Is there such a thing as an allergy friendly Christmas tree? For the 40 million Americans that suffer from year-round allergies and millions more with seasonal allergies, let’s hope there is such a thing as an allergy friendly Christmas tree. To answer this question, lets first look at the problems associated with displaying real trees and a traditional artificial Christmas trees.
For the millions of Americans with allergies, the holidays can be unbearable if you display a real Christmas tree and suffer from plant-related pollen Allergies. Pollen isn’t the only problem though. Real trees carry mold spores, nearly invisible to the naked eye, which continue to grow once the tree settles into the home. Other problems associated with real Christmas trees include the tree sap itself and terpenes, which is a compound that gives real trees their distinctive smell which millions of Americans are allergic to. The search for an allergy friendly Christmas tree continues…
Is an artificial tree the more allergy friendly Christmas tree? The answer is yes but they aren’t without problems. Artificial Christmas trees like real trees, carry dust and mold spores. Dust and mold spores are an inevitable problem with artificial Christmas trees because they are so difficult to clan and store.
Just imagine that artificial Christmas tree collecting dust in a damp basement as it hibernates 10 months out of the year. A study published in 201 found that real Christmas trees can carry molds that trigger allergic reactions in some people.
Incessant sneezing is no way to spend the holidays. Real Christmas trees are known to many times carry microscopic mold spores that can exacerbate allergy symptoms, including sneezing, watery eyes and an itchy nose. A 2011 study performed by staff at the SUNY Upstate Medical University and published in the Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology found that a small sample of Christmas trees carried about 50 types of mold, two-thirds of which could cause hayfever-like symptoms.
The short article also referred back to a previous study conducted in 2007, which found that a Christmas tree could increase the number of mold spores in an apartment by about 6 and a half times. A researcher in that study stated that, “As mold growth is common in the area surrounding outdoor foliage, we hypothesized that the presence of a live Christmas tree may be contributing to indoor mold.” The researchers found that mold counts in the air grew continued to grow while the tree was in the room, and did not drop down back down to normal levels until it was taken down.
Tips to keep your holiday allergy free
Wipe it down: Artificial trees usually harbor dust and mold since they spend a lot of years sitting around in boxes. Not the Modern Christmas Tree! All you have to do is wipe it down with a dust cloth once a year.
Most new artificial trees are made of molded polyethylene (PE) instead of PVC, which may have lower levels of off-gassing. These trees are very realistic and tend to be more expensive than PVC trees. Know what you’re buying before you order it or wrestle the box into your shopping cart. Alternatively, buy your tree very early (a simple task, given that stores stock them starting in September), and set it up to off-gas somewhere away from your main living areas, such as a garage or a shed.
Try an eco-friendly alternative tree: Some of the creative alternative trees have a modernist design sensibility, others are more basic. Here are two possibilities: Africa Tree, which is made from laser-cut steel and tress sold by artists on Etsy, such as a Christmas tree made from laser-cut cardboard (and ready to be recycled with the wrapping paper)
Dust your ornaments: Your Christmas ornaments have been sitting in a box all year, and may also be coated in dust or mold. If possible, unwrap them outside to avoid spreading dust inside your home. Wipe them off with a soft cloth before hanging. At the end of the season, wrap your ornaments in new paper, rather than re-using old, dusty paper. If the dust continues to be a problem, consider using just lights on your tree, or possibly simple, new decorations (such as inexpensive faux “glass” ornaments) instead.
Clean your wreaths: Artificial wreaths can be vacuumed or dusted with a soft cloth.
Avoid scented candles: Scented candles typically cause stuffy noses and irritated lungs. If you crave a little atmosphere with your holiday meals, try unscented beeswax candles.
The American Christmas Tree Association suggests using an air compressor to blow off debris, or spraying down the tree with a hose, if you live in a warm, arid climate where it will be able to dry thoroughly.
New artificial trees emit odors from the manufacturing process, while trees that have been stored may be harboring dust or mold.
Securely storing your tree in a bag or box can help reduce dust. Consider taking artificial trees outside for a good brush-off and airing-out before setting them up, Meadows suggested.
People with allergies and asthma should look beyond the tree for triggers, he said. Vintage tree ornaments and other holiday decorations can kick up dust when unpacked, too.
Does an allergy friendly Christmas tree even exist? That answer became yes when in 2012 the Modern Christmas Tree was made available to the world. The reason why the Modern Christmas Tree is the most allergy friendly Christmas tree on the market comes down to design and storage.
Modern Christmas trees are made of flat acrylic rings making them easy to clean and store. The rings collapse and store in a zipper case lined with a synthetic velvet that not only prevents dust and mold spores but helps remove them from the rings while in storage. The decorated trees even come with a feather duster allowing you to easily remove the dust while the tree is displayed. For more information on these allergy friendly Christmas trees check out this article in Architectural Digest.