All Lit Up
Date Added: Dec. 12, 2001
If most people who deck their halls with twinkling lights actually read the warning labels on them, they may think twice about hanging them on their houses. Here's a letter, written by someone who read the label and subsequently had some reservations. Naturally, she responded by lashing out at the retailer with an e-mail chain letter.
Subject: Christmas Lights Warning
My mother-in-law had bought us some new Christmas lights from Wal-Mart. The manufacturer is Holiday Time. They're the mini, indoor/outdoor type. While I was arranging them on our tree, I noticed a warning label.
"For temporary (90 day max.) installation & use only."
"Caution: Prop65 Warning. Handling the coated electrical wires of this product exposes you to lead, a chemical known to the state of CA to cause cancer, birth defects and other reproductive harm. Wash hands after use."
I can't believe these lights are even on the market! I'll be taking them back to Wal-Mart. Please check your lights.
Wal-Mart is a frequent target of chain letters that challenge their common image of a wholesome American retailer. The Arkansas-based retail giant is well-known for its protective policies and actions on such topics as violent video games and CDs and tapes with explicit lyric warnings. So, it's surprising to hear that they may actually be selling a product known to pose a risk to those who buy it. It is scandalous dichotomies like this one that make for good chain letters.
Jack Barnes, seasonal buyer for Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. told BreakTheChain.org that the lights in question conformed to accepted safety standards and that the lead in the wire sheath is required, as is the warning label:
"It is our understanding that the manufacturers' use of lead in these products is to improve the safety of the lights. We are told that the use of lead is required by Underwriters Laboratory, an organization that certifies the safety of lighting products in the United States. The amount of lead used is a tiny amount and does not exceed any applicable federal guidelines. Our holiday lights meet industry standards and are compliant with state and federal regulations governing their sale.
"However, the State of California requires a warning label on any product that contains lead in amounts that exceed California's very low threshold for warning of the presence of lead. The warning doesn't indicate that the product is illegal to sell. It only indicates that the product contains a substance, which California considers to be hazardous. At the present time, no other state requires a similar warning. To avoid separate packaging, many manufacturers place the Californian-required label on product they ship to other states."
As for the "Temporary Installation" warning, you'll actually see this caution on most holiday light sets. Basically, the advisory is that they are decorative only and aren't intended to be used year-round for everyday lighting applications. This Christmas Eve, you can rest all snug in your bed, assured that Wal-Mart is not out to kill you. Break this Chain!