Many of us are getting into the spirit of the upcoming holiday season. This festive mood includes twinkling lights, scented candles, artificial decorations and, of course, Christmas trees and greens. According to the National Christmas Tree Association, every year, approximately 25-30 million real Christmas trees are sold in the United States. Apart from this, millions of synthetic trees are sold every year. Many of these trees are prepared several weeks ahead of the holidays and pass through various environments before finding a home.
Unfortunately, in energy-tight buildings, it creates favorable conditions for microbial growth and may off-gas obnoxious substances. Although these trees may not produce pollen grains during the winter season, they may harbor pollen grains (due to contact with grass, ragweed, etc.) and microbes such as bacteria, mold, etc. that can multiply rapidly and disperse in our surroundings. A report accounts that about 7% of the general population are allergy sufferers from “Christmas tree allergies.”
The American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology advise that some trees may also be home to microscopic mold spores that trigger asthma or allergies, causing symptoms like sneezing or an itchy nose. These trees may emit fragrances that can be irritating.
If it is decided to decorate a natural tree for the holiday season, one could hose down the tree before bringing it indoors in order to limit the amount of pollen grains and mold spores. In the case an artificial tree is used, it has been encouraged that the tree is wiped down prior to decorating to eliminate the dust and debris accumulated during storage.
Other potential holiday allergens to consider include scented candles and incense. The holiday season is iconic for the warm, cozy and inviting aromas. However, artificial scents can cause irritation and reactions to individuals who are sensitive. According to the EPA, some candles can emit numerous different chemicals including, but not limited to, acetaldehyde, formaldehyde, acrolein, and polyaromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs).
To avoid the challenges posed by microbes and volatile compounds released by Christmas trees and other décor, people can consider easy, Do-It-Yourself tests. Laboratory results of the findings are important in order to help identify potential entities which may be significant from an allergy point of view. If needed, advanced investigations can be undertaken or a simple avoidance of the suspected allergens can prove beneficial for those who are susceptible.
A number of Indoor Air Quality tests, from Do-It-Yourself screen tests to detailed environmental diagnostic evaluationsare available to collect and identify environmental allergens and their potential sources.