Thursday, December 2, 2010

fish or electricity?

One common question we often get is what to do with a tree you've got home but are not setting up right away. Partly it depends on where you live...advice for someone in say, south Texas would be different than for someone in say, Duluth, Minnesota. But in general, it's a good idea to go ahead and make a fresh cut off the trunk if it hasn't had one in the last 3-6 hours. Then just set the tree into a big bucket of water and lean it against a wall. Leave it in the netting, or in my case the box, and set it somewhere out of the sun and wind as much as possible.

I just did that to the tree we've been following from The Rocks Tree Farm in New Hampshire where it was planted, grown and harvested. It arrived at my house this week, but I'm not ready to set it up inside and decorate yet. So made a fresh cut last night and now have it in a bucket of water on my porch. Here's a quick video of this process.

So I was reading the December issue of Men's Health the other day at lunch and I see an article quoting some allergy doctor saying Christmas trees are bad because they increase mold in a home. What a bunch of hooey. I don't know who this guy is, but I suspect he has an ulterior motive. He claimed he had done a “study” showing a farm-grown Christmas tree raised mold levels in the home.

Dr. Santilli was resoundingly discredited by a group of scientists from his same state of Connecticut shortly after he started conducting interviews in 2007 offering insight into his so-called study. The National Christmas Tree Association issued a White Paper authored and signed by six scientists to allay concerns people may have about Christmas trees if they hear Dr. Santilli’s claims. The White Paper included these points:

Airborne fungi/molds are ubiquitous. Most people are unaffected by exposure to moderate amounts of mold.

The author(s) linked allergenic fungal spores to real Christmas trees without sufficient scientific proof. The data presented are clearly preliminary and the conclusions made by the author(s) are not supported by sound science due to shortcomings in the experimental design.

The presentation states that the number of spores increased during a 2-week trapping period when a fresh tree was placed in a house and decorated. It did not identify the spores, provide baselines and controls, use a proper sampling plan and was not replicated—these are all necessary components of a properly designed study.

There were no indoor and outdoor checks/controls to determine the origin of airborne molds. A well designed study needs to take samples from a comparable room without a Christmas tree in the house as an indoor check and samples from an outdoor location as an outdoor check.

Airborne molds are complex in biological life cycles, ecology and population dynamics in both indoor and outdoor environments. Populations and types of airborne molds can vary with time: within 24 hours, seasons, locations, and geographical areas.

The trend they reported might be interesting, but additional studies would be necessary to provide science-based proof of their hypothesis and for the conclusions of the study. As it is presented, most scientists would consider the information as anecdotal.

In other words, it was completely useless as a source of information or consumer health advice. Send me an email if you'd like a full copy of the White Paper I mentioned.

I got an email that may be the answer to the rare but intriguing question about why a Christmas tree smells like fish.

From: Kevin
Sent: Wednesday, December 01, 2010 9:14 PM
Subject: Christmas tree smelly

I thought that my Christmas tree smelled "fishy", a very bad smell.

It was not the tree, and it was not the water in the stand.

It was a melting electrical outlet that we only use around Christmas time.

The outlet smelled like rotten fish, and when I removed the cover it shot sparks and was black and melted by the wires that connect to it. Please let people know about this issue.

Hmmm …now that is interesting. Thanks Kevin. I always thought that electrical shorts smelled like ozone. Are you an electrician by chance? Is this common?

I am not an electrician. The same thing happened last year in another outlet in the same room. I have too many outlets on one circuit, and that includes the outlets in my garage where I plug in the outside lights. I can send you a picture of the bad outlet if you want.

Well, thanks Kevin. Are there any electricians out there that can shed some light on this?

More common questions to come later this week.

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