The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has issued new regulations for Christmas lights effective in May of 2015. The regulation describes some of the decorations as being substantially hazardous. With these regulations come specifications for minimum wire size, strain relief and overcurrent protection. While it is said that these characteristics are issued as a “voluntary standard”, the manufacturers of those decorations may be subject to fines and perhaps criminal penalties for non-compliance.

Why Is This Necessary?

While deaths from holiday lighting do not occur in significant numbers, the CPSC states that there have been 258 deaths associated with Christmas Lights between 1980 and 2013. In comparison, the number of deaths from alcohol poisoning in California alone are much greater than this number, and deaths from holiday lighting has actually gone down in recent years.

What Does This law regulate?

On the list of dangerous Christmas decorations are such things as wreaths, stars, un-shaded candles  plastic blow-molded figures, light sculptures, and animated figures”.

The CPSC has issued a detailed definition of a Christmas Bulb, citing the Underwriters Laboratories (UL) definition of holiday lighting as “[a] product painted in colors to suggest a holiday theme or a snow covering, a figure in a holiday costume, or any decoration associated with a holiday or particular season of the year.”

The final ruling went on to state that lighting that is powered at 120 volts can be easily damaged, posing a risk of electrical shock or fire If not properly constructed.

Solar-powered lights, however, are exempt from these regulations, because they do not run off of a 120 volt circuit.

Objections To The New Laws

Critics have said this is a clear case of over-reaching government regulation and would amount to an unnecessary waste of financial resources. Diane Katz of the Heritage Research Foundation has said that the new regulation is designed for the convenience and power of regulators and has little to do with public safety.

Other critics have said that this is a harbinger of higher prices for lights. There have even been accusations of governmental prejudice against Christmas lights, citing the new regulations are just one more facet of the “War on Christmas.”

Other Opinions to the New Regulations

While many have said that this is a sure sign of government overreach, many more say the truth is that nothing much will change. The new regulations will merely accept the UL safety standards and definitions as federal regulations.

These regulations have been voluntarily accepted by most manufacturers of Christmas lights for many years, but now these regulations have been accepted by a federal agency and will be enforceable by the CPSC. This will hopefully increase consumer safety with a minimum of cost—since these rules and regulations have been accepted by most manufacturers already.

What is Really Going To Happen?

We can only wait and see, but it is hopeful that no costs will be passed down to the consumer. Christmas lights are currently readily available and at prices easily accessible to the average consumer. Changing this would make the CPSC very unpopular, and would not make future regulatory changes any more easily accepted.