenyls (PBB) and polybrominated dephenyl ethers (PBDE).
Some sources claim to carry RoHS compliant lights, include IKEA and http://www.environmentallights.com (Note: HealthyStuff.org did test either company’s products).
Ask your local retailer to only stock lights that are RoHS compliant or, better yet, lead free!
About HealthyStuff.org – HealthyStuff.org is based on research conducted by environmental health organizations and other researchers around the country. The Ecology Center created HealthyStuff.org and leads its research and development. The Ecology Center is a Michigan-based nonprofit environmental organization that works at the local, state, and national levels for clean production, healthy communities, environmental justice, and a sustainable future.