Ask Your Questions About Toxic Free Living
and Get Answers From Me and My Readers

I’ve been doing this Q&A blog for about ten years, so there are literally thousands of questions and answers here. If you’ve got a question, there’s probably an answer, and if there isn’t post a question of your own. It’s free.

Totally Toxic-Free Office Chair—Stylish and Affordable Too

I’ve been looking for a toxic-free office chair for years. Last time I looked I was so dismayed I ended up buying a dining room chair. But that isn’t so comfortable to sit on at a desk all day long. I really wanted a chair that swivels and rolls.

I just have this routine of looking at office chairs everywhere I go, and last weekend I finally found a totally toxic-free office chair at IKEA. Totally toxic-free and affordable. only $89.

It’s called ROBERGET and it has a whole story about how it was designed (which you can read at the store, but it’s not online).

It’s 100% steel, with an epoxy powder coat in grey or bright turquoise. I got the grey one.

The seat is molded, so it’s actually quite comfortable. And I love the sunburst design on the back.

It’s nice and stable. I’m just totally happy with this.

chair

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This Year, March Against Monsanto

May 21st is the annual March Against Monsanto. I’m going for the first time this year. My friend Joyce and I are going to the march in Tampa, here in Florida.

I did an interview with Joyce on Toxic Free Talk Radio about her work encouraging our friends and neighbors to grow organic food in our own backyards. At least we are not spraying glyphosate or any other pesticides in our gardens, but that doesn’t stop glyphosate from drifting in from elsewhere.

Here’s a link to a page on their website with forty different studies proving GM foods are destroying our health. www.march-against-monsanto.com/40-different-studies-proving-gm-foods-are-destroying-our-health

If you want to keep up on what’s happening with GMO’s and glyphosate, this is the website to watch.
www.march-against-monsanto.com

Here’s the list of communities holding a march: www.march-against-monsanto.com/may21

The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.
— Edmund Burke

march

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Fertilizer for Lawn

Question from Joanna

Hi Debra,

Is there a non chemical organic lawn fertilizer and also weed killers that you recommend for someone with extreme MCS? The grass is brown from lack of water in California. Thank you.

Debra’s Answer

I lived in California most of my life, so I can tell you that when you start getting more rain, the lawn will come back to life.

In terms of fertilizer…well, gardening is very localized, and different parts of the country have different conditions and different types of lawn.

So here are my suggestions.

Go online and search on “organic lawn care.” When i just searched I got

  1. local lawn service companies that use natural methods
  2. instructions on how to maintain your lawn organically
  3. Natural lawn care products

Also see if you have a local organic nursery. They would be able to help you with this too.

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Foam in a Chair

Question from David

Hi Debra,

I was looking at an office chair, it had vinyl so I read that that has varying levels of toxicity.

But regarding the foam underneath, they said: we use a conventional high density foam for the lower cushion, and a layer cake of four different densities for the smaller cushion. They come from a company in Kansas City that specializes in hospital grade furniture cushions and bedding.

Is this potentially toxic? Yikes, first the outside, now the inside of the chair. I guess it is likely Polyurethane?

Debra’s Answer

Virtually all foam in any chair is going to be polyurethane, unless otherwise stated.

There are many types of polyurethane with various additives for different purposes.

I have no idea what “hospital grade” means. There is no definition I could find on the internet.

It could mean physical safety requirements or it’s more heavy duty or simply that it’s intended for use in hospitals.

Readers, if any of you know or can find out, please let us know.

If you need an office chair, see Totally Toxic-Free Office Chair—Stylish and Affordable Too

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My Favorite Food Storage Containers

For the past two months I’ve been preparing virtually all my food at home. Out of 3 meals x 60 days = 188 meals, I’ve eaten 2 out.

And so I have a big interest in making my my food production as efficient as possible.

What I wanted was containers that I could use to prepare and store meals in advance (in the refrigerator or freezer) and then be able to heat them up in the my toaster oven. And I wanted containers where I could wash and portion salad greens when I bring them home from the store, then have my daily salad greens ready and waiting for me to add other vegetables and dressing daily and then enjoy eating it right out of the container.

Of course, it had to be glass and I wanted the top to be a nontoxic plastic.

I had been looking for such a thing but found that some “snapware” was not freezer- or oven-safe. For me, the whole point was to store prepared foods and put them in the oven without an extra dish to wash.

I went out shopping on Saturday and found exactly what I wanted at The Container Store.

GlasslockThe brand is Glassock. You can purchase it in sets at many stores online, or individually on the Glasslock website or if you have The Container Store near you, you can buy them there (or online).

I bought a large backfill of pieces, and was very happy.

IKEABut then I went to IKEA and found that they had their own line of the same type of food storage containers, and the price was less. Much less. Less than half. It’s called FÖRTROLIG

So I bought a few pieces at IKEA too, and brought them all home to compare.

They are both pretty much the same in terms of being oven- and freezer-safe. The materials are the same: glass, polypropylene, and a bit of silicone rubber in the seal.

But there are some differences.

The Glasslock containers have glass that is a bit thicker and the containers are a bit taller. Just more heavy duty. The seal is green, so the color shines through the transparent top. There are more sizes available, particularly larger sizes that would hold a family-size casserole.

But the glass on the IKEA containers are thick enough and the size is tall enough for me, in fact, it’s the more usual height for a baking dish. Their seal is transparent, so the lids are a nice clean white.

I couldn’t find any reason not to choose the IKEA containers over the GlassLock, and the price difference was enormous. $100 less to buy the pieces I want at IKEA.

So I’ve made a list now of the pieces I need. I’m taking the Glasslok back to The Container Store and buying the containers from IKEA.

There is nothing wrong with Glasslok. From a safety viewpoint they are identical, based on the information I have.

IKEA has a better price.

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Is It Safe To Swim in Local Waters?

The results of a study done by the Izaak Walton League of America say we don’t have enough information to know—but it’s likely that they contain the same toxic chemicals we are exposed to every day in consumer products.

The vast majority of the nation’s streams and rivers are not effectively studied for water quality.

Though states are required to test the water quality of their streams and rivers under the Clean Water Act of 1972, IWLA says that “funds are limited and most waterways are not tested regularly or accurately.” In fact, only 2 percent are effectively tested for water quality. Adding to the concern is the fact that half have failed to meet state water quality standards, which means they are too dirty for swimming or fishing. The harsh reality is that for too long, Americans have been in the dark about the health of their local waters, many of which may harbor undetected pollution.

We can read about today’s air quality in the morning’s newspaper or watch it on the news, and look up realtime data online. But data about the health effects of local streams and reverses five to ten years old.

The report found

Just 2 percent of rivers and streams are effectively tested. In terms of the overall effectiveness of a state’s stream monitoring efforts, more than half of all states (26) received D or F grades.

and

Water that runs off our yards, roads, and farm fields carries a laundry list of pollutants into streams and rivers across the country: bacteria and pathogens; nutrient-rich fertilizers and pesticides; oil, antifreeze, and other chemicals; and heavy metals and acid drainage. This runoff is flowing untreated into the streams and rivers that are the lifeblood of an interconnected system of waterways nationwide. Neither the Clean Water Act nor most state laws effectively address this problem—or address it all.

ECOWATCH: 5 Reasons Why You Should Think Twice Before Jumping Into Your Local River

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Phthalates from Plastic Pool Liners

I used to have a above-ground pool, with a soft vinyl liner. At the time I wondered if any toxic chemicals were being released from it. When I asked the manufacturer of the liner I was assured it was perfectly safe.

Today I came across a study about the migration of plasticizers used to make soft PVC (phthalates) into water.

It’s a study regarding pond liners, but that’s close enough to a pool liner.

Pool Liners

These numbers show that the greatest migration of plasticizer occurs in the first five years. A pool liner that has been in use for more than 5 years would be much less toxic.

But here it is…evidence that vinyl pool liners and little plastic pools kids play in are releasing phthalates into the water, which in turn gets into our bodies via absorption through the skin.

GeoCHEM: Questions and Answers: PVC Plasticizers

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EWG is Rethinking Cancer

This week Environmental Working Group launched a new website called Rethinking Cancer

It’s all about preventing cancer in the first place, instead of finding a cure.

And I totally agree with this approach. I’ve been working to that end for more than thirty years.

If you are concerned about cancer, this is a good place to start to get some ideas about what to do.

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What Is Lyocell (Tercel)?

Question from B J

Hi Debra,

Could you please tell me what it is? There are a ton of clothes made out of it this year.

Debra’s Answer

Tercel has been around for quite a while. I remember when it first came on the market in 1997. I was doing some consulting work for Esprit de Corps in San Francisco and they were looking at Tencel.

There are actually three categories of fibers:

  • natural fibers – fiber as it occurs in nature
  • regenerated cellulose fibers – cellulose from plants put through industrial process
  • synthetic fibers – industrial an-made fibers made from petroleum

Tencel is akin to rayon and modal in that they all start as natural cellulose from plants, thus their generic term is “regenerated cellulosic fibers.” Bamboo actually is another one.

The difference between “regenerated cellulosic fibers” and actual “natural fibers” (cotton, linen, silk, wool, and others) is that the natural fibers are actually fibers taken directly from the plant and spun into yarn, whereas the regenerated fibers start as plants but get turned into an industrial product before they become yarn and then fabric.

If you go to the Tencel website , you will see that they call Tencel “botanic fiber” because the raw material—word—comes from Nature. And it does. But as Tencel, the natural material is no longer in it’s natural state. The website also states that solvents are used in the process of turning wood into Tencel.

Tencel is an “eco-friendly” fabric because it saves resources and recycles it’s solvent. The wood comes from single-species tree farms.

Tencel was the first cellulose fiber to utilize nanotechnology for performance.

I personally wear natural fibers as my first choice and occasionally wear regenerated cellulose fibers as a second choice if it’s something like a scarf that I really love. But since natural fibers are widely available, I just wear natural fibers.

While there do not seem to be any known health effects from Tencel, I wouldn’t recommend it for anyone with MCS. Many readers have written in saying they react to Modal (that post seems to be lost).

I also don’t recommend clothing made from Tencel. There are manywebsites that sell clothing made from organic cotton plus Tencel or Modal, and I don’t list them on Debra’s List. There’s just a wholeness about natural fibers that have health benefits of their own, and I don’t want to alter that.

Here are some articles with more information on Tencel:

Tencel: Sustainable but not necessarily healthy gives a good overview about Tencel, benefits and concerns

Eco-Fiber or Fraud? Are Reyon, Modal, and Tencel Environmental Friends or Foes? puts Tencel in the context of the history of regenerated cellulose fibers.

Tencel or Lyocell ecofriendly — caution for those with MCS. Not recommended for MCS.

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