BOLTON (CBS) – Elizabeth Abbot will never feel quite the same about buying a live Christmas tree.
Her pet goats love to nibble on pine, so as a treat her husband bought two Christmas trees to put in their pen last year. A few days later, they came down with a mysterious illness. “Their urine turned highlighter orange,” she explained pointing to a picture she had snapped of the orange color on the snow-covered ground, “It was startling.”
Elizabeth says her vet immediately suspected a toxin, so she and her husband searched every inch of the goat pen and their yard, but couldn’t figure out what was making the goats sick.
That’s when Elizabeth thought of the trees and pulled them onto their deck to take a closer look. “I saw a very obvious paint line running right down the stem of the tree. My heart just sunk,” she said.
The goats were admitted to an animal hospital and the vets wanted to know exactly what they had ingested.
Elizabeth contacted Lowes, where she bought the trees, but they couldn’t tell her what was sprayed on them.
With the help of WBZ Call For Action, she eventually tracked down the grower in North Carolina and they sent her a sheet of several chemicals that were used on the trees.
“Come to find out; it was a color enhancer,” Elizabeth said.
According to Elizabeth Saunders of Clean Water Action, the use of potentially dangerous chemicals in consumer products is a concern. “A spray on a Christmas tree is a completely unneeded, unnecessary product,” she said.
We called Lowes to ask why the use of these chemicals was not disclosed to consumers. A spokesperson emailed us this response:
“We stand behind the products and services we offer. Lowe’s has a wide variety of real and artificial Christmas trees to meet our customers’ holiday needs.
We rely on vendor partners to label live Christmas trees to comply with local laws and regulations. However, if customers have continued concerns about live Christmas trees, we have a wide range of artificial trees to meet their needs.
We are always open to evaluating customer concerns in respect to our product offerings.”
Saunders has no doubt the color enhancer was legal but would like to see retailers be more proactive about what they are selling. “It’s not about following the laws, it’s about taking responsibility for human health,” she said.
For the Abbots, the health of their goats are just as important and they are grateful the grower covered the $1,400 vet bill. But she is also disappointed that some growers feel the need to improve on Mother Nature. “I felt deceived because I felt that I was buying a natural tree,” she said.