Deck the halls with vows of safety


Posted Dec. 19, 2016, at 1:22 p.m.

The greatest gift that you could give this season might be yourself, safe and sound, arriving for a visit with a loved one or a friend.

Safety messages are everywhere this time of year. However, we all seem to be so busy that we may dismiss the cautions. Here are a few suggestions for consumers who want to keep themselves and those close to them safe:

—  Replace batteries and smoke/carbon monoxide detectors. Many of us replace batteries when we set clocks ahead in the spring and back in the fall. If you forgot, do it now. Smoke and CO detectors need good batteries to save lives. They also don’t last forever. If the date of manufacture on your smoke detector is more than 10 years old, it’s time to replace the unit. CO detectors are generally effective from five to seven years.

— Decorate safely. Spun glass known as “angel hair” can irritate eyes and skin. Wear gloves when you’re using it or use non-flammable cotton instead. Decorate with children in mind. Ornaments with metal hooks should go high on the tree. Use a good step ladder for hanging decorations.

— Clear your path. Keep wrapping paper, decorations and toys out of areas where you walk. The National Safety Council has tips about avoiding falls at

— Keep pets safe. Holiday plants such as mistletoe and holly may attract household pets, and eating some plants can cause harm. Don’t feed table scraps to the dog or cat. Carmela Stamper, a veterinarian with the Food and Drug Administration, says rich, fatty foods can cause a potentially lethal condition called pancreatitis. And be careful of alcoholic beverages and chocolate around pets.

— Be aware of toy recalls. Check for recall notices to avoid things such as lead paint, laceration risks or other hazards.

Officials in the insurance industry offer a number of tips, beginning with indoor tree safety. Avoiding open flame (candles) and frequent watering head the list.

Careful inspection of lights is another must. Allstate advises that holiday lights may contain PVC and may be tainted with lead. After you’ve decorated, wash up and keep children away from lights they might handle before sticking fingers in their mouths.

You can look for labels reading “RoHS” (Reduction of Hazardous Substances) meaning lead was not used in making the lights.

Outside your home, most safety precautions revolve around shopping. Make sure purchases are safe and out of sight when leaving them in your vehicle. Keep close watch on your wallet or purse, and be cautious of prying eyes when entering a PIN.

Back at home, be careful when cooking; the festive season can distract us and might increase the risk of a fire. Party responsibly. Celebrate safely, and make the season bright.

Consumer Forum is a collaboration of the Bangor Daily News and Northeast CONTACT, Maine’s all-volunteer, nonprofit consumer organization. For assistance with consumer-related issues, including consumer fraud and identity theft, or for information, write Consumer Forum, P.O. Box 486, Brewer, ME 04412, visit or email


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