Unwanted tree decoration: More than half of the Christmas trees sold are contaminated with weedkillers, samples from the environmental organization BUND show. The found pesticides act as neurotoxins, can cause cancer and are toxic to aquatic life. The BUND demands from the producers a waiver of these funds and advises consumers to pay attention to eco-seals when buying a Christmas tree.
The annual purchase of the Christmas tree is already difficult enough: He has to fit in the room, but should not be too small, and also, of course, just grown, green and healthy look. But that’s not all: Even with the Christmas tree it may be worthwhile to pay attention to its origin and cultivation methods. Otherwise, the chosen tree could carry poisonous pesticides on its needles.
Agricultural poisons with health consequences
The German Federal Agency for the Environment and Nature Conservation (BUND) has examined needles of Christmas trees for residues of more than 150 pesticides in an independent laboratory. The samples from a total of 15 trees came from DIY stores and garden centers in Berlin, Leipzig, Munich, Nuremberg and other regions in Bavaria.
The tests showed residues of weedkillers on more than every other tree: seven of the trees had traces of the herbicides glyphosate or prosulfocarb, and another tree had both remedies together. “These agricultural poisons are heavy water pollutants and can cause health effects in humans,” says pesticide expert Tomas Brückmann from the BUND.
Not for the first time poison on Christmas trees
Glyphosate is suspected to promote cancer and damage embryonic development. Prosulfocarb is very toxic to the nervous system, continues Brückmann. And not only for humans, but also for the environment, the weed killers pose a danger: Glyphosate is toxic to aquatic organisms. According to the manufacturers in the waters, the substances can have long-term harmful effects “, says Brückmann.
This is not the first time that toxins have been found on Christmas trees: in 2011, the BUND had ever had conifer trees tested for pesticides. Among other things, it was also possible to prove insecticides that are not allowed for the cultivation of Christmas trees. The good news is that these dangerous chemicals were no longer found in the current test.
Environmentally friendly alternatives
However, the new test shows that herbicides are still used frequently: “These weed killers are not necessary when growing Christmas trees,” says Brückmann, demanding: “Because of the environmental and health risks, producers of Christmas trees have to do without pesticides.” As an environmentally friendly alternative, the BUND suggests animal helpers: Shropshire sheep could, for example, keep grass in Christmas tree plantations as short as weed killers.
If you want to be on the safe side, you should pay attention to recognized quality labels of organic farming associations. Brückmann also recommends trees from local forests as an alternative: “At the forest owners and foresters next door trees can be partially even beaten, a special experience, especially for children.” Consumers recommends the BUND to ask before buying, whether the Christmas tree from regional Origin and environmentally friendly production. Thus, the awareness of producers and traders for sustainable farming methods can be strengthened. The test buyers of t he BUND had found that sellers were often unable to answer these questions.