Decorate Safely For The Holidays

Contact: T.J. Bucholz (517) 241-2112
Agency: Community Health

December 13, 2005

Holiday decorations, especially candles and electrical lighting, can be fire hazards, and Safe Kids Michigan, within the Department of Community Health, reminds parents and caregivers to take a few precautions when decorating for the holidays.

“Never leave lit candles unattended,” said Janet Olszewski, Director of the Michigan Department of Community Health. “Do not put candles on a Christmas tree or a natural wreath, or near curtains or drapes. Keep matches and lighters locked out of reach of children.”

In 2002, candles started 18,000 home fires in the United States and caused 130 deaths, according to the National Fire Protection Association. Olszewski said decorative lighting should be labeled with the Underwriters Labs (U.L.) seal of approval. If it is not labeled for outdoor use, it should not be used outdoors.

If you decorate a tree, Safe Kids Michigan recommends these precautions:

  • Never leave a lit Christmas tree or other decorative lighting display unattended. Inspect lights for exposed or frayed wires, loose connections and broken sockets. Do not overload extension cords or outlets and do not run an electrical cord under a rug.
  • Natural Christmas trees always involve some risk of fire. To minimize the risk, get a fresh tree and keep it watered at all times. Do not put the tree near a fireplace, space heater, radiator or heat vent.
  • Decorate your tree with children in mind. Do not put ornaments that have small detachable parts or metal hooks, or look like food or candy, on the lower branches where small children can reach them. Trim protruding branches at or below a child’s eye level, and keep lights out of reach.
  • Do not burn Christmas tree branches, treated wood or wrapping paper in a home fireplace.

Safe Kids Michigan also offers these tips to prevent accidental poisoning:

  • Keep alcohol (including baking extracts) out of reach and do not leave alcoholic drinks unattended.
  • Color additives used in fireplace fires are a toxic product and should be stored out of reach. Artificial snow sprays are also harmful if inhaled.
  • Holly berries, mistletoe berries, poinsettias, amaryllis, boxwood, Christmas rose, Crown of Thorns, English ivy and Jerusalem cherry are all potentially harmful if eaten.
  • For more information, or to find out whether other decorative plants and products are hazardous to children, please call your local Poison Control Center at 800-222-1222.

Safe Kids Michigan works to prevent accidental childhood injury, the leading killer of children 14 and under. Safe Kids Michigan is a member of Safe Kids Worldwide, a global network of organizations dedicated to preventing accidental injury. Safe Kids Michigan was founded in 1995 and is led by the Michigan Department of Community Health.