Answers to Your Questions About Toxic Free Living

New Acrylic Bathtub


Question from Mike

Hi Debra,

I recently purchased a new acrylic bathtub.

When it was installed the smell was horrific. It filled the whole house and seemed to go into every fabric in the house, the drapes , carpet, clothes bedding towels etc. can anything be done to get rid of the smell other than getting rid of the bathtub.

should an acrylic bathtub smell this bad?

Debra’s Answer

That’s why I don’t recommend acrylic bathtubs.

I don’t know of anything that will stop the smell.

Readers? Anyone have any experience with this?

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Chemical free window curtains & cellular blinds


Question from Cathleen

Hi Debra,

I need help ASAP.

I recently took down several sets of curtains in my home, and they all are severely off-gassing for days, no matter how many times I have washed them in vinegar, baking soda, hung them on the wash line, etc.

I have to give up, and try to order new window curtains & blinds.

I have tried Country Curtains in the recent past, and found this same type of chemical off-gassing after washing their 100% cotton Made in USA curtains & had to return them.

Can anyone suggest who I can safely order from? Thanks so much.

Debra’s Answer

Readers? I can recommend websites, but this reader needs to know your personal experience.

I’ve purchased 100% cotton curtains at Target in the past and have had no problem with them after one wash.

I’ve also purchased cotton curtains from IKEA with no problem.

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Inspirational Story: Wheelys Cafe


I saw this on a news feed while waiting in an office the other day and couldn’t resist telling you about it.

This business is a human-powered bicycle-cart cafe that sells organic coffee.

What a great idea!

And it’s catching on.

“Wheelys is a chain of organic bicycle cafés, enabling people (ALL people) to start their own businesses. Since launching in 2014, Wheelys has exploded over the world and currently operates cafés in more than 45 countries.”

What other creative ideas for toxic free living will appear next? What can you think of?


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Haynes Fresh IQ

Question from Phil

Hi Debra,

I’ve noticed that Hanes underwear and socks all say FreshIQ on the packaging. It turns out that this a chemical applied to the fabric. I’m not sure what the chemical is, or if it’s even safe?

Debra’s Answer

I called Hanes and their customer service told me “there are no harmful chemicals, it’s just a mist that washes out after a few washings.”

So absolutely no information was forthcoming about what exactly this is, but according to Hanes it’s not even there any more after a few washings.

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What To Do When You’re Stuck With Treated Carpet

Question from Beth

Hi Debra,

I refer often to your book and website and am eager for your tips on an issue keeping me up at night!

We have two small children and are currently stuck in a house where one floor has newish (2009 install) Berber carpet that has been treated for stain/water resistance.

I don’t let the kids walk barefoot in one room, and have covered the floors in the others with small area rugs, but cleaning these regularly is impractical. We’re not in a position to replace with wood or other.

I’d be so grateful for any ideas to keep them safer.

Do we know how long carpets treated for stain/water resistance can continue to “rub off” on skin? I’m guessing it’s likely the life of the product.

Thank you!!

Debra’s Answer

Yes, for the life of the product.

Foil will block any chemical fumes. While you can’t lay foil on a carpet and walk on it, there are products available that is foil sandwiched between two layers of nontoxic polyethylene plastic.

Reflectix is the brand I have experience with. It’s made for insulation, but you could lay this over your carpet and it would 100% block any fumes. Then you could lay sheets or other fabric over the top to improve appearance.

Not the most beautiful solution, I know, but it will block any outgassing.

That said, a carpet from 2009 may have little outgassing. You may want to make pads of reflective for them to play on rather than doing the whole room. I would minimize skin contact.

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Toxic Chemicals Found in Tattoos


A comprehensive discussion of toxic ingredients found in tattoo inks was recently published in GreenMedInfo.

It’s very technical, written in scientific language and well-documented, but full of information on the possible health effects of injecting colored inks into your skin.

Henna tattoos were not mentioned as a safer alternative method for body art.

GREENMEDINFO: Toxic Chemicals Found in Tattoos: Links to Autoimmune and Inflammatory Diseases

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Pesticide Exposure at the Pumpkin Patch?


Question from Jo

Hi Debra,

Can I get your advice on this? You’re the only one on the web, that I actually feel that is so knowledgeable and honest!!

So daughter just turned 4 years old, and her teacher has planned a trip to the farm that has a pumpkin patch and petting zoo. I called the farm and they use an IPM program, but say they will use pesticide spray when needed. So they aren’t fully organic, but they call themselves sustainable.

I worry that my daughter can touch the pumpkins or anything with residue and they will be eating lunch there, so that’s hand to mouth.

Would you recommend me sending her or maybe keeping her home. I’ve had 2 aunts pass away from childhood leukemia, and I know there’s a link with pesticide.

I worry so much, but I really don’t want to bother the teacher. I’ve already haggled her about shutting their ionic (Plasma) air conditioner off and just running the air conditioner without using the ionic function. (She’s probably so annoyed with me by now) hahaha

Any assistance would be WARMLY appreciated! 🙂

Debra’s Answer

You actually don’t need to worry about this. One exposure to pesticides doesn’t make that much of a difference. Since they are IPM they may not even have sprayed. Let her go and have fun.

There was actually a study that showed if children ate 100% organic for only three days, all the pesticide residues were gone from their bodies. The problem is eating non-organic food every day. Then your child’s body is full of pesticides on an ongoing basis. But it takes only three days to clear.

I eat almost 100% organic at home, but I also travel and then I eat as much organic as I can, but 100% is difficult. I’m about to drive cross country for 9 days from Florida to California and I’m already scoping out restaurants that serve organic food and places where I can buy organic food enroute. We’re going to bring some food with us too.

While certainly there are what are called “acute” exposures that could kill you immediately (this is why we have poison control centers), but for what are called “cumulative” exposures, such as pesticide residues, it’s what you do most of the time that counts. Feed your daughter organic at home and what pesticide residues she may encounter elsewhere will leave her body quickly.

All that said, please don’t misunderstand me. Pesticides ARE toxic. Don’t spray your daughter with pesticides thinking they are safe. But occasional RESIDUES…I’m of the opinion that pleasure in life contributes to health and sometimes we need to weigh the benefit with the risk.

I’ve been to pumpkin farms and I haven’t experienced them to be a place I need to avoid.

I’m flying on an airplane this week. That’s a lot more toxic. And at the other end I’ll eat in an organic restaurant.

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Organic Mattress encasement for Dust Mites

Question from Sherry

Hi Debra,

Per your recommendation, I have purchased a Naturepedic mattress and want to find a mattress encasement to protect the mattress and prevent dust mites. Can you please recommend a mattress encasement.

I see that Naturepedic offers a waterproof mattress pad, but it does not encase the entire mattress. Also, I can concerned about the Naturepedic mattress protector because it has a layer of polyurethane for its waterproofing. I have recently learned that polyurethane foam is toxic and am in the process of trying to remove it from my house. Should I be concerned about the polyurethane in Naturepedic’s mattress pad? Thank you again for all of your help and support! You are an inspiration!

Debra’s Answer

Polyurethane itself is NOT toxic, polyurethane FOAM is toxic because of other chemicals added to it to make foam and to make it fireproof. So no problem with the very thin membrane of polyurethane in Naturepedic’s mattress protector pad.

Here are some recommendations for mattress encasements that protect against dust mites. They are not waterproof.

THE CLEAN BEDROOM Organic Cotton Dust Mite Mattress Encasement

JANICE’S Organic Cotton Barrier Cloth Mattress Covers

JANICE’S Organic Cotton Mattress Covers

NATIONAL ALLERGY Organic All-Cotton Allergy Mattress Covers

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Toxicity of 3D Printing


You may have heard of a new type of printing called “three-dimensional (3D) printing.” Instead of printing ink on a piece of paper or plastic, the 3D printer actually makes a three-dimensional object. These printers are now available for home computers (starting at only $283), so you can now manufacture virtually any shape for any use right in your own home.

When I first saw this on TV several years ago, once I got over my disbelief my first question was, “What material are they using to make these objects and is it toxic?

Recently others have been asking this question too, and there is starting to be some research results to look at.

The majority of desktop 3D printers designed for the consumer market use a technology called fused filament fabrication (FFF), also known as molten polymer deposition (which sounds more descriptive to me). In this process, a slender thread of solid thermoplastic is melted and deposited in thin layers onto a moving bed. The three-dimensional solid shape is formed layer-by-layer as the plastic material cools and hardens. That makes logical sense to me, but the first time I saw it, it looked like magic.

A wide variety of filament materials are now being used in desktop FFF 3D printers, including

  • acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS)
  • poly(lactic acid) (PLA)
  • poly(vinyl alcohol) (PVA)
  • polycarbonate (PC)
  • high-density polyethylene (HDPE)
  • high-impact polystyrene (HIPS)
  • nylon
  • and many other polymers, metals, ceramics, and other materials.

Filaments are melted at a variety of extruder nozzle temperatures and bed temperatures, and manufacturers typically recommend ranges of optimal temperatures for each filament material and thickness. These varying temperatures affect the amount of volatile organic chemicals (VOCs) and particles that might be released from the materials as well as their toxicity.

Two studies have generated quite a lot of data on this subject, which I’m not going to attempt to summarize here.

I just do want to mention that one study identified gasses that were released, which included ammonia, cyanidric acid, phenol, and benzene, among others.

Overall, lab tests showed that ABS is significantly more toxic than PLA, but the corn-based PLA had it’s own emissions when extruded at temperatures higher than 392 degrees F. This is important to note because there are many finished consumer products made from PLA that would not have emissions because they are at room temperature.

It was also noted that the same material spools, when acquired from different resellers, release very different quantities of VOCs, even if used in the same 3D printer and under the same parameters of speed and temperature. So there is a wide variation of air pollutants that could be present as the result of using a 3D printer.

Health effects mentioned were pulmonary problems, such as bronchitis, tracheitis, and asthma. In some cases, outgassing substances were known cause certain types of cancers.

Researchers recommend using 3D printers in a well-ventilated area.

3D PRINTING INDUSTRY: How Toxic are ABS & PLA Fumes?

3D PRINTING INDUSTRY: Gas evolution during FDM 3D printing and health impact

ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENT & TECHNOLOGY: Emissions of Ultrafine Particles and Volatile Organic Compounds from Commercially Available Desktop Three-Dimensional Printers with Multiple Filaments

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Lower Prices Start TODAY as Amazon Takes Over Whole Foods


Amazon completed its $13.7 billion takeover of organic grocer Whole Foods today.

Right away Amazon implemented it’s practice of keeping prices low to lock in customer loyalty. Already prices are down on selected kitchen staples, including grand beef and rotisserie chicken.

In addition, Whole Foods brands will now be available on Amazon’s site.

Amazon also aims to make Amazon Prime the rewards program for Whole Foods customers, and offer members special discounts.

ASSSOCIATED PRESS: It’s a Done Deal: Amazon Takes Over Whole Foods

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