For millions of Americans, the holiday season is a time to celebrate family and tradition. Plans are made, presents are purchased, and both the inside and outside of homes are decorated. In fact, decorating is a big part of many Americans' holiday traditions. Ornaments and lights, new and old, are placed throughout the home. Antique decorations are often passed down through multiple generations and are a beloved part of many families' decoration schemes. But there can be dangers lurking in these antique decorations. Asbestos, lead, and faulty electrical lights can potentially mean that family heirlooms are actually family hazards.
When it comes to asbestos, most people associate it with insulation, popcorn ceilings, and even flooring. But what many people are unaware of is that is was also used in many holiday decorations in the past. In the 1930s and 1940s, asbestos was used to create fake snow and was often applied to ornaments as well to create a snowy look. Asbestos was used often due to its flame retardant qualities. Most fake snow created with asbestos has been destroyed but it does remain on many ornaments and other decorations from the era. If a decoration is found to contain asbestos, in most cases it will need to be safely disposed of. Asbestos abatement is possible for some things, such as flooring where the decorations have been stored. For families that really want keep their beloved decorations, a professional may be able to find a way to contain the asbestos and keep it from being inhaled.
Lead paint is actually very common in many vintage items, including holiday decorations. Lead can be responsible for a variety of health issues including brain damage, increased blood pressure, liver and kidney damage, developmental delays, and more. Lead is especially hazardous for children and pregnant women. Decorations that contain lead can still be used but a few things should be done when handling the items. Washing hands after touching the items is a must, as well as wearing protective clothing. These items should also be kept away from children and pregnant women.
Strings of lights are often a big part of many family's holiday decorations. While many antique lights can be used safely, a few key things should be checked before use. Lights should be inspected for wear and tear, exposed wiring, cracked sockets, damaged bulbs, and anything else that may affect the integrity of the lights. Also remember that replacing the bulbs on vintage light strings may be difficult. The bulbs need to be the same wattage as the original bulbs. Failure to keep these things in mind can lead to antique lights becoming a fire hazard.
While antique holiday decorations may be a valued part of many family's holiday traditions, they do carry with them potential health hazards. Checking antiques for these hazards can help keep families safe during the holiday season.