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Children’s Nap Mats at Preschool

Question from Mathew


Does pu leather pose the same risks as PU foam? Is PET (PE) foam generally safer than PU foam? I work at a preschool where all the mats are 100% Polyurethane foam. I want to find safe and viable alternatives. I’ve just started learning about the unsafe nature of these materials. And am looking to phase them out of my home and work surroundings as much as possible.


Lisa’s Answer


Pu leather is generally safer than PU foam.  You can read more about it here.  PE foam is generally safer than PU foam but either can have chemical additives so it’s hard to compare on product to another.

Avoiding foam in general is a good idea unless it is certified organic natural latex.  I understand why preschools would want to have a cushioned mat for additional safety.  The safest synthetic foam play mat I have found is Cream Haus.

It is free of some the most harmful chemicals such as PVC, EVA, TPA, BPA, Lead, Phthalate, Fire Retardants, Formamide, and Formaldehyde and it is OEKO-TEX Standard 100 certified which tells you that there is an additional standard that the mats need to meet.


Question from Madelyn


Hi Lisa! I have some questions about the toxicity of burning candles. My husband and I completely revamped our lifestyle a few years ago to a more healthy and non toxic life. We are very careful with what we buy and or bring into our home, especially with 2 young kids.

So we haven’t burned typical paraffin wax candles (I.e. yankee candle, etc) in a long time. We first went to soy candles then read those are also problematic, so we stopped. Then we tried beeswax tealight candles, but they were so expensive yet burned out extremely quickly and we were very disappointed so we stopped.

We have a harsh winter where we live and we’ve been trying to embrace the “hygge” (cozy in danish) lifestyle so we can learn to enjoy the winter season more. One of these recommendations is to burn candles which adds to the coziness of the home and makes you happier.

So back to the problem of what type of candles are non toxic? Are soy wax candles truly a bad alternative? Is beeswax the only safe option? If so, do you have recommendations of a brand or type that don’t burn out so quickly?


Lisa’s Answer


There is a whole list of candles on Debra’s List.


Question from Sheryl


Have you found any affordable unfinished wood dressers that are not made with toxic materials?


Lisa’s Answer


You can check out Debra’s List for safe furniture brands.  One of those listed is Unfinished Furniture Expo and they have reasonable prices.  You can also opt to have them painted with Milk Paint.

Styrene Butadiene Latex Toxicity

Question from Viki


Having trouble finding information, I am able to understand, on the toxicity of latex mattresses made with blended [synthetic 60%/30% natural}latex.
Most of what is available on line is connected to businesses selling competing products and seems
Wondering if you could provide any insight or suggest a source for this information.


Lisa’s Answer

Styrene butadiene latex is a synthetic latex that is made with fairly toxic ingredients but once cured it is less toxic.  A blended latex will have lower VOCs than a 100% synthetic latex but it will still have VOCs.  I understand that natural organic latex is expensive but I think it is one of the biggest priorities if you are looking to lower your toxic exposure because you spend several hours every day breathing in it’s emission.

A mattress with 30% natural latex is not a natural mattress.  I am also assuming the natural latex is not certified organic which means it is possible it could contain chemical additives.



Question from Nikki


If an item that uses organic cotton is blended with 5% spandex is it considered fairly safe? I am trying to get natural products for my baby but some things are very hard for me to find without a small percent blend. I’m very limited it seems.

Also I am finding many organic cotton baby play Matt’s but all of them are filled with polyester filling!!!! Is this ok or do I need to continue the search?

I’m finding strict toxic free is overwhelming me as a mom preparing for a baby!

Between  gots certified materials that still include spandex and Oeko-Tex certs that don’t use organic cotton ….

I am confused and just want to know what a realistic acceptable balance is!

Worried and overwhelmed mom 🙁


Lisa’s Answer


I understand how confusing it is!  Your baby is already benefiting from the steps you have taken.  Stress isn’t good for you or the baby.  There is not a right or wrong answer about what is an acceptable balance.  Focusing on the big things is important; like a nontoxic mattress and crib.  5% spandex in clothing is not something to worry about, particularly if it is certified.

An organic cotton mat with polyester filling that is Oeko-Tex certified is a good choice.  I would choose this over the EVA mats that are popular.  Have you checked Etsy?  They do have some all organic cotton options.  If you find one with polyester fill contact the vendor and see if they can make it with a cotton or wool fill.

I plan to do a deeper dive into playmats because I have gotten a lot of questions about it but I’m not sure I will have it before you need to buy one.  Good luck!

Covering Lead Cords with Washi Tape

Question from Mary


I have seen several discussions on this site about the lead in cords.  Would covering them in washi tape be a good idea to reduce lead exposure?  Are there any concerns with washi tape?

Or what about painter’s tape?


Lisa’s Answer


I’d recommend a fabric cover.  You can find hemp or other natural material covers on Etsy.  I honestly had to look up washi tape because I had never heard of it.  Any tape is going to introduce an adhesive.  Washi is typically made from a natural fiber paper but the adhesive can vary by manufacturer.  Overall, I don’t think this is a big exposure but if you are going to the trouble of covering your cords why cover them with something that could offgas?

Cover for Cochlear Implant Cords

Question from Miriam


My daughter wears cochlear implants, which have cables that connect the magnet to the processor.  Her audiologist kindly gave us some covers to strengthen then and keep them from kinking up but when I asked the Etsy vendor about them, she informed me they are made from PVC.  Could you PLEASE help me think of an alternative?  These are something she wears every day, and on her head :-/.

Here is a picture of a cochlear implant:

and here is the link to the  covers we were given:

You can see a picture in the listing of what it is covering, as well.

Lisa’s Answer


Have you searched for silicone covers?  I googled hearing aid covers and came up with several options.  I’m not sure if they would fit your device but perhaps they could be cut.  I don’t recommend silicone for baking but it is inert at room temperature.

No-VOC Exercise Equipment

Question from Greg


Any recommendations on no-Voc home exercise equipment?  Looking for options from stationary bicycle to resistance bands.

-Here is an example of resistance bands :
-Home gyms are heavy on plastics.
-There may be some good examples of stationary bikes.

Lisa’s Answer


I think it would be a great business idea for someone to make truly safer gym equipment.  Unfortunately, I don’t know of any that are truly No-VOC.  I’m not sure that’s possible.  The way I look at it is that the benefit of exercise outweighs the risks and you should minimize exposure where you can.  Also, home gyms are a very good place to have a good air purifier that captures VOCs.

The resistance bands shown seem better.  It’s good that they are not made with PVC but it doesn’t tell you what it is made of.

I haven’t looked into stationary bikes.  Readers, any suggestions?


Question from Stefany


At the moment I can not afford real wood drawers or cabinets. Would metal drawer organizers be non toxic? I want to buy some down below for clothes and kitchen/pantry as well.

Lisa’s Answer


Unless you are sensitive to EMFs I think metal dressers are a good choice.  Just make sure the metal is not coated with an epoxy or even vinyl coating.  One of the items listed is powder coated which is a good choice.  There were a couple that listed epoxy coating.  I’d avoid those.

Cowhide Rug

Question from Stacey


I’m wondering if cowhide rugs are toxic, or if the end product is toxic to touch. I am aware that the tannins used in the process of leather-making are toxic, so I avoid leather furniture.
Would a cowhide rug be safe for my home?

Lisa’s Answer


Most cowhide rugs are made with a chrome tanning process, similar to leather.  It is toxic.  Some of the more toxic chemicals are Chrome VI, AZO-dyes, and formaldehyde.  Like leather, cowhide can be made with a vegetable tanning process which doesn’t use chrome VI or some of the other harsher chemicals, but it does use chemicals.  If you are interested in a vegetable tanned product, you would need to understand the chemicals used for the particular item.


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