As we are deep into the holiday season, we here at the Synexis blog want to explore the unsung heroes of our festive décor. We see them in homes, offices, and so many other places – the Christmas trees. With that in mind, and because we are who we are, of course, there’s bound to be an examination of Christmas trees and their impact on indoor air quality (IAQ). And how Synexis can play a role in ensuring a healthy and inviting environment.
Did You Know?
There are nearly 350 million Christmas trees currently growing on just under 15,000 Christmas tree farms in the United States, so it’s safe to say there’s a lot to explore in this topic.
Christmas Trees and Indoor Air Quality
Dustin Poppendieck, an environmental engineer at the National Institute of Standards and Technology, sheds some light on the fact that there’s a tie between both real and artificial Christmas trees and indoor air quality. Both emit chemicals, though they do so in different ways. Real trees release a mix of volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Those are what give that distinct pine scent that defines the holiday season. While they are mostly harmless, they can cause respiratory irritation, particularly for those with sensitivities such as asthma or allergies.
Indoor mold counts can rise very quickly within the first two weeks of bringing a live tree into your home. There’s been research done at The State University of New York Upstate Medical University in Syracuse that found that 70 percent of the molds found in live Christmas trees can set off reactions that include severe asthma attacks, fatigue, and sinus congestion. Lawrence Kurlandsky, MD, formerly of the University, suggests that the allergens are probably okay if there aren’t obvious allergies within the family, but that’s a risk to take.
The research shows, though, that artificial trees carry their own sets of concerns. If stored improperly, the “fake” trees can also bring mold and additional dust into your home. Additionally, these trees are generally composed of plastics, polyvinyl chloride (PVC), and phthalates. The last of that group, the phthalates, are the biggest risk. They are mostly endocrine disruptors, chemicals that can interfere with the hormones in the body. “I say that’s a bigger health concern than potential exposure to pine-scented terpenes,” said Bryan Cummings, research scientist at Drexel University’s College of Engineering.
Need for Balance
If that seems scary, it both is and it isn’t. What’s coming next may not make anyone feel better, but we bring phthalates in the house in so many other products. Your water bottles, plastic appliances, toys, and anything else with plastic can emit those into the air. Both Poppendieck and Cummings still have Christmas trees, so if their comments worry you, they don’t worry them enough to pull out of the tradition. Poppendieck believes that if the tree brings joy, don’t stop getting one just because of the risks as there are risks in almost anything you bring into your home.
There are many things you can do to help mitigate that risk. Cummings cleans with simple soap and water rather than harsh chemicals. He also limits the use of scented products and reminds us all that we can simply open a window as well. But one thing that catches our attention here at Synexis is the use of an indoor air purification system.
Synexis is an industry leader in improving your Indoor Environmental Quality (IEQ) with our devices that create Dry Hydrogen Peroxide (DHP®). Our systems work 24/7/365 (sometimes 366 like in 2024!), are certifiably zero ozone and work without anyone having to leave the room. Just turn the device on and go about your day without another thought (until it’s time to change your consumables, of course). So whether you’re fighting the fight against a pine tree in your living room or office lobby, an artificial tree, or anything else, Synexis is always here to keep your air and surfaces cleaner.
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