Monday, December 2, 2013

Snowglobes: a Holiday Hazard

In recent years, snowglobes have enjoyed a resurgence. You find them in all shapes and sizes, from simple and small to ornate and elegant. Contemporary artists have even embraced the medium, creating one of a kind collectible pieces.

photo: Kate Fries (saiberiac)

Snowglobes seem to be especially popular at this time of year, with winterscapes and holiday themes featured inside their domes.

But be warned!

The mechanism used to make snowflakes appear to float gracefully inside a snowglobe is often one of two chemicals: glycerin or glycol. These liquids add viscosity – or fluid friction – to the water inside the globe, thus causing the “snow” to fall more slowly to the bottom.

Many imported snowglobes, specifically ones from China, contain Ethylene Glycol, also known as antifreeze.  

This can be deadly to your pet.

Adverse effects can occur when an amazingly small quantity is ingested. If you suspec
t ingestion of any amount, seek medical help immediately (and we do mean immediately!)

Click here to read our post about what amounts are considered lethal, and how very deadly antifreeze can be. 

Good news: for the past ten years or so, U.S. manufacturers have been careful to fill their globes with safer alternatives. But...this applies only to globes manufactured in the U.S.

Be careful: many U.S. companies might design the globe in the U.S., but the piece is actually made in China. So we recommend when shopping for snowglobes, avoid those made in China, Hong Kong or similar countries.

And when in doubt, consider reaching out to the manufacturer to find out exactly what liquids they use inside, and where their globes are made.

Or consider buying a snowglobe that doesn't rely on viscosity any more – some use small, built-in motors to circulate the snow!

We wish you an enjoyable – and safe – holiday season.
Wiki Answers
VPI Health Zone
Humane Society of the U.S.


Don't forget! You have until noon this Friday, December 6, to enter one of our two giveaways!

Both giveaways are filled with fun, cat-specific items donated by the sponsors of the 2013 Cat Writers' Association Conference!


  1. I guess I´m glad that we don´t have any snowglobes at home :)

  2. We did not know about the antifreeze. Good to know.
    Have a marvellous Monday.
    Best wishes Molly

  3. Mommy threw away the globes after she read about the dangers some time ago. Thank you for posting on this. :)

  4. I forgot about this! I have had custom snow globes made for customers as giveaways or promotional items, but small quantities are made in the US, so they are fine, and the ones you can have made through photo processors, but most of the ones you get as decorations are the deadly ones. Pity the people who work with this stuff!

  5. Thank you so much for this post. Mom says that she didn't know any of this information. She has broken snow globes in the past, and it is pretty scary to have glass everywhere, but if the liquid is dangerous too, that is super bad. We all promise to be careful. Purrs and hugs, Lily Olivia, Mauricio, Misty May, Giulietta, Fiona, Astrid, Lisbeth and Calista Jo

  6. We didn't know this. We broke a Galileo Thermometer and the stuff inside it was certainly not water. We weren't allowed anywhere near the spot until it was totally clear. Glass breakables with unknown liquid should be carefully secured.

  7. Thanks for letting us know this. Fortunately, we don't have any snowglobes in our house.

  8. OMC! Thank you for letting us know ... we had no idea. We don't have snowglobes in our house, but this is so good to know.


  9. I read about this a few years ago. Pop used to collect snow globes, which are all old and half full. Last year he dropped one right in front of me. Panic ensued since we knew what was in them. He’s not buying any new ones.

  10. Wow! this is news to us!
    We have two from Restoration Hardware. I wouldn't be surprised if they were made in China though.
    Will check this out STAT!

  11. Wow. That is scary. I never knew something so beautiful could be so deadly. Glad you shared it with us.

  12. I was reading your article and wondered if you had considered creating an ebook on this subject. Your writing would sell it fast. You have a lot of writing talent. saltwater fish


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