What You Might Not Know About Fake Christmas Trees

Where do they come from?Most fake trees are made of metals and plastic.

Most fake trees (85%) in the U.S. are imported from China according to the U.S. Commerce Department.

What are the factories like where they're made?

As noted in the Washington Post, "On the concrete floors of Zhang's Shuitou Company factory, migrant workers, most earning about $100 a month, squat in front of hissing machinery as they melt chips into moldable plastic..."

Read the full article from the Washington Post.

What are fake trees made of?

Most artificial Christmas trees are made of metals and plastics.  The plastic material, typically PVC, can be a potential source of hazardous lead.

The Healthy Child Healthy World organization strongly recommends not letting children around plastic tree imitations

Why do some artificial trees carry a warning label?

Lead can sometimes be found in artificial trees.The potential for lead poisoning is great enough that fake trees made in China are required by California Prop 65 to have a warning label.

Read more about the effects of lead poisoning.

View a 2007 report from CNN on the dangers of lead in holiday decorations, such as fake trees and wreaths:

Why did the USDA quarantine some artificial trees?

Some fake trees have a wooden center pole. In 2004, the U.S. Department of Agriculture placed a quarantine on fake trees from China, which had a potentially harmful beetle in the center pole.

Who decided to make a fake Christmas tree?

Actually fake trees were invented by a company who made toilet bowl brushes, the Addis Brush Company. Regardless of how far the technology has come, it's still interesting to know the first fake Christmas trees were really just big green toilet bowl brushes. Read the article.

Are fake trees really fireproof?

Overloaded electrical outlets and faulty wires are the most common causes of holiday fires in residences - these are just as likely to affect artificial trees as Real Trees. 

In 2004, the Farmington Hills Fire Department in metropolitan Detroit conducted a test of how real and artificial trees react in a house fire. The artificial tree, which was advertised as "flame retardant," did resist the flames for an amount of time, but then was engulfed in flames and projected significant heat and toxic smoke, containing hydrogen chloride gas and dioxin.

Below are the before, during and after photos of the artificial tree.

Before - Artificial Tree
During - Artificial Tree
After - Artificial Tree

Compare the above photos to those of the well-cared-for Real Tree, which remained mostly intact, as seen below:

Before - Real Tree
During - Real Tree
After - Real Tree

Are fake trees better for the environment?

Artificial trees are a petroleum-based product manufactured primarily in Chinese factories.  The average family uses a fake tree for only six to nine years before throwing it away, where it will remain in a landfill indefinitely.  That’s a pretty hefty, long-term environmental burden.  And as mentioned before, the polyvinyl chloride (PVC) used in most artificial trees has been boycotted by many environmental groups.

This issue is especially concerning due to China's weak enforcement of environmental regulations. Delta Farm Press recently addressed China's environmental crisis in this article.

A farm-grown, real Christmas tree has the upper hand.  While they’re growing, Real Christmas Trees absorb carbon dioxide and other gases and emit fresh oxygen.  They are grown on farms just like any crop.  Christmas tree farmers plant new seedlings every spring to replace those harvested.  There are about 350 million conifer trees growing on Christmas tree farms in the U.S. alone.  These trees would not exist if not planted by Christmas tree farmers.  Christmas Trees farms stabilize the soil, protect water supplies and support complex eco-systems.  And of course, farm-grown Christmas trees can be recycled, whereas fake trees cannot.

The environmentalists agree.