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Merry Christmas! A New Government Rule Says Your Holiday Lights May Soon Be Illegal…

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"Consumers can be seriously injured or killed by electrical shocks or fires..."

Defocused view of Christmas tree with holiday lights Joy Jordan/Joy Jordan

The Consumer Product Safety Commission on Thursday published a proposed rule that would require Christmas lights and other holiday lighting to comply with new safety standards before they can be imported into or sold in the United States.

"Consumers can be seriously injured or killed by electrical shocks or fires if seasonal and decorative lighting products are not made using minimum wire size, sufficient strain reliefs, or overcurrent protection," the proposed rule said. "If not constructed properly, lighting powered by 120 volts can be damaged easily and can pose a risk of electrical shock, electrocution, or fire."

Festive lights used during Christmas and other holidays will soon have to meet tougher safety standards in the United States. Joy Jordan/Joy Jordan

Under the rule, these products would have to have to meet at least one of three standards. One is a minimum wire size to ensure the lights can ensure typical handling without breaking. The second is a "strain relief" standard aimed at ensuring they can be twisted and stored without causing damage to any electrical connections.

The third is "overcurrent protection," which ensures the wires don't overheat.

The CPSC said most holiday lights already meet its proposed standard, but acknowledged that some significant portion may not. The CPSC said it is "likely" that "well in excess of 90 percent" of products already conform to the rule.

The proposed rule was published even though the average number of deaths from these products has dropped dramatically over the last two decades.

From 1987 to 1993, for example, there were an average of 13.6 deaths per year due to holiday lighting. But from 2008 to 2013, that number dropped to 1.2 deaths per year.

The CPSC said its proposed rule would take effect 30 days after publication, or around mid-November, about five or six weeks before Christmas. CPSC said the U.S. imported about $500 million worth of these products in 2013, mostly from China.

Under the rule, any lights that fail to meet the new standard can be denied entry into the United States.

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