Christmas lights have undergone a long evolution to the more commonly used LED string lights of today. However, the design of the Christmas "bubble" light has remained fairly consistent, with its liquid-filled case or vial that is heated by an incandescent bulb that boils the liquid, creating bubbles that rise from the bottom of the vial. To protect your family and home during Christmastime, be aware of the dangers associated with bubble lights.
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The bubbling fluid inside the bubble light contains methylene chloride. This liquid is a colorless and very toxic solvent which irritates eyes and skin. If a bubble light vial breaks and spills methylene chloride, open windows to ventilate the room and prevent inhalation of vapors. Wear latex gloves to clean the area with rags that you then dispose of outside the home.
Many Christmas lights, including bubble lights, carry lead warning labels. The coating material on the wires is mixed with lead to increase heat resistance and decrease the likelihood of fixtures catching fire. Handling these coated wires could cause harmful amounts of lead exposure, so wash your hands and your children's hands after use. Be aware that because only California requires that all lights containing lead be labeled as such wherever sold in that state, not all wiring containing lead carries warnings in other states.
In the early days of bubble lights and Christmas lights, colorful plastic casings surrounded the bulbs. These casings, with opaque coatings, trapped high levels of radiant energy inside, which increased the possibility of bulb combustion and caused many trees to catch fire. Older models have mostly been replaced by more modern ones. Choose bubble lights with incandescent bulbs inside clear cases, and always make sure that your Christmas tree is healthy and well-watered to help prevent fire.
If you determine that the risks and potential hazards caused by bubble lights outweigh the benefits and joys, look for other ways to light up the tree. Today, manufacturers make safer bubble lights with translucent acrylic casings and LED bulbs that light up fixed air bubbles inside, giving the appearance of bubbles without the danger. Consider strings of battery-powered lights or even solar-powered lights instead of traditional incandescents, and search for lead-free Christmas light options.