Tips for a Non-Toxic Holiday Season


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Post by: Sophia Ruan Gushée, author of “A to Z of D-Toxing: The Ultimate Guide to Reducing Our Toxic Exposure”

Another holiday season is approaching, and while the holidays are a joyful time full of customs we hold dear, some traditions can also be sources of exposure to toxic chemicals. Keep these 4 home detox tips to keep in mind as you get ready for the holidays, minimizing your exposures to toxins.

Avoid Lead in Your Lights

Lights add a festive touch to our holiday décor, but the string lights that we use to decorate our homes and trees are usually made with PVC, which often contains lead. Exposure to lead dust is especially worrisome for young children, who are most vulnerable, and who may put lights in their mouths. While nontoxic string lights may not exist, safer lights do exist. Look for lead-free lights, and if buying new lights isn’t on this year’s agenda, wear gloves while handling old strands, or at minimum, wash your hands after contact with them.

Consider Healthier Trees

Indoor trees are essential to many families’ holiday traditions, but both artificial and live trees carry some risks. Artificial trees, especially old ones, may contain lead stabilizers, and ingesting lead dust is a concern. When buying a new artificial tree, be certain to buy one manufactured in the USA, as there is less regulation in other countries where trees are often manufactured. If you keep your old tree, make sure that the surrounding area is clean and minimize physical contact. With live trees, buy organic to avoid pesticides.

Rethink Candles

While the warm glow of candlelight adds ambiance, burning candles can release harmful chemicals that are respiratory irritants and are linked to cancer — and fragranced candles often contain even more toxins. For a healthier glow, choose pure, nontoxic beeswax candles. If it is the holiday scent you love, try boiling cloves and cinnamon sticks on the stove, or hanging fresh organic greenery as a completely natural replacement.

Choose Simpler Toys

Since toys are primarily made for children, it is particularly disheartening that some are made with chemical ingredients that are known to be harmful. Lead and cadmium are found in paint, especially in toys made in China. Toys made from composite woods contain glues that can off-gas formaldehyde and other toxicants. Plastics can leach harmful phthalates, which is a problem for children who put toys in their mouths. To avoid these ingredients in toys, simplicity is key. Unfinished, unpainted, solid wood toys are a healthier choice. Additionally, look for European brands, as their regulations on chemicals in toys are stricter.



Sophia Ruan Gushée is a mother of three who, upon leaving a career in investment management to spend more time with her children, began a journey to build the healthiest and safest environment possible for her family. This mission to become a truly conscious consumer led her into five years of research on the many toxins we are exposed to and the possible effects of these substances on our lives. Sophia earned a Bachelor of Arts from Brown University and a Master in Business Administration from Columbia University. She is also a certified yoga teacher, living in New York City with her family. This is her first book.

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