Healthy Living: December 11, 2018

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BANGOR, Maine (WABI) - The Christmas Tree is the celebrated crown jewel of the holiday season for many families. What may not be obvious however is that this cherished symbol also needs to be regarded with care because of potential dangers, especially fire. Fortunately Christmas tree fires are uncommon but their risk for tragedy is enormous. These fires are about 4 times more likely to result in death than house fires in general. This is mainly because they can quickly ignite and get out of control. One fourth of Christmas tree fires start because of electrical issues - be it bulbs, wiring, cords or plugs. Another reason they start is because they are too close to a heat source. The dryness of the tree is also a large factor The good news is that all these risks factors can be nearly eliminated. The first step is to choose your Christmas tree wisely. It should be freshly cut, but unless you cut your own, it can be hard to tell how fresh a pre-cut tree is. Obviously, the tree should be nice and green. When you shake or tap a fresh tree on the ground, only a few needles should come off. When you fold the needles, they should bend rather than break. If they snap apart the tree is too dry. Also, the trunk of a fresh cut tree will be sticky If you are worried about getting the tree inside your house without getting sap everywhere, it's probably a good one!

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Second, where you put your tree is very important. It should not be in high traffic areas, nor should it be blocking any doorways, halls or exits. It should be at least 3 feet away from any heat source including fireplaces, space heaters, registers and baseboards, even decorative candles. Third, what you place on your tree matters. All decorations should be nonflammable. Artificial trees should be labeled "flame resistant." Tree lights need special treatment every year. Make sure they are approved for indoor use and check that all the bulbs, wires and plugs are in perfect condition - even if you just opened a new box. Never connect more strings of lights together than recommended and ALWAYS turn them off when you leave the house or go to bed. Lastly, take care of your tree. Home heating quickly dries out the freshest Christmas trees. Right before bringing your tree indoors, cut a couple more inches off the trunk because the fresh wood soaks up water better. Keep your tree stand filled with water every single day. Lastly, say a fond goodbye to your tree soon after the holidays are over. Even with lots of TLC, your tree is going to dry out and this is probably why almost 40% of all Christmas tree fires happen in January. This means having it removed completely, not putting it in your garage or leaning it against the house. There are lots of free resources for dropping trees off or having them picked up at your curb usually starting right after Christmas and extending into the first week or two of January. Embrace the season and if finding the perfect tree is part of your tradition, just make sure tree safety is too. Here's wishing every Mainer a happy and safe holiday!

References:
1. National Fire Protection Association (www.nfpa.org http://www.nfpa.org)
a. Christmas Tree Safety Tips
b. Home Christmas Tree Fires Fact Sheet
2. www.aap.org http://www.aap.org Holiday Safety Tips
3. www.ehso.com http://www.ehso.com Maine: Curbside and Local Recycling and Disposal Options for Christmas Trees, Lights and Other Holiday Waste in 2018