As Christmas approaches, officials stress the importance of maintaining both living and artificial trees to improve indoor air quality.
Both living and artificial Christmas trees can cause health issues due to pollutants, pollens, dust and molds that may be brought into a home. This is especially prominent in those who have preexisting health issues, such as asthma or allergies, but can affect anyone.
Since the inception of artificial Christmas trees, a debate over which style of tree is more beneficial to purchase. Factors include cost, health effects, environmental effects and more.
However, both styles of trees may cause a decrease in indoor air quality according to co-owner of the local AdvantaClean franchise Pete Jarvis. AdvantaClean helps improve indoor air quality, get rid of mold and other pollutants, combat odors indoors and much more, and Jarvis believes that any consultation with professionals can prepare homeowners to tackle these issues themselves.
During the winter, one of the most pressing indoor air quality issues is “Christmas Tree Syndrome,” which is the overarching term for increased allergies, rashes and asthma attacks once Christmas trees are introduced to the home.
Jarvis stated that many of these allergies can be traced to pollen and mold that can be present on living trees and dust that can be present on artificial trees. The Environmental Protection Agency has stressed that indoor air quality is lower than outdoor air quality, and introducing new irritants can decrease the quality even more.
“You’re already starting from behind so to speak. Then, you’re bringing in more allergens coming from the attic or wherever things are stored or from a live tree,” said Jarvis. “Our homes are tighter. You don’t get as much air exchange. Any contaminants that are in our environment, unless we take some preventive or proactive steps, stay there and will build upon themselves.”
Jarvis and AdvantaClean representatives do not attribute all indoor air quality issues during the holidays to Christmas trees, but they acknowledge that the allergens can affect anyone and homeowners should take precautions.
“These conditions are made worse during the holidays as we add trees, decorations and candles around our homes which can be harmful for friends and family members with allergies, asthma or other respiratory issues,” said media contact Kevin Behan.
Jarvis stressed that the term ‘syndrome’ may be an exaggeration and typically abstains from using the term to avoid inciting fear. Jarvis acknowledged that mold can be an issue, but it has risen to a level of fear beyond what is warranted.
Homeowners may combat “Christmas Tree Syndrome” themselves by dusting artificial Christmas trees and decorations, upgrading furnace filters, purchasing a HEPA-level air purifier and understanding how pollutants may affect others. Jarvis recommends using a HEPA vacuum to dust around the house as the filter can dispose of contaminants as small as mold spores.
The debate over whether artificial trees are more practical due to the organic material brought indoors by a real Christmas tree was also a hot topic.
“Bringing in a Christmas tree – I think it really started more with live trees than artificial – is an opportunity to bring in allergens or things that people might be sensitive to,” said Jarvis. “In terms of a live tree, you’re talking about something organic. Mold can grow on anything organic given enough humidity or moisture.”
Jarvis claimed that artificial trees do appear to give homeowners an advantage in terms of indoor air quality, but only if it is properly dusted.
“There’s a bit of an advantage to artificial trees. It has its advantages and disadvantages. Overall, because the actual tree is inorganic, meaning it isn’t food for things like mold, the artificial tree has an advantage,” said Jarvis.
Jarvis claimed that dust may still become food for mold, so proper care and cleaning is still recommended to avoid mold spores indoors.
In the debate about living and artificial Christmas trees, Wild About Marion member and forestry enthusiast Taylere McCoy provided information about the environmental impacts each may cause. McCoy ultimately expressed that the ecological community seems to agree that living trees are more environmentally friendly.
“Producing fake trees uses a lot of resources and creates greenhouse gasses. It also requires the use of plastic, which is not really beneficial to the environment,” said McCoy. “Most fake trees cannot be recycled or repurposed, so they end up in a landfill.”
McCoy stated that living trees serve a dual purpose during their lifespan. Living trees promote growth in sustainably managed forests and provide a habitat for wildlife. Then, living trees may be repurposed into Christmas trees and further repurposed after Christmas time.
“Even dead trees provide habitat, and several parks have started using old Christmas trees as fish habitat in ponds and lakes,” said McCoy. “This is because the structure of the tree provides a protected place for fish to lay their eggs.”
Air quality officials and environmental officials may disagree on the recommendation of artificial and living trees, but both agree that each homeowner should weigh the pros and cons of both before making a decision.
“I have been using real Christmas trees for the past few years. That being said, I think it is definitely important to consider the pros and cons to each when people make their decisions,” said McCoy. “If you have health issues, you may want to find out if a real tree will cause any problems for you before buying one.”