Until recently, artificial Christmas trees were cut from compressed polyvinyl chloride (PVC) sheets. Now there’s a newer technology that allows manufacturers to create branch tips that are made from injection-molded polyethylene (PE) plastic using copies of live tree needles. It creates a more realistic look and feel, while removing worries of toxic PVC, a win-win!
As we talked about last year, lead is a big concern in Christmas decorations because it’s often used as a stabilizer in PVC plastic. Lead is a neurotoxin that can cause learning disorders, brain and nerve damage, hearing problems, stunted growth, and digestive problems. Scientists are increasingly convinced that there is no safe level of lead exposure, especially for young children. The EPA has also listed lead as a probable human carcinogen.
Many artificial Christmas trees which contain PE also have an infill of PVC branches which are made up of flat strips, so you’ll want to make sure you confirm that your tree is 100% PE with following tips:
- Keep an eye out for a mention of “molded tip” in the product description.
- If you’re shopping for an artificial in person, you’ll notice the difference right away, because the needles are three-dimensional rather than flat.
- According to Balsam Hills, while PE trees are constructed differently than PVC artificial Christmas trees, it is important to note that they often have PVC needles incorporated into their construction. In general, the molded tips are in front while the PVC needles are used to fill in the backs of the branches.
- Keep in mind that pre-lit Christmas trees are often wrapped with lights strings encased in PVC. In 2010 Healthy Toys released a report showing that 4 out of 5 sets of string lights tested contained lead. It’s best to go with unlit trees and add your own LED RoHs certified lights (the best source of RoHS lights we’ve found here in the U.S. continues to be Environmental Lights).
Polyethylene Christmas Tree Options
Tracking down PE trees turned out to be very difficult so it took us quite a while to find the options below.
- TruTip™ uses a new techonology that allows them to replicate forest grown trees with a high degree of accuracy. Injection molded PE plastic tips and needles use multiple color pigments to create deep color variations that range from light to dark. TruTip™ Christmas trees are natural looking and can be easily recycled. You can find a large selection of TruTip PE trees at Christmas Lights Etc.
- Balsam Tree offers one artificial tree called the Aspen Estate Fir that is made with True Needle™ technology using 99% PE. The only bummer is that it’s pre-lit with lights that are encased in PVC. They did tell us that they have other unlit trees like the Stratford Spruce that are made mostly from PE, so you may want to call them directly to double check.