Pine scented loveliness might not be the only thing you bring into your Philadelphia or South Jersey home when you set up your Christmas tree this year.
You might be bringing an unwanted guest along with it: Mold!
You see, the problem of Christmas tree mold starts when the trees are cut, usually in early October.
The trees are bound, then stacked, and stored for weeks.
This traps all the moisture and mold spores hiding in the pine boughs.
Then you purchase your tree and bring it into the warmth of your home. And, voila!
All the mold hiding in the needles and on the trunk starts spreading throughout your indoor environment, aided and abetted by your HVAC system.
You see, mold and fungus grow naturally on pine trees, especially in the fall. Once a Christmas tree is brought into your home’s warm environment, the spores proliferate exponentially. So, for the 25% of the population who are mold sensitized individuals, the holidays are anything but jolly!
How bad is it?
A study presented in 2007 at the annual scientific meeting of the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology demonstrates the potential for live Christmas trees to increase indoor mold counts several fold. The research was conducted by Rebecca Gruchalla, MD, PhD, of University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas and John Santilli Jr., MD, of St. Vincent Medical Center in Bridgeport, CT.
After placing a live pine tree in a room heated at about 66.5 degrees, Gruchalla and Santilli collected mold count data for two weeks. The mold count rose from 800 spores per cubic meter of air to 5,000 spores per cubic meter.
In another study from 2011, researchers examined 23 samples of bark and pine needles from Christmas Trees.
Believe it or not, the researchers identified 53 different kinds of mold growing on Christmas trees!
And, a lot of the mold varieties they found on the trees are some of the ones most likely to trigger symptoms in the mold sensitized individual.
• Aspergillus. This type of mold is especially dangerous for individuals with compromised immune systems.
• Penicillium. This is a mold from which penicillin is made. And, it causes allergic reactions in some people.
• Cladosporium. A common mold that can cause skin infections and allergic symptoms.
So, whether you’re a mold sensitized individual yourself, or you have a family member sensitive to mold, here are our
5 steps to limit your home’s exposure to Christmas tree mold
1. Consider cutting your Christmas tree yourself.
By cutting the tree yourself, you bypass the storage and transportation practices that promote mold growth.
2. Once you have your tree, don’t bring it inside right away.
First, use a leaf blower to blow off all the pollen and mold spores outside. Then, spray the tree with a solution of 1 part bleach to 20 parts water. After that, use your garden hose, and rinse the tree with the nozzle set on a hard spray. This gets all the debris out of the little nooks and crannies. Then, use your leaf blower to help dry the tree. After that, let your Christmas tree dry in the sun for several hours before bringing it into your home.
3. Limit the time your live tree is in your home.
The studies mentioned above indicate that the longer your tree is in your home, the higher the mold spore count becomes. Therefore, the best way to limit mold contamination is to consider making a plan to put the tree up Christmas Eve and take it down on New Year’s Day to decrease your home’s exposure to Christmas tree mold.
4. Run an air purifier in the same room with your tree
This step reduces mold exposure and lessens the effects of tree allergies.
5. If someone in your home is allergic to mold, consider purchasing an artificial tree.
However, even imitation trees are subject to mold contamination if they’ve been stored in a moldy attic. To prevent the spread of mold from an artificial tree, consider putting it together outside. Then, use your leaf blower to blow the dust and mold off the tree before bringing it indoors.
And one last thing:
Although everyone wants their home to be as clean as possible before holiday guests arrive, don’t shampoo the carpets until the tree is removed from your home.
Mold can’t grow without moisture. And, shampooing carpets after the tree has been installed in your home creates the perfect moisture conditions for Christmas tree mold to flourish!