Answers to Your Questions About Toxic Free Living

New Study Shows People Would Buy Green Products—If They Had Enough Information


A new study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, notes that Internet-based companies have the opportunity to help the environment if they would just tell consumers about their environmentally friendly choices.

Researchers found that consumers are willing to make climate-friendly choices when the options are available to them. Carbon footprints of products and services are often known to companies, but are not made known to consumers.

In experiment after experiment, consumers chose the green products when the information on the products was available to them.

I’m posting this study here because the same applies to companies providing information to consumers about how toxic or nontoxic their products are.

I just am having an experience this week with a website that is selling a product that appears to be nontoxic but there are no ingredients. An email asking directly for the ingredients produced a reply, but no mention of ingredients.

It shouldn’t be that hard to get information about products. This study shows that consumers are interested in having information so they can make informed choices.

THE WASHINGTON POST: People would buy green products – if only e-commerce showed them how

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How I Removed Mystery Odor from Apartment


Last week I wrote about how I helped a client furnish their new apartment with toxic free furniture.

This week I want to tell you how we removed a very strong odor from the apartment, even though we couldn’t determine exactly what it was.

It seemed to me that it was some kind of citrus oil-based product and I thought it had been used on the wood floors.

My client hired a cleaning lady to work with me. She brought a “steam mop” and we used a brand new set of clean pads to mop the floor so as to not bring any odors in from other places. This worked really well just by itself to reduce the odor, but it did not eliminate it completely.

Then we used EnviroKlenz Everyday Odor Eliminator according to the instructions on the bottle. We mixed it with water in a spray bottle and sprayed it all over the floors. We waited 15 minutes, and then used the steam mop again to remove it. This greatly lessened the odor.

Then we did the whole process again.

Each time the odor was less and less.

We also did this procedure in a closet that had a perfume smell and it worked there too.

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False Claim From Mattress Maker


What’s wrong with this picture?

There’s something known as “false and misleading advertising” and it’s all over this snip from the Tuft & Needle website.

First, it gives the impression that Tuft & Needle mattresses are nontoxic and even substantiates that claim by telling you that they meet the GREENGUARD GOLD and OEKO-TEX STANDARD 100 certifications.

But Tuft & Needle mattresses still contain toxic chemicals. I’ll tell you how I know in a minute.

But first, while they are certified, I couldn’t find one word on their website about their materials.

And while they meet the GREENGUARD GOLD and OEKO-TEX STANDARD 100, these standards do not test for all chemicals. The bigger problem, however, is their standards are not very stringent. So it’s very easy to pass the standard.

I’m often surprised at some of the products that pass the current GREENGUARD GOLD standard. Since GREENGUARD became part of Underwriters Lab, their standards have changed. Mattresses are now given GREENGUARD GOLD certifications that contain materials which I cannot approve, such as polyurethane foam, chemical flame barriers, and, in crib mattresses, PVC covers that emit phthalates.

Tuft & Needle is NOT the first mattress to be given the GREENGUARD GOLD certification. That occurred years ago. They were perhaps the first mattress to get the GREENGUARD GOLD certification in the mattress-in-a-box category, but that’s not what they say.

But here’s what really makes this claim false and misleading.

And here’s a video of chemical off gassing of Casper mattress.

And here’s another video measuring the TVOCs of a Nest mattress.

Now all three of these videos are measuring emissions from a brand new mattress that has been in a plastic bag. Those emissions are very concentrated. But they do show there are emissions. And anyone can get a TVOC meter and measure the emissions from these mattresses.

A couple of weeks ago I opened two Happsy mattress-in-a-box mattresses and there were no emissions. I had a TVOC meter in my hand and the TVOC reading in the room didn’t change when I opened the mattress packaging and laid the mattresses on the bed.

T&N hasn’t raised the standards, as they claim. That claim belongs to Happsy, the first certified organic mattress in the mattress-in-a-box category. And certified organic is less toxic than GREENGARD GOLD. That’s a fact.

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Hand Held Shower Heads


Question from Cathleen

Hi Debra,

Hi. Love your website & all the info.

I suffer from many illnesses & sensitvities, including MCS.

I am in desperate need of a new hand-held shower head, that is latex-free & preferably USA made.

Can you recommend a company or product? I tried a High Sierra shower head that met this criteria, but the water flow was just too forceful for my skin & vascular condition.

Thanks so much, and I can’t thank you enough for all the help you provide people like me!

Debra’s Answer

I have no way of knowing the water force of various hand held shower heads so…

Readers? Can you make a suggestion from your experience?

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Cat Scratching Posts and Climbing Structures Made Without Carpet

Modular cat climbing structure made from paper at Katris


Question from MaryJo

Hi Debra,

I am concerned about the recent article in the New York Times about the link between flame retardants and the rise in feline hyperthyroidism.

I am trying to find scratching posts or cat climbing structures that are not made with carpet treated with flame retardants (or just plain awful synthetic carpet and glues).

I am wondering if you have come across anything about this.

Any leads most appreciated~!

Debra’s Answer

Here are some cat scratching posts made with wood and other natural materials:

Natural Scratch

Love That Cat

This article suggests that you give your cat a natural tree log for a scratching post

And here are some cat climbing structures made with wood

Mountain Pet Products


Cats Play

There are a lot more. Just search on “natural cat scratching post” and “natural cat climbing structure” and you’ll find them.

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Throw Pillows

Handwoven organic cotton decorative pillows stuffed with kapok from Coyuchi


Question from TA

Hi Debra,

I’m wondering what you recommend for throw pillows. I’d like to replace the old, synthetic ones we have.

What is the best option for the “insert” or fill that goes inside the pillow cover? It seems that finding an organic cover is the easier part. But what is the best affordable insert option?

I’ve considered shredded latex, but that could be lumpy and it can have a noticeable smell.

Wool would compress easily, I imagine.

I saw some very affordable ones with duck feathers on Ikea’s website and came to your site to check on the toxicity of duck feathers; since I don’t know where the feathers came from or how they’re processed, perhaps it’s best to pass on those? And getting well-processed duck feather pillows would probably be quite expensive.

I’d like to have a number of throw pillows, as well as floor pillows/cushions in a larger size. So I’d like something that won’t break the bank.

Debra’s Answer

The most resilient pillow filling I know of it kapok. And you can buy kapok pillow inserts with organic cotton shells.

FABRICADABRA: Kapok Pillow Inserts

Prices start at $21 and volume discounts are available for 12 or more.

If this doesn’t work for you, wool would be my second choice. I slept on wool pillows for years until I discovered kapok. But the do mat over time.

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Experience With Avoiding PVC Medical Bags and Tubing?


Question from Colleen

Hi Debra,

I need to have a colonoscopy and may have to have other surgery. I have reactive airway disease and asthma which is triggered by vinyl shower curtains. They are made with DEHP which is also in IV bags, tubing, etc that the hospital uses.

Has anyone dealt with this? How did you get around it?

I have a list of DHEP-free and PVC-free medical supplies as alternatives but am not sure they’d work with me on it.

Any helpful advice? Thanks you! I meet with the doctor on Aug. 30, 2017.

Debra’s Answer

Readers? Any suggestions?

I fortunately have not had the need to experience this, so have nothing to offer.

But what comes to mind is perhaps Healthcare Without Harm can help you, or Practice Greenhealth. Both organizations advocate the removal of toxic chemicals from healthcare.

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Exterior Insulation and Finish Systems (EIFS)


Question from Marquel

Hi Debra,

We are considering moving and the exterior of the home we like is EIFS stucco (synthetic stucco) with a non draining system. Do you have any thoughts on this?

Thank you.

Debra’s Answer

About EIFS. Many chemicals are used to make these walls and they also trap moisture, leading to dry rot and mold.

Here are the six layers currently being used:

An Optional Water-Resistive Barrier that is generally fluid applied and covers the substrate.
Adhesive to attach insulation board to the supporting structure (in some cases mechanical fasteners may be used).
Foam insulation board that’s secured to the exterior wall surface substrate, most often with adhesive.
Base Coat, an acrylic or polymer-based cement material that’s applied to the top of the insulation, then reinforced with glass fiber reinforcement mesh.
Reinforcement Mesh, that is embedded in the base coat material.
Finish, a textured finish coat that is decorative and protective.

Looks like a lot of chemicals to me.

But even more important is that they just don’t work very well. This covering doesn’t breathe, so if moisture gets inside, houses end up with dry rot. Not something you want in your house.

THE BALANCE: What is EIFS – Synthetic Stucco?

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Is this Green Transformer Box Safe?

Question from Marquel

Hi Debra,

We are considering moving and the home we like has a green transformer box in the front yard. Is this safe?

Debra’s Answer

Those green boxes on a cement pad are transformers for underground electricity wires. They do produce an electromagnetic field but they are of the same type as are produced when you use an electric appliance. Plus EMFs weaken exponentially as you are further away, so this would be like using an electric mixer twenty feet away. Not much of an exposure.

If you are concerned about EMF exposures, here is a great summary of electromagnet field types and exposures for each type:

EMFs: Electromagnetic Fields

By the way, you are not supposed to put plants around your transformer as it blocks access for electrical workers, but there’s no reason not to make it more attractive with a little decoration.

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Q&A RESTORATION PROJECT While moving the Q&A to the new site, I lost all the category tags, so there are no categories here yet. However, you can use the search function at the right end of the navigation menu at the top of the page to search the Q&A for what you are looking for.