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I've heard that in some countries (e.g. Germany) christmas trees are sprayed with pesticides and fungicides to make the trees look better and to make them bug-free. I've also heard that this may be harmful to your health, especially if you keep your christmas tree indoors and don't open the windows for fresh air.

I tried google for more information but could hardly find anything on this topic. So are these just rumours or is it true? And if it is true, how do I know if my Christmas tree is non-toxic? Is there a way to test this?

EDIT: the source apparently is an article in a German newspaper (see also this answer). I'm still curious whether this is a problem only in Germany (probably not), or also in other (European) countries.

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    We have had a fresh tree for several years and this year there were very few bugs compared to prior years. I had been wondering about whether it had been sprayed. Presumably toxicity will depend on the spray(s) used, how recently it was done, and what the weather was like since it was sprayed. – Highly Irregular Dec 23 '13 at 0:36
  • It isn't just the people being affected, what about insects such as bees. – user1329 Apr 7 '14 at 20:53
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Many 'tree farmers' spray trees to increase the shelf-life. We know bugs and fungi will attack organic matter such as the Christmas trees once there is the opportunity to. There are pesticides and herbicides used throughout the life of the tree and these are all known to have residual effects that can last many years.

Surveys carried out by Dr. Steve Toth, Pesticide Impact Specialist with North Carolina State University found the use of many pesticides and herbicides such as:

Pesticides 1. Di-Syston 2. Lindane 3. Dimethoate 4. Asana 5. Lorsban 6. Savey 7. Morestan 8. Talstar 9. Thiodan

Herbicides 1. Roundup 2. Simazine 3. Goal 4. Stinger 5. Garlon 6. Crossbow

These help greatly to increase the shelf lives of the trees but we have some idea as the the kind of effects these chemicals can have especially after long-term exposure. It can be argued that the kind of exposure we undergo from the short period of owning the these trees would not necessarily be cause for concern. However, it is my guess and many other people's that anything designed to kill bugs and weeds is usually toxic to humans. Therefore there ought to be some concern there.

You can always ask who you purchase the tree from about their chemical usage and this sort of information should be readily available to the customer. If you want to get trees that are not exposed to such chemicals, you can purchase certified organic trees. Organic farming reduces and in most cases eliminates the use of such chemicals. These methods are a bit more expensive but it helps in reducing or limiting our exposure to chemicals.

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I found more information about these 'rumours'. An expert on forests working for the German WWF has told the German 'Taz' newspaper that many Christmas trees grown in Germany are full of pesticides. The German growers claim the use of pesticides is necessary due to the widespread use of monocultures (to keep the prices low). In monocultures diseases and bugs spread more quickly.

Environmental protection organisations in Germany recommend 'Ökobäume' as well as the Naturland, Bioland, Demeter and FSC labels. Apparently their prices are about 5-10 euros higher compared to other trees. The newspaper article also says that not all environment labels are ok and criticizes the Fairforest label for using potentially cancer-inducing chemicals.

This post suggests that there are no known health issues for pesticides usage on Christmas tree, but pesticides do have an impact on the environment of course.

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