Making the choice between a real or ‘fake’ Christmas tree can be a tough family decision. While there are many reasons to choose artificial (no needles, doesn’t dry out, cheaper over time), possibly the best reason is safety.
The National Fire Protection Association reports that, on average 230 house fires were started with Christmas trees each year, between the years of 2007 and 2011. (See source here) There is definitely an argument to be made for the use of artificial Christmas trees, but what part of an artificial Christmas tree lends itself to its lack of flammability?
Artificial Christmas trees are polymer products (i.e. plastic) and are typically composed of polyvinyl chloride (PVC) polymeric systems. Unplasticized PVC in itself is considered to be self-extinguishing due to its high chlorine content; flammability of PVC however increases with increasing amounts of plasticizer added. PVC Christmas trees are also heavily comprised of inorganic and nonreactive organic flame retardant compounds. Among these are alumina hydrates and phosphate esters which account for nearly 45% and 15% of flame retardant compounds in plastics respectively.1 These compounds, which readily integrate into the polymer system, coactively work with the highly halogenated polymer to produce an impressively flame retardant decoration.
Perhaps you may be one that enjoys the fresh pine scent of the real thing; however, if you want to be on the safe side, you may want to buy a scented plug-in and set it on high.
With a diverse set of instruments, Jordi Labs is equipped to provide analytical testing to qualify and quantify flame retardant compounds in your polymeric system. Typical techniques utilized for this purpose are Pyrolysis Mass Spectroscopy (PYMS) to identify organic flame retardants and Proton Induced X-Ray Emission (PIXE) to investigate the presence of halogenated flame retardants.
1Chemical Additives for the Plastics Industry. Radian Corporation. Noyes Data Corporation. Park Ridge, NJ. 1987