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Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Real or Artificial? The Debate over Christmas Trees

Which tree should you buy?

Artificial tree lovers perpetuate the argument that once-living 
trees contribute to deforestation. Tree farmers, in turn, point out that the first artificial tree was made by a toilet brush manufacturer, thus making artificial trees nothing but big green toilet 

Now, the Farmington Hills Fire Department isn't about to tell you which tree to buy,
 since that is a personal decision. But there are more than a few factors to consider when buying 
a tree or before you set up the one you've already bought.

Here are some facts about both trees that you may find helpful in making 
your decision:

Artificial Trees

Pros: Many are very durable lasting 6-10 years.

 They're easy to set up.  Some models are like an umbrella -- open it right up, and you're done.
 Some models come with the lights already installed in the branches.

 No maintenance. Water isn't required, and you never get that "Charlie Brown tree" look.  Most of these trees look perfect.

Cons: Many models are initially expensive, costing over a $100 dollars and up. Although, 
if you continue to use it for many years, it could save money.

 Eighty-five percent are made in China – no supporting of local business here.

 Most are made from PVC (polyvinylchloride), which is not bio-
degradable. Branches are made from lead, which is a toxic metal that can cause
 damage to the brain and nervous system. Most end up in a landfill.

 With artificial trees, there is no natural scent, and as you will soon see, they are the worst choice with regards to fire safety.

Real Tree


 Environmentally friendly. As many as 45 million trees were planted last year in 
North America, providing great habitat for wildlife, removing dust and pollen from 

the air, and producing oxygen. Real trees can be recycled, and when decomposed,
 provide nutrients to back into the earth. 

They smell natural and great.

 Because they are grown in all counties of the state, real trees help local businesses and farmers.

 If properly maintained, they are the best choice with regards to fire safety

. You can make getting your tree a family tradition and cut your own



 Depending on the type and size, real trees can cost $20-$200

. Trees need to be watered daily, or needles start to fall, and the tree can present a


The definitive safety test

In 2004, the Farmington Hills Fire Department conducted a test of various Christmas trees to determine how they would fare in a house fire. The artificial tree, which was advertised as "flame retardant," did 
resist flames for a few seconds, but once ignited, was engulfed in flames in under a minute. It filled
 the room with thick black, toxic smoke and hydrogen chloride gas. Even with a smoke alarm to
 give you an early warning, members of a household would be seriously challenged to get out 

A "live" Christmas tree which was not maintained and allowed to dry, also ignited after about 
a minute. It, too, produced smoke, but not nearly as thick or black as the artificial tree. A family 
would have to have an escape plan in place, and react quickly to escape their home safely.

The "live" Christmas tree, which was maintained and watered daily, would not ignite. The boxes
 around the tree ignited, but the tree itself would not burn. Early warning from a working smoke
 alarm may notify a family long before the fire was able to grow, allowing for a quick, safe and
 easy escape from the home.

From a fire safety standpoint, it was obvious that the Christmas tree providing families with the
 best chance to escape a fire was the "live", well maintained tree.

Regardless of what you buy, always have working smoke alarms in your home. One should be
 provided for each level. Also purchase a carbon monoxide detector. Carbon monoxide is known
 as the "silent killer", as it is odorless, colorless and tasteless.

Have an escape plan. Go over it
 and practice it with each member of the family. Know where to go outside and dial 911 once safely 
there. Never go back inside for any reason.

Have a safe and Happy Holiday season!

Lieutenant Denny Hughes is a fire and safety educator with the Farmington Hills Fire 

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