Safety important for a happy holiday

Published 12:00 am Monday, December 29, 2003

While Christmas comes with joyful reunions and the happiness of giving and receiving gifts, it also comes laden with warnings, from how to plug in the lights to how long it's safe to leave the turkey out. Even on Christmas morning, after the bright wrapping paper has been reduced to colorful confetti, there are potential dangers.

The wrapping paper itself poses health and safety hazard. Many people often bundle the loose paper up and stuff it into the nearest wood burning stove or fireplace, creating serious threats.

"It can spark up very quickly and burn too hot and fast," said Lt. Jeff Holland of the Andalusia Fire Department. "The dyes in the paper and the ribbons can give off toxic fumes, poisonous gases. It's better to burn it outside, or better yet to just put it all in a garbage bag and throw it away."

According to the Poison Control Center in Atlanta, many of those colorful wrapping papers contain lead or other toxic chemicals which, when burned indoors, can release harmful toxins into the air. The ribbons and mylar papers often contain petroleum by-products, which can also release noxious gases when burned.

Flash fires and toxic gases are not the only hazards posed by the cast-off wrapping paper. Drawn by the bright colors, young children can find the bits and pieces of paper and ribbon irresistible.

They can choke on the paper, and it only takes a short length of ribbon

- especially some already tied into a loop or slip-knot bow - to strangle an infant.

The Children's Safety Network advises parents to put the wrapping paper and ribbons into the garbage bag as soon as it's taken off the present. Those who like to save the bits and pieces should put them away in a child proof box immediately, but even this is not recommended because of poitential fire hazard.