Colorful Candy? A List of Toxic Concerns Found in Holiday Decor

December 12, 2016

During the month of December, we fill our houses with sparkly, colorful, festive flair. We also tend to leave out candy treats and sweets. Sometimes children have a problem telling the difference. Here is a list of commonly used holiday decoration items and the toxic risks they can pose if ingested.

Click here for our list of poisonous holiday plants and their symptoms.

Angel Hair: Angel hair is finely spun glass, which can irritate the skin, eyes, and throat if swallowed. Wear gloves to avoid eye and skin irritation while decorating.

Bubble Lights: Bubble lights contain a small amount of methylene chloride. Nibbling on an intact light or one "opened" light may cause mild skin or mouth irritation only.

Christmas tree ornaments: Ornaments can be made of glass, thin metal, styrofoam, or wood. If a child swallows a piece of an ornament, it could cause choking and/or blockage in the intestines. Antique or foreign-made ornaments may be decorated with lead-based paint, however lead toxicity is unlikely from small, one-time occurrence.

Christmas tree preservatives: Commercial Christmas tree preservatives usually contain a concentrated sugar solution and are considered non-toxic. Homemade solutions containing aspirin or bleach can be potentially harmful if a large amount is swallowed.

Fireplace Color Crystals: These color crystals are attractive to children and can look like candy. They contain powders of heavy metal salts such as copper, selenium, arsenic and antimony. If swallowed, they can be very irritating to the mouth and stomach. They can also cause burns in the mouth and throat. If large amounts are swallowed, it may result in heavy metal poisoning.

Gift-Wrap: Most wrapping paper and ribbons are non-toxic, but foil and colored gift-wrap may contain lead. Do not let babies chew on these papers.

Icicles or tinsel: These may cause choking or obstruction, especially in cats or small dogs. Since they may contain lead and tin, they may be toxic with repeated ingestion.

Snow globes: The "snow" is calcium carbonate, which is non-toxic. Sometimes the water may be contaminated with bacteria and food poisoning may result. The symptoms of food poisoning include vomiting, diarrhea, and stomach cramps.

Snow Sprays: Many snow sprays contain acetone or methylene chloride. This solvent can be harmful when inhaled. Briefly inhaling the spray in a small, poorly ventilated room may result in nausea, lightheadedness and headache. Longer or more concentrated exposures can be more serious. Carefully follow container directions. Be sure to have the room well ventilated when you spray. Once dry, the snow particles are non-toxic. 

If you suspect someone has ingested a toxic item, call the Poison Control immediately. Do not make someone vomit unless instructed by the Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222.

If poison control instructs you to go to an emergency room, Providence Staff is ready and waiting.