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Lead and Glass

Question from Dee

Hi there I am really at a loss.

My baby is 10 months old and a couple of months ago for some reason I was looking at plastic and toxins and it’s heightened my anxiety. I am very scared about everything my baby has been exposed to and scared about his future.

I immediately changed to giving his food in glass bowls, he drinks out of glasses and I store his food in glass bowls. I bought Kilner (rayware) freezer glass containers and chop and cook and store all my baby’s different fruit, vegetables and lentils etc in there so they are stored over a month in the freezer usually and this allows me to give him homemade food.

I noticed black kilner writing on the base and I emailed them.

I received the below response:

“Thank you for contacting The Rayware group with your enquiry.

Whilst we are unable to advise all our products to be entirely lead/cadmium free I can advise that any trace would be to minimal and that all our products meet all European and UK standards for metal release.

I can also advise that any products that we supply directly to our stockist in America do not require a proposition 65 label”

My dilemma is do I go back to storing and using baby plastic bowls, cups and containers or not as I’m scared about the lead and cadmium.

I’m so confused and really unhappy as everything I try seems to be toxic so what do I do?

This has all made my anxiety worse and I’m feeling very down.

 

 

Lisa’s Answer

I would not recommend going back to plastic.  Plastic has the potential to leach an array of harmful chemicals into food.  It has been shown to leach under most conditions.  You can read more about it here.

Most glassware purchased in the U.S. and EU is safe to use.  You can read more about glassware here.

If you read the link above about glassware, you will find that there are some types of glass that it is best to avoid.  Lead glass, or lead crystal, can contain high levels of lead that could leach into food or drink.  Glass with decorations, such as painted rims, may have a high lead content from the decoration which could flake off and be consumed.  Vintage glass could have been made before regulations to limit leachable lead levels were in place (in the U.S., the FDA started regulating leachable lead levels in 1971).

Oven Liner

Question from Ruth

I have MCS. Would like to find a ‘safe’ oven liner. What is available from Amazon is a non-Teflon material which I don’t think would be good even though the company says it doesn’t have a smell.

What do you recommend? Might a silicone kitchen mat be a possibility if it tolerates temps up
to 500 degrees?
Thank you so much and keep sharing great information.

 

Lisa’s Answer

I did a quick search of oven liners and I would not recommend any of them.  I do not use them myself.

It’s hard to say if silicone is safe for use as an oven liner.  More research needs to be done on silicone and I plan to look into it further.  There are different types of silicone and some can release formaldehyde when heated.  You can read more about it here.  Using silicone in the oven at low temperatures is probably okay but I would not recommend it for use over 350 degrees.

Mattress Protector

Question from Suzie

I’m looking to find out what waterproof mattress protectors are least toxic for my daughter’s bed.
I bought one from a reputable company made of organic cotton and what I assumed was a P.U.L.  waterproof membrane. When I arrived it smelled that horrible toxic plastic way. It turns out the membrane is polyester. Would this give off a smell and is it toxic?
Another (cheaper) option I was looking at was an organic cotton with polyurethane laminated directly onto the back. Do you think this would be less toxic?
Any other options I could look into?  Do you think I should return the one I have bought?

 

Lisa’s Answer

Polyester will offgas.  Polyurethane is less toxic and a better option.  I recommend this one from Naturepedic.  Pure polyurethane is one of the least toxic plastics but some have additives that are not disclosed to consumers.  Read more about the toxins in plastics here.

Naturepedic is GOTS certified and uses pure polyurethane.

Lazyboy Type of Chair

Question from Kris

I need a chair where I put my legs up above my heart. I went through the furniture you have listed but unable to find any.

 

Lisa’s Answer

I am not aware of any lazyboy-type chair that is non-toxic.  This type of chair is typically filled with polyurethane foam, which I do not recommend.  You could look into having one custom made, but it would be quite expensive.  Have you considered getting a solid wood footstool and using cushions to prop up your feet?  You could use cushions filled with natural fill such as kapok, wool or cotton.

Laundromat Help

Question from Bonnie

I need to go to a laundromat to wash the mattress covers, large comforters etc in my home. I have a small space older washer and dryer so can not do it. Any advice on how to do that? I use all unscented stuff but am worried about the machines there.

 

 

Lisa’s Answer

Readers, any suggestions?

Toxic-Free, Odor-Free Interior House Paint

Question from Sandy

What toxic free, odor free interior house paint do you recommend?

 

 

Lisa’s Answer

AFM Safecoat and ECOS paints are both non-toxic and have low odor.  I don’t know of any paint that is truly free of any odor until it cures.  You might want to try a sample before applying it to a large area.

Waterproof Front Door Indoor Mat

Question from K

I live in an apartment so I have to bring my wet, snowy and salt filled boots inside from a day in the snow. I have not been able to find a mat that does not smell awful. Any recommendations? Right now I am using a silicone kitchen drying mat but they are so small. Maybe what I am doing is the best idea? I need to find a really large silicone mat then. If using the silicone as I am, no toxins would escape into the air correct? Is there any way to know if the silicone is made out of sand vs. plastics?

 

 

Lisa’s Answer

Silicone is made out of sand, but like plastic, it can have additives that are not disclosed by the manufacturer.  Some silicone may be safer than others.  This is a topic I plan to do more research on.

Have you considered a metal tray.  Here is one example, but they come in many styles and price points.  Just make sure it does not have a finish or coating on it.

Blenders

Question from Rebecca

I have spent hours & days looking at the items in your site. I am so thankful to have found it & for your work.

I started comparing blenders after I read one of your posts about the blender you use & the ones you recommend. They we’re, KitchenAid, Cuisinart, & Breville, I believe.

I recently found another site which listen an abundance of cookware. I was wondering if you could look over the list & tell me if any of these are suitable as well when it comes to PTFEs & PFOEs.
https://www.mamavation.com/home/healthy-home/nontoxic-small-kitchen-appliances.html

 

Lisa’s Answer

Mamavation does very thorough research.  I agree with their recommendations!

Cotton Quilts with Cotton Fill

Question from Aileen

I have ordered several 100 percent cotton quilts and they still have a chemical smell to them. My husband with MCS isn’t able to tolerate them. Washing dosen’t help. Some of them were GOTS. certified and Oeko Tex.
Do you have any ideas or resources that would not hurt the budget?

 

Lisa’s Answer

You can find many options on Debra’s List.  Buying GOTS certified organic cotton is the best way to ensure that there are no harmful chemicals in the product.  Make sure that the entire product, and not just the cover or the fill, are GOTS certified.  Oeko Tex certification is not as stringent as GOTS and does allow the use of synthetic fabrics.

I really can’t say for certain whether or not a sensitive individual will react to something because everyone is different.  I can tell you whether or not a product is non-toxic.

Readers, any recommendations for those with MCS?

Non-Toxic Clothes Still Triggering Me

Question from Dsmythe

I recently purchased 100% Cotton GOTS certified (male) socks and underwear from a reputable online retailer.

Unfortunately, these clothes triggered my symptoms severely, and I have no doubt these were the cause of my symptoms.

Even after washing they still triggered me.

Is there any explanation for this?

 

Lisa’s Answer

I really can’t say what will trigger a sensitive individual because everyone is different.  GOTS certified organic clothing is non-toxic.  Perhaps there is something natural that is a problem for you.

To Unclog a Drain

Question from Andi

Any suggestions as to what to use to unclog a kitchen drain?  Actually it is not really clogged, but very sluggish. Had someone use a plunger, didn’t help.  Then he wanted to use dawn detergent, I said no way, so he used my 7th Generation Dishwashing Liquid – didn’t help and he said to use a cup everyday – outrageously expensive to do that!  I did the baking soda, vinegar, boiling water – helped slightly but the guy said don’t use – baking soda just gums it all up.  Next thing suggested to snake it – quite expensive.  So does anyone know of anything to use down a drain that is scent free and non toxic and that works?

 

Lisa’s Answer

Readers, any suggestions?

Plant-Based Polyurethane Foam

Question from Mary

I bought a mattress that advertised oeko Tex standard 100 certified. Natural polyol based premium foam. With Visil flame retardant.  Once received the tag said 98% polyurethane foam with 2 % blended fiber batting.  I contacted company and said foam is derived from vegetable oil. Is this mattress safe from toxins. Should I return. I know companies can be deceiving and bought for my 5 year old.

 

Lisa’s Answer

I agree this is deceiving.  If it is 98% polyurethane, that means that it is plastic made from petrochemicals.  There may be a small percentage of plant-based material included.  It is difficult to say from the limited information on the label.  I would return it.

Corelle Dishes

Question from Nancy

I was reading your post on lead in glass ware, you also mentioned Corelle I have a set of dishes and other Corelle pieces, so does it have lead in it ? or is it just drinking glasses, I never knew they made drinking glasses.

Lisa’s Answer

Corelle dishes do not release any lead into food.  The study referenced in the post tested glass ceramic cooking pieces.  Corelle is made of glass ceramic.  I don’t believe they make glasses.

Least Toxic Fire Extinguisher

Question from Steve

Does anyone know what the least toxic fire extinguishers are? I know the foam and chemical residue they leave behind are very toxic and require a severe clean up job.  Are there newer safer materials being used.  Many fire fighting foams use highly toxic PFAS chemicals.

Also, do extinguishers emit trace amounts of chemicals when stored in homes?

If anyone can recommend a brand available in the U.S. that would be appreciated.

 

Lisa’s Answer

I am not aware of any fire extinguishers that do not use PFAS chemicals.  Readers, any suggestions?

I would not expect the chemicals to release from the extinguisher when not in use but I am not aware of any testing that confirms this.

Is There Lead in Glassware?

 

Glass has been used for centuries to store food and is generally considered to be the safest material to store things in.  Recently, there has been a lot of questions from readers about whether or not certain kitchen glassware contains lead.  Lead is not typically added to glass as an ingredient, except for leaded crystal, which is clearly disclosed on the label.  However, lead is everywhere in the environment and any raw material is likely to have some degree of lead contamination.

The first question we need to answer is, how much lead is in different types of kitchen glassware?  Then, the more important question is, does the lead migrate (leach) out of the glassware and into your food or drink?

Whenever I attempt to answer a question like this I first look to scientific studies from independent laboratories and research organizations.  There are many studies on migration from glass that generally show, with the exception of lead crystal, there is very limited migration of lead or other elements of toxic significance.  The most recent and comprehensive assessment is a two year study commissioned by the Food Standard Agency, which is an independent UK Government department tasked with protecting public health and consumers’ interests in food*.  The study looks at several different types of glass including:

  • Soda Lime Glass Containers (bottles and jars, including colored glass)
  • Soda Lime Tableware (drinking glasses and dishes, including colored glass)
  • Borosilicate Tableware (European Pyrex bakeware is made of this but U.S. Pyrex is tempered soda lime glass)
  • Glass Ceramics (brands such as Vision cookware and Corelle dishware)
  • Decorated Glassware

 

A Note on Recycled Glass

 

The study speculates that the primary source of lead contamination is from recycled glass.  Colored glass, particularly green glass, typically has the highest amount of recycled glass.  Glass with a high percentage of recycled glass can have relatively high levels of lead content (some samples had up to 100 parts per million).  The study looks specifically at colored glass to see if higher levels of lead content result in higher levels of leaching.

 

The Results of the Study

 

Soda Lime Glass

Soda Lime glass is made with three ingredients – sand, lime and soda ash.  It’s the most common type of kitchen glassware.

When tested under conditions that replicate normal use, there were no detectable levels of lead migrating from any of the soda lime glass samples.  This means that even if the glass contained lead from contamination, it did not leach out into water.  This included colored glass and glass with recycled glass content.

When the glass was deeply scratch, to represent extreme use over time, all but one sample had no detectable levels of lead.  The one sample that did was made of amber glass which has the second highest level percentage of recycled glass.  The lead release from the one sample was still a relatively low level of 0.3 parts per million (ppm).  For perspective, the U.S. Office of Health and Hazard Assessment considers lead use in decorations on the lip of glass to be safe below 200 ppm.

When the glass was tested with a highly acidic solution, about one third of the samples had low levels of lead migration that ranged from 0.4 ppm to 1.2 ppm.

 

Borosilicate Glass

Borosilicate glass’ main components are silica, boron trioxide, soda ash and a small percentage of aluminum oxide.  It is more heat resistant than soda lime glass and is thought to be more inert.  It does not involve recycled glass which prevents contamination.  As expected, the borosilicate glass did not show any migration, even when scratched and when tested with an acidic solution.

 

Glass Ceramic

Like borosilicate glass, the glass ceramicware did not leach detectable levels of lead under any test conditions.

 

Decorated Glass

Decorations on glass can have high levels of lead content.  When tested under normal conditions, there was no leaching.  However, when the decoration came in contact with the acidic solution it showed high levels of leaching, with one sample at 30 ppm lead.

 

Other Toxic Elements

 

The study looked at other potentially hazardous elements in addition to lead.  Here are some key findings:

  • Colorants, such as cobalt used in blue glass, did not leach.
  • There was no detectable migration of aluminum from borosilicate glass even though it is an added ingredient in this type of glass.

 

Recommendations

 

Glass is generally a good, safe choice for kitchenware.  Here are some specific ways to avoid potential exposures.

 

  • Always avoid leaded glassware.
  • Always avoid using glassware with decorations that come in contact with food or drink.
  • Always avoid glass not designated food safe.
  • Avoid, out of an abundance of caution, glass with decorations on the rim or outside.
  • When possible, avoid glass with a high percentage of recycled content. (Green glass typically has highest percentage).
  • Look for borosilicate glass cookware and drinking glasses.
  • Look for glass ceramic cookware (Visions, Corelle) but be aware of the risks of shattering.
  • When glassware is deeply scratched, throw it out.

 

 

*The study was conducted by Glass Technology Services Ltd, which is an independent laboratory that services the glass industry, among other industries.  Any concerns about impartiality are offset by the knowledge that the conclusions are consistent with historical research.  The study is beneficial because it provides a broader assessment than other published studies.

Rubber Pillows

Question from Vicki

I own a rubber pillow. Does that release Formaldehyde?I was exposed to toxic levels from my floor that was bought from China by lumber liquidators so I am sensitive to very low levels.

Lisa’s Answer

Can you tell me more about the materials?  The term “rubber” can be used for either natural latex or for a synthetic polymer.  Do you know the brand?  If it is natural latex it will also be helpful to know if it is 100% natural latex or if it is mixed with other materials.

Non-Toxic Stove/Oven

Question from Andie

Hi Lisa ~ so glad we found you! Would you have any tips at all on how to find the safest, non-toxic stove/oven?

So many of us need this product, and it’s impossible to find – any ideas? Also, where can we find your website? Is it debralynndadd.com?

 

Lisa’s Answer

I have not done a full assessment of stoves.  It’s very difficult to do because many manufacturers will not disclose all of the materials that they use.  Very generally speaking, electric stoves are safer than gas.  Read more here.

Here is a thread you might want to look at because over 100 readers have posted comments about stoves that have been particularly problematic.

In answer to your second question, I am currently running the debralynndadd.com website but will be changing the name and adding additional content in the near future.  You will still be able to reach the site when you go to debralynndadd.com. You can sign up for the newsletter to keep up-to-date on coming changes!

Ridding Perfume Odor

Question from Ruth

There has been a lot of talk over the years about baking odors out of a house by turning heat way up. I have fragrance in my duct work from former owner’s plug ins. Will baking the house help with this?

 

Lisa’s Answer

I don’t recommend bake-outs because they can potentially cause more harm.  Read more here.

Here is the transcript from a radio segment Debra did on removing odors:

How to Remove Odors from Almost Anything 

 

EMF Shielding Paint

Question from Patricia

I am wondering if any of your readers have experience with EMF shielding paint?  Is it safe for someone with MCS? Does it work to block RF?

 

Lisa’s Answer

Readers, any experience with this?

Fiesta Ware

Question from Anna

I have a set of white fiesta ware that I bought a 23 years ago. Is it lead and mercury free?

 

Lisa’s Answer

Fiesta Ware has been lead-free since 1986.  The term lead-free means that there is not lead added to the product.  There are trace amounts of naturally occurring lead in almost all ceramics.  The California Position 65, which is among the most stringent standards, requires all ceramic products to be independently lab tested to have leachable lead levels below 0.1 ppm (parts per million).  Fiesta Ware releases 50 times less than that amount.

Neighbors Toxic Dryer Sheets

Question from Jane and Georgette

Please, my sister and I cannot keep moving. We are both Identical 59 year old twin sisters. After 7 moves in 11 years here in Phoenix AZ due to smokers and pollutants we moved again recently to a 50+ community.. The situation here is really killing us health-wise. The woman next door does her laundry for 4 hours straight at least 3 times a week usually 6pm-10pm. Her clothes drier’s vent is aiming directly to our bedroom windows which is 10-15 feet away, very very close. She uses the scented drier sheets that is horrendous and we’ve read and really knew anyway, that these sheets are extremely toxic. Anything perfumy is. We use plant-based natural unscented everything in our house and her pollution is entering our home. We knocked on her door a few times and she never answered. We printed a note how toxic the things she uses are and it’s not only bothering us but is also a health hazard for her as well. Her car is gone most of the day, she returns at night and that’s our sleep time and now with the cooler weather we want to save electric and just use the a/c for the triple digit summer days like we have been doing.

This is totally unfair for us . I called AZ Enironmental and they said they cannot do anything because it’s her home and she can use anything she wants for her laundry.
I even called non-emergency police to ask for advice and they said the same, nothing can be done.

Manage meant told us when we were signing the lease that if we have problems with our neighbors we have to work it out with them.
We need your advice how something can be done because it’s “perfect” here, we finally want to relax and enjoy our peaceful living and we are so so tired of constantly moving due to selfish and careless ” people. Help us please?

 

Lisa’s Answer

Some suggestions that have been offered by other readers are suggesting that they use wool dryer balls or providing them information about the toxins in dryer sheets.  Read these threads for more details:

Choosing and Using Dryer Balls as an Alternative to Dryer Sheets

Need Help with Neighbors Scented Laundry

Facts for Fighting Dryer Sheets

Toxic-Free Guitars (& other instruments)

Question from R

Do you have any recommendations for how to find toxin-free musical instruments (particularly guitars)? I’ve done some research, but it’s difficult to find guitars without toxic finishes, etc.

Making music has been such an important part of my life, and I would love to have a guitar to play again.

 

Lisa’s Answer

I would look on Etsy and see if you can find someone making guitars who is willing to use a non-toxic finish.  I’m not sure if the wood used is solid or a veneer, but if it is a veneer, it is possible to find low-VOC veneers.  Another possibility is to seal a regular wood guitar with AFM Safecoat Safe Seal which is designed to seal in off-gassing chemicals.  I’m not sure if this would impact the sound but it is the lowest-cost option.

Readers, other suggestions?

 

Stainless Steel

Question from Laura

I was using a novelty stainless steel spoon the past couple of weeks in my tea leaving the spoon in the cup after pouring the boiling water in. I also had broken out with eczema on my eyelids that progressively got worse and spread to my face beneath my eyes and on my cheeks. I kept smelling an odd smell that smelled like stainless stell cleanser, but couldn’t locate it until yesterday when I could very distinctly smell it in my tea. I discovered this last year that I am allergic to nickel. So, my question is: Can the leaching of nickel be the cause of the outbreak on my eyelids and face?

 

Lisa’s Answer

I’m not a doctor so I can’t diagnose your specific condition but nickel allergies can present as an icy rash.  Many people with known nickel sensitivities choose to avoid stainless steel altogether because it can leach nickel when it comes in contact with acid foods or beverages.

 

How to Find a Less Toxic Computer

Photo by Clément H on Unsplash

Computers are an essential part of modern life but they are a source of many hazardous substances like heavy metals, brominated flame retardants, and PVC.

 

Fortunately, manufactures have been making progress in finding safer alternatives for some of the most harmful materials. In 2006, the European Union implemented legislation, known as RoHS, to regulate hazardous substances in electrical and electronic equipment.  According to Greenpeace, computer manufacturers have significantly reduced their use of lead, cadmium, mercury, hexavalent chromium and certain brominated flame retardants in order to comply with the new regulations.  These changes have been implemented by all companies and not only for the European market1.

 

There’s still a long way to go to make computers safer.  A 2007 study by Greenpeace showed that bromine was present in over 40 percent of the components tested.    PVC was found in 44 percent of all plastic coatings of internal wires and external cables.  Phthalates were found in the power cables supplied with all laptops.  Certain toxic chemicals found did not exceed the EU standard but there are many hazardous chemicals found in laptops that are not covered by the standard.

 

If you are in the market for a new computer there are helpful tools available to find one with fewer toxins.  Greenpeace’s Guide to Greener Electronics 2017  grades manufactures on their efforts to reduce their environmental impacts.  One of the three criteria it uses is chemical management.  It evaluates the elimination of hazardous chemicals from the product and the manufacturing process.  The other criteria are energy and resource consumption, both of which have considerable impact on the environment.

 

The guide includes a report card for each manufacturer with an overall grade, as well as grades for each of the three criteria.  Apple received the highest grade, a “B”, for chemical management.  This is your safest bet for a new computer.

 

Chemical Management Report Card

 

Apple: B

Apple was the first electronics manufacturer to commit to eliminating PVC and BFRs (brominated flame retardants).  It has gone beyond RoHS standards to include additional hazardous chemicals such as beryllium, antimony trioxide and phthalates.  They have also committed to restrict benzene, n-hexane, toluene, and chlorinated organic compound.

 

Dell: C+

Dell originally committed to phasing out BFRs and PVC but has been unable to meet that goal.  Dell (and EMC) now have a 2020 plan to phase out environmentally sensitive material as viable alternatives exist.  They still have a goal to phase out BFRs and PVC but have not committed to a timeline.  They also have plans to phase out 4 phthalates ahead of the EU deadline.  Some laptops and tablets are now free of PVC and BFRs.

 

HP:  C+

The Elite series is free of BFRs.  All products except power cords and data cable are free of PVC.  HP has set a 2020 deadline to phase out remaining uses of BFRs and PVS as well as antimony and certain phthalates but only as viable alternatives exist.

 

Google:  C

All products are free of PVC and BFRs.  The grade is brought down due to lack of transparency of their list of suppliers.

 

All other manufactures listed, including Microsoft and Sony, score a C or lower for hazard chemical eliminations.

 

 

Additional Tools

 

Another helpful source is the The Green Electronics Council’s Electronic Products Environmental Assessment Tool (EPEAT). The system helps purchasers compare and select desktop computers, notebooks and monitors based on their environmental attributes.

Compared to traditional computer equipment, all EPEAT-registered computers have reduced levels of cadmium, lead, and mercury to better protect human health and the environment. They are more energy efficient, which reduces emissions of climate changing greenhouse gases. They are also easier to upgrade and recycle. In fact, manufacturers must offer safe recycling options for the products when they are no longer useable.

EPEAT products are identified as EPEAT-Bronze, EPEAT-Silver, or EPEAT-Gold depending on the number of environmental features incorporated in the product. You can search by manufacturer if you want to learn more about a particular product or you can search for Gold rated products.  If you click on the product you can see more details about the manufacturer’s management of hazardous substances under the heading “Substance Management”.  There is also an advanced search feature that allows you to search for information on specific chemicals such as chromium, beryllium, chlorine and bromine.

 

VOCs from Oil-Base Polyurethane

Question from Julie

I have a question for you about permanently reducing VOCs from hardwood floor finish.

We had the hardwood floors in our new house stained and refinished 2 months ago. We expected a water-based product to be used for the finish, but unfortunately an oil-based poly was applied instead (Bona Woodline Polyurethane). It was also applied in less-than ideal conditions during a cold, rainy period.

Two months have passed since the refinishing and we’ve moved into the house (with a newborn), but there is still a noticeable smell. We’re also seeing tVOC levels spike to over 500 ppb on our Awair air quality meter.

We have air purifiers on and have been opening windows and running fans whenever possible, which improves the air quality at the time, but doesn’t seem to be solving the underlying off gassing problem.

I know that you don’t recommend baking VOCs out, but I’d like to know what you do recommend that would speed up the off gassing of our hardwood floors. I’d love to get to a place where our floors are fully cured and not emitting VOCs.

 

Lisa’s Answer

I’m sorry you are dealing with this, particularly with an infant!  I know that it would be great if there were ways to eliminate toxins quickly, easily, and safely but unfortunately, that is not always possible.

The majority of the off-gassing will occur while the finish is curing, so the good news is that the worst part should be past.  However, as The Green Building Council reports, oil-based finishes can off-glass for months and even years.  It’s important that you do address the situation.

Indoor Air Quality professionals sometimes use a method called a “Flush Out” to reduce VOCs in a new building when concentrations are highest.  The method is complex and uses a very precise mix of air volume, temperature and humidity.  I don’t think this method is right for you because the majority of the off-gassing has already occurred.  There is no method that will simply eliminate the lingering VOCs that will continue to offgas.

I recommend sealing the floor with a product designed to trap in any lingering VOCs.  ECOS Interior Air Purifying Varnish is made for interior floors and can applied over your existing finish.  It does require the floor to be lightly sanded so its important to maintain good ventilation and run your air purifiers.  Also, make sure your vents are covered so the dust does not get into them.

 

Camper

Question from John

Has there been any new updates on non toxic campers? It seems like all campers are still using toxic materials and then the mold issue. Is it best to perhaps just get an aluminum trailer and build yourself?

 

Lisa’s Answer

I am not aware of any new updates.  Debra is blogging about her reasons to build a tiny house on a motorhome chassis.  You can follow her progress here.

Tiny House

Question from Mary

I have severe mcs
Looking for what would be the best place to live toxic free.
Possibly a tiny home
Would u give me direction.

 

Lisa’s Answer

Debra is blogging about her reasons to build a tiny house as well as the progress she is making.  You can follow her here.

Another good source is mychemicalfreehouse.net.

Air Purifier

Question from Mary

Do you know what is in enviroclense purifier?
I have mcs and this purifier destroyed my whole home clothes and all textiles.
I can’t breathe in 15 min.
I can’t wash the smell out of anything and nobody knows how to get it out
I only ran the purifier for 3 hours and now I cant live in my home
Smell is between ammonia bleach smell and cascade is how I explain it w a little sweet smell added.
Please can u help me so I can live in my home

 

Lisa’s Answer

EnviroKlenz is made with MCS users in mind.  Have you tried calling the company and asking them for ideas?  I can’t tell you what you are reacting to because everyone is different.

Here are some threads where other readers have commented on how they have handled odors from air purifiers.  I hope they help,

Yeast-Like Small from Air Purifiers

MCS Suffers Which Air Purifier Helped You?

Home Printer

Question from Martha

Do you know of a home printer that does not offgas when in use?

 

Lisa’s Answer

All printers will offgas.  In addition to off-gassing, printers can emit particles into the air which is also harmful.  Always use a printer in a well-ventilated area, keep it away from your bedroom, and use a high quality air purifier.

Here is a helpful resource to identify less harmful electronics.  Look for “gold” level printers that  score highly on reducing environmentally sensitive materials.

Mattress Wrapping

Question from Kristin

I’d like to wrap my mattress to protect myself from off-gassing. My research has brought me here, after this site was referenced in an idea to use foil insulation. I love this idea, but does it pose any risks?  Are there any toxins I need to be aware of that might be added to the insulation? Any recommendations on brands? If I buy a polyethylene roll to wrap, what are the specs I’m looking for. So many choices pop up, and I’m not sure exactly what I’m looking for except high density, clear. Does it need to be food grade?

 

Lisa’s Answer

I believe you are referencing this post from 2011.  Debra recommends a specific product that is just aluminum foil and polyethylene.  I would be very careful to select a product that does not have any added chemicals.  Here is a company that sells polyethylene wraps for mattresses.  This may be a safer bet.

I know that buying a safe mattress is not affordable for everyone but it is a much safer option than wrapping a traditional mattress in plastic.

Cabinets

Question from Tamra

Hi I am trying to find bathroom and kitchen cabinets that will not off gas, and a healthy choice for home. Seems finding a painted finish on cabinets that is Low VOC is difficult, as I am told they do not wear well. Are there any companies you like for MCS? Mainly I have looked at Crystal cabinets ( seems if I understand right that their stained cabinets do have a low VOC finish top coat? But I do not think painted ones do?) Wood Cabinets 4 less I came across on this site, but I did not see much on Crystal cabinets. Also trying to find a more affordable, but HEALTH and not reacting to new cabinets is the most important thing.

 

Lisa’s Answer

Crystal Cabinets do not specify on their website if their paints or stains are low VOC.  You could call them and ask.  You could purchase solid wood cabinets from Wood Cabinets for less and get them unfinished and have someone paint them for you using a low VOC, or preferably a zero VOC paint.

I can tell you whether or not products are toxic but I can’t tell any individual whether or not they will react to something as everyone is different.  Readers, are there any recommendations for cabinets for those with MCS.

Laptop Computer

Question from Sherry

Any suggestions for a laptop computer that doesn’t outgas much.  Thank you for any help you can give.

 

Lisa’s Answer

There is a very helpful resource called the Green Electronics Council.  “Purchasers can search for electronics based on product category, manufacturer, geography or EPEAT rating. EPEAT-registered products can even be identified based on specific attributes valued by an organization (reduction of toxic materials, recyclability, use of recycled plastic, etc.).

Manufacturers register products in EPEAT based on the devices’ ability to meet certain required and optional criteria that address the full product lifecycle, from design and production to energy use and recycling. Bronze-rated products meet all of the required criteria in their category. Silver-rated products meet all of the required criteria and at least 50% of the optional criteria, while Gold-rated products meet all of the required criteria and at least 75% of the optional criteria.”

Also, check out this post on printers.

More Sources for Non-Toxic Clothing

I’ve gotten a lot of comments and questions about my posts on toxins in clothing and where to find non-toxic clothing.  It occurred to me that some readers may not be aware that Debra’s List currently profiles over 80 companies that sell all, or predominantly, non-toxic clothing.  You can either look through the entire list or search specifically for companies that use only botanical dyes.

I have been searching for more companies to add to the growing list.  The following five web-based companies have unique or hard-to-find styles.  All are committed to using non-toxic materials and production processes and are fully transparent. Three of the companies are based outside of the U.S. so ordering may be more of a challenge but their wide range of choices may make them worth the effort.

 

Mate

Mate sells California-style basics, dresses and sleepwear for women.  You can shop by fabric type which is helpful because some of their fabrics are better than others.  Their cleanest fabrics are GOTS certified organic cotton and Super Flax, which is 100% linen.  Their less optimal fabrics are slub cotton, which is not organic, and Tencil, which uses petroleum-based chemicals for processing.  All of their clothing uses low-impact dyes and the company is considering natural dyes for the future.

matethelabel.com

 

Brook There

Brook There is based in New England and sells organic cotton and silk underwear and minimalist lingerie.  The cotton is GOTS certified.  These items are a step-above most organic cotton undergarments.

brookthere.com

 

People Tree

People Tree is based in the UK but they sell and ship to the U.S.  This is a unique company with a full range of clothing for women, men, and children including denim, jumpsuits and outerwear.  The great selection may make it worth the hassle of ordering from overseas.  Just be aware, if you need to return items you will need to pay return shipping costs.  They use FLO certified organic cotton.  “Although FLO (Fairtrade International) is for cotton itself, goods made with the cotton have to be certified throughout the supply chain and adhere to strict social and environmental standards.”  Most items are organic cotton but some use Tencil or a percentage of synthetic fabrics.  The materials are clearly identified in the product description.

peopletree.co.uk

 

Thought

Thought is UK based company with a great selection of contemporary women and menswear.  The line includes hard-to-find items like work clothes, outerwear, and denim.  All finishes are Oeko-Tex certified and all dyes are Azo-free.  You can search for clothing by fabric, which is helpful because some are better than others.  Look for organic cotton, hemp and wool and avoid bamboo, Tencil and modal.  Some cottons include a small percentage of synthetic fabric like elastane but it is clearly listed in the description.

wearethought.com

 

Shift to Nature

Shift to Nature is based in Australia and ships to the U.S.  Returns are not allowed from orders outside of Australia but, like Thought, this company has a great selection of unique clothing for women, men and children.  You can search by fabric so look for organic cotton and hemp and avoid bamboo and recycled synthetics.

shiftonature.com.au

Portable Air Purifier

Question from Karen

I have been looking at the IQ Air Atem personal space air purifier: https://www.iqair.com/us/support/tech-specs/atem-desk

Do you have any experience with this? I would like to use it in our car (offgassing new car chemicals) and hotel rooms.

Lisa’s Answer

I don’t have personal experience with it but I have looked very closely at the brand and it is a very good portable unit.  Readers, does anyone have experience with it?

Organic Pillow

Question from Andi

I always have trouble getting a pillow to stop smelling strong.  This one is from Janice’s and they aired out the stuffing for a week.  I also have trouble with the smells of pillows from White Lotus , so it is not any particular store, it is the organic cotton. (Also had trouble with smells of kapok, etc).  It has been airing out since end of August. It still smells so strong that I cannot use it.  Any suggestions?

Lisa’s Answer

Readers?

Air Purifier- Bissell air320

Question from Bonnie

Just saw an ad for a new purifier called the Bissell Lifestyle Air 320. Wondering if you have heard of it or if anyone here has tried it. Thanks.

Lisa’s Answer

I don’t have personal experience with it.  After a quick look, it appears to be a much lower-cost option than the most powerful purifiers but it does have activated carbon to clean gases and VOCs.
It does not have a HEPA filter so it will not clean particles from the air as effectively as a unit with HEPA.  Also, it does not say how much activated carbon it has.  The area of carbon determines how effective it is.
Generally, it looks to be less effective at cleaning particles and gases/VOCs than more powerful, more expensive models.  As a low cost option, it looks to be better than other similarly priced products.

Styrofoam

Question from Judy

More on styrofoam please.  I have orchids on windowsills that are terrazzo and very cold in the winter.  I’ve put styrofoam boards from a craft store on top for their protection.   Should I be worrying about this particular application?

Lisa’s Answer

The more significant health concern about styrofoam is that it can leach styrene, a probable carcinogen, into food and beverages when it is used as a container.  There is probably not a significant exposure from this application.

I try avoid styrofoam, in general, because it is particularly bad for the environment due to a chemically-intensive manufacturing process and its inability to break down when it is disposed.

Air Purifier for MCS- no carbon

Question from NIT

I’ve tried two air purifiers and they unfortunately exacerbate my symptoms, particularly in the sinuses.

I believe the problem is the carbon. I get similar symptoms when using a nose filter with carbon in it.

Are there are any alternative air purifiers which can remove formaldehyde and other VOCs which may not trigger me?

Lisa’s Answer

EnviroKlenz does not use any carbon.  Everyone is different so I can’t tell you what will or will not trigger you.  If you use the search button on the site, search for air purifiers and you will find threads where readers with MCS comment on what has and has not worked for them.

Yeast-Like Smell from Air Purifiers

Question from JP

My doctor prescribed an Austin Air for my MCS in 2005.  It emitted a yeast-like smell, but I thought it was normal.  Then, I purchased a smaller Austin Air and the air was mega fresh.  I could tell instantly when I shut it off for a few hours and then turned it back on.  So, I ordered another one, plus a filter for my original unit. Every single one them are now emitting a yeast-like smell.  So, I purchased a Dyson air purifier and it worked like a charm, so I purchased another one.  Every Dyson filter I have order in the past two years emit the same yeast-like smell.  Has anyone ever complained about yeast-like smells?  I’m wondering if that means the filters are old and have been sitting on the shelf for too long?  I recently ordered an EnviroKlenz purifier and it emitted a strong odor and now it seems to be fine.  I put it in my garage because I have a piece of new furniture that is off gassing, and the purifier is not helping.  I’ve spent thousands of dollars and I’m losing hope.  🙁  Any suggestions or ideas?

 

Lisa’s Answer

Readers, has anyone else had this experience?  Any suggestions?

Chantal Induction 21 Cookware

Question from Chris

I see that Chantal cookware is on the list of recommended products. I have read concerns about ceramic coating in numerous sources. What are your thoughts on the safety of Chantal’s Induction 21 cookware with ceramic coating?

 

Lisa’s Answer

I agree that new research has shown that ceramic-enameled coatings can leach nanoparticles.  I will remove Chantal from Debra’s List.

Vinyl Plank Flooring

Question from Janett

Hello. We have been looking at vinyl plank flooring . Home Depot carries a brand called Lifeproof  that has the Floorscore stamp on it. I read on this site that Floorscore doesn’t test for everything that is dangerous.
We are also looked at Homecrest Cascade and Coretec Plus. Homecrest has a product safety assurance statement on their web site of what chemical are not  in them.
Do you know anything about either of these products by chance? We definitely need waterproof.

 

Lisa’s Answer

Check out The Green Design Center.  The owner, Andrew Pace, tests the products he sells and has found formaldehyde emissions from products that claim to be formaldehyde-free.  Cali LVP flooring is the only LVP brand he sells.

Mattress Options for a Toddler

Question from Liz

I’ve been agonizing over what type of twin mattress to purchase for my 3.5 year old. I was set on buying an all natural mattress with organic cotton and latex components. However, I’ve been reading that many people have had issues with all natural materials developing mold. With a young child who is going to wet the bed (potty training at night), mold is a big concern to me, even with a waterproof pad. I can’t decide what the lesser of the two evils is – the potential for mold, or a polyurethane mattress (flame retardant free). Help!

 

Lisa’s Answer

Naturepedic 2-in-1 kid’s mattress is your best bet.  One side has a food-grade waterproof coating made from sugarcane.  I have not heard of any mold issues with these mattresses.

Styrofoam Sheets

Question from Hope

I love your site…as I appreciate your info so much…I’ve been through a lot with chemicals ~yikes!

I have a question, do you know of a “toxic-free” styrofoam sheet product/company that is available in the market? I need it for a major project. I need to buy in sheets, but everything I have found so far seems to have fire retardant and other chemicals added. Do you have a suggestion?

 

Lisa’s Answer

I am not aware of any, readers?

I try to avoid all styrofoam.  Using it in a project is probably not a significant exposure but it can leach styrene into food and drink.  Also, it is terrible for the environment due to it’s chemically-intensive production process and inability to bio-degrade.

 

See How I Search for a Non-Toxic Footstool

I’m in the market for a non-toxic footstool for my husband.  He has a chair that he uses in a quiet corner of our house and would like to be able to put his feet up.  Since it’s not in a main room of our house, I’m not looking for investment-quality furniture but I would like it to look nice and be built to last.

 

I thought it might be interesting to show the steps I take and thought process I go through before I buy a new product for my home.

 

Identify a Trusted Source

A quick search of my go-to, non-toxic furniture makers, Medley and Cisco Brothers, confirmed my suspicion that all of their options would cost far more than I wanted to spend.  So, I went to another favorite source; Etsy.

 

I really like buying from Etsy for many reasons.  I like to support small businesses, particularly those that are women-owned, and handmade goods are generally environmentally-friendly.  Most importantly, Etsy sells many products made with natural materials and the artisans are often willing to customize when materials are not optimal.

 

Eliminate Problematic Materials

I chose to steer away from stools with wooden legs because it eliminates the need to evaluate adhesives and stains, each of which are potentially toxic.  I also chose to avoid leather because even vegetable-tanned leather can be processed with harmful chemicals.  This led me to focus on stuffed cushions or poufs to serve as a footrest.

 

Evaluate the Materials

Most Etsy shops do a good job of identifying the materials used in each item.  The more detail that the artisan provides, the more comfortable I feel that I can adequately assess the product.  I look for natural fabrics and fills and then make note of questions I have for the artisan.

I assumed that many of the items I looked at have a zipper so that the cover can be washed, but most didn’t list this as a material.  Though zippers are made of plastic, it is a minor exposure and I am not worried about it.

 

Look for Certifications

When purchasing fabric, it is optimal to find products certified by GOTS or Oeko-Tex.  Read more about certifications here.

 

Contact the Producer

I always like to verify the materials with the artisan and confirm that there is nothing else used in the product.

For fabrics, it’s important to know what types of dyes are used and if they have any treatments, like stain resistance.  This is often not specified in the description.

I also ask for verification of organic claims and certifications.

Finally, I ask about the ability to customize if there is a material that I would like to substitute for something less toxic.

 

My Search

I started by searching for organic poufs.  Adding the word “organic” to the search helps to identify products that attempt to use more natural materials.  It is a good filter but does not guarantee that the finished product is organic.  I found dozens of options and narrowed down my choice to three items.  Each have pros and cons.

 

Option 1:

Materials:

  • Crochet part: natural linen cord
  • Filling bag: natural linen fabric
  • Filling: Styrofoam beads.
  • Linen is not beached, no dyes used, 100 % pure Baltic linen

 

My Evaluation:

  • The fabric for both the inner and outer fabric is undyed linen.It’s not certified organic but flax (which is used to make linen) requires little to no pesticides and can be mechanically processed into linen fabric with few chemicals.  Some cheaper linen can be processed with chemicals so I’ve reached out to the artisan to confirm that the linen is mechanically processed and to see if it has any certifications.
  • I love that it is undyed because the dying process can be chemically intensive.
  • Styrofoam beads are not something I would buy. Read more here about Styrofoam.  I confirmed that it is possible to buy this unfilled.  I would fill it with this GOTS certified organic cotton fill.

 

Option 2:

Materials:

  • Exterior: 100% organic wool
  • Interior: Organic linen
  • Stuffed with high quality polystyrene beads

 

My Evaluation:

  • I love that the wool and linen are organic. I have asked for confirmation of organic certification and also inquired about the dyes.  They look to be undyed but I want to be sure.
  • Polystyrene is the same things as Styrofoam. Styrofoam is a trademarked brand name for polystyrene.  I would not buy this.  I have asked the artisan if I can buy the cover without any filling.

 

Option 3:

Materials:

  • Filling: 100% Organic GOTS Certified Cotton
  • Insert Cover Fabric: 100% Cotton, lightweight
  • Zip-Off Cover Fabric:
                      • Max Cotton (100% Cotton)
                      • Canal (60% cotton/40% polyester)
                      • Mimos (50 % Cotton/50% Polyester)
                      • Bella (67% Cotton/33% Linen)
                      • Velvet (65% cotton/35% Polyester)
                      • Water/ Stain repellent fabric (60% Cotton/40% Polyester)

 

My Evaluation:

  • This is the only option I found that has a GOTS certified fill. This is ideal.
  • The insert cover is 100% cotton. There is no information about dyes or certifications.
  • The outer cover is available in many options, including synthetic fabrics and stain repellent treatments. This raises concerns about the 100% cotton fabric.  Most cotton fabric is dyed and processed using harsh chemicals.  It seems unlikely that this cotton is organic or certified.
  • Interestingly, this option has the best fill but the most questionable outer fabric.

 

While I am still waiting to get some answers from the artisans, I am leaning toward option 2, assuming I can supply my fill and the wool and linen are undyed.  If I can’t confirm the type of dye used on the wool, I will go with option 1 and use my own fill.  Either will be non-toxic and will get the job done beautifully!

 

 

PVC-Free Adhesive Cord Cover

Question from Melissa

I’m having trouble finding PVC-free adhesive cord covers to cover my long ethernet cables in the house. Optimally they are like these ones, but PVC-free:
https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07KFP5SJ8/ref=ox_sc_saved_title_1?smid=AIVUHJ2NABNJF&psc=1

 

Lisa’s Answer

All of the plastic covers that I found were PVC.  Would you consider a fabric cover?  It would be safer to avoid the adhesive as well.

Etsy has many fabric cord covers including ones made from natural fibers.  These are made from linen.

I have a magnetic strip on the back of my desk and I organize my wires with metal clips.

 

Old Tupperware

Question from Theresa

I have pieces of Tupperware that are now 30 years old in my kitchen. I’d like to make use of it, but am wary of old plastics.  Is there any health threat from it? What about 20-year-old Rubbermaid storage containers?

 

Lisa’s Answer

BPA has been used in plastic since the 1940’s.  Once plastic containers are scratched, they are more likely to leach chemicals.  I would replace them with glass containers.

Modem

Question from Andi

I got a new modem in early November and was concerned that it would produce smelly fumes.  I was pleasantly surprised – it was fine. But now,  just over two months later, when I am near it, it smells very strong from the fumes. Maybe I am just more sensitive right now – under a lot of stress.  I do shut it off at night.  Is there anything I can do about this?  Cannot cover it with aluminum foil due to it heats up.

 

Lisa’s Answer

You are not alone.  Many have written in with this problem.  Read the thread here.  Try to place the modem as far from your bedroom as possible and keep the area well ventilated.  Its great that you shut it off at night.  Make sure it’s not near a vent or any other heat source.  In the thread you will see some more intensive solutions like building a sealed box around it and venting it to the outside.  Additionally, there are suggestions for modems that have been better tolerated by sensitive individuals.

Oeko-Tex and Bedding Material

Question from Roger

I try to buy organic or natural bedding but it can be expensive and I am not from the United States. For pillows I can’t use down/feather and want to avoid synthetic but all natural options are very expensive or have other issues (Kapok is very flammable). If I buy a pillow with a 100% cotton cover AND 100% polyester fill and the pillow is OEKO-TEX certified, does that mean the cover only is certified or both the cover and filling/batting is certified? Thank you so much.

 

Lisa’s Answer

Good question.  It depends how it is worded; either is possible.  It’s best to call the manufacturer to check.  You should ask if the finished product is certified or just the cover.  Unlike GOTS certification, Oeko-Tex does certify synthetic fabrics as well as natural fibers.  If it is the whole pillow that is certified it is a good, more affordable solution to a GOTS certified pillow.  Even thought the polyester fill is not ideal, at least you know that the chemicals used in the processing of the product are relatively safe.

Cutting Board

Question from Adriana

I would like to know if there’s a wood and wood alternative cutting boards available that are toxic free; ie, they contain no formaldehyde, no mineral oil or any other toxin.  I’m looking for individual cutting boards for veggies, fruits and meats.  However, everything out there seems contain some type of toxin.

 

Lisa’s Answer

Urthware is my favorite brand.  They are made with solid wood, no adhesives, and treated with organic oils and wax (no mineral oil!).  Even the feet are made from natural rubber.  They are sturdy and beautiful.

Sodium Ascorbate to Absorb Chlorine

Question from Fran

I have chemical sensitivities and chlorine is one of my triggers. I just ordered filters (from Igor) for my kitchen sink, bathroom sink, and shower. Because Pure Effect does not have a whole house system anymore, I am also wondering about my laundry. What is your opinion of putting several teaspoons of sodium ascorbate into my washing machine with my detergent?

 

Lisa’s Answer

Sodium Ascorbate will neutralize chlorine.  I am not a chemist so I don’t know for sure, but it is a neutral PH so I don’t think it will have a negative impact on your washer.  Readers, any additional thoughts?

Where to Find Non-Toxic Clothing

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

Last week I wrote about toxins in clothing.  The thought of finding non-toxic clothing when there is so little transparency can be overwhelming.  Fortunately, there are many companies selling chemical-free clothing.  Here’s how to find them.

 

Debra’s List

 

There are dozens of companies profiled on Debra’s List that sell women’s clothing, men’s clothing and baby & kid’s clothing.  A good way to start the process of detoxing your closet is to focus on pajamas, undergarments and basics like tee shirts and jeans.  Here are some good sources to get you started.

 

Pajamas

Invest in a couple of pairs of GOTS certified organic pajamas.  This way, you will spend roughly one third of your day in chemical-free clothing.  It’s a good start.

Coyuchi

All of Coyuchi’s pajamas (and all of their other clothing) are GOTS certified organic cotton.  Their products are expensive but they are the highest quality and will last for years.  These are the most comfortable pajamas I have ever owned.

 

Undergarments

Try to wear GOTS certified undergarments so at least the clothing that touches your skin is free of chemicals.

Pact

You can’t go wrong with this brand.  “Super soft organic cotton.  No toxic dyes.  No toxic pesticides.  No sweatshops.  No child labor.”  All of their products are GOTS certified.  Great for underwear and socks.

Maggie’s Organics 

Maggie’s Organics is a great source for socks.  All of their products are GOTS certified organic cotton or wool.  Some of the socks have a small percentage of synthetic fabric for elasticity which is allowed under GOTS rules.  They have athletic socks which can be hard to find.  Maggie’s also has a full line of clothing and accessories.

Cottonique 

This company specifically provides clothing for people with skin contact allergies to latex and other common allergens.  While not certified by GOTS or Oeko-tex, they use organic cotton and are very transparent about the chemicals used in the process.  They focus primarily on undergarments and socks, but also have basic pants and tops for loungewear.  “All of our products are made from natural and chemical free 100% combed cotton material.  Our elasticized garments are made from a newly developed material that is both latex-free and spandex-free.  Our Cottonique fabric is…PH balanced to conform with the body’s natural acidic level and is totally free of dyes, bleach and textile chemicals commonly used in other apparel.”

 

Basics

Clothing basics like tee shirts and leggings that can fit often into your rotation will help you build a non-toxic wardrobe.

Pact 

Pact sells more than underwear.  They have a full collection of clothing for women, men, babies and children.

Coyuchi 

Coyuchi has recently expanded their clothing line and now sells tees, sweaters, cotton pants and shorts.

 

Sustainable Clothing Websites

 

The websites donegood.co, which is based in the U.S., and goodonyou.eco, which is based in Australia, feature brands that do good for people and the planet.  Be careful, though.  Not all brands or items are entirely free of harmful chemicals.  Fortunately, most of the featured companies are transparent about their materials and manufacturing processes so it is easier to find non-toxic options.  Many of the brands are GOTS certified.

So Many Chemicals in Clothing

Photo by Kai Pilger on Unsplash

Clothing can be one of the most challenging areas to navigate for people trying to live a non-toxic lifestyle.  Over 8000 chemicals are used in the production of clothing but the U.S. does not have a regulatory agency dedicated to overseeing textile production.  There is little transparency in the industry, but fortunately, some companies are beginning to restrict the use of the most hazardous chemicals.

 

What are the Most Concerning Chemicals Used in Clothing?

 

Formaldehyde:  Used to keep clothes wrinkle or shrink-free, and as a preservative for colorfastness and to prevent mildew, particularly when shipped overseas.  Avoid clothing labeled wrinkle-free, iron-free, permanent press, or stain resistant.  Washing will remove some, but not all of the chemicals.

Azo Dyes:  These are the most common types of dye used for clothing.  They release aromatic amines, a chemical linked to cancer.

PFCs:  Polyfluorinated chemicals are used for waterproofing and stain-resistance.

Heavy Metals:  Lead, cadmium and mercury are used in dyes and for leather tanning.

Flame Retardants:  Brominated and chlorinated flame retardants are still sometimes used in children’s clothing.

Other chemicals of concern include phthalates, ammonia, chlorine bleach, and high-VOC solvents.

 

What Types of Materials are Best?

 

Look For:

GOTS-Certified Organic Cotton or Wool:

Choosing clothing based on fabric alone is not enough to avoid chemicals.  Even organic cotton can be processed and treated with hazardous chemicals.  GOTS, The Global Organic Textile Standard, restricts the chemicals used throughout the manufacturing process.   The Oeko-Tex Standard 100 certification also restricts chemicals used in the manufacturing process and covers both organic and non-organic fabrics.

 

Use with Caution:

Tencel:

Tencel is made from eucalyptus trees which are sustainable and ethically grown.  The chemicals used to process the fiber are petroleum-based but generally less toxic than those used to process cotton.

Linen (Flax):

Flax requires little to no pesticides and can be mechanically processed into linen fabric with few chemicals.  A cheaper alternative that is becoming more common, however, is chemically processed linen.

Conventional Cotton:

While much of the pesticides from growing cotton are washed off during processing, even small exposures to pesticides have been linked to adverse health effects. The processing of cotton is chemical-intensive, including steps to bleach, scour, dye and finish the fabric.

Rayon:

Rayon is made by a chemical-intensive process that converts wood pulp into fiber.

Polyester:

Polyester is derived from petroleum but the process to dye it uses fewer chemicals than cotton because it retains the dye better.

 

Avoid:

PVC:

Faux or vegan leather is often made with PVC.  The main ingredient in PVC, vinyl chloride is a carcinogen.  PVC also contains phthalates.

Leather:

There are hundreds of chemicals used in the tanning of leather.  Most leather is tanned using the toxic metal, chromium.

 

Unfortunately, there is not a simple, affordable way to build an entire wardrobe of non-toxic clothing.  Here are some helpful tips to minimize your chemical exposure.

 

  1. Wash before wearing.

While you can’t wash out all of the chemicals, washing new clothing will help to remove residual finishing treatments.

  1. Invest in GOTS certified pajamas.

This is a great way to ensure that you will be free of toxins for the 8 or so hours of your day that you are asleep.  Make sure your sheets and bedding are also GOTS certified.

  1. Wear GOTS certified undergarments.

It’s important that the garments closest to your skin are free of harmful chemicals.  Fortunately, there are an increasing number of options available.

  1. Buy from retailers with transparent chemical management policies.

Check out Green America’s scorecard of major U.S. apparel retailers.  (Target, The North Face, Nike, and the Gap get a thumbs up for chemical management.)

  1. Buy vintage clothing.

Clothing that has been washed for a period of years is more likely to have fewer chemicals.  This may not be an option for people who are sensitive to fragrance.

  1. Buy Less.

This one’s simple.  Less clothes = less chemicals.

 

Sources:

Green America 2019, Toxic Textiles, January 2020, https://www.greenamerica.org/sites/default/files/2019-07/GA_TextilesReport_Final_0.pdf.

 

Stockholm University 2015, Toxins remain in your clothes, ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, January 2020. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/10/151023084508.htm>.

 

GAO 2010, Formaldehyde in Textiles, January2020, <https://www.gao.gov/assets/310/308673.pdf

 

 

 

Low-EMF and Low Off-gassing Heater with 3 Prongs

Question from Sue

I read through the recommendations for space heaters on this site.  I did further research, and though the suggestions are low-offgassing, they are not low-emf.  I have severe electrical sensitivities (as well as severe chemical sensitivities).  I had a Lakewood oil-filled radiator heater with 2 prongs which died, and then I found a Lakewood oil-filled radiator with 3 prongs on the cord, and it was much more emf-safe for me (than the 2-prong one).  I bought them both USED, so they were off-gassed.  The 3-prong one just died.  I have been unable to find a 3-prong replacement by any brand.  I am willing to try any type of space heater, as long as it is both low-emf and low-offgassing.

 

Lisa’s Answer

Readers, any suggestions?

Weighted Blankets

Question from Kiersten

I’ve been searching for a weighted blanket to find and am having no luck finding one that doesn’t include some kind of polyester. The best I’ve found is this for example, with glass beads and certified toxic-free fabrics, but they still say the use a thin layer of polyester batting to hold the beads in place: https://balooliving.com

Have you done any research into weighted blankets and found one that is made entirely with toxic free materials?

 

Lisa’s Answer

Here is one that was recommended by a reader.  It is not organic, but it is 100% cotton with glass beads.

Coil Mattresses

Question from Viki

What is your opinion on organic mattresses with coil inner springs in them? Does it work like an antenna, collecting waves? (I have heard that before but never researched it.)

 

Lisa’s Answer

I am not an expert on EMFs (although I will be trained in it this coming summer).  But, based on what I have read a steel mattress coil by itself does not emit EMFs. And it also does not attract or concentrate EMFs. This can be measured with a gaussmeter.

Bad Smell

Question from Vangie

A friend of mine made me a coffee table out of an electrical pole, its beautiful but it smell very bad and as if its toxic from where I read about electric poles… can Zinsser Bull’s eye shellac  block the smell?

 

Lisa’s Answer

Shellac may block the smell but it will also contribute chemical off-gassing.  I would try a non-toxic sealer like AFM Safecoat, which is designed to seal in toxins.

Pressure Cooker

Question from Edy

I found this pressure cooker online supposedly toxic free.  Any thoughts?
https://miriamsearthencookware.com/mec-blog/non-toxic-pressure-cooker-for-healthy-cooking/

 

Lisa’s Answer

The product looks to be non-toxic and they do independent testing for lead and cadmium.  I don’t have personal experience with it.

I have an Insta Pot but do not use it very often and never use it to cook acidic foods like tomato sauce.  Some people, particularly those with a nickel sensitivity, chose to avoid stainless steel.  Here is more on my thoughts on stainless steel.

Enameled Steel Tub

Question from Tami

Hi I am wondering if you know anything with the Kaldewei enameled steel, porcelain bathtubs. We are going to have our bathroom redone and I am looking for a non toxic tub to replace a fiberglass surround. Any advice would be appreciated.

 

Lisa’s Answer

I don’t have personal experience with the brand but it looks like a good option.

New Refrigerator

Question from Audrey

I may need to get a new refrigerator.  I called Needs in Syracuse and they said that the moso bags will not help with the outgassing/plastic smells in new refrigerator.  She had no suggestions except keeping the door open and putting an air cleaner in front of it.  Can you please post this question to see what mcs people have done to outgas the inside of a new refrigerator?  Thank you so much.

 

Lisa’s Answer

Readers, any suggestions?

Dinnerware

Question from Sandy

I am looking for safe dinnerware sets that would be heavy metal free as possible that is affordable? Is there any brands I could check into that you would know of? I did check with corelle and they said it meets prop. 65 but I know no amount of heavy metals are safe. So just want to see what else may be out there that I dont know about.

 

Lisa’s Answer

I use Fiesta dinnerware.  IKEA is also a good, inexpensive source for dinnerware.

Fragranced EVERYTHING

Question from Shirley

I read the comments from people hoping to find unscented or garbage bags without fragrance. Why did the makers of household products and trash bags start adding fragrance anyway? In most places a garbage can is provided or used for trash disposal. Where I live, we put our trash to the curb in bags, Paper is not an option due to our wet climate. I sympathize with the people who are sensitive to fragrances. I call the laundry aisle the “Aisle of Death”. How do those sensitive to the overly fragranced world we live in survive? Where can we find truly unscented Garbage Bags? Costco is not an option anymore. Neither is Walmart. I suggest calling Hefty & complaining.  Thanks for listening

 

Lisa’s Answer

Click here for a thread with readers offering several suggestions.  Readers, any other recommendations for unscented garbage bag?

Eczema and Furniture

Question from Bryan

I have very severe eczema and sensitivity to all things. I’ve noticed that i tend to break out badly whenever i touch a couch with my bare skin. Same goes for carpet, rugs and stretchy fabric.

I’ve heard that this is because of synthetic fabrics.

How on Earth can I find furniture with all natural fabrics? I’ve searched your site but couldn’t find anything regarding furniture.

 

Lisa’s Answer

There are more and more companies offering couches made with natural fabrics.  Here are some on Debra’s List.  I’m not sure what you are sensitive to, but I would also look out for treatments on the fabrics/rugs as well as chemicals inside your couch.    For example, a couch with a cotton fabric can be treated with stain resistant chemicals and is likely filled with polyurethane foam that can contain fire retardants, formaldehyde, benzene, and toluene.

The best option is to get a custom-made couch that uses only natural materials but this can be costly.  I recommend working with your doctor to find out what you are sensitive to so that you can avoid those specific irritants.

Safe Finish for a Table

Question from Stacey

I am trying to find a safe kitchen table. Is a table with a lacquer, or water-based polyurethane finish safe? Is one safer/preferable over the other?

 

Lisa’s Answer

It really depends on the specific product used.  Some lacquers are now water-based.  You might consider buying a floor model that has already off-gassed.

Tips for Non-Toxic Holiday Gatherings

Photo by Mel Poole on Unsplash

One of the best things about the holidays is gathering together with family and friends for special meals and gift-giving.  Unfortunately, all of that cooking and decorating can add to indoor air pollution and toxic exposures.  Here are some easy tips to keep your gathering safe and healthy.

 

Avoid Candles and Scented Décor

Candles made of paraffin wax can emit benzene, toluene and other dangerous chemicals.  They also emit particulate matter that can get deep into your lungs.  Fragrance from scented candles and scented décor usually contain phthalates which are released into the air and can be inhaled or absorbed by the skin.

 

Ventilate While Cooking

Cooking is a major source of poor indoor air quality.  Proper ventilation is critical, particularly if you are cooking with gas.  If you don’t have a range hood that vents to the outside, open your windows while cooking.  If your range hood doesn’t extend over your front burners, make sure to cook on your back burners.  Also, clean up any food particles on the burners because as they burn, they can release toxic by-products into the air.

 

Skip the Fire

Wood smoke can emit particulate matter as well as harmful chemicals including formaldehyde, and benzene. Studies show that up to 70% of the smoke released from the chimney re-enters your home.  If you just can’t do without a fire, engineered logs, such as Duraflame, have been shown in third-party studies to burn cleaner than natural wood.

 

Skip the Gift Wrap

Some papers can be treated with inks, dyes and other chemicals.  Additionally, some foil and colored gift wraps can contain lead.  If you really want to wrap your gifts, IKEA has strict limits for lead and offers several unbleached wrapping paper styles. You could also try reusable fabric gift bags, which are better for the environment.

 

Choose Untreated Tablecloths

Wrinkle-free tablecloths can release formaldehyde and water-repellent cloths can contain perfluorinated chemicals, like Teflon.  Choose an untreated, natural material like cotton or linen.

 

Ask Guests to Leave Their Shoes at the Door

Shoes can track in toxins from the outdoors including coal-tar from driveway sealers, pesticides, and bacteria.  Keep a basket of slippers or socks at the door for guests to use.

 

Use Lead-Free Holiday Plates and Serving Pieces

Look for lead-free labels on holiday plates and serving pieces and don’t eat off of products labelled “Not for food use” or “For decorative use only”.

 

Be safe and enjoy the holidays!

Non-Toxic Furniture Store for Sofa

Question from Janine

I have been a long time “client/customer” of Debra’s. She has guided me through many projects and purchases.
I am trying to find information on stores that carry California compliant Sofas. Such as, Crate and Barrel. I do not want a custom sofa. I saw on your site a list of stores that were compliant and for some reason I cannot find that page again no matter how many times i try.
Please advise.
Again, my question is, where can I purchase a sofa that is safe and non-toxic and is polyester/acrylic safe? I am not chemical sensitive, I just want a clean, non-toxic home environment for my family.

 

Lisa’s Answer

I am not aware of Debra ever doing a list of stores that just meet California’s guidelines because they do not ensure that a sofa is non-toxic.
Are you referring to the 2014 revision to California standards that allows manufacturers to stop using flame retardants?  If so, EWG has a list of companies that do not use flame retardants in their sofas.  Here is that list.  A sofa without fame retardants is certainly safer that one with flame retardants but please understand that this does not mean that there are not other harmful chemicals used in these sofas.  Most, if not all of them use polyurethane foam which, even when it does not contain flame retardants, can contain formaldehyde, benzene, toluene and other harmful chemicals.  The fabric could be treated with perfluorinated chemicals for stain proofing.  The wood components of the frame could contain formaldehyde, though if there is a California (CARB Phase 2) certification the levels will minimized.  CARB only addresses the the wood components and it does not restrict VOCs from stains or paint on the wood.
I wish there was an easy, affordable place to buy a truly non-toxic sofa but I am not aware of one.

Fiberglass/Acrylic Shower

Question from Marie

I need to have a plumber replace the shower valve. Is it safer to cut a bigger hole in the fiberglass/acrylic shower wall to get into the plumbing, or safer to go through the drywall in the hallway to get into the plumbing?

The cut through the shower wall will just be covered with a bigger plate/fixture. The drywall we will have to fix and patch up on our own.  Which is more toxic – cutting through fiberglass and/or acrylic, or cutting through drywall and patching it up?  Are there nontoxic drywall options? I don’t like the idea of any particles and dust, but this needs to be fixed pretty soon.

 

Lisa’s Answer

Do you plan to do the cutting yourself?  The greatest exposure will be during the cutting and there are specific steps needed to minimize the dust in either scenario.  I suggest you have it done by a professional or make sure you very familiar with the necessary safety precautions.
As for which material is safer to cut, it’s important to know what type of drywall you have.  From 2001 to 2009, there was a lot of contaminated drywall from China.  If you suspect that this may have been used in your house, I would avoid cutting into it.  Aside from that, I think drywall is the safer option (assuming you take all precautions to minimize the dust).  Fiberglass dust is a possible carcinogen.
There are non-toxic drywall options to use for your patching. EWG has a helpful guide on drywall.  They recommend looking for Greenguard Gold certified products.  I used National Gypsum Company’s Gold Bond for my house.  We then safeguarded our air quality by following instillation guidelines from Prescriptions for a Healthy House (Baker-Laporte, Elliott, &, Banta, 2008).   I recommend this book as a great guide for very specific information on new building and renovations.

Proposition 65 Warning for Styrene and BPA in Toaster Oven

Question from Naomi

I recently purchased a Black and Decker Toaster oven, model TO3290XSD, online to replace our old one which is severely rusted and not functioning well. When the box was delivered I noticed a warning that read as follows: WARNING: This product can expose you to chemicals including Styrene, which known to the State of California to cause cancer, and Bisphenol-A, which is known to the State of California to casue birth defects or other reproductive harm. For more information go to www.P65Warnings.ca.gov. I went to the website and there is a list of chemical and their potential adverse effects but no explanation of how exactly the particular product in question would expose a person so such chemicals or how such chemicals are incorporated into the product. I feel as though I do not have enough information to make a decision about the safety of this toaster oven for preparing food. I am also concerned that if I return it I may not be able to find a chemical free alternative because it is likely that most new toaster ovens out on the market contain some sort of toxic chemical as well. Can you help me figure out how to better evaluate the safety of using such a toaster oven ? I have sent an email to the company inquiring further about the nature of how the chemicals are used in the product but I am not certain I will get a helpful response. I could not find a phone number for the company but will look again. Thanks so much for any insights you can provide

This is a follow up to my previous submission. I finally found a working phone number at which to speak to a live customer service representative at Black and Decker: 800-544-6986 and spoke to a representative named Debby. She said that the styrene and BPA are used to harden the plastic in the feet and some other small plastic pieces on the outside of the toaster oven and that there are no plastic parts inside the oven so there is no concern that the chemicals can come into contact with food. I asked her to email me some printed information explaining this so I could have something to refer to and pass on to others and if she does indeed send it, I will pass it on to you.

 

Lisa’s Answer

Thank you for passing on this very helpful information.  This is a good example of how misleading Prop 65 can be.  It would be better if none of the parts contained toxins like styrene and BPA but as ingredients in such small pieces on the outside of the toaster, it shouldn’t be a concerning exposure.

Oven Without Non-Stick Coatings

Question from Suzannah

I am trying to find a full sized range (I need 36 inches) that does not contain any non stick coatings of any kind on the inside or on the outside.  Do you know of any thing like this that is available in the USA?

 

Lisa’s Answer

I am not aware of any.  Readers, has anyone looked into this?

Sulphur Odor from Organic Thermal Fabric

Question from Lina

I recently purchased a fabric from a credible online store and have been ordering from them for years and years. This was a surprising experience so I am hoping maybe you may be familiar with how this could happen.

I purchased organic natural thermal fabric. It had a sulphur odor during the washing cycle and the drying process seemed to intensify it. I washed this fabric 3 times!

Is this a sign that they used pesticides or contaminated water during the process of the fabric? Are you in any way familiar with this type of odor emanating from organic cotton particularly un-dyed fabrics?

 

Lisa’s Answer

Readers, has anyone experienced this?

Bathtub and Tile Reglazing

Question from Abby

Do you have any advice for a non-toxic way to have a tub reglazed ? We live in a pre-war NYC apartment and don’t want to replace the whole tub/bathroom tiles, but can have them reglazed. We will vacate during the process and for 48 hours thereafter, but am concerned about toxicity thereafter, including when bathing our 3 year old.

 

Lisa’s Answer

I am not aware of any.  It is possible that there could be a product/process that is inert once it cures.  Readers, has anyone looked into this?

Non-Toxic Oven Brands

Question from Tony

I just had a question about non toxic oven brands, I had an old oven that seemed non toxic and didn’t seem like it was chemically altering my food, but it broke and now my current oven from Frigidaire seems very toxic and it seems like it’s chemically altering my non toxic food (Trader Joe’s), and I’ve been feeling very sick all the time ever since this new oven has been installed. I feel like I’m not getting the health benefits from the food. Do you have any suggestions on any non toxic oven brands or any non toxic baking options? It would really help me out it’s a huge problem.

 

Lisa’s Answer

You are not alone.  Read this thread, which dates back several years, and has readers posting about similar problems. Some have had success washing the entire interior to remove the manufacturing oil residue and then running the self-cleaning cycle several times with the windows open.  For many others, nothing reduced the odor.  Are you still able to return the oven?  GE seems to have the most reported issues but Frigidaire has also been mentioned.
Readers, has anyone found a new oven that does not have this issue?

Safe Shampoo and Conditioner

Question from Carole

I used the Janice Shampoo and conditioner for many many years from their catalogs or web page….now seeking more safe shampoo and conditioners…I’m 78 and have severe chemical allergies since 1942

 

Lisa’s Answer

You can look through several fragrance-free products on Debra’s List.  Many of these companies sell hair products.  Please note that not all of the products on this particular list are free of synthetic chemicals because it was developed by Debra for people who are sensitive to fragrance.  For a list of non-toxic hair care please use this list, but know that they are not all fragrance free.

Xtrema Cookware

Question from Jackie

I was very concerned to read that a lead-free advocate found that Xtrema cookware, highly regarded by many clean living advocates, tested positive for multiple metals. What are your thoughts on this?

 

Lisa’s Answer

You can read my opinion on this here.

Duraflame Vs. Natural Wood

Question from Ted

My daughter just bought a house and she was questioning the dura- flame logs versus natural wood. Which is more toxic.? They have a four-month-old baby and she’s concerned about the toxicity.

 

Lisa’s Answer

Surprisingly, independent test results show Duraflame burns cleaner than natural wood.  They are made of compressed wood, plant and vegetable wax and natural fibers.  They should be fine to use occasionally, but burning either engineered logs or natural wood gives off toxic combustion by-products and contributes to indoor air pollution.  Good ventilation is important to carry the toxic gases and particles out of the house.

Is Your Tap Water Safe?

Photo by Steve Johnson on Unsplash

This past summer I wrote a post about PFAS chemicals in farm produce.  The source of the chemicals was from ground water that had been contaminated from firefighter foam used primarily on military bases.  At the time, the contaminated ground water seemed relatively contained to areas in close proximity to military bases.  Now, EWG has updated their database and it shows PFAS contamination of tap water in almost 1400 sites in 49 states.  This is impacting up to 110 million Americans.

 

As a resident of New Jersey, I was shocked to learn that over 500 water sources in my state are contaminated.  I went back onto the updated EWG interactive map and found that, sure enough, my town is one of those sites.  While there is no federal standard for PFAS chemicals in drinking water, studies estimate the safe level at 1ppt (part per trillion).  My town has 8 times that amount and one site in New Jersey exceeds that amount by more than 200,000.

 

According to EWG, even very low doses of PFAS chemicals in drinking water have been linked to an increased risk of cancer, reproductive and immune system harm, liver and thyroid disease, and other health problems.

 

What You Can Do

  1. Find your municipality on the EWG PFAS Contamination Map to see if your water supply in impacted.  You can also check to see if there are other contaminants in your tap water.
  2. Contact your local government to ask questions and demand answers.  Learn more here.
  3. If you don’t already have a water filter, invest in one that filters out the specific contaminants found in your local water.  I believe the best water filter on the market is PureEffect, which removes a broad range of toxic pollutants, adjusts the quality of the water, and is made with non-toxic materials.  PureEffect has recently discontinued its whole-house filter but you can meet most of your needs with their Undercounter or Countertop model and their shower filters for a lot less money than the whole-house system.  For those of you still interested in a whole-house system I will be looking into other options now that PureEffect does not offer one.
  4. If a comprehensive system like PureEffect is not affordable, purchase a carbon-filter pitcher.  While they do not remove a full range of pollutants, some do filter out PFAS chemicals.

 

After the holidays, I will contact my local government to find out what they plan to do to address the contamination of our water supply.  I will keep you posted on my progress.  Please share your stories if you find successful ways to encourage local authorities to take action.

 

Versatile Almond Cookie Recipe Will Let you Make Almost Any Holiday Cookie You Love Gluten-Free, Egg-Free, and Dairy-Free

almond-raspberry-coconut-cookies.gif

I know many of you reading this have enjoyed my holiday cookies recipes in the past in my food blogs.

This year I don’t have a food blog, but I will be launching a new food blog in January. It’s called Wholefood Cuisine, and all the recipes will be made with whole foods, like this almond cookie recipe. If you want to be notified when it goes live, you can subscribe here to the Wholefood Cuisine newsletter list.

This amazing almond cookie recipe is so versatile it can be made into almost any type of cookie that you like. In the photo, I’ve made it into thumbprint cookies filled with organic raspberry fruit spread and sprinkled with organic coconut for a winter holidays cookie. But you can also make bar cookies, cutouts, or any shape you want.
I call them AAA Almond Cookies because they are made with almond butter, almond flour, almond extract and sweetener. It’s almost like just eating almonds.
There are so many possibilities for making these cookies. Each type of sweetener—honey, agave, maple syrup, yacon syrup) has it’s own distinct flavor. You can add any type of nuts or seeds to the batter. You can add any flavor of extract. You can add any herbs or spices or candied citrus rind. You could make anything from a delicate aniseed cookie with agave and anise extract and agave to a rich gingerbread with yacon syrup and all the gingerbread spices.
NOTE: Wherever possible, please use organically-grown ingredients.
AAA Almond Cookies
Makes about 16 cookies
1/2 cup almond butter
2 cups almond flour
6 tablespoons (3/8 cup) liquid sweetener, such as honey, agave, maple syrup or yacon syrup
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Place the almond butter in a bowl and mix with a fork or mixer to soften. (If you opened the jar and the almond butter had separated, mix the oil back together with the butter and then measure.)
  3. Add the almond flour, sweetener, and extracts and mix thoroughly.
  4. Place parchment paper or a silicone baking sheet on a baking sheet. If you want, you can roll this dough between two pieces of parchment paper to 1/4″ – 1/2″ thick and cut with decorative cookie cutters. Or, you can just put all the dough on the baking sheet, pat it down to about 1/4″ – 1/2″ thick and then cut squares with a dull table knife. Or roll into balls and make thumbprint cookies. Either way, take the cut pieces and spread them out across the baking sheet, about 1/2″ apart. They WILL spread.
  5. Bake 10-15 minutes, until golden brown and set. Cookies will crisp as they cool.
  6. Allow cookies to cool and store in an airtight container.

For crisper, harder cookies, bake them longer at a lower temperature.

Debra Lynn Dadd
new website on life beyond industrialization: https://lifelyforlife.com/

Heaters

Question from Sandi

I can’t find a radiant heater that doesn’t smell& also have small duraflame which only supposed to smell at first but I still smell have sinus issues & allergies bad headaches t,nausea wondering if from fumes & if toxic?I need heat for bedroom. I’ve googled and called companies with no good answers,all say fumes will go away ,keep looking & when find rated good one,it will have proposition 65Thanks

 

Lisa’s Answer

Here are a few recommended in these posts:
The Prop 65 label can be misleading.  It does not necessarily mean that it contains a chemical that you are exposed to.  For example, it sometime refers to lead in appliance cords that you are not in regular contact with.  If you find a heater you like, call the manufacturer and see if they can tell you what chemical requires the Prop 65 warning and where it is used in the heater.  That may give you a better idea of the risk.

Non-Toxic Sofa

Question from Stacey

I am trying to find safe/safer, affordable furniture. I see one popular store (Crate and Barrel) makes a sofa that has “soy-based polyfoam” cushions, “wrapped in fiber-down blend and recycled fiber, encased in downproof ticking.” There are also springs in the sofa.
What do you think about this sofa? Is it better than most or would you completely avoid it?

 

Lisa’s Answer

Since 2015 all of Crate and Barrel’s sofas are made without chemical flame retardants.  That eliminates the most concerning of chemicals, but there are plenty of others to watch out for.  I’m not sure which sofa from Crate and Barrel you are looking at but the ones I looked at have regular polyurethane foam cushions that are wrapped in a cushion that is part soy and part polyurethane.  It is still mostly polyurethane so I’m not sure how much better it is than a conventional sofa.  PU foam, even if it is not bathed in flame retardants, can emit VOCs.  Other things to look out for are chemical treatments on the fabrics such as Scotchguard or “stain resistant’ features.  Glues and adhesives can be other sources of emissions.  So, this is a better couch than one made with flame retardants but it still may have other sources of harmful emissions.
Unfortunately, totally non-toxic sofas are pricey.  My favorite is from Medley, formally called Stem.  It is made with natural latex fill, non-toxic glues and adhesives, and organic natural fabrics.  Take a look at Debra’s List for other options.

Wool Blanket Marked “Mothproof”

Question from Eugenia

bot in thrift store.
label states:

65% new wool
35% reprocessed wool
Mothproofed

looks in good condition  – cant judge age of blanket – has one small tear on an edge.

I want to cut it  up for mini blankets to put in Catio (indoor/outdoor)  cat beds for extra warmth this winter .

Should I wash it first (& with what?) or might it be safe for cats as is?

My research does show blankets can be washed with Woolite and rinsed with white vinegar.

But nowhere does it say it might be a problem for warm cat  or dog beds.  Also my daughter buys wool sweaters etc at thrift stores for catsbeds for the Hobo cats shelters and her indoor cats too.  (She lives in cold mountain area.)   We always washed first.

 

Lisa’s Answer

Pesticides can be applied to wool for mothproofing.  There are several commercial mothproofing chemicals available but most have low toxicity.  Read more here.  They are designed so that they do not wash out but if they are many years old it is likely that they have diminished.

Safe Bakeware

Question from Reenie

My niece wants to buy her mom new cake baking pans.  She wants to buy some sort of coated copper bakewear. Is there some writeup in Q & A that you could point me to that reviews best green bake ware.  Thank you!

 

Lisa’s Answer

There are several types of bakeware listed in Debra’s List.  I personally bake with Graniteware and Pyrex glassware.

Elevated VOCs

Question from Kristen

We have lived in our home for 10 years. My daughter is now 18 and her health has steadily and drastically gone downhill over the same time period. She has been seen by every specialist you can think of but they’ve all been stumped. It recently occurred to me that maybe our house was the problem so I bought an air quality test on Amazon. The report came back that we have very elevated levels of VOCs, particularly those from flooring, coating and cabinets. We never open windows due to allergies, which now seems like a bad idea.  I’m overwhelmed and don’t know where to start to eliminate these VOCs as quickly as possible. I did buy a couple Vornado air purifiers to get started. Specific advice or steps to take would be most welcome. My poor daughter has missed all of high school (had to actually drop out) and most of the past 10 years.  I’m pretty desperate to help her. Thank you.

 

Lisa’s Answer

I’m sorry it has been such a struggle.  It sounds like you need a great deal of help.  I recommend you contact Debra for a paid consultation or reach out to an indoor air quality specialist who can better pinpoint where the sources of emissions are in your home.

Safe Toys

Question from Shelley

I would like to get some Peppa Pig play sets for my granddaughter. I wrote to the company about materials, and this is the response I got:
“Thank you for contacting Jazwares LLC and for your interest in our products.  All of our toys comply with CPSA standards as required by law.  We also have the COC (Certificate of Compliance) Tests results posted on our website www.jazwares.com.  You do have to have an item number to check the COC on that item.  Having said that, I hope this helps and answers your questions.”
I’m not sure what this means, and I’d love your perspective on their toys.  Thank you in advance.

 

Lisa’s Answer

The company is in compliance with the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act for children’s products, which limits phthalates and lead, and provides other safety guidelines.  This does not necessarily mean that the toys are totally free of lead and phthalates but rather that they fall below the limits set by CPSIA.  Jazwares provides documentation of compliance but does not disclose the materials in the toys.  They look to be made of plastic.
There are clearly more natural toys on the market but I can’t really tell you more about this item without more information.  I contacted them and they repeatedly sent me back to the website which only shows the documented compliance with government regulations.

Earrings

Question from Sheryl

My daughter got some earings that come with a warning that says this product may expose you to chemicals such as nickle and cyanide which are know in the state of California to cause cancer, etc. Would you be concerned or is this just one of those Prop 65 warnings that has to be labeled?

 

Lisa’s Answer

Nickel is an allergen, with approximately 10-20% of the population effected.  If she does not get a rash from it, it’s probably fine.  The cyanide is probably from electroplating.  Is it silver-plated?  Cyanide is used in the electroplating process.  It is likely only in trace amounts and probably okay.  All of that said, earrings made of surgical stainless steel, platinum, titanium or 14k gold are best.
Also, you did not mention the age of your daughter.  If she is young, you might want to check with your pediatrician.

2019 Holiday Gift Guide

Photo by Nynne Schrøder on Unsplash

I’ve put together a list of holiday gift ideas for friends, family, and for yourself.  Most of these items are ones I own or plan to buy.  Please leave a comment if you have additional ideas to share!

 

Hostess Gifts/Stocking Stuffers

 

KeepCup Glass Travel Mugs 

A great alternative to plastic or stainless steel travel mugs.  They are made from tempered glass and have an option for a natural cork band for gripping.  The lid is plastic (food-grade polypropylene and polyethylene) but the beverage only passes quickly through that part.

 

Dryer Balls 

Use these in place of fabric softeners and dryer sheets.  Made from 100% New Zealand wool and free of chemicals.  Trader Joe’s also sells a version of these.

 

Beeswax Wrap

These wraps come in a variety of sizes.  They are made with GOTS organic cotton and dipped in beeswax, jojoba oil and tree resin.  They are a great alternative to plastic wrap and bags.  Trader Joe’s also sell a version of these and they also have beeswax bags.

 

Urthware Cutting Board

This company makes premium cutting boards and cooking utensils from solid, untreated maple.  They don’t use any glues or chemicals.  Even the feet on the cutting boards are made from natural rubber.  These are built to last!

 

Kleen Kanteen Tumbler with Straw

Unless you have a nickel sensitivity, stainless steel is a good choice for drinking water.  Kleen Kanteen has been a favorite of mine but I’ve long wished for a non-plastic cap that doesn’t need to be unscrewed so I can use it while cycling.  This fits the bill and can be used for hot as well as cold beverages.  I will remove the silicone tip since I will only be using it for cold water.

 

For the Home and Car

 

Molekule Air Mini

This is a new, smaller version of the powerful Molekule Air Purifier.  It’s made for rooms up to 250 square feet, so it’s perfect for a small bedroom or office.  The mini version is made of a medical grade polycarbonate unlike the full-size version which is made of aluminum.  If you are particularly sensitive this might not work for you.  It’s currently is on sale for $319.

 

Atem Car Air Purifier

A mini version of the IQAir Purifer designed for your car.  Research shows that over 275 chemicals can be present in your car at any given time.  This powerful unit removes 99% of particle pollutants and adsorbs odor and gas molecules.

 

The Citizenry Rugs

A beautiful selection of chemical-free rugs.  These rugs are made of wool or cotton, with no backing.  A few of the rugs have no dyes and those that are dyed use natural vegetable and animal dyes.  There are no post-production chemicals used.  Please note, they also sell a few animal skin rugs.  I don’t recommend animal skin rugs in general because of the many chemicals used in the tanning process.

 

Chemex Glass Coffee Maker

This is a one-piece poor-over coffee maker, made of heat-resistant glass.  Use it with Chemex unbleached filters.

 

Silicone Placemats

A beautiful selection of FDA food-grade silicone placemats.  I don’t recommend cooking with silicone products because there is evidence that they may leach at high temperatures.  As a placemat, the material is safe to use.  They are easy to clean and last for years.  They have a 20% off sale for the holidays.

 

For Her

 

Coyuchi Pajamas

These are the most comfortable GOTS certified, organic cotton pajamas that I have ever owned.

 

Henry Rose Fragrances

I gave up using fragrances years ago because of the lack of transparency around their chemical ingredients. This is the first EWG Verified fragrance.  While they do use synthetic ingredients, they are fully transparent about what they use.  The scents are sophisticated and on par with high-end products.  They sell a sample pack for $20.  This is probably not appropriate for those with chemical sensitivities but perfect for someone who wants a safer alternative to traditional fragrances.

 

For Him

 

Organic Latex Travel Pillow  

My husband is getting two of these because he is always leaving things behind on airplanes.  This is the first travel pillow I have found that is made with GOLS certified latex and an organic cotton cover.

 

Kyrgies Wool Slippers

These are super comfortable house shoes made from felted wool.  You can add a soft, felted insert for extra comfort and support.  The soles are synthetic with a silicone grip but, overall, they are a much more natural choice than conventional slippers.

 

For the Kids

 

Nova Naturals Toys + Crafts

This is a unique selection of classic toys such as dolls, dollhouses, trucks, and crafts made from natural materials.  They are pricey, but one-of-a kind.

 

Natural Earth Paint

These natural, vegan paints are made from earth and mineral pigments.  They can be mixed with oil (we use walnut oil) and are surprisingly easy to use.

 

I haven’t included any items for teens, which reflects the fact that my two teenagers and I are at a stalemate when it comes to holiday gifts.  They don’t want anything that I want to buy and I don’t want to buy anything they want.  I don’t expect we will reach any common ground but I’ll keep you posted if we come up with any great compromises.

Pull-Down Kitchen Faucet Sprayer Replacement

Question from Miriam

Whew, that was a long title!  We need to replace ours, as the  part that pulls down has sprung a leak.  What ought one look for in this type of purchase?  It seems important as it will be in contact with our water.

I’ve found a few on Amazon that look decent – do these seem ok?

https://www.amazon.com/Angle-Simple-Kitchen-Sprayer-Replacement/dp/B079LW898F/ref=sr_1_4?crid=2QXAVLQL60YIE&keywords=kitchen+faucet+sprayer+head+replacement&qid=1574282840&sprefix=kitchen+faucet%2Caps%2C151&sr=8-4

https://www.amazon.com/HOMY-Kitchen-Replacement-3-Function-aquablade/dp/B07F1F9HHW/ref=sr_1_1_sspa?crid=2QXAVLQL60YIE&keywords=kitchen+faucet+sprayer+head+replacement&qid=1574282840&sprefix=kitchen+faucet%2Caps%2C151&sr=8-1-spons&psc=1&spLa=ZW5jcnlwdGVkUXVhbGlmaWVyPUExUlM1U0xTSUg3NkxZJmVuY3J5cHRlZElkPUEwMjYxODAzM0dFWTRVVzk3M0NNQSZlbmNyeXB0ZWRBZElkPUEwNjc1NjMyMTkySVAzOFFZQkpKNiZ3aWRnZXROYW1lPXNwX2F0ZiZhY3Rpb249Y2xpY2tSZWRpcmVjdCZkb05vdExvZ0NsaWNrPXRydWU=

Lisa’s Answer

Both of these faucet heads are made of ABS plastic with a finish that looks like metal.  I would opt for a stainless steel head if you can find it.  You also want to make sure that it is certified lead-free and does not have any PVC parts.  It’s not clear whether these do or not.
The faucet head itself is not the only source of toxins in your faucet.  If the hose to which it is attached is lined with PVC or PET, it could leach.  You also want to make sure there is no lead in any of the other parts.  Overall, though, short of high levels of lead, I would not get too concerned over this one part.  For leaching to occur it needs to be in contact with the water for some time, but the water moves very quickly through the faucet.  The most important step is to make sure you have a high quality water filter.

Living Near Power Lines

Question from Stacey

We are currently looking to move to a new twin and have found two possible houses. The house that is closer to school and more convenient is situated near large power/transmission lines ( approx.  .25 mile away). I’ve called the town for more information, but since I do not own the house, they will only tell me that the wood poles will be converted to metal. What is your recommendation on living near power lines such as these?  I’m not sure what else to do…

Lisa’s Answer

I recommend you hire an EMF professional to work with you on this.  This is currently outside my area off expertise though I plan to get certified in the topic this summer.

Fiesta Dinnerware

Question from TG

Is Fiestaware (claim to have glazes free from lead and cadmium) safe to use in any color?  Historically, their famous red Fiestaware had uranium from  the ’30’s to the ’50’s.  They  are manufactured here in the USA and are beautiful.

Lisa’s Answer

All of the colors are lead free.  Here is a statement from the company on lead.
Not all colors are cadmium free. Here’s the list of cadmium-free colors (both retired and current): shamrock, chocolate, peacock, turquoise, cinnabar, plum, black, white, heather, lapis, sage, slate, cobalt, claret, mulberry.

Xtrema Cookware

Question from Beth

Asked Debra and never got a response on Xtrema cookware. Based on her recommendation I purchased hundreds of dollars of this cookware.
A friend told me about Tamara Rubin online site is Lead Free Moma. She found the cookware to be toxic based on her testing.
Wondering where you and Debra’ stand on this. It looks like u are still recommending this cookware. Maybe I am missing something.

Lisa’s Answer

I still recommend Xtrema and use them myself.  While I admire the work Tamara Rubin is trying to do, I believe what matters for cookware is what leaches out of the items and into food.  I have spoken at length to the owner and founder of Xtrema and know that the company is very transparent and dedicated to creating the healthiest products.  They use third-party testing to verify that their products are free from extractable lead and cadmium.  Read more here about their testing.  Plus, they are having a site-wide Thanksgiving sale.

New Tire Odor

Question from CMP

I never thought about it until after the fact…got 4 new tires put on my SUV today & the smell of them & in the inside of my vehicle is now intolerable. I have MCS, multiple allergies (including latex) & asthma. Does anyone have any suggestions as to what to do? I use many of the EnviroKlenz products & was wondering if washing the tires with their product might help? I’d appreciate any help.

Lisa’s Answer

Readers, has anyone tried washing tires with EnviroKlenz products?  Try leaving the car outside with the windows open for several days.  Also, you could try charcoal bags like these in the car.

Picture This!

When I moved into my new, non-toxic home I was very careful about which furnishings to bring with me.  It didn’t make senses to invest so much time, effort and money into building a clean home only to fill it with items that could off-gas or leach harmful chemicals.  Most of our old furniture was safe because I had made a house rule years before that any new furnishing must to be fully vetted for safety.  One category I had not given much thought to was wall art; the pictures, paintings and other wall décor that help to make a house feel like a home!  As we settled into our new house, our walls remained white and bare.  I knew I had to do a deep dive on the topic.

 

Paintings: Acrylic vs. Oil

 

My husband and I love art and we hated the idea of not being able to display our favorite pieces.  We have some oil paintings and I recalled reading that oil paint was more toxic than acrylic paint because acrylic paint is water-based.  My research indicated it’s not that simple.

Oil paintings use a pigment for color and a vehicle that holds the pigment in suspension.  Some pigments, such as cobalt and cadmium are toxic but only if you ingest them or breathe particles.  A painter who works directly with pigment needs to take precautions, but pigments do not offgas and should not pose an issue hanging on your wall.  The vehicle used in oil painting is a highly refined vegetable oil such as flax, safflower, poppy or walnut.  If used alone these would not release chemicals into the air.  What makes oil paintings potentially toxic is the use of solvents, such as turpentine or mineral spirits, to thin the paint or clean up brushes.  Fortunately, artists are being educated about the health implications of the materials they use.  Read more about artist materials here.

I contacted the artist of one of our paintings and was pleased to learn that he was very careful to use materials with very low toxicity.  If you own oil paintings and are unable to determine the materials used, be assured that most off-gassing should occur within the first 2 to 3 months.

Acrylic paint uses the same pigment as oil paint but its vehicle and binder, which holds the pigment together, is plastic.  When the painting dries components of the vehicle can offgas.  Because acrylic paints are water based, they may also contain formaldehyde as a preservative.  Even if you don’t know what materials were used in the painting, it is safe to assume that, like oil painting, most off-gassing should occur within the first 2 to 3 months.  Formaldehyde, however, can offgass continuously.  It is likely in small amounts but if you are sensitive to formaldehyde you might want to avoid acrylic paintings.

 

Pictures and Picture frames

 

Inks used to make posters and prints have toxins.  Even water-based, eco-friendly inks have some toxins.  Have you ever gotten a catalog in the mail, particularly a high quality one, that smells like it just rolled off the printer?  That smell is off-gassing VOCs.

My kids like to decorate with posters, but it is very difficult to get enough information on a commercially produced poster to determine which chemicals are used in their materials and processes.  While I’d prefer my kids don’t have posters in their bedrooms, I figured out a compromise to at least limit the VOCs.  I buy an uncoated aluminum metal frame and have a local framing store cut a piece of glass to fit.  Instead of foam board which is used in 90% of framing jobs, I use plain corrugated cardboard.  I found a store that sells target practice supplies (go figure!) that carries many sizes of precut, unprinted cardboard.  If you are concerned about adhesives used in cardboard production, you could cover it with a piece of plain kraft paper.  Then, to further seal the enclosure I tape the edges with an aluminum foil tape to block fumes from the adhesive and any lingering VOCs from the poster.

Finding frames for your pictures and prints can also be a challenge.  Metal frames or solid wood frames are best but if you have frames that you are not sure about you could seal them with a product like AFM Safecoat Hard Seal, which seals any off-gassing.  If you are looking for solid wood frames, read more here.  Etsy might be a good place to try and you could request that the artisan use low or zero VOC adhesives and stains.

 

Thinking Out-of-the Box

 

Fiber art is becoming more popular and widely available.  Wall hangings made with natural fibers are prevalent on Etsy and might be found at local craft fairs.  Search for macrame wall hangings, woven wall hangings or tapestries.  Look for ones made with organic cotton, hemp or wool and hung on untreated wood.

If you are artistic, you can make your own art using natural art supplies.  Learn more about them here.

https://www.debralynndadd.com/toxicfreetalkradio/natural-art-supplies/#transcript1  My daughter paints with these and finds them easy to use.

 

More About Blenders

Last week I wrote about PTFE as an ingredient in the seal at the bottom of Vitamix containers.  I want to reframe this discussion because this is not an issue about one brand.  I have researched further and found that other blenders, high-speed, professional-grade blenders in particular, also contain PTFE.  And some that do not use it will not disclose what they use in its place to keep the containers water-tight.

 

I also want to make sure it’s understood that there is no regulation that prohibits PTFE use in consumer products including those that come in contact with food.  Manufacturers are free to use it.  It is a matter of choice whether consumers WANT it in their products.

 

What is PTFE and is it Safe?

 

PTFE is one of 3000 poly- and perfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) used in consumer products.  PFAS chemicals are known as “forever chemicals” because they are persistent in the environment and in our bodies.  Most people looking to avoid toxins choose not to use non-stick pots and pans because the PTFE-containing coating, when heated, can release fumes that coat the lungs and can cause fluoropolymer fever, also known as Teflon flu.  PFOA, another PFAS chemical, used to be used to manufacture PTFE and was sometimes found as a contaminant in products made with the chemical.  PFOA is considered a toxic substance by the EPA and has been linked to adverse effects including cancer, birth defects and liver damage.  Fortunately, most reputable companies no longer manufacture PTFE using PFOA.

So, is PTFE harmful even when it is not heated and when it is not contaminated with PFOA?

Some health experts contend that the chemical is safe because it is inert and will pass through the body without harm.  According to the Environmental Working Group (EWG), PTFE is considered a moderate health concern because it hasn’t been studied and there is no evidence that the PFAS chemicals that have replaced PFOAs are much safer.  There is no direct evidence that PTFE coming in contact with food is harmful, but there is also no conclusive evidence that it is free of harm.

Which Blenders Contain PTFE?

 

The following blenders use PTFE in the seal at the bottom of the container:

  • Vitamix
  • Blendtec
  • Ninja

The following blenders do NOT contain PTFE:

  • KitchenAid: There is no PTFE in any KitchenAid product.
  • Breville
  • Cuisinart

 

Are Blenders with PTFE Safe to Use?

 

It is important to understand whether or not the PTFE migrates into the food and unfortunately, I can’t answer that.  All other things being equal, I personally would choose a blender without the chemical as a precautionary measure. However, I don’t plan to stop using my Vitamix because of the health benefits from the smoothies I use it to make.  I do hope that companies, particularly those that sell the promise of better health, will look beyond regulatory compliance and seek materials that are proven to be safe for consumers.

 

 

 

Plastic-Free Holiday Lights

Plastic-Free Holiday Lights
 
While shopping in San Francisco last week I found these wonderful little holiday lights. I bought a box and brought them home and hung them up. 
 
Even though they are very tiny, they produce a lovely light.
 
These are tiny LED lights on a thin copper wire, but the effect is dazzling. They are battery-powered so you can hang them anywhere, and they even have a timer that is 6 hours on and 18 hours off. I set mine to go on when it gets dark at 5:00 and they greet me when I walk into my dark bedroom. I get to enjoy them all evening and then they turn off automatically after I fall asleep.
 
I love these so much I am going to buy more.
 
 
Now that I know these exist, I see there are some others. They seem to be called “Fairy String Lights” or “Flrefly Lights” as well. Some have copper strings and some silver steel strings. The cheaper ones may be of lesser quality than the ones I bought.
 
Anyway, I’m very happy to find these. The wires are much less obvious than the plastic green or white wires and much prettier. And they are not plastic.
 
Debra Lynn Dadd
new website on life beyond industrialization: https://lifelyforlife.com/

Furniture

Question from Shana

I’m looking for bedroom furniture for my son’s room, as well as the master bedroom.  I’d like to find non-toxic furniture that’s traditional, rather than contemporary.  The more I look, the more confused I get!  There are many Amish manufacturers that use solid wood furniture, but the stains are low VOC.  I know that no VOC is preferable, but is low VOC ok?  Most of the Amish companies use either Ohio Certified Stain or a catalyzed conversion varnish.  Are either of these ok?

Lisa’s Answer

Ohio Certified Stain has different types so I would need to know which one.  Also there are different versions of conversion varnish.  But, since you are going to the trouble and expense of buying solid wood furniture, why compromise and use a stain with any VOCs at all?  Will the company use a stain or paint that you provide?  Can you purchase it unstained and do it yourself or hire a handyman?  There are times when it is necessary to compromise and pick the best options available but this seems like one in which a totally non-toxic product can be created.
Its really a personal choice if low-VOC is okay.  The lower the better.  I have always chosen stricter standards for our bedrooms because we spend so much time in them.

Materials for a Desk

Question from Miriam

I was wondering if you could help me with a desk.
I’m looking at this one, and there are 3 different options for materials.
I purchased the converter in rubberwood as I figured that was the safest, but it’s not big enough and now I am thinking of upgrading to the full desk.  Before I spend so much, I figured I’d see if you had any thoughts on it!
If you scroll down to “Top It Off Any Way You Like”, it goes over the different materials.
I had emailed about the desktops, and got this response:
“The Eco desktops are made with recycled MDF whereas the bamboo and rubberwood are solid bamboo and rubberwood. The rubberwood is just another name for the trees that they harvest for making rubber and latex. We recycle those trees once they’re done being used for their sap and use them to make these desktops. “
Obviously, I shy away from MDF but it is GREENGUARD-certified.  My understanding is that bamboo can be toxic from the glues they use, but here they claim it is solid bamboo.
What would you recommend?

Lisa’s Answer

This looks like a good choice.  The top is hardwood and the base is metal.  There are a couple of small plastic parts.  You could ask them what the plastic material is and avoid if PVC or polystyrene.  They say they use glues and finishes that are environmentally safe and non-hazardous.  I would just confirm that they are low- or ultra-low voc formulas.  Since it’s hardwood there should be minimal if any need for glues.  You could even ask if they make you a top that is unfinished.  I have a similar adjustable desk made of metal with a hardwood top and it’s great to be able to stand while you work!

Chemical Smell New Paint

Question from Rick

We hired a painter to redo our master bedroom with BM low VOC paint and after 5 weeks it still smells. We’ve tried a number of things to clear it, but nothing works. I recently read that heating the room to 85-90 as a Bakeout for a couple days might remove the smell. Is that a real way to get rid of the smell?  We cannot move back into our bedroom and winter is coming, so airing it out everyday is no longer an option.

Lisa’s Answer

Here is thread about a similar problem with BM Eco Spec paint.  Read here why I do not recommend bakeouts. AFM Safecoat is a sealer you could apply that is designed to seal in off-gassing chemicals. I recommend calling a green building supply store that has a lot of experience with this. Get their recommendation on which AFM Safecoat product to buy and purchase it through them. Here are two to contact. https://www.thegreendesigncenter.com or https://www.greenbuildingsupply.com

Will Outside Deck Offgas Into Home?

Question from Linda

I live in San Francisco and am putting in about 50, 3″ x 10″ x 24 feet beams to cantilever a deck under our house. Its treated with ACQ-A and I’m wondering if the pesticides will off gas into our home, through the floorboards.
They will reach under our living room floor (between a basement room and the upstairs living room about 18 feet. The deck will stick outside about six feet.

Lisa’s Answer

I can’t answer that.  I assume that it would depend on the construction of your home and how airtight it is.  Readers, any thoughts?

Bite Guards

Question from Kathleen

Any recommendations or warnings about OTC and custom-made (by dentist) bite guards?  I know to avoid phthalates (hence methyl acrylate), formalhehyde, and BPA.  No one seems to even report BPB.  And I’m guessing there’s a bunch of other yucky chemicals in these things.

The dentist-made guard looks like a combination of silicone or soft plastic on the inside and hard plastic on the outside.  My dentist practices biologic dentistry, but doesn’t know what’s in the bite guards she makes.  Said she’d try to get that info for me.  Meanwhile, she gave me a sample.  Holding it in my mouth for a couple hours gave me me an odd taste in my mouth; not sure what else it’s doing.  Ugh….

Lisa’s Answer

Unfortunately, I am not aware of any great options.  Here is a thread on fillings and braces which shows similar difficulty with finding safe options.  I would ask your dentist to get a MSDS on the materials that will be used.  When my children got braces, I has the orthodontist help me find an adhesive that did not release fluoride.

Plastic Bins and Hairbrush

Question from Stacy

1) Does PET plastic containers offgas? I have the plastic in my car and can get hot.

2) What do you think of the Wetbrush materials? It says nylon66 (which is fine) but what about the epoxy tips?

Lisa’s Answer

PET does offgass but minimally as compared to other plastics such as PVC.  Keep in mind that there are many plastic surfaces in your car.  That said, I always try to use natural materials when possible, so can you replace the plastic bin with a cotton tote?
I don’t know all of the materials in a Wetbrush and they were not listed on their website but nylon is relatively inert. Again, I personally would chose an unfinished solid wood brush with nylon or hair bristles.

Molekule Air Purifier

Question from Donna

New air purifier called Molekule. Sounds intriguing. Esp as it states it kills VOC’s also on top of all else, more powerful than HEPA.  Thoughts?
We just ordered 5 bamboo charcoal bags you recommended.

Lisa’s Answer

Molekule is an excellent air filter.  People with MCS may prefer EnviroKlenz because it was made for sensitive people who may not be able to tolerate the materials used to make the unit.  I have a Molekule and think it does a great job.  Here is more on the technology.

Washing Clothing in Unfiltered Water

Question from James

My house uses city water i cant afford the pure effect whole home filter at the moment but i was wondering is their another way i can wash my clothes safely without worrying about any vocs,chemcicals getting in my clothes especially the organic cotton ones.Also is this something i should be concerned about or am i overreacting?

Lisa’s Answer

There are many bigger exposures that I would first try to address such as PU foam in mattresses and upholstered furniture and formaldehyde from engineered wood.  You can get a report on your city’s water to see if there are specific chemicals of concern, but unless there is a significant contamination I wouldn’t worry too much about this. I will be writing more in future posts about clothing.

Plastics Used to Make Telephones

The other day one of my consulting clients asked me a question about the plastics used to make telephones.

In the process of researching this, I came across this article:

It gives the materials used to make phones throughout the history of phones.
And then it concludes that the plastics used to make phones today are unidentifiable because they are custom plastics made for performance.
So if you are using a plastic phone, you just can’t find out what type of plastic or additives are used.
I also couldn’t find a wooden phone on the internet. They used to be available when I started looking for nontoxic products.
If you are concerned about exposures to plastics from phones, the solution is to cover the plastic parts with aluminum foil tape. It looks a bit space-age, but the aluminum foil will block any plastic exposure.
Debra Lynn Dadd
new website on life beyond industrialization: https://lifelyforlife.com/

Sink Repair

Question from Jade

My young daughter accidentally cracked my bathroom porcelain sink. It’s a very small crack so I would like to repair it over having it replaced but the products I’m finding are all very toxic. I suffer from Environmental Sensitivity Illness so a non-toxic product is necessary. Do you know of any porcelain sink repair kits that are non-toxic?

Lisa’s Answer

I do not know of any.  The total exposure would be very small, particularly once it is cured but given your sensitivity I understand that a non-toxic product is needed.  Readers, any recommendations?

Vinyl Flooring

Question from Liberty

Looking for your opinion for safety on the LifeProof Vinyl Plank Flooring, which claims to be both phthalate-free and formaldehyde-free, and Cali LVP flooring, which is supposed to be no voc odor free vinyl flooring.

Lisa’s Answer

Check out The Green Design Center.  The owner, Andrew Pace, tests the products he sells and has found formaldehyde emissions from products that claim to be formaldehyde-free.  Cali LVP flooring is the only LVP brand he sells.

Insulation

Question from Maggie

Typically we have used fiberglass insulation. Son is building a Tiny house and researching a good insulation I’m finding very mixed information…alot of it depending on what they are trying to sell. although hard at time to differentiate the information at hand. I was going with the cotton batting until I read that cotton is the most heavily sprayed product. So how that translates into insulation I am not sure. Any ideas?

Lisa’s Answer

Teflon EcoElite

Question from Tricia

Hi – thanks so much for this service.  I’ve been  searching for eco/health friendly outdoor gear and recently came across Teflon EcoElite as a new waterproof coating.  Have you heard about this or know anything about it? Seems to have won some eco/innovation awards, but who knows what that really means …

Lisa’s Answer

This is an alternative to PFC-containing products, so it is better.  But, it is not clear if that means it is safe.  The company does not say on their website what chemicals are used in place of the PFCs.  The industry experts cited in this post says that the new PFC-free products being developed have very limited testing and do not have consistent results that shed light on their health impact.  Teflon’s product is rated by GreenScreen, which is a for-profit rating organization for the textile industry.  It is scored as a “good” alternative with a 3 out 4 rating, with 1 being the most hazardous and 4 being the least.  The rating doesn’t really tell you much, other than it is better than PFC-containing products which would be rated a 1.

Water Bottles for Kids at School

Question from Sarah

Hello! Thanks for your dedication and helpful research. I’ve enjoyed your website for many years. What is the best water bottle to send to school with kids (first grade)? I know that I could send a Life Factory but worried about glass and having it sent home because it is glass.
Any stainless steel ones testing well?

Lisa’s Answer

If your kids do not have a known sensitivity to nickel, I recommend stainless steel when glass isn’t appropriate.  Read this post on stainless steel bottles.  I use Kleen Kanteen when I’m not using glass.  They have a lid that is made of cork and steel.  If a hands-free lids is needed, they have one made of polypropylene.  Make sure you do not use it with fruit juice or anything acidic as it will increase leaching.
Some stainless steel bottles have tested positive for lead but it is not from the bottle itself, but rather from paint on the bottle or a solder point at the bottom of the bottle.  Read more here.

Lacquer Paint

Question from Claudia

I found this website while searching how to remove the smell of lacquer paint from our home. We had our kitchen cabinets recently painted, and I never thought to ask what they would use. The smell was so horrible we had to stay in a hotel for the weekend. When I came back home, there was a layer of colored dust on the floors and counters. I moped it all up and cleaned as good as I could – only to have a sore throat in the morning and a stomach ache. I have 3 kids that sleep upstairs and I’m worried the smell will hard us. I have aired out the house continuously, used air purifiers, placed out activated charcoal….but I’m still worried because the smell is strong. It was a lacquer oil based paint and I regret it all now. My question is, if I try heating the house to 90 degrees, will it still be benifical to do it for say 3 hours a day and then air it out, repeatedly? I only have a few hours a day I can do it during the week with kids naps and school schedules. I appreciate your advice and time. Thank you so much.

Lisa’s Answer

I do not recommend doing a bake out.  Here is a post that explains my position.  I recommend sealing it with a product that is made to seal in chemical off-gassing.  AFM Safecoat makes several products for this purpose.  I’m not sure which one would be best for your application.  I recommend calling a green building supply store that has a lot of experience with this. Get their recommendation on which AFM Safecoat product to buy and purchase it through them. Here are two to contact. https://www.thegreendesigncenter.com or https://www.greenbuildingsupply.com

Colophon in Shoes

Question from Nikolay

Are there any shoes proven free of Colophon?

Lisa’s Answer

I am not familiar with Colophon.  Readers?

Water Repellent Treatment

Question from Anderson

Are the water repellent treatments used on clothing toxic? For example, the “Rain Guard” by Carharrt?  Its described as a DWR durable water repellent. It is  my understanding that it means its probably a fluoropolymer such as the cancer causing class of chemicals used in Teflon and firefighting foam.

Lisa’s Answer

Yes, it probably is a fluoropolymer.  The outdoor industry is working on developing alternative to fluorine-containing finishes but the alternatives are not without risk and require more frequent applications, so a greater amount of chemicals.  Apparently, they also do not work well.  Here is a link about PFCs in the outdoor industry.

Toaster Oven and Air Fryer

Question from Sandee

Are there any toaster oven-air fryer units that you recommend?

Lisa’s Answer

Non-stick coatings are the watch-outs for both of these items.  Waring is one of the few toaster brands  that do not have a non-stick coating.  Even products that claim to be PFOS- and PFOA-free should be avoided because testing has shown that the new chemicals used could be just as dangerous.  I have never looked for, nor used, an air fryer but all of the ones that I found in my quick search had non-stick surfaces.

Are Tetra Paks Non-Toxic?

With fall in full force and Thanksgiving looming on the horizon, I started to stock up on some kitchen staples that I don’t buy at other times of the year.  A favorite is pumpkin puree that comes in a shelf-stable box, which I use to make soup.  During the summer it’s easy to eat mostly fresh food but during the colder months, I admittedly look for a few short cuts.  My pumpkin puree got me thinking about aseptic boxed packing, more commonly known by its brand name, Tetra Pak.

 

I remember when I first started to see items that were typically packaged in aluminum cans cropping up in boxed packaging in the supermarket.  I had sworn off canned food because of concerns about BPA in the lining and was happy to have a safer alternative for the few packaged staples I liked to have on hand.  But my recent pumpkin purchase got me wondering, just how safe are Tetra Paks?

 

Tetra Paks are made with 75% paperboard, 20% polyethylene, and 5% aluminum and the layers are adhered using heat and pressure.  Polyethylene is the only material that comes in contact with food.  Food-grade polyethylene is considered one of the safest plastics but, as I wrote about in this post, even plastics thought to be safe can leach chemicals with estrogenic activity.

 

 

I only found one study that specifically tested Tetra Paks and it concluded that Tetra Paks showed estrogenic contamination similar to that from plastic water bottles.    So, are they any safer than cans?  Cans with BPA lining have been widely tested and are known to leach BPA.  The evidence is clear that they are best avoided.  Read more here about BPA-free cans and why they may not be any safer.  The evidence is not as clear for Tetra Paks, but there is enough to cause concern.  I’ll be keeping my purchases of boxed shelf-stable food to a minimum.  Fortunately, more products are being introduced in glass jars, such as organic diced tomatoes, ready-made soups, and nut milks.  Glass is the safer choice.

IKEA Enameled Pot

Question from Karen

I know that Debra has recommended Le Creuset in  the past and I would love to own one one day, but its just not in the budget for me right now. When I was in Ikea the other day I noticed they have their own enameled steel pot. It says that the materials are just steel and enamel and that there is no lead or cadmium added.
https://www.ikea.com/us/en/p/vardagen-pot-with-lid-enamelled-steel-90391122/
Do you think this is a safe alternative or is there more information that I need?

Lisa’s Answer

The lead comes from contamination rather than as an intentionally added ingredient.  I am not aware of any testing done on this item to confirm that it does not leach lead or cadmium.  You can go to tamararubin.com, a blogger who does heavy metal testing, and see if she has information.

Polyester Slip-Covered Chairs

Question from Stacey

I am trying to find affordable, safe, comfortable dining chairs for my family. I see one company makes a slipcovered chair but the slipcover is made of polyester. The foam in the chair is polyurethane and polyester-wrapped.  A customer service rep told me that this company does not add flame retardants to any furniture (Pottery Barn). The slipcovers are washable, which I would wash a couple times before first use. Would you say these chairs are just too toxic and not safe, or would they be okay?

Lisa’s Answer

The foam in the chair is of greater concern than the polyester slipcover.  A chair without flame retardant is safer than the same chair with flame retardant, but there are many other materials of concern.  A sold wood chair with water-based adhesive and finishes is a more cost-efficient and safer bet than one with polyurethane foam.  There are upholstered chairs that are filled with natural latex but they tend to me more expensive.  Here is one I recommend.  You need to chose the Organic Natural latex fill option.

Staub Stoneware

Question from Lisa

Staub is on your list of safe products. But does include their ceramic stone ware rectangular baking dish here?

I read your post about enamel coating- it’s essentially glass sometime mixed with something else.

But this uses “porcelain enamel.” It’s my understanding enamel is as you describe glass based. Porcelain though is clay based. So what is “porcelain enamel.”? Does that meet your safe criteria?

To make it more confusing it’s called “stoneware.” Does that give you an idea what the enamel is coating exactly?

Lisa’s Answer

When buying stoneware the things to watch out for are the clay and lead contamination in the glaze.  I have not seen any testing on this item.  You can call the manufacturer and ask if they have third party testing that shows no lead leaches from their stoneware.

Comfortable Mattress

Question from Karen

I am shopping for a non toxic mattress. Do you have a list of Comfortable mattress that is not drowned in flame retardant ?

Lisa’s Answer

There are many materials to avoid in a mattress in addition to flame retardants.  Start by looking at the mattresses on Debra’s List.  Also, you can type in mattress in the Q&A Super Search, in which many readers have commented on their experiences.  I can guide on the materials but comfort is a personal choice.

New Apartment

Question from John

I moving into a new apartment How shoud i go about storing my clothing, pots, pans, and etc when having to work with an apartment where you cant determine what materials the closets and cabinets are made of or if you know they are made of things such as mdf,particleboard, etc

Lisa’s Answer

I would be more concerned about you breathing in chemical emissions from the mdf, particleboard, etc. then your belongings absorbing the fumes.  I would purchase a good quality air purifier that removes VOCs, such as EnviroKlenz.

Paint Off-Gassing

Question from John

Painters painted our room with eco spec claimed no smell I went in 3 days  later not much smell but I felt poisoned with a headache
Fans going windows opened
I have asthma
Any suggestion? Or experience with this paint?

Lisa’s Answer

I assume you are referring to Benjamin Moore’s Eco Spec line.  According to the MSDS, it has zero VOC (0g/l) for any tint and base combination.  Many paints have zero-VOC bases but add tints with VOCs.  This one does not.  I would keep running the fans with the windows opened as much as possible.  Consider purchasing a good air purifier that removes VOCS such as EnvirKlenz.
Readers, does anyone have experience with this paint?

Help Me Pick a New Website Name!

Photo by AbsolutVision on Unsplash

 

 

 

Take the Survey!

 

When I took over the management of debralynndadd.com from Debra, the plan was always to transition to a new name. After all, it is confusing to have the site named after someone who is not currently producing content. Debra’s past advice and educational information will always remain on the site and her expertise and vision will guide future work. But now it is time to pick a new name and begin adding new features to better help you find non-toxic products. Please take a few minutes to complete a survey to help me choose a name. It is just two short questions and will only take a few minutes. Thanks in advance for your input!

 

 

Vinyl Plank Flooring

Question from David

I was trying to put floor in kitchen called life breath vinyle and have one box in room to test  no odour and voc and philates free   I am mcs so odour big for me   is this floor okay to use  I have filter with hepa and carbon running in room

Lisa’s Answer

I was not able to find information on a product called Life Breath.  If you can find a material safety data sheet (MSDS) on the product I can take a look.  In general, I don’t recommend vinyl plank flooring even if it claims to be free of VOCs and phthalates, especially if you are sensitive.  Products can claim to be VOC-free and phthalate-free if emissions are below a certain level.  This does not necessarily mean there are no emissions.  Read this thread for more information on what readers have tried and the problems they have experienced with vinyl flooring.  Also, you could have a sample tested for formaldehyde.  Andrew Pace from The Green Design Center tests products for formaldehyde emissions for a $100 fee. He has found formaldehyde from samples of flooring that claim to be VOC-free.  If you are intent on using this brand it might worth testing before you install it.

Non-Toxic Kitchens

Question from Pam

Who creates a non-toxic kitchen environment?  IKEA??

Lisa’s Answer

Are you referring to cabinets or all of the items you would find in a kitchen?  IKEA has a chemical policy that limits the use of harmful chemicals in their products but it does not eliminate all chemicals nor does it fully disclose all of the chemicals in each item.  Generally speaking, their products are likely less toxic than items found at traditional retailers but it possible to find products like cabinets that are non-toxic.  Check out Debra’s List for some ideas.  There are many options but it would depend on your price range and whether you want low chemical emissions or no chemical emissions.

Plastics in Hydroponics

Question from TL

I hope u can help provide more educational information related to hydroponics materials used to make the plastic frames, net pots etc. Most sellers claim they are HDPE food grade so totally safe to use at home. But as consumers, how do we know if they are truly HDPE Food Grade materials? My concern is there any such recognized industry standards that the sellers have to produce to substantiate their claims as totally HDPE food grade, safe for human consumption?

 

Lisa’s Answer

Food Grade materials are regulated in the U.S. by the FDA.  They cannot contain certain dyes or additives or recycled content that are know to be harmful.  However, read this post about plastics and how even food-grade plastics have been shown to leach hormone-disrupting chemicals.  Food-grade plastic may be safer than regular plastic but that does not mean that it is safe.  I’m not sure if manufactures are require to provide to consumers certification of food-grade status, but you could ask.

Bemberg Fabric

Question from Jason

Im about to purchase a dress suit and the jacket is made of 100% organic wool however the lining is made of Bemberg is it safe to buy this suit?

 

Lisa’s Answer

Bemberg is similar to rayon in that it is produced from natural fiber (cotton) and is highly processed using chemicals.  I would have to do more research to understand more about the chemicals used to produce it.  Generally, this type of fabric does not have a a formaldehyde finish so it’s not the worst thing you could wear, but why go to the expense of buying organic wool if the layer closer to your skin is a chemically processed fabric?

Why I Don’t Recommend Bake-Outs

Photo by Gabriel Gurrola on Unsplash

Bake-outs are a frequent topic of discussion on Toxic Free Q&A.  Many people have reported success reducing odors from off-gassing building materials and household items using the bake-out method.   After reviewing available research, I believe the risks outweigh the potential benefits.

A bake-out is a method of heating rooms to make chemicals from paints, finishes, and other building materials offgas more quickly.

The bake-out method was designed to accelerate the curing process of certain building materials that have some toxicity during application, but cure to a nontoxic finish. In these materials the sources of off-gassing are solvents used to keep the material pliable (as in the case of caulks, paints, and other finishes) or residual chemi­cals used in manufacturing that have not completely dissipated (such as adhesives used to hold together wood floor tiles). Once these chemicals offgas, however, the resulting product is non-toxic.

Unfortunately, research shows that the method does not routinely lower VOC levels.

 

Bake-Outs Can Increase VOC Levels

 

Researchers have found that bake-outs do not lower, and can sometimes increase, VOC levels (1,2,3).  One explanation for an increase in levels is that the high concentration of VOCs generated by high temperature can become reabsorbed by porous material.

According to the Healthy House Institute, bake-outs seem to have little effect on formaldehyde levels, probably because formaldehyde-containing materials, such as particle board, are thick enough to have a substantial reservoir of formaldehyde in them.

There are additional risks to conducting a bake-out:

  • Studies show that some chemicals are released into the air that are not released at room temperatures.
  • All materials in the heated room can potentially emit VOCs. The mix of chemicals could form new, harmful compounds.
  • Some materials will heat faster than others which can cause building materials to warp or crack.

 

Flush-Outs Recommended for New Construction

 

A flush-out is a technique that forces large amounts of air through a building before occupancy to lower VOCs.  This is the method recommended by the U.S. Green Building Council for LEED credit prior to occupancy.  The method requires very specific levels of ventilation, humidity and temperature.

 

Tips to Reduce VOCs in Your Home

 

  • Purchase building materials and home furnishings with low or no VOCs.
  • Improve ventilation. Open windows frequently and use fans to bring outdoor air inside. Consider mechanical ventilation for new construction.
  • Seal building materials and wood furniture that are known to have high levels of VOCs with a product designed to seal in toxins, such as AFM Safecoat.
  • Use a high quality air purifier designed to remove VOCs.
  • Work with an indoor air quality professional if you are considering a flush-out for new construction.

Blackout Shades and Curtains

Question from Deborah

I’m looking for advice on a few toxic free items such as blackout shades and curtains and couches. My husband died from leukemia so I’m very concerned about toxins in the home. I’ve searched but have been unable to find zero VOC blackout shades and curtains.

 

Lisa’s Answer

If you are looking for entirely natural shades with no chemicals you would need to have them custom made.  I am not aware of any pre-made shades that are free of any VOCs.  Two Sisters Ecotextiles sells a great variety of chemical-free fabrics.  I’m sure they could help you find the appropriate materials for your needs.  Hunter Douglas, which is a leading brand of shades, is GREENGUARD Certified, which means they have low VOCs, but not no VOCs.  There are more options on Debra’s List but note that not all products from some of these companies are entirely VOC-free.
There are many options for couches on Debra’s List.

Organic Wool Dress Slacks

Question from Jamison

I’m wondering do you know of any Organic Wool or Cotton Suit dress slacks available for purchase. I have some wool ones however they are not organic and i know non organic natural materials has toxins in it but im dealing with it at the moment ssince im unable to find these types of slacks.

 

Lisa’s Answer

Readers, any recommendations?

OdoBan

Question from Mary

I’m wondering if there is anyway you (or one of your associates) could comment on the toxicity of OdoBan?
I am disabled due to autoimmune problems. I live with my Mother – along with my five rescue cats, including one of whom has asthma).
My Mother uses a lot of OdoBan to clean the carpets and the floors. Because it’s used in hospitals, she thinks it’s “safe”. The fumes make me nauseous for days. If someone besides myself were to explain that there is reason to be cautious of this product, she would be much more likely to listen to reason. (Some mothers think they always know more than their kids).

 

Lisa’s Answer

There are many different OdoBan products.  I would need to know the specific type you’re using to assess it.  They have a line of Earth Choice products that are less toxic than their regular line.

Blenders and Juicers

Question from Marcella

I have decided to start eating healthier by going plant-based. This will require a blender. Are there any companies on this website that sell toxic free blenders and juicers? I look forward to hearing from you.

 

Lisa’s Answer

It really depends on the level of functionality you want with your blender and your juicer.  There are many juicers available made with stainless steel blades and glass containers that should be non-toxic.  High speed blenders, such as Vitamix and Blendtec, use a polycarbonate container.  It is plastic and not ideal but in order for chemicals to leach from the plastic into food it needs to be in contact for a long period of time.  Since food does not sit in the blender for long, leaching should not be a concern. When the containers get scratched they should be replaced.  If you select a particular model send me the information and I can look at it more closely.

Non-Toxic Sealer and Pre-finished Flooring

Question from Brenda

We are looking to find a good non-toxic sealer to seal plywood sheathing from entering our living space. Also, looking for non-toxic hardwood prefinished flooring without formaldehyde or pesticides. Need to know a company ? I’m on the east coast . Any updates on safe building materials would help. I have MCS! Are there any pre-finished floors that use water based sealers?

 

Lisa’s Answer

I recommend the online retailer The Green Design Center.  The sell AFM Safecoat products that will seal the plywood.  They also carry pre-finished hardwood.  They very carefully research and test the products that they sell.

Space Heaters

Question from Michael

I have a toxic brain injury and I just moved into
a condo and it has natural gas heat. I turned it on and got so sick we could not get my pulse down.

I react to mostly hydrocarbons and toluene very bad. I have a Gaba / glutamate receptor
Damage.

I have a 800 sq foot condo and I’m trying to figure out how to heat it now. I’m in the Midwest and it gets cold.

I read all about space heaters for large rooms and I also read Debras recommendations.

My choice were between a

1) wood base edenpure infrared with metal inside.

2) Penoris oil filled radiator

I tried plastic heaters and they give off odors that make me sick.

I was worried about the oil filled radiator leaking or possibly off gassing because petroleum is the end of me and I go to the ER room.

I was also concerned about the wood base around the eden pure because I react to paint
And chemicals new wood finishes. But I’m more scared of oil.

Do you have any suggestions? Winter is coming and I’m stuck. I was looking for used oil heaters off eBay that may have been off gassed.  As for the Eden pure I would buy that new.

 

Lisa’s Answer

If you read through some of these old posts on space heaters, readers share their experiences.  Readers, additional comments?

Electric Slow Cooker and Skillet

Question from Linda

I can not use my stove due to Electromagnetic hyper sensitivity so I am looking to buy an electric Slow cooker and a skillet. William Sonoma has an Electric All Clad Ceramic Cooker and Stainless Skillet. Have these products been tested for chemical leaching?

Lisa’s Answer

All ceramic slow cookers have tested positive for lead and are not recommended.  Some people choose to avoid cooking on stainless steel due to concerns about heavy metal leaching.  Since you need to use an electric appliance and have few alternatives, it is probably your best choice.  Here is more on stainless steel cookware.

Foam Packaging

Question from AJ

I have been using  supposedly non toxic  and safe cribs for my two little ones, with all the conversion accessories for toddler bed to full bed etc. I am curious about the storage of these  accessories. They are in the original cardboard boxes  with rigid foam/some bubble wrap or foam wrap for protection. As I do not want to store in attic I was planning on storing in my 6 month old’s deep closet.  Then became concerned.  Thoughts ?  I may take out of boxes and wrap in something safe or just use the cardboard to protect surfaces or I could store as is in basement (part is a full walkout not underground), not sure that’s any better air quality wise  though to the extent the materials may be toxic.

 

Lisa’s Answer

You are right to be concerned.  The foam is likely polystyrene which is a toxic plastic.  If you have room in your closet, why don’t you simply wrap it in old sheets or blankets and store it there?

K-Cups

Question from Jane

Are K-Cups (Keurig or generic) made of toxic plastic with bpa or other toxins that will contaminate the coffee with toxins? ALSO, the plastic bags at the grocery store to bag the groceries. I am cutting them in strips and attaching them so that I can use it like yarn (called plarn) crocheting an article like a shopping bag. Only thing is, I am touching the plastic constantly when making the bag.  Will my hands ingest the toxin if the plastic bag is toxic with bpa or other toxins?

 

Lisa’s Answer

Keurig K-Cups have switched to #5 recyclable polypropylene.  This is an improvement over the #7 plastic they used to use.  Though they claim to be BPA free, studies have shown that BPA-free plastic can have similar hormone-disrupting effects.  Heating the plastic increases the leaching.
Grocery store plastic bags are made of HDPE or high-density polyethylene.  It is one of the safer plastics but I can’t tell you for sure what additives are in it or are used in the printing on it.  It could have plasticizers that can be absorbed by the skin.  If the bags are labelled as food safe they are less likely to have harmful additives as they have more stringent regulations.

Are All Plastics Toxic?

Photo by Merakist on Unsplash

We often hear that some types of plastics are safer or less toxic than others, but what does that really mean? There are many guides available that categorize plastics according to their toxicity.  These guides can be misleading because most plastic consumer products have additives to enhance their functionality.  A single plastic product can contain dozens of chemical additives.  Most manufacturers don’t disclose those chemicals which makes it very difficult to assess the toxicity of a particular item.

 

Chemical Additives Can Be More Harmful Than the Plastics Themselves

 

One study tested over 400 plastic food packaging products including baby bottles, plastic bags, deli-containers, and water bottles.  Most of the products leached chemicals that have estrogenic activity, meaning they mimic human estrogen, which has been linked to adverse health effects.  Products that were stressed to replicate normal usage leached even more.  Also, some BPA-free products leached at greater levels than BPA-containing products.

A surprising result of the study was that some of the products that leached these harmful chemicals were made of plastics thought to be safe including:

  • polypropylene (yogurt cups, ketchup bottles),
  • low-density polyethylene or LDPE (grocery bags, food storage bags),
  • high-density polyethylene or HDPE (milk jugs, butter tubs, juice bottles).

The study went on show that in these particular materials, it was the additives and not the plastics themselves that were the source of the leached chemicals.  When they tested pure polyethylene and polypropylene resins with no chemical additives there was no detectable levels of chemicals with estrogenic activity.  Additives are more likely to leach because, in most cases, they aren’t chemically bound to the plastic (1).

This highlights why it’s so important for manufacturers to disclose all of the materials used in their products.  Safer plastics are possible.  But without full transparency, it is very difficult to determine the toxicity of any individual item.

 

Treatments Added to Finished Plastics May Also Be Toxic

 

I’m often asked if plastic fabrics such as Nylon or polyester are non-toxic.  In their pure forms, they are relatively inert.  However, treatments can be applied to add features such as waterproofing to nylon or wrinkle-resistance to polyester.  For example, most nylon raincoats will have some type of Durable Water Repellent (DWR).   Most DWRs are made with perfluorinated compounds (PFCs) which are linked to numerous health concerns and are persistent in the environment.  Some manufacturers are working to find PFC-free waterproofing treatments but they are not yet as effective.  See a statement from Patagonia, the outdoor retailer, on their progress with finder safer alternatives.

 

When you can’t determine all of the additives or treatments, here are some general tips to follow:

  • Always avoid plastics known to be harmful to humans and the environment. Avoid PVC, Polystyrene, and Polycarbonate.
  • Avoid all plastic products that come in contact with food or drink. If you must use plastic, avoid heating and dishwashing.  When the plastic becomes scratched or damaged, throw it out.
  • Look for manufacturers that fully disclose the additives and treatments used in and on their products.
  • Consider how and when the product will be used to determine the exposure to you and your family.  For example, a plastic storage bag used to hold paper clips is much less of a concern than one used to hold orange slices for a child’s lunchbox.

 

Elastics in Clothing

Question from Larry

Was wondering what your opinion on spandex,elastane,or etc in clothing. I’m in the middle of buying some clothing such as jeans and short most of it is organic cotton and organic wool.There is also some non organic cotton pieces as well but on most of them (shorts and pants mainly) they all seem to have a small percentage of elastics. I had looked online about it before contacting you  and my questions what is spandex made of and is it toxic to wear even in small amounts?

 

Lisa’s Answer

Spandex, also know as elastane or the brand name Lycra, is made of at least 85% polyurethane.  Like other synthetic fabrics, the cause for concern is in the chemicals used during the finishing process.  Some sensitive people may react to spandex due to these chemical treatments.  If you are buying clothes from a company that uses organic cotton and wool, they are likely knowledgeable about the spandex they use and what chemicals it may contain.  Give them a call.

If you are not someone who is sensitive to spandex, I would not be concerned about this small exposure.

Nylon in Socks

Question from Larry

All the socks I like to workout in have a decent percentage of nylon included in them.I’ve heard nylon is also quite toxic.  Do you, or readers, know of a good, sock to run and/or workout in without nylon or is nylon ok to have in small percentages when buying socks?

Lisa’s Answer

Pure nylon is relatively non-toxic.  It is the finishes that are toxic.  Nylon used in socks are probably free of finishes.  Read more about additive and finishes in plastic here.  I wear cotton or wool socks when I am not working out or for hiking but I do use socks with nylon for other exercise.  It is a minor exposure.  Readers, have you found workout socks that have 100% natural fibers?

Non-Toxic Sleep System for Sale

Question from Jackie

I am trying to sell my non-toxic sleep system because it is not comfortable for me.  Our king size bed has 2 coconut coir bed mats, medium dunlop latex from Savvy Rest, Shepherd’s Dream Wool mattress, and 2 wool toppers.

Lisa’s Answer

Readers, if you are interested submit a note to me on the contact form and I will put you in touch with Jackie.

Off-Gassing Furniture

Question from Clara

I am currently doing a bakeout in my garage. I have a pleather couch I am trying to off gas and a table and chairs. Will the bake out off gas furniture? if so how long would it take?

Lisa’s Answer

I am no longer recommending bake outs.  Debra has had success in the past with clients using bake outs to accelerate off-gassing, but there has been research indicating that it can actually increase off-gassing and extend off-gassing in some cases.  It is impossible to tell how it will work in each individual environment.  Look for more information on an upcoming post.  Also, a bake out would not work on something like polyurethane foam in a coach as that will off-gas indefinitely.

Non-Stick Cookware

Question from Nancy

Is there a truly “non-stick” safe skillet? Even with Xtrema cookware they suggest using some type of oil and their skillets are on backorder.

Lisa’s Answer

I use an Xtrema skillet and a cast iron skillet and I rotate them.  I have a small stainless steel skillet that I use occasionally for eggs.  Read my thoughts on stainless steel cookware here.
There are “green” non-stick skillets on the market, such as Green Pan, that claim to be PFAS and PFOA free and to have Not-Detected levels of lead or cadmium.  If a “green” pan manufacturer will disclose their third-party testing and it confirms the above claims, it is probably okay to use.  I would avoid cooking acidic food in it and throw it away if it gets badly scratched or the coating chips.  Most are made with an aluminum core and could leach aluminum if the coating is compromised.

Crumbling Polyurethane Coating

Question from JoAnneh

I am a Pilates fusion teacher and yoga teacher.  In many of the corporate group exercise rooms I teach in, we use weights coated with polyurethane or neoprene.  In many cases these coatings are cracked, chipped or falling off in pieces. I have read that these disintegrating materials are quite dangerous to 1) touch, re: skin toxicity, 2) to hold (as they continue to fall apart with use and expose the student to bits of toxic chemicals both on the skin and in the air), and 3) to breath near, as the materials send small bits of inhaling-friendly chemicals into the lungs. I did a study for our town on leaf blowers and found that even the smallest microns of particulate matter blown into the air from them enters the lungs, passes the blood brain barrier, and causes all sorts of disorders, including contributing to heart disease, high blood, ADD like symptoms, and even–long term–Alzheimer’s symptoms.  I’m wondering if the materials on these falling-apart weights are just as dangerous?  The management has been slow to address this.

Lisa’s Answer

I can’t speak to how these specific materials would enter the environment.  One concern is that antimicrobials, which are sometimes added to plastic to prevent mold growth, can release nanoparticles into the environment.  Here is a study about nanoparticles escaping from plastic coating.

Is Marble Toxic?

Question from Anonymous

Is marble non-toxic or does marble cause cancer?

I have a black marble mortar and pestle from IKEA and I’m wondering if black marble is safe and non-toxic or should I be concerned about using a black marble mortar and pestle?

Lisa’s Answer

Natural marble is non-toxic.  I don’t know if the product was sealed with anything to keep it from staining.  You could call IKEA and ask if it is sealed or treated with anything.

Choosing a Safe Steam Iron

Ironing

Many of you have asked for help finding a non-toxic steam iron. The main concern with steam irons is that several models have non-stick coatings such as Teflon, the best-known brand name for polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE). When PTFEs are heated to high temperatures they break down and release toxic chemicals. Some non-stick coatings may be free of PTFEs, but it is very difficult to find out which chemicals the coatings do contain.

Fortunately, there is an easy way to find a safer iron. Most irons have one of three types of soleplates. The soleplate is the bottom of the iron that comes into contact with your clothes. The most common types of soleplates are stainless steel, ceramic, and titanium. Stainless steel soleplates are the preferred type because they do not have non-stick coatings.

Many top-rated steam irons have stainless steel plates but there are pros and cons of using them. The advantages are durability, good heat conduction, even heat distributions and ease of maintenance. The main complaint with stainless steel soleplates is that they can cause sticking of glue or decals on their surface. Additionally, they can melt silk or other lightweight fabrics when used on a high setting.

The following stainless steel irons are highly rated on Amazon. Don’t be confused if some manufacturers refer to their stainless steel soleplates as non-stick. This does not mean that it has a chemical coating. It simply refers to the inherent non-stick property of the metal surface. I confirmed with each of the manufacturers below that they do not use non-stick coatings on their stainless steel models.

Rowenta DW5080 1700-Watt Micro Steam Iron 
Look for the model made in Germany.  Readers report leaking from the model made in China.
Pur Steam Professional Grade 1700-Watt Steam Iron .
Hamilton Beach Steam Iron with Retractable Cord (14881)
Maytag M400 Steam Iron 
Sunbeam Steam Master 

Ironing board covers can also be treated with PTFEs. Here is an untreated, 100% cotton cover.

Unfortunately, none of these options will make ironing more fun…just healthier!

Sources:
Minnesota Pollution Control Agency 2018, Are you cooking with these? Cookware considerations., accessed 29 July 2019, http://www.pca.state.mn.us/featured/are-you-cooking-these-cookware-considerations.
IronsExpert 2017, Clothing Iron’s Sole Plate Types — Ceramic vs Stainless vs Titanium, accessed 29 July 2019, http://medium.com/@ironsexpert/steam-iron-soleplate-types-ceramic-stainless-titanium-62c60efefe7c.

DriCore Subfloor Panels

Question from Llya

I’m currently finishing my basement and planning to use DriCore subfloor panels.
It is almost impossible to find health effects of this product.
Would you know if the product emits formaldehyde or other chemicals dangerous for health?

Lisa’s Answer

The MSDS states that it is bonded with formaldehyde adhesive, so I would expect that it emits formaldehyde.

Latex-Free Condoms

Question from Anonymous

Do you know of any latex-free condoms that are safe?

Lisa’s Answer

I am not aware of any.  Readers?

Does Stainless Steel Leach into Water?

Photo by Ruijia Wang on Unsplash

A recent post on stainless steel cookware revealed when to avoid cooking with stainless steel and when it might be acceptable for some people.  The post was based on studies that showed that stainless steel cookware leached nickel and chromium into acidic food that was cooked for a long period of time.  But what about stainless steel water bottles?  Are they safe to use or do they leach heavy metals into water and other beverages that are not highly acidic?

 

Stainless Steel Does Not Leach into Plain Water

One study looked at a number of beverages with different PH levels and found that chromium and nickel did leach into beverages with high acidity such as fruit juice.  It also leached into a solution with high alkalinity.  However, there was no detected leaching into distilled water, which has a PH of 7 and is considered neutral because it is neither acidic nor alkaline.  It also did not leach into beverages with low acidity such as tea (PH of 6.65), coffee (PH of 6.50) and milk (PH of 6.88).  Tap water was not tested in this study but the EPA recommends that municipal drinking water have a PH level from 6.5 to 8.5.  Based on the result of this study, it is unlikely that tap water would cause leaching.

 

Does This Mean I Can Keep My Stainless Steel Water Bottles?

The choice to drink out of stainless steel is a personal one.  Individuals with nickel sensitivity may choose to avoid any contact with stainless steel.  Also, this is the only study found that looks specifically at water and other low-acid beverages.  Further studies would be beneficial.

Glass bottles are a safe alternative however, they are prone to breaking and are often heavy.  If you do choose to keep your stainless steel bottles make sure they do not have the following features:

Sealing dot or painted markings

Read more about how one blogger detected lead from the sealing dot, which is a dimple at the bottom of some bottles, and from paint or painted markings on the bottles.

Plastic lids that are not BPA or BPS free

In my opinion, plastic lids are of greater concern than the stainless steel bottles because hormone disrupting chemicals can leach from all types of plastics depending on the additives used.  Unfortunately, there are no safer alternatives that provide the functionality and convenience of a plastic lid, particularly if used for sports or other outdoor activities.

Low-grade stainless steel

Look for #304 or 18/8 food-grade stainless steel.

Is Nylon Toxic

Question from T

Is nylon toxic?

Lisa’s Answer

Nylon is made from petroleum but, in its pure form, it is one of the safest plastics.  The problem with nylon and many other plastics is that they may contain additives for additional functionality.  For example, nylon fabric may be treated with highly fluorinated chemicals (PFASs) to make it waterproof.

Lead in Corelle Dishes

Question from Becka

Yes wondering also if the color in the
Corelle dishware actually is lead free
And if it is not if it leaches into say a Corelle
Bowl if the color /paint is only on the outside of the bowl ?
Appreciate ur help ,,
Also if Anchor Hocking blue glass made today is also lead / toxic free or not?

Lisa’s Answer

It depends if it is new or vintage.  All new Corelle dishware  are lead-free and pass California Proposition 65.  New Anchor Glass items also are lead-free.

Glass Water Bottle with Non-Plastic Lid

Question from George

I am looking for a water bottle (glass preferably), to have the alternative to stainless steel.

Since I use reverse osmosis water, it can be 6.5-7pH with no minerals left in it (rain water).

Apparently this type of water due to being ‘demineralised’ can react with stainless and make the stainless leach into the water (chromium nickel etc) to balance the water out.

This would result in using a stainless steel bottle 7 days a week for 2 litres of water a day (14 litres of water in a week) a very unpleasant metal flavoured health hazard.

So I look for glass… (alternatives like you said you look for alternatives).

Problem is, every glass bottle has either plastic, aluminium, or stainless still lids.

The ones with silicon lids that I found are narrow mouth and a pain to drink from.

Where on earth can one get minimum of 1L water bottle without the metal/aluminium?

Lisa’s Answer

Unfortunately, I have not found a glass bottle without a plastic, aluminum, or steel lid that is functional. The only material I can think of that would replace the ones you mention is glass.  I can’t envision how that would be functional.  Readers, any suggestions?

Softer Latex-Free Mattress

Question from Bonnie

I am allergic to latex but would love to know if anyone has found a comfortable softer type mattress without latex.

Lisa’s Answer

There are many safe mattresses on Debra’s List.  Readers, can anyone comment on which of these are soft?

Vinyl Plank Flooring

Question from Grace

Thank you for all the fabulous info. We are looking to remodel our house and live in it 5-7 years before we build a house with a more non toxic budget. I am trying to find a good wood flooring that I won’t be worried about us living with but also something that we can afford for our remodel. Our contractor would like to use lifeproof vinyl plank, which claim to be phthalate & formaldehyde free. Any other cautions for this brand? This seems good but I would prefer hardwood. I was reading your post which I will link below, was there any final decision on Home Legend Hardwood? Also have you looked into OptiWood? We live in Alaska and have animals & kids so trying to find a balance between price, durability & non toxic.

Lisa’s Answer

While Home Legend claims to be formaldehyde free, an independent test by Andrew Pace of Green Design Center found that it does emit formaldehyde from the back.  Andy tests the products on his site, so you can trust what he sells.  If you are considering another brand, ask the manufacturer for independent testing to support their claims.  Of course, solid wood flooring finished with no or low VOC finishes is less toxic than engineered wood.

Stainless Steel Drinking Glasses

Question from Shauna

Good morning, I stumbled upon your website trying to research stainless steel products from China. I recently got my kids a set of stainless steel cups to drink water from. We primarily drink water or carbonated water in our house. Occasionally they do drink milk. Will nickel be leached into the water? I read your stainless steel section and I couldn’t come to a conclusion as to whether or not they are safe for drinking. It looks like it is only a concern if you have a nickel allergy? Is that right? I am trying to remove toxic Substances from my home and I am starting with the ones that are food and bodies come in contact with. I appreciate your work on your website and I can’t wait to dig in a little deeper.

Lisa’s Answer

I just posted an article on drinking beverages from stainless steel.  Read it here.  It is best to use stainless steel marked #304 or 18/8.  Do the cups have a marking on them?  The study finds that low-acid beverages do not leach.  Unfortunately, this is just one study so more information would be beneficial.  I would not recommend using stainless steel for carbonated water as it is more acidic (PH of 3-4) which is more likely to causes leaching.  I use stainless steel bottles for plain water when glass is not practical.

Toxins in Tea

There have been many references in the news in the last few days about a new study that confirms that plastic tea bags release plastic particles into brewed tea (1).  One tea bag can release billions of microplastic and nanoplastic particles into the brew.  This is thousands of times higher than previously found in other food and drink.  There is not sufficient research to determine the health impact of ingesting this amount of plastic on a regular basis.

 

How to Tell if Your Tea Bag is Made of Plastic

Fancier tea bags that come in pyramid shapes, sometimes called sachets, are often made of nylon or PET plastic.  You can see a slight sheen to the material.  Unfortunately, this is not the only type of tea bag that may contain plastic.  Many tea bags made with natural fibers are sealed with polypropylene plastic.  These bags may not be as much of a concern as those made entirely of plastic but there are plastic-free alternatives.

 

Other Things to Worry About in Your Tea

Epichlorohydrin is an epoxide often added to tea bags, coffee filters and sausage casings to make them stronger.  Though considered food safe, epichlorohydrin is an occupational human carcinogen.

Heavy metals such as lead, aluminum, arsenic and cadmium have been detected in both organic and conventional teas (2).   The heavy metals are contaminants from the soil in which the tea is grown.  A 2013 study found lead in all samples ranging from 0.1 mcg/L (micrograms per liter) to 4.39 mcg/L.  This is below the action level of lead for public drinking water (15 mcg/L) but lead is thought to be harmful to human health at lower levels.  The study found that some countries of origin had higher levels of metals but later studies contradict the results so it might not be as simple as looking for tea from specific countries.  Steeping time of 2 to 4 minutes reduces the transfer of metals to the tea by 10% to 50%, so make sure you are not steeping too long.

Pesticides have been detected in tea samples.  A French study found 17 pesticides among popular tea brands, with many above EU safety limits.  Look for organic tea with certification from reputable organizations such as USDA, QAI or CCOF.

 

You Can Find Plastic-Free Tea Bags

Look for tea bags made of natural fibers such as manila hemp.  Steer clear of bags made of polylactic acid, which is derived from corn starch.  It may sound like a natural material but is actually a synthetic polyester.  There are no independent studies that confirm one way or another that it releases plastic into tea but more natural choices are available.

Here are some certified organic tea brands with plastic-free bags:

Numi Organic Tea is USDA Certified tea with compostable tea bags made from manila hemp.  They are oxygen-whitened and the tag is made from 100% recycled materials and soy-based inks.

Organic India is USDA Certified tea with tea bags made from unbleached, biodegradable fiber.

Choice Organic Teas are USDA Certified.  The tea bags are made from 100% unbleached, natural abaca fibers and are free of plastics and plasticizers.  They are sewn shut with a natural cotton string or use a staple to seal the bag and attach the string.

Traditional Medicinals are CCOF Certified herbal teas.  The compostable tea bags are madefrom a combination of wood pulp and manila hemp. The tea bags are attached with food grade aluminum staple wire to teabag string made of raw cotton and a paper tea tag. They are whitened using oxygen and peroxide.

Bigelow -All of their 18/20/28 count boxes and 100 count boxes are made from wood pulp and abaca.  They are free of plastics, chlorine and epichlorohydrin.  Only 5% of their products (40 count boxes) use a thermoplastic seal to close the bags but they are in the process of converting that to a plant-based sealer over the next few months.  Not all Bigelow teas are organic but those that are have been USDA Certified.

 

Loose Leaf Tea is Best, if Brewed in Non-Toxic Containers

You can eliminate the tea bag entirely and opt for loose leaf tea.  There are many certified organic loose leaf tea companies on Debra’s List.  Look for cups, teapot and strainers made of non-toxic materials that will not leach toxins into tea.

Glass is the most non-toxic material for brewing, straining, and drinking tea.  Teapots with glass infuser or teacups with glass infuser are readily available.  You can also use a French Press made of glass to brew tea.

Organic Cotton Reusable Tea Bags are both non-toxic and environmentally friendly.  Here is an example.

Ceramic teapots or cups are safe choices if they are made with lead-free glaze.

Stainless Steel may leach nickel if left to brew for a long period.  If you are an infrequent tea drinker and are not sensitive to nickel, using a stainless steel strainer for 2 to 3 minutes at a time is not concerning.

The health benefits of tea are well documented.  If you select natural fiber tea bags or use loose leaf tea and brew it using non-toxic utensils, the benefits should outweigh any risks.

 

 

 

 

Lead in My Blue Glass Dishes

Question from Becka

Curious about cobalt blue glass dishes I bought at cost plus world market on early 2000, Are they Lead free? They have no brand name on them

Lisa’s Answer

Colored glassware does not typically contain lead.  See this Q&A post with the chemistry of colored glass.  Given that there is no information on the product, I can’t say for certain what it contains.

Odor Neutralizing Laundry Products in EU

Question from Sharon

Does anyone know of a European supplier of laundry products odor-neutralizing (specifically chemical / formaldehyde) ? I learned about EnviroKlenz (only U.S., though) and their EU supplier in Denmark, called OdorKlenz — but they do not ship to where I am, in The Netherlands. Need help!!

Lisa’s Answer

I am not aware of any.  Readers?

Graphenstone Paint

Question from Marilyn

Have you looked into Graphenstone paint?

Lisa’s Answer

I had not heard of the product but I looked at the website.  The paint base is VOC free which means that it has a very low level of VOCs but not necessarily that it has no VOCs.  They do not offer a Material Data Safety Sheet for the pigment, which is the component of paint that typically has VOC content.  If you can get a copy of the MSDS of all the components you are interested in, I can take a look at them.

Windshield Adhesive

Question from Stephen

I’m looking for MCS safe Windshield replacement products.  What is the best adhesives/primers to use? How long does the chemical  off gassing take? and any tips to speed up the off-gassing process?

Lisa’s Answer

Look for a low VOC adhesive.  I’m assuming you will need one specifically for glass/windshields, correct?  Here is one I found by searching for low VOC windshield adhesive. I didn’t do an exhaustive search, this is just one that came up.  Also, I can’t tell you if you will react to it or not, as people with MCS have individual reactions.  I can simply point you to materials with lower toxicity.
Most adhesives are designed to off-gas quickly.  Heat will speed up the off-gassing.  You can try putting space heaters to the window for a few days.  If you do this in your garage, I would stay out of it until the bake-out is complete and then air it out.  Make sure your garage has a good seal from the main house.  Alternatively, you could leave the car outside with the windows open for a few weeks.

Bathtubs

Question from Pamela

Brilliant website thank you! I’m concerned about the chemicals in our standard jacuzzi tub (all that plastic! and whatever is in the actual tub–hot plastic?)! AND I’m concerned about the old school tub at my ex’ place coated with a chipping paint of sorts. Is there any bathtub on the market made in Europe perhaps–that will be a healthier choice? IT seems there is no regulation and i worry about my son with medical condition and hormone disruptors etc….I  know you can lead test but really want to be able to buy or replace what we have but cannot find info on healthier tub material?

Lisa’s Answer

Porcelain-enameled cast iron or porcelain-enameled steel are the best choices, though they can be pricey.  You could also have a tub frame built and use all tile on the interior.

Ziplock bags

Question from Stacy

I am using Ziplock freezer bags to keeps things dry in the car for my emergency supplies. Do I have to worry about offgassing in the car and with the high temperature? It it made of PE.

Lisa’s Answer

Food grade polyethylene is the safest plastic there is.

You could also try silicone bags like these https://www.stasherbag.com
There are many other things in a car interior that are more of a concern for off-gassing like foam cushioning, PVC, and leather.  Keep the windows down when possible and consider using some charcoal bags or a small air purifier in the car.

Cavities and Braces

Question from Miriam

My son needs two cavities filled.  The MSDS of the 3M filler our dentist uses has some unpleasant ingredients. What is the least toxic resin or non resin solutions for tooth fillers for a kid with allergies (including nickel allergy)? He also needs braces and I want to know the least toxic materials we can have placed.

Lisa’s Answer

The most comprehensive study I have seen that actually tests the composites is the following from PubMed.gov:
Table 4 shows a list of composites that do not contain bis-GMA ( the most commonly used BPA derivative).  Only 1 contained neither Bis-GMA nor TEGDMA.
You might ask your Dentist to help you identify some options and request a MSDS.  Look out for the following: BPA, bis-GMA, TEGDMA, or UDMA.  Just because it claims to be BPA-Free doesn’t mean there isn’t potential exposure to BPA as derivatives such as bis-GMA can convert to BPA in the mouth.

I can’t speak to allergies.  You would need to look at the individual MSDS to identify ingredients that your son is allergic to.

Is your son unable to wear metal braces due to his allergy?  If you are looking at plastic brackets, polypropylene would be a less toxic option.

Another thing to watch out for is that many bracket adhesives have slow -releasing fluoride in them.  Ask your orthodontist for an adhesive without fluoride.

Bike Trailer

Question from Debbie

I have a bike trailer which I’m guessing has flame retardants on it. Do these wear off over time? It is about 5 years old and I was wondering if I can safely use it for my new baby now?

Lisa’s Answer

It is impossible to tell without knowing what the product is and exactly what chemicals are used.  In general, flame retardants are designed to not wear off.  Other concerns are the use of PVC or water- proofing chemicals.

 

Is Stainless Steel Cookware Toxic? (Read This Before Throwing Away Your Pots and Pans.)

Are you wondering if it’s safe to use your stainless steel cookware?  Searching the internet for answers can be confusing because some tout it as among the safest of choices and others deem it a toxic source of heavy metals and recommend complete avoidance.  A more detailed assessment reveals that the safety of stainless steel is more complicated than a “use it” or “avoid it” label.  Some individuals can use it safely under certain conditions while others should avoid it completely.  Let’s break it down.

 

What Are the Concerns About Cooking with Stainless Steel?

Studies show that stainless steel cookware can leach nickel and chromium into acidic food.  Before we get into specific results of these studies, let’s look at the health effects of nickel and chromium.

Is Nickel Harmful?

Nickel is an essential micronutrient that plays an important role in human metabolism (1).     Too much nickel can be toxic, and therefore the National Academy of Sciences sets a Tolerable Upper Intake Level (UL) at 1000 µg (micrograms) per day.  Adults ingest an average of 69-162 µg per day.  Most nickel exposure comes from food and water.  Foods that are naturally high in nickel include chocolate, soybeans, nuts and oatmeal.  Once nickel is ingested it is removed by the kidneys and quickly passed out of the body.

Jewelry that contains nickel can also be a significant source of exposure and is thought to be why women are more at risk of developing nickel sensitivities than men. An estimated 10-20% of the population have a sensitivity to nickel that leads to dermatitis.  For those who are sensitive, a single dose of 67 µg can cause a flare up or lead to systemic dermatitis.

The most serious risk is to people who breathe dust containing nickel compounds while working in an industrial setting.  The EPA has determined that, under these conditions, nickel is a carcinogen.

Is Chromium Harmful?

Chromium is not as much of a health concern as nickel.  It is an essential trace mineral in the human diet but is poorly absorbed.  The recommended intake for adults is 50-200 µg and the most adults get 60-80 µg from their diet.  Up to 7% of the population may have a chromium sensitivity that can cause dermatitis (2).

How Much Nickel and Chromium Leach During Cooking?

One study found that nickel and chromium leached into acidic food.  A number of variables were studied:

The grade and composition of the stainless steel.  The most common grades of steel are 304 and 316.  The grade refers to the quality, durability, and heat resistance.  Higher numbers mean higher quality.  Many cookware items will also have a ratio, such as 18/8 or 18/10, which tells the percentage of chromium and nickel, respectively.  This study did not find a correlation between the percentage of nickel and the amount of nickel leached, so it is unclear if there is any advantage to buying 18/8 over 18/10.   Similarly, the study did not show that the higher grade (316) leached less than the lower (304) in all cases.

The cooking duration. In general, the longer cook times resulted in more leaching.

The age of the cookware.  New cookware leached significantly more nickel and chromium.  After the 6thcooking cycle, the amount of leaching levelled off.

On average, after the 6thcooking cycle, the cookware leached 88 µg of nickel and 86 µg of chromium.  This is well within the Tolerable Upper Intake Level of 1000 µg.  For perspective, a ½ cup of peanuts contains 68 µg of nickel.  So, cooking with stainless steel may add a significant amount of nickel to an average daily intake but still be within acceptable levels. All tests were done using a high-acidic food (tomato sauce), so presumably foods with lower acidity would result in less leaching.  It is important to note, however, that sensitive individuals could react to just one meal cooked in stainless steel cookware.

Recommendations for Using Stainless Steel Cookware.

  • If you have a known sensitivity to nickel or suspect you may have one, avoid all stainless steel cookware.
  • If your cookware is new, wash it thoroughly. Cook a solution of 50% vinegar and 50% water for a 2 hour period and discard the solution. Repeat these steps 6 times (3).
  • There is a very high grade of stainless steel (430) that has only trace amounts of nickel. If you can afford it, look for cookware with this grade.  Avoid any products that have an aluminum core as it could leach aluminum if deeply scratched.
  • Avoid cooking highly acidic food, such as tomato sauce or chili, for long cooking durations.
  • Rotate your cookware so that you do not get too much exposure to the same materials.

 

If you are simply more comfortable avoiding stainless steel cookware, it is a personal choice and do what it right for you.  But, if you hate the idea of giving up your favorite pot or pan, follow these simple guidelines and keep cooking.

 

 

 

 

Dry, Chapped Lips

Question from Audrey

Would like to know what you and your mcs  followers use for dry, chapped lips. I used to use vitamin E in a dropper from Needs – but they stopped making it.  Too expensive to open up a vitamin E capsule.  Coconut oil which is supposed to be great , smells and I cannot tolerate it. I have been using olive oil, but it gets rancid too fast and if I put it in the refrigerator it  makes the oil get hard and cannot use.

Lisa’s Answer

I use Badger Unscented Lip Balm.  It is non-toxic, but I can’t tell you if you will react to it or not.  Everyone reacts to things differently.

 

Fast Way to Cook Rice

Question from Page

Some years ago, thanks to Debra’s info, in order to avoid toxic metal,  I purchased Xtrema ceramic cookware —& have been very pleased. But now am needing to cook faster (especially  brown rice and legumes) and am wondering if you could guide me as to the possibility of a pressure cooker which would be acceptable.
Or if not, could you guide me how to cook brown rice, etc a little faster than the Xtrema can do. Please advise.

Lisa’s Answer

I am not aware of a pressure cooker that is not stainless steel.  I use one for cooking rice and am not concerned about leaching since I only use it every now and then and for a short duration.  This may not work for someone who has a nickel sensitivity.  See more on stainless steel here.

 

Green Tea Toilet Paper

Question from Tanya

During an exhaustive search for truly non toxic toilet paper I came across the following brand: Monkeylips Green Tea Toilet Paper on Amazon.

Have you heard of this toilet paper? If not could you please look into it to see if it really is non-toxic? It’s not very clear so I’m not positive about this but they claim (on Amazon) that it is made of organic green tea. 100% virgin (green tea plant?) pulp. And also unbleached but lightened with green tea as well. I am also not 100% sure about fragrances being involved.

Lisa’s Answer

It sounds interesting but I can’t confirm how it’s whitened, what type of pulp is used and if fragrance is added.  They claim there are no synthetic chemicals or additives.  The websites has no phone number but I submitted questions and will post any answers I receive.  If the virgin pulp is from trees, it will have environmental impact even if it’s not toxic but that is a personal choice.

 

Noise from Refrigerator Aggravating MCS

Question from Susan

we just purchased last week a whirlpool side by side refrigerator and the noise is driving me crazy and i am near tears.  I have seen a website with this same complaint from many people who feel they are having neurological problems and feel as they are going insane.

have you heard about this problem?  i think it can seriously impact me.  I had no problem with the inside  and outside of the frig as far as my chemical sensitivity but this noise is soooooo horrible.  thank you for your help.

Lisa’s Answer

Readers, any advice?

 

A Closer Look at IKEA Bedding

We looked at IKEA bed frames in a previous post so it’s a natural follow-up to take a closer look at bedding.  After looking at dozens of items the conclusion is the same; IKEA takes admirable steps to limit the use of harsh chemicals but in most cases the products are not completely non-toxic.  This may be acceptable for some people in certain applications.  I recommend taking extra steps to find truly natural products for the bedroom because we spend at least 7 hours (hopefully!) in it every night.  The bed frame, mattress and bedding are most important because they are in continuous, close proximity to your body and you breath in any off-gassing chemicals.  If you can afford to invest in purely non-toxic products for your bedroom there are many great companies on Debra’s List that sell beds and bedding.

If you are in need of more affordable products, IKEA offers some bedding that is likely to be less toxic than products from retailers that don’t restrict chemicals beyond government standards and aren’t as transparent about their materials.  But keep in mind that IKEA has the following limitations:

  • It doesn’t disclose all of the chemicals used in processing the final product.
  • It doesn’t use third-party testing.
  • It limits, but doesn’t exclude, use of harsh chemicals such as formaldehyde, phthalates, and fluorinated (water-repellant) chemicals.

Let’s look at the best IKEA options.

Sheets

 

PUDERVIVA is the only model that is made of 100% linen.  It’s possible to process linen without chemicals.  IKEA does not disclose the chemicals used to process the linen but, in general, linen is produced with fewer chemicals than cotton.  It also states that no chlorine or optical brighteners are used.  This is the best choice from IKEA.

VÅRVIAL, DVALA, SÖMNTUTA, NORDRUTA, and FÄRGMÅRA are made from 100% cotton without the use of chlorine or optic brighteners.  These are the next best choices from IKEA.  They could still contain low levels of chemicals.

AGNSÄV, JÄTTEVALLMO, and ÖKENSTJÄRNA are made with 100% cotton but they do not specify that they are made without chlorine or optical brighteners.  This is a clue that they use both.  Optical brighteners are chemicals used to make fibers appear cleaner and brighter. There are over 90 types of optical brighteners in commercial production so it’s impossible to say what is used in this product.  I would avoid these items.

All of the other sheets are made with cotton and lyocell blends, which should be avoided.  You can read more here about the issues with lyocell.

 

Pillows

 

KORNVALLMO, GULDPALM, and JORDRÖK are filled with duck down and feathers and have a 100% cotton cover.  Down is a better choice for fill than polyurethane foam but it may not be entirely free of chemicals.  You can read more here about chemicals that may be used to wash and treat down fill.   These are the better choices among the IKEA pillows, but I would recommend instead to look for non-toxic pillows with fills such as 100% certified organic kapok, buckwheat or cotton that are comparable in price.  There are several on Debra’s List.

All other pillows from IKEA are filled with polyurethane foam and are not recommended.

Comforters

 

HÖNSBÄR, KÄLLKRASSE,and SÖTVEDEL are filled with duck down and feathers and have a 100% cotton cover.  These are the better choices from IKEA but, like the pillows, they may not be completely non-toxic.  Look for certified organic options from brands listed on Debra’s list.

All of the other comforters are filled with polyester and are not recommended.

Bedspreads/Throws

 

JOFRIDis the best option from IKEA.  It is a linen/cotton blend and is undyed and unbleached.

INDIRAis the next best option.  It is made from 100% cotton without the use of chlorine and optical brighteners.

VÅRELD, TUVALIE, JOHANNE, and ODDRUN,are made with 100% cotton but it does not specify that they are made without chlorine and optical brighteners.  Both are likely used in the production of these items.

All other bedspreads and throws are made with synthetic fibers and are not recommended.

Keep a look out for future posts on more IKEA products.

 

 

 

 

Healthy Mattress under $2000

Question from Marie

Looking for a mattress that won’t negatively affect my health at a reasonable price point. For me it would be maximum price with taxes etc. $2000.)
Looking at Avocado but a little firm on standard- with pillow top very heavy.

Lisa’s Answer

There are great options in Debra’s List.  Check out Happsy for a very affordable certified organic mattress at a great price point.

 

Bean Bags

Question from Sandy

Do they make non toxic bean bag chairs?

Lisa’s Answer

I have some seen some very high-end ones that fill with wool.  I made my own by purchasing organic cotton covers and filling them with organic kapok.  They were quite big, so I put old cotton t-shirts in the bottom and then topped them off with the kapok.  If you google organic cotton bean bag covers you will come up with several options.  White Lotus Home sells bulk kapok or organic cotton fill as do others online.

 

Performance Fabric

Question from Cheryl

I am interested in buying  a sofa from Pottery Barn.  There are fabrics available there that are called Performance fabrics. That sounds good because there will be kids and pets and a stain resistant fabric would be great. However, I have to wonder how fabric is treated to be called Performance. Is there a toxicity issue I should be aware of?

Lisa’s Answer

Performance fabric implies that it is stain repellent.  According to O Ecotextiles, all stain repellent finishes are based on fluorotelmer chemistry, which means it pertains to chemicals which become perfluorocarbons (PFCs) when released into the environment.  There are newer stain repellent finishes that are claiming to be safer and less bioaccumulative.  Though safer than older formulations, there is little human data to support just how safe they are.  I would steer clear.

 

Is IKEA Furniture Non-toxic?

Readers often ask if IKEA furniture is non-toxic.  As is often the case when searching for non-toxic products, the answer is not a simple yes or no.  In general, IKEA is a good first place to start when looking for affordable items with lower levels of toxicity because the company has long been committed to using materials that are better for people and the environment.  Safer Chemicals Healthy Families recently gave IKEA an A- rating for tackling toxic chemicals in consumer products.  It received the fourth highest score out of 40 of the largest retailers.  Yet, it’s important to look at individual items to determine if the level of toxins is low enough to meet your particular needs.

IKEA has a sophisticated chemical policy with a list of substances that they ban or limit.  This is much more restrictive than government standards. Here is a summary of the list:

  • no BPA in anything, not even the cash register receipts
  • no brominated flame retardants. “We never add any chemical flame retardants to our products if not required to do so by national legislation. To avoid adding chemical flame retardants, we strive to use materials with inherent flame retardant properties instead, such as natural wool.”
  • no PVC
  • no phthalates in children’s products and food containers
  • formaldehyde is “substantially reduced”. Note that it is reduced and not eliminated, which means that it is necessary to look for materials that could be sources of formaldehyde such as polyurethane foam, particleboard and plywood.
  • no fluorinated (water-repellant) chemicals in shower curtains, umbrellas and ponchos
  • no chrome in leather
  • no “CMR” substances—may cause cancer, mutation or are toxic to reproduction.
  • ban on lead, cadmium and mercury content
  • ban on the use of azodyes in textiles and leather

If you are someone who doesn’t have the time or interest in researching each item, IKEA may be a better choice than traditional furniture retailers who don’t restrict chemicals beyond government standard and aren’t as transparent about their materials.  For those who do want to take the extra steps of knowing exactly what is in each item, let’s take a look at some examples.

Bed Frames

Unfortunately, as I went through some of the bed frames I have recommended in the past, I realized that some solid wood components have been replaced with veneered wood.  Veneered wood refers to a thin slice of wood glued onto a core which is usually wood, particleboard or MDF.  There are no longer any bed frame options that are all solid wood.  There are bed frame options on the market that are entirely non-toxic, but they tend to be considerably more expensive than those offered by IKEA.

Here are the best options available from IKEA:

Tarva, Neiden, and Gjorahave frames made with solid, untreated pine, galvanized steel support, and veneered slats for the bed base that are attached with 100% polyester.  The slats could off-gas low levels of VOCs.  As an extra safeguard, you could apply a non-toxic sealer such as AFM Safecoat Safe Seal to lock in any emissions.

Leirvik and Kopardal have powder coated steel frames and veneer slats for the bed base that are attached with 100% polyester. Powder coated steel is a hard finish that will not off-gas.  It is, however, made with toxic substances and could contain carcinogens.  These are more of danger when applying the coating but do not pose harm in a finished product.  I would not eat off of a powder coated steel product but in this application it should be safe.  As an extra safeguard, you could apply a non-toxic sealer such as AFM Safecoat Safe Seal to the slats to lock in any off-gassing.

Hemnes has a frame made with solid pine but it is stained with a low VOC stain.  Like the above models, it has veneered slats for the bed base.  Thought the stain is low VOC, it will have emissions and will off-gas more than the above models.

I would not recommend any of the other IKEA bed frames because they contain materials such as polyurethane foam, particleboard, or ABS plastic.

Mattresses

All of IKEA’s mattresses, with the exception of Mausund contain polyurethane foam and synthetic fibers.  Because IKEA does not use brominated flame retardants and actively seeks safer fire retardant chemicals, these mattresses might be safer than other traditional retail brands, but it is not non-toxic enough for me to recommend.  Even the Mausund, which is described as a natural latex mattress is made with 15% synthetic latex, which is rubber made from petroleum.

Couches

All of IKEA’s couches contain polyurethane foam and some have frames made with particleboard or plywood. For the same reasons I would not recommend IKEA’s mattresses, I would not recommend their couches.

If there is interest I will look at other categories of IKEA products in future posts.

Is This Acrylic Lamp Toxic?

Question from Miriam

I generally try to avoid acrylic but my son would really like this lamp for his room that is acrylic.  Would you consider this non-toxic?

The description says:
Expertly crafted of acrylic and iron.
Metal parts are finished in Satin Nickel.
On/off switch located on clear cord.
Shade is included and exterior is made of linen.
Interior is lined with polystyrene.
All our shades are designed with an UNO fitter for securing shade to base.

Lisa’s Answer

Wow, that is a cute lamp!  Sadly, I would not recommend placing it in a child’s room.  We all make choices about the level of toxicity we allow in products in our home, but I consider bedrooms to be the most important room to keep as toxin free as possible,  Acrylic is made from acrylonitrile, a special group of vinyl compounds.  Scorecard: Chemical Profiles: Acrylonitrile notes that it is a carcinogen.

Also of concern is the polystyrene lining. The EPA consider styrene, which is a primary component of polystyrene, a probable human carcinogen.

 

Reaction to Shoes

Question from Vanessa

I am desperate for some answers. I have been experiencing the most frustrating “medical mystery” for months now. At first I thought my feet were just dry because I have  Hashimotos Thyroiditis, but after many failed attempts at moisturizing with different foot salves, I started to realized it’s got to be something else. My feet, really just my heels, are  killing me! I can’t sleep at night because the pain is exaggerated at nighttime for some reason. They have fissures, some so deep, that I can’t walk on them without going on my tippy toes. They are itchy, peeling and driving me nuts! The dermatologist gave me strong steroid cream saying it was eczema caused by contact dermatitis, but what that contact was is still a mystery. I had to do research on my own and I came up with two possible culprits, my Nike Air vapormax sneakers which are worn without socks so my feet have direct contact with the rubber soles and my Lauren Conrad flip flops from Kohl’s, both shoes I wear every day,  religiously. Please help me figure out what can be causing this awful pain so I can know what shoes to wear and not to wear from now on. Thank you in advance!

Lisa’s Answer

I am not a doctor so I really can’t diagnose any type of reaction.  Take a look at Debra’s List to find non-toxic shoe options.  Readers, has anyone experienced these symptoms and found shoes that work?

 

Magic Eraser

Question from Jen

A friend recently mentioned that she uses a magic eraser to clean her tub and shower-and many other house things like wall smudges, kitchen sink, etc. I keep hearing how wonderful these eraser sponges are but before I tackle some heavy duty cleaning, I wanted to check the safety of them (especially regarding bathtub or kitchen sinks).

Lisa’s Answer

EWG’s Guide to Healthy Cleaning rates Magic Eraser products as a D or F, depending on the variety.  The low rating is due mainly to a lack of disclosure of the ingredients.

Certifications: What Do They Mean?

There are so many “non-toxic” certifications in the marketplace today.  It can be confusing trying to figure out what they mean and, importantly, what they don’t mean.

The problem with most of these certifications is:

  • They are only testing a limited number of chemicals and
  • They are only testing the chemicals to an accepted level

In most cases, certifications show that a product may have a lower toxicity than a non-certified product but not that it is completely non-toxic.

Let’s take a look at two common certifications, GREENGUARD and GREENGUARD Gold.

GREENGUARD is a third party certification, which means it is an independent testing company that evaluates products for a fee.  The company is transparent about its testing methodology and criteria.

What it Tests

  • It tests for volatile organic chemicals (VOCs) and their impact on air quality. See the complete list of criteria here.
  • Formaldehyde must be below .05 parts per million (ppm).
  • Individual VOCs must fall below 1/10th TLV.  The threshold limit value (TLV) of a chemical substance is believed to be a level to which a worker can be exposed day after day for a working lifetime without adverse health effects.

What it Does NOT Test

  • This is only a test for chemical impact on air quality. It does not test for chemicals that do not significantly impact air quality but may be harmful to ingest or absorb through the skin such as lead or phthalates.

Overall, this a reputable organization with some of the strictest criteria in the world.  You can be assured that certified products have relatively low toxicity, meaning that if you are faced with buying a certified product or a product with no certification it may be a safer bet.  It does not mean that it is non-toxic.  It is possible that it contains formaldehyde at levels that, when combined with other formaldehyde-containing items in your home, could cause a reaction in sensitive individuals.  While there are no standards for formaldehyde levels in homes, according to the American Cancer Society, some people experience health effects when formaldehyde is present in the air at levels higher than 0.1ppm.  If GREENGUARD certified products can contain .05ppm and you have any other items in your home that are emitting formaldehyde you could easily reach an unacceptable level.

If you are buying engineered flooring, be sure to ask if it contains phthalates because the GREENGUARD does not test for it.

GREENGUARD GOLD is a stricter certification than GREENGUARD and is designed for sensitive individuals, such as students and the elderly, and is intended for environments such as schools and health care facilities.

What it Tests

  • Limits emissions of more than 360 chemicals
  • Limits total VOC emission of a product
  • Formaldehyde must be below .0073 ppm.
  • Individual VOCs must fall below 1/100thTLV

 

What it Does NOT Test

  • Similar to the standard GREENGUARD certification, it only test for chemical impact on air quality. It does not test for chemicals that do not significantly impact air quality but may be harmful to ingest or absorb through the skin such as lead or phthalates.

 

As you can see, GREENGUARD GOLD limits chemical emissions to a much lower level that the standard GREENGUARD certification.  It does, however, have the same limitations because it only measures for the impact of chemicals on air quality.

Vegan Suede Shoes

Question from Joe

I was wondering what your opinion of these shoes im planning to purchase https://wills-vegan-store.com/vegan-dock-boots-mens-tan-vegan-suede.html. When i messaged the company it said the vegan suede was created with polyurethane based materials that are similar to polyester? Are these safe to wear?

Lisa’s Answer

Polyurethane is a safe plastic but it can have additives that are not safe.  The company specifies that the suede (but not the entire shoe!) is Oeko Tex 100 certified, so the suede itself is probably fine.  The TR outsole, which is synthetic rubber is made from petroleum and can offgass.  However, most shoes have this type of sole.  I have never seen a work boot with an outsole made of a natural material.  The most concerning component is the insole, which is made from recycled rubber.  Studies show that recycled rubber, likely from recycled tires, can offgas harmful chemicals.  The company is not able to tell the source of the recycled rubber.  If the insole can be removed, you could replace it will a natural material.  Overall, these boots are probably better than a standard pair of leather workbooks.  The company seems very ethically conscious and is trying to be transparent.

 

Air.O Carpet by Mohawk

Question from Donna

We are replacing the carpet in all of our bedrooms, which adds up to over 1200 sq. ft.  We’ve priced out wool carpet and padding, and it is very expensive.  (I don’t want hardwood flooring upstairs in the bedrooms for several reasons.)  A vendor is recommending Air.O carpet by Mohawk, which is supposed to be VOC and odor free and is carpet and padding in one.  It’s also supposed to be hypoallergenic and made of 100% PET.  They have stated there are no flame retardants in the backing.  Have you heard of this carpet and what would you think of it as a more economical option?  Thank you!

Lisa’s Answer

This is a great example of a product with a second-party certification, which means it is certified by an industry association affiliated with the products it tests.  In this case, the The Carpet and Rug Institute, a  carpet industry association has come up with its own certification called the Green Label Plus Indoor Air Quality Standard.  Keep in minded, it has a vested interest in certifying as many rugs and carpets as possible to earn revenue and sell more products.  On its website it actually states that, “the carpet industry has a long history of creating products that provide numerous benefits, especially for indoor air quality.”  In fact, carpets are a know source of VOC emissions.

It is difficult to understand the criteria for certification based on the information provided on the website, however, it does comply with California’s Collaborative for High Performance Schools (CHPS) low-emitting materials criteria, which are fairly rigorous.  The claim that it is VOC free most likely means that it has VOC emission, but the levels fall below a certain standardl.

Without more specific information, I would assume that this is a better choice than other synthetic wall-to-wall carpets but not as safe as one made of natural materials.  Understanding cost is an issue, I would ask the company these additional questions.

What is the level ( in parts per million) of formaldehyde emissions?

Is the entire product free of flame retardants or just the backing?

Are chromium dyes used in the carpeting?

 

Mold Remediation

Question from Catherine

After sanitizing the moldy basement in the house we just bought, remediators want to apply a protectant/encapsulant to seal the surfaces.  The two possibilities are Bac-Shield (http://chemtexlaboratories.com/bacshield/) and Caliwel (https://www.caliwel.com/CaliwelIndustrial.aspx).  I’m terribly sensitive. What do you think?

Lisa’s Answer

Caliwel claims no VOCs and uses Calcium Hydroxide (lime) as an active ingredient, which is an irritant but not particularly toxic in this application.  Here is an older thread that discussing some companies using hydrogen peroxide for remediation.  Cailwel does not seem particularly toxic but hydrogen peroxide is safer.  As for your personal sensitivity, every individual is different so its impossible to tell what you might cause you to react.

I was not able to find information about Bac-Shield’s VOC content so I would go with Caliwel due to the lack of information.

 

Thuiram Mix

Question from Catherine

Looking for shoes, sneakers not made with thuiram mix.

Lisa’s Answer

This is not something I have researched.  Readers, has anyone looked into this?

Toxins in Toilet Paper

We use toilet paper multiple times a day in our most personal of areas.  Yet, we hear about scary stuff that could be hiding in each roll.  With so many options on the shelves it’s difficult to figure what to use and what to avoid.  Here are the toxins to be wary of and a guide to help you choose the right brand for you.

Chlorine Dioxide

Toilet paper brands made from virgin pulp (not recycled paper) are usually bleached with chlorine dioxide.  When you hear or read about chlorine in toilet paper it’s misleading because chlorine dioxide is different from chlorine.  Until the late 1990s, pure chlorine, or elemental chlorine, was used for paper bleaching and was a significant source of dioxin.   Dioxins, which are persistent environmental pollutants and accumulate in the food chain, are among the most toxic chemicals on earth. The EPA began regulating the paper industry which led North American paper mills to convert from elemental chlorine to chlorine derivatives, such as chlorine dioxide, which are significantly less toxic and reduce the potential for dioxins by 90%.  So, today’s toilet paper bleached with chlorine dioxide is safer than the paper produced decades ago with elemental chlorine.  Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean chlorine dioxide is safe. It’s strictly regulated by the EPA as a hazardous chemical.  And it still releases dioxins into the environment which is detrimental at any level.

This background is important to understand when reading marketing claims on toilet paper packaging. The following acronyms are used by the U.S. Pulp and Paper Industry to describe “safer” bleaching processes. Here’s what they really mean:

(ECF) Elemental Chlorine Free:  Paper bleached with chlorine dioxide instead of elemental chlorine.

As we know, elemental chlorine is no longer used in the U.S. to bleach paper products, so this does not mean that products with this label are any safer than others.  In fact, we know that chlorine dioxide is still a danger to humans and to the environment.  Some brands also claim “Chlorine-Free”.  Be wary of this as it can simply mean that they use a chlorine derivative such as chlorine dioxide.

(PCF) Process Chlorine Free:  This is used for recycled paper.  It means no chlorine or chlorine derivative was added during the production process. Ozone, oxygen or hydrogen peroxide are used for bleaching.

(TCF) Totally Chlorine Free:  This is used for virgin paper.  Ozone, oxygen or hydrogen peroxide are used for bleaching.

Formaldehyde

Some brands of toilet paper use formaldehyde to make the paper stronger when it is wet.

Formaldehyde is a carcinogen as well as an irritant.  One study linked toilet paper to chronic irritation in women.  If a brand claims that it is particularly thick, strong, or absorbent, suspect that it contains formaldehyde.

BPA

Recycled toilet paper is made from paper scraps.  Thermal paper, such as cash register receipts are a known source of BPA.  When they get processes to make recycled paper, trace amounts of BPA can end up in the finished product.  A 2011 study found that 80 of 94 toilet paper brands contained BPA.  However, for perspective, BPA in toilet paper was detected in microgram-per-gram concentrations while thermal paper receipts were measured in milligram-per-gram concentrations.  That’s 1000 times more exposure from receipts than toilet paper!

Fragrances/Lotions

It’s difficult to get companies to disclose all of the chemical additives used for fragrance or added features like lotion.  We know that fragrances are often a cocktail of chemicals and sometimes include phthalates, a known endocrine disrupter.  Lotions can include parabens, which are linked to hormone disruption and breast cancer, as well as other harmful ingredients.  It’s best to avoid any products boasting these features.

Buying Guide

Avoid:  Toilet Paper made with Virgin Pulp

Sadly, this is the fluffy, white stuff that most people prefer.  If chlorine dioxide, dioxins and the possibility of formaldehyde are not enough to deter you, think of the fact that 54 million trees are harvested per year for toilet paper production.

Better: Recycled Toilet Paper

These brands will likely contain trace amounts of BPA.  While it is best to avoid all exposures to BPA, humans are at far greater risk of exposure from food and beverage containers and cash register receipts than from toilet paper.  If you choose this option, look for brands that contain 100% recycled content and are bleached with PCF.  Some brands do use ECF so look carefully.

It’s worth noting that Seventh Generation openly addresses the BPA problem on their website and are actively working toward solutions.  They should be commended for their transparency.  Plus, they use hydrogen peroxide for bleaching (which is PCF)!

Best:  100% Bamboo or Bamboo & Sugar Cane Toilet Paper

These brands do not contain BPA because there is no recycled content.  They do not need formaldehyde for strengthening because bamboo fibers are naturally strong.  Most of them use hydrogen peroxide for bleaching, although some use a combination of hydrogen peroxide and ECF.  An added benefit is that bamboo and sugar cane are grasses, not trees, which are naturally renewable.

Do they work?

None of these bamboo and sugar cane brands compare in softness or strength to traditional, virgin pulp brands.  However, if you are used to using recycled brands you will probably find these less-toxic alternatives to be good options.  Like the recycled brands, they vary widely in appearance and functionality. My family found 2 of the 5 brands we tried acceptable.

NooTrees

This was my favorite in the category.  The 3-ply sheets are the strongest of the five tested and did not break down during tough cleaning jobs.  It is relatively soft and thick and looks the most like traditional toilet paper.

WHOLEROLL

Also 3-ply, this is soft and strong but not quite as thick as NooTrees.

ECOS

This is not as soft as NooTrees or Wholeroll but it holds up and does an acceptable job.

Tree Free

This did not work for me. It is thin and rough and sometimes crumbles.

Caboo

This did not work for me. It is thin and sometimes crumbles.

Non-Toxic Hangers

Question from Phoebe

I saw an older post about hangers, and I was wondering if anyone has any updated information. I am trying to fin non toxic hangers that will last that are preferably eco friendly as well. I cannot find the Ditto hangers for sale anywhere besides one sketchy seeming ebay seller. Did the whole non toxic, eco friendly hanger movement die? Any recommendations?

Lisa’s Answer

I also like chrome-plated hangers from The Container Store.  They don’t have any coatings.

LifeStraw Glass Water Filter

Question from Kathryn

Hello!  Curious if you’ve seen the LifeStraw glass water filter and think it could be valuable if not currently able to install a full filtration system…  thanks!

Lisa’s Answer

It’s good to see a countertop filter with a glass jug and an activated carbon filter.  Without doing a full analysis of other pitcher filters in the price range ($55), I can only give you a cursory assessment.  It doesn’t seem to filter harmful chemicals such as chlorine and lead as well as mainstream brands like Brita.  For example, Brita filters out 99% of lead and chlorine while LifeStraw filters 97% and 95.4%, respectively.  You are making a tradeoff of a glass pitcher for less effective filtering.

If you can afford a bit more, Pure Effect, which is what I have in my house, offers a counter top model for $170.  It does need to be hooked up to your faucet and does have plastic housing but it does the most comprehensive job of filtering chemicals and contaminants that I have found.

 

Titanium Dioxide in EnviroKlenz

Question from Lanette

Recently I’ve been reading a lot about the dangers of nano-particles of titanium dioxide and zinc oxide in products, particularly in sunscreen. I know Debra was a big fan of Enviroklenz (air cleaners and related air purifying products), as am I. They all contain titanium dioxide. Is theirs the nano type or the non-nano type? Also would you give more information on what this is?

Lisa’s Answer

I confirmed with EnviroKlenz that the titanium dioxide is much larger than nano-particles and poses no health risk.

Lemi Shine Detergent Booster

Question from Liz

We have very hard water and I am SO SICK of the scum that builds up on everything that goes into the dishwasher I’m ready to trash the beast and do dishes by hand. But there are three in our house and we always cook meals at home, so that would be quite a chore so I’m looking for a different solution.

A friend recommended adding Lemi Shine Dish Detergent Booster when running the dishwasher, but I can’t find much about its toxicity. The package says it’s “Natural, Safe, Biodegradable, Phosphate Free, Non-Toxic, Septic system safe” but who knows if that means anything?

Any thoughts on this product? Or is there another you would recommend for very hard water? I’ve been using Biokleen dishwasher detergent, but it really doesn’t work here.

Lisa’s Answer

The website lists citric acid and fragrance as ingredients.  Citric acid is not a concern.  Fragrance, as you probably know, can be a mix of many potentially harmful chemicals.  The website’s Q&A section claims that only a small fraction of the fragrance is synthetic and most is essential oils.  It doesn’t sound terrible but there may be non-toxic alternatives.  Readers, any recommendations?

Futon Pad To Stop Slipping

Question from Shannon

After Debra Lynn Dadd educated me to the flame retardants and toxic foam in my sofa I replaced it with a futon. I have a solid wood futon frame and wool mattress with an organic cotton cover. My only problem is that the mattress keeps slipping off.  Can you recommended a way to stop this? The Futon Shop has a product called futon stop slip. It is made of foam. Is this non toxic?

Lisa’s Answer

While the site doesn’t say what it is made of other than “foam” it is likely polyurethane foam which is not non-toxic.  I use a natural latex rug pad under my carpeting which might work and its not super expensive.  Check it out here.  I’d prefer that the latex was GOLS certified but I wasn’t able to find one with certification.

Finding Non-Toxic Dishwashers

Dishwashers are one of the more difficult purchases when planning your non-toxic home because they use many different materials and it’s difficult to get manufacturers or retail sellers to disclose those materials.  Many sales representatives simply don’t know what’s used to make their products.

 

When I purchased my dishwasher a few years ago I was focused on finding models that didn’t use PCV in the racks.  Recently, a new material of concern, bitumen, has been a popular topic in Toxic-Free Q&A.

 

Bitumen in Dishwashers

 

According to Wikipedia, bitumen, also known as asphalt, is a sticky, black, liquid or semi-solid form of petroleum.  It’s widely used in dishwashers as a sound-deadening insulation.  Some consumers complain of a tar smell from newly installed units.

 

But, just how dangerous is bitumen when used in these conditions?  Research on the toxicity of asphalt focuses on the fumes that workers are exposed to in the pavement and roofing industries.  It’s less clear how much it off-gasses once cured.  Miele, a manufacturer of high-end dishwashers, claims that the bitumen is fully encapsulated and will never emit any vapor or fumes of any kind.  The bottom line is more testing needs to be done to better understand the toxicity of bitumen in this application.

 

Some models use more bitumen than others depending on the type of tub.  Base on the information I received from 7 manufacturers, dishwashers with stainless steel tubs generally use bitumen in the insulation on all sides of the tub. Dishwashers with plastic tubs generally only use bitumen in the door panel or lid.  So, is it better to have less bitumen with a plastic tub or more bitumen with a stainless steel tub?  Again, it’s hard to say without better understanding just how dangerous bitumen is under each condition.

 

Here’s where it gets even trickier.  The one model I found that does not use bitumen uses other materials for sound-deadening insulation.  The GE model GDF630PSMSS uses an insulation blanket and insulation mastic.  The manufacturer was unable to tell me the materials used in those items but according to Wikipedia, among the commonly used materials in insulation blankets are PTFE laminates.  That’s right, PTFE, otherwise known as Teflon.  Mastics, like coatings and paints, have a range of VOC levels depending on the formula, so it is impossible to assess the toxicity without more information.

 

A further complicating factor is that it’s difficult to rely on information gathered from manufacturers.  Some models that readers posted as free of bitumen are ones that I found to contain bitumen, but with a lower amount than other models.   Again, I don’t believe this misleading information is intentional but more a lack of understanding by company employees.  Nonetheless, it’s hard to know exactly what you are getting.

 

Here’s how 7 dishwasher manufacturers reported their use of bitumen.

Bosch:  All models are made with bitumen.

Fisher & Paykel:  Sides are insulated with cotton fiber and bitumen is used on the top of the lid.

GE:  All models are made with bitumen with the exception of model #GDF630PSMSS which uses an insulation blanket and insulation mastic.

KitchenAid:  All have bitumen in some degree.  Models with stainless steel tubs use bitumen on all side. Models with plastic tubs only use bitumen in the door panel.

Maytag:  All have bitumen in some degree.  Models with stainless steel tubs use bitumen on all side.  Models with plastic tubs only use bitumen in the door panel.

Miele:  All models are made with bitumen, but it is fully encapsulated and will never emit any vapor or fumes of any kind.

Whirlpool:  All have bitumen in some degree.  Models with stainless steel tubs use bitumen on all side. Models with plastic tubs only use bitumen in the door panel.

Plastics in Dishwashers

 

This is actually some good news. Plastic components inside of new dishwashers, which can include tubs, racks, silverware baskets and spraying arms, are now being made with safer plastics.  PVC used to be a commonly used material in racks but fortunately, most are now made of nylon.  Plastic tubs, silverware baskets and spraying arms are usually made with polypropylene, which does not contain BPA or phthalates.  It’s worth verifying, before you purchase a specific model, that the parts are made with these safer plastics.

 

Let’s continue to gather information on dishwashers.  What has been your experience with new dishwasher purchases?  Are there detectable odors after installation and for how long?  Have you found a model that is free of bitumen?  Keep me posted!

Fragrance Free Shampoo and Conditioner

Question from Audrey

First Granny’s went out of business and now Magick Botanicals is out of business. Need fragrance free shampoo and conditioner.  Cannot tolerate odor of herbs or flower extracts – has to be totally fragrance free. Carters has olive oil shampoo, but after a while, the smell of the oil got to me and I had to stop using it. Any suggestions?

Lisa’s Answer

Debra’s List has a whole section of fragrance free body care products. These are usually not organic, but they qualify here because they have eliminated the very toxic synthetic fragrance. These products have no fragrance of any kind—synthetic or natural. NOTE: Some of these websites sell products with fragrance and without.

Untreated Towels

Question from Audrey

I used to get my towels from either LLBean or Blair Catalogs. They both now have their towels treated so it is fade resistant.  LLBean has organic towels but are very expensive.  Where can I buy bath towels the way they used to be – not treated for fade resistant.  Thank you.

Lisa’s Answer

There are many untreated towels available on Debra’s List.  Readers, please leave a comment if you have found other reasonably priced untreated towels.

CA Prop 65 warning of Cadmium

Question from Chris

I have a question about (another) CA Prop 65 warning.:
I’m finding a warning for Cadmium somewhere in a bathroom vanity I was about to buy.
I can only guess Cadmium is used in the white paint on this.
Since this an item subject to the most head/humidity in the house, is this particular warning one I should take seriously? Should I assume Cadmium in the paint will off-gas in these temperatures?

Lisa’s Answer

The concern about cadmium is not from off-gassing but from ingestion.  For example, the European Standard bans the use of cadmium in children’s toys for fear that they will be exposed if they chew on the toy or put it in their mouth.
The greatest sources of exposure for a consumer to cadmium are through food and cigarette smoke. Absorption through the skin is negligible.
If you recall, reports of cadmium in children’s jewelry caused alarm in recents years.  The reason for limits on children’s jewelry but not adults is the assumption that children are more likely to put things in their mouths.
I would consider this a low risk of exposure, but certainly try to find something without cadmium if possible.

Chemical Safety Regulations

In 2016, the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21stCentury Act was passed into law, updating the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) which was enacted in 1976.   Under TSCA, only a few hundred out of 85,000 chemicals approved for use were reviewed for safety.  Only 5 of those were banned.

 

The Lautenberg Chemical Safety Act was intended to bring much needed improvement to our chemical safety regulations.  It required 10 priority chemicals to be assessed immediately and by 2020 it requires 20 evaluations ongoing at any time.  In 2017, the EPA changed the rules to allow the agency to only look at a subset of a chemical’s uses when assessing its safety.  As a result, when the EPA evaluated the 10 priority chemicals it did not take into account the risks caused by the chemical’s presence in air, water or soil.

 

Here is the status of some of the most dangerous chemicals in use:

 

Chlorpyrifosis a pesticide used extensively in fruit and vegetable crops.  Research has shown that even a small amount can slow children’s brain development and it is toxic to farm workers.

  • In 2016, the EPA recommended to ban the chemical.
  • In 2019, the EPA decided to keep it on market sighting insufficient data.

 

Asbestosis banned by most other industrialized nations.  It is a known carcinogen.

  • In 2017, the EPA refused to finalize the proposed ban claiming the science is unresolved.
  • In 2019, the EPA chose to restrict rather than ban the chemical.

 

Trichloroethylene (TCE)is used as a degreaser and is used as an ingredient in adhesives, paint removers and spot removers.  The EPA concluded that it causes cancer and other serious health effects.

  • In 2016, the EPA proposed a ban for use as an aerosol spray degreaser and dry-cleaning spot treatment. This was the first EPA proposed ban in 25 years.
  • In 2017, the EPA proposed to indefinitely delay the ban.

 

Methylene Chlorideis used in paint stripping.  It is a likely carcinogen and has been linked to more than 50 deaths.

  • In 2016, the EPA proposed a ban for use as a paint stripper.
  • In 2017, the EPA proposed to indefinitely delay the ban.
  • In 2018, the EPA banned the chemical for use in consumer products but allows for its continued use in commercial products.

 

N-Methylpyrrolidone (NMP) is used as a paint stripper.  It can cause birth defects and reproductive issues.

  • In 2016, the EPA prosed a ban or restrictions for use in paint strippers.
  • In 2017, the EPA proposed to indefinitely delay the ban.

 

 

The EPA has not made progress banning harmful chemicals under the new TSCA law but it has been very quick to approve new chemicals, reviewing over 2000 and approving over half of them. Please consider supporting organizations like Environmental Working Group (EWG) which is a non-profit, non-partisan organization dedicated to protecting human health and the environment.

Styrofoam in Hydroponics

Question from TL

Hi, I have seen styrofoam float used widely in hydroponic farming. Agree hydroponic is pesticide free, but does styrofoam has similar”food grade” like PU foam MDI or is styrofoam used in hydroponic farming safe at all? Thank you.

Lisa’s Answer

There are two primary forms of polystyrene; solid and foam.  Polystyrene foam is either EPS (expanded polystyrene) or XPS (extruded polystyrene).  Styrofoam is a brand name for EPS and is used for products like foam drinking cups. XPS is a denser foam and is used for insulation as well as in food packaging, such as meat trays.   A product used for flotation would be foam polystyrene and could be either EPS or XPS.  Both are considered food grade.
But, back to your questions: are they safe?
According to chemicalsafetyfacts.org, The FDA as well as the European Commission/European Food Safety Authority consider polystyrene safe for use in contact with food.  However, the EPA consider styrene, which is a primary component of polystyrene, a probable human carcinogen.  The reason for the discrepancy is that the FDA considers the migration of styrene form polystyrene products into food and beverages to be significantly below FDA guidelines.

So, you need to make the call for yourself.  Personally, I don’t want to risk leaching of a probable carcinogen into my food.  It is possible to uses polyurethane floats in hydroponics however, according to 365aquaponics, polyurethane is sometimes “improved” for better insulation by adding isocyanurates, which are hazardous chemicals.  Its’ also worth noting that some XPS foam board is Greenguard certified.  Don’t let this fool you; Greenguard does not test for leaching into food or water so it says nothing about the safety of eating food grown in this meduim.

 
I don’t mean to give hydroponics a bad rap.  There are materials used in conventional farming that also cause concern.  It highlights the lack of transparency in food production as a whole.  If you are growing your own food or buying from small, local producers it makes sense to understand the materials used in the process.

Hydration Bladders

Question from Pedro

Hello, I recently started looking for hydration backpacks and I am finding that the bladders are made from either TPU or PEVA.  Which one is less toxic? Are there better options? Help! I just want to keep my kids safe. Thank you.

Lisa’s Answer

If you plan to use them infrequently either is fine.  Both TPU and PEVA have very low toxicity.  However, as they are still made with petrochemicals, you might not want to drink out of them on a regular basis.  Unfortunately, I have looked for non-plastic bladders for my family and not found any.

ATC Trailers

Question from Kelly

Has anyone with MCS tried the ATC (Aluminum Trailer company)?  It can be ordered with all aluminum interior.  This option is impossible to find used and it seems I will need to order a new one.  I have severe MCS, Athsma, COPD, and allergies (allergic to wood so can’t do the toxic free trailers).  I cannot find any reviews on them for MCS on the ACT and am concerned with how long it will take to off gas.

Lisa’s Answer

Readers, does anyone have experience with this company?

Cadmium

Question from Olga

I recently purchased furniture from Wayfair.com.  The smell is awful and not going away after several weeks.  I contacted them and told them about it.  They really don’t care.  After looking into the furniture and maker I realized it has a warning for California proposition 65.  I called them back trying to get more information on this and how it can affect my health and my children’s Health.  The person I spoke to said we should be fine since we are not eating the furniture. The chemical in question is Cadmium.  I have looked into it and all the side effects of this chemical.  Is she right? Are we ok because it is on furniture and not being ingested??

Lisa’s Answer

I think you have two different issues.  The smell is not likely due to cadmium, which does not have a detectable odor.  The smell is more likely VOC off-gassing from adhesives, sealants or coatings.  It’s difficult to identify the source without knowing what type of furniture you have purchased and what materials it is made from.  One option is to seal any hard surfaces with a product like AFM Safecoat.  It may also help to air it out outside for several days.

As for the cadmium, it is most likely from a pigment or coating on the furniture.  While cadmium can be absorbed through the skin, that is not considered to be a major route of exposure.  The most worrisome type of exposure after cigarette smoke, is ingestion, which is why it’s so important to make sure your cookware does not contain cadmium.  Cadmium in your furniture is a lower risk than in your cookware but I still would not want it in my home.

Dental Compositites

Question from Kimberly

Hi Lisa,

Years of searching for dental composite replacements for simple fillings.

Most of them have BPA and TEGMA related compounds. The ones that do not still have horrible chemical tastes to them.

Would love some safer alternatives.

Lisa’s Answer

The most comprehensive study I have seen that actually tests the composites is the following from PubMed.gov:
Table 4 shows a list of composites that do not contain bis-GMA ( the most commonly used BPA derivative).  Only 1 contained neither Bis-GMA nor TEGDMA.
I can’t speak to the taste of any of them.
You might ask your Dentist to help you identify some options and request a Material Data Sheet.  Look out for the following: BPA, bis-GMA, TEGDMA, or UDMA.  Just because it claims to be BPA-Free doesn’t mean there isn’t potential exposure to BPA as derivatives such as bis-GMA can convert to BPA in the mouth.

Zeolite Detox Symptoms

Question from Barbara

Hi Lisa,

Checking to see if taking the zeolite will produce detox symptoms?  If so how severe or not?  Can I start out slow in taking the product?

Lisa’s Answer

I have not personally used zeolite but the Pure Body website had the following reply:
“The zeolite Clinoptilolite has been granted GRAS (Generally Recognized As Safe) status by the Food and Drug Administration. Since zeolites will attract water to facilitate the detoxification process, adequate filtered water intake is suggested (8 to 10 glasses a day). If any signs of dehydration do appear (headaches, tiredness), increase your water intake and reduce your zeolite intake for that day.

Safe Drywall

Question from Teresa

Hi Lisa,

Can you please share the best safest types of drywall? I was looking at Magnesium oxide but hearing things about cracking.
Thanks

Lisa’s Answer

I have also read about pervasive cracking with magnesium oxide boards.
EWG has a helpful guide on drywall.  They recommend looking for Greenguard Gold certified products.  I used National Gypsum Company’s Gold Bond for my house.  We then safeguarded our air quality by following instillation guidelines from Prescriptions for a Healthy House (Baker-Laporte, Elliott, &, Banta, 2008).   I recommend this book as a great guide for very specific information on new building and renovations.
There are alternatives to gypsum board, one of which is magnesium oxide boards, but I could not get comfortable with their potential cracking issues.  Another alternative is a paperless product called DensArmor Plus. I don’t have any experience with this nor do I know its shortcomings but it is both Greenguard Gold certified and recommended in the book mentioned above.

Ants

Question from Jen

Hi there! I’m looking for advice on how to handle an influx of kitchen ants this summer.  My usual methods (ie – clean counters, all food put away in sealed packaging, etc) aren’t working.  I can’t even tell where they’re coming from specifically, can’t locate ant hills in the yard. Very confusing. I’m not ready to call in an exterminator quite yet (although my husband is quickly losing patience!) I’ve heard good results with the following products but since I have kids who play on the floor and pets who lick their paws I’m hesitant to use.
1-Terro ant traps
2-zevo ant spray
Thanks for your help and any recommendations you might have for me.

Lisa’s Answer

I would definitely avoid commercial ant traps if possible.
The first step is to seal any openings.  I know you said you can’t locate where they are coming from but it’s worth continuing to try to identify the source.
There are many natural ways to kill ants.  My tried and true used to be a mix of Borax, sugar and water.  It worked great, but I recently read an EWG article about the toxicity of Borax.
Another natural option is mixing vinegar and water in a spray bottle and spraying the ants.  I’ve read that peppermint, cinnamon, and lemon juice are all effective but I haven’t tried them myself.
I was surprised to learn that Terro’s active ingredient is, in fact, Borax.  It’s better than more toxic pesticides but I would still avoid it, particularly if you have kids and pets.  As an absolute last resort, you could use the Terro traps outside the house to prevent them from coming in.  It’s not ideal but at least you wouldn’t have it inside your home.
Has anyone had success with a natural remedy?

PVC and Microban in Air Conditioning

Question from Paula

Hi Lisa,

My situation is that I’m getting central air conditioning installed, and want to avoid all toxic components. I’m wondering if having PVC or Microban in my attic is something I should worry about (my attic isn’t air sealed from my living space, and air sealing is probably too expensive at this time). I guess my question is, is there a distance from which toxic chemicals aren’t a health danger?

Lisa’s Answer

The distance is not really the important factor since air will be moving through the AC system, through your vents, and into your home.  I would avoid PVC and Microban if possible.

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