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Charity warns of festive dangers

03 December 2018

CONSUMERS ARE being urged to avoid a nightmare before Christmas this year by purchasing artificial Christmas trees which burn less quickly - while research shows many Brits neglect to water their real trees, continue to use damaged lights and use flammable hairspray to keep pine needles in place.

Consumer protection Charity Electrical Safety First releases its advice urging consumers that the only fake they should buy this year is an artificial Christmas tree. 

Real trees are prone to drying out, making them tinder boxes if an electrical fire was to occur, and adding alarm to the Charity’s finding that more than half of Brits that have owned one do not regularly water their real Christmas tree[i]. Real trees can absorb up to a litre of water a day and the research – conducted with polling company Censuswide - suggests that millions of Brits may be putting themselves at risk by neglecting their trees. 

The same research reveals that worryingly, 1 in 8 Brits that are planning to put Christmas lights on their real tree this year admit that these lights are in bad condition[ii], whilst more than 1 in 4 describes their Christmas tree lights as being tangled[iii], risking frayed wires or damaged insulation. Damaged lights wrapped around a dry tree pose a potentially lethal risk. Of those surveyed some Brits planned on decorating their tree with lights up to 30 years old[iv]. Consumers are urged to only buy Christmas tree lights from a reputable retailer to avoid falling victim to faulty or counterfeit decorations which could spark a fire.

Leaving Christmas lights plugged in overnight also leaves residents vulnerable to electrical fires as festive items could be prone to overheating. Around 1 in 5 of those who put Christmas lights on their tree admitted to leaving their festive lights on overnight when they go to bed or when they leave the house[v]. 

Consumer ‘hacks’ used by Brits who plan on buying a real Christmas tree this year are also a real cause for concern. Electrical Safety First discovered that 1 in 8 of these admit to spraying hairspray on the tree to prevent the needles from falling off[vi], despite the highly flammable nature of the substance. More than 1 in 3 meanwhile, confessed to decorating their tree with bauble tea-lights, exposing the tree to a naked flame[vii]. 

With so many of us celebrating Christmas with decorations in our homes, the Charity is also urging people not to overload plug sockets. Over half of those surveyed said they will be relying on adapters to plug in their appliances this Christmas, which pose a serious risk if they are overloaded[viii].

Latest analysis from Electrical Safety First also shows that more fires in dwellings occurred in December last year that any other month[ix]. 

Director of communications at Electrical Safety First Emma Drackford said, “The worrying speed with which a real Christmas tree can burn makes it advisable that consumers consider break with tradition this year, as if your fake tree catches fire you’re likely to have considerably more time to get out. Whether your Christmas tree is real or fake, it’s vitally important that you ensure any lights on or around it are in good condition and plugged into sockets that aren’t overloaded. Also, station your tree away from any heat sources such as radiators and never leave festive lights switched on when you leave the house or go to bed.”

[i] Of respondents surveyed who are planning on having a Christmas tree this year, celebrate Christmas and have owned a real Christmas tree before only 45.8% said they water their tree regularly.
[ii] Of respondents surveyed who are planning on putting Christmas lights on their tree this year 11.7% described their Christmas lights as either ‘damaged’ or ‘some bulbs don’t work’.
[iii] Of respondents surveyed who are planning on putting Christmas lights on their tree this year 27.5% described their lights as ‘tangled’. 
[iv] Of respondents asked to state the age of their Christmas tree lights if they were over 10 years old some respondents claimed their lights were 30 years old. 
[v] Collectively of respondents surveyed 20.2% of those surveyed said they leave their Christmas lights on the tree switched on when they leave the house and go to bed. 
[vi] Of those surveyed 12.8% admitted to spraying hairspray on their Christmas tree to stop the pine needles falling onto the carpet.
[vii] Of those surveyed 34.3% decorate their Christmas tree with bauble tea lights.
[viii] Collectively 54.2% of respondents said they were relying on adaptors to plug in their appliances this Christmas for either all of their appliances or some of their appliances. 
[ix] Based on analysis of Home Office Data fire statistics of the daily rate of fire incidents by month and location in England.