Water | Swimming Pools
Question from TJG
After an exhaustive search for a 100% nylon shower curtain (untreated) I settled for one that some websites touted as having the lease toxic material (Berning). But when I received product which was labeled as 100% nylon, I cross referenced it on manufacturers sight (Carnation Home fashions) and it was classified as polyester. There is no chemical odor to it but is nylon a safer material for those with chemical sensitivities and allergies?
If the product is labelled 100% nylon, it should be nylon. I looked at the manufacturer’s website and see where it says it is 100% nylon but then goes on to say it is 100% polyester. You could call the company to clarify. Perhaps it is a typo. I can’t tell you what any sensitive person will react to because everyone is different.
Question from Joyce
I have a small teapot, sugar and creamer labeled L.H. Vaughn, Taunton, Mass. In searching I discovered he started in business in 1915. They have not darkened in the 6 years I have had them. Did he use lead in the making of his pewter items? Because they have not darkened in time can I assume there is no lead in them?
I can’t tell you about that particular maker, but old pewter (made before the 1970’s) was typically made with lead. Did you purchase them new 6 years ago or are they older pieces? If they were made in the early 1900’s I would assume there is lead in it. It is generally true that the darker the pewter, the more lead. However, since there is no safe level of lead, I would not recommend using it.
Question from Dawn
What are the best air cleaners and protection from EMF’s?
Here is my Air Purifier Buying Guide. I am not an expert in EMF’s.
Question from Dawn
I don’t know what stores in the Pittsburgh area carry non or low toxic reclining furniture and I need to buy some for the new home we plan to be in fairly soon.
I am not familiar with local stores in your area. You can check out Debra’s List for non-toxic furniture makers. There are many options for loveseats, though non-toxic options tend to be expensive. I am not aware of any non-toxic recliners on the market but there are companies that might be able to custom make one for you. It will not be inexpensive. Pine Street Natural Interiors is one to try.
Almost all traditionally made upholstered furniture is made with polyurethane foam cushioning. The polyurethane foam is likely to contain formaldehyde and possibly flame retardants. Formaldehyde can continue to off-gas for the life of the product and flame retardants in the foam can break down and end up in household dust. The other things to avoid in traditional furniture are treated fabrics, leather tanned with harmful chemicals, high-VOC adhesives and stains.
Question from Elle
I am looking at the play mat with the link below (the website includes some safety reports):
Inner: High Density Polyethylene FoamCover: Polyurethane Leather
The company states that it is the only playmat cover that is made from *FDA compliant (food contact grade) material. Plus the premium polyurethane leather is ultra soft, non-toxic, and hypoallergenic.
*FDA 21 CFR §175.300, Resinous and Polymeric Coatings. No chloroform residue was found after 24 hours exposure to 120℉ solvent.
Can you kindly comment if it is safe for babies/infants? Thank you in advance for your advice.
A simple answer to your question is yes, it is safe. It meets all of the safety requirements and is free of some of the more concerning ingredients you might find in a this type of product including PVC, EVA, TPA, BPA, Lead, Phthalate, Fire Retardants, Formamide, and Formaldehyde. It is considered food safe in the event that a child licks it. The problem with polyurethane foam or polyethylene foam is that they are often made with chemical additives. The safety standards can make you feel comfortable that there are not high levels of chemicals but it doesn’t mean there are no chemicals and therefore no VOCs. It is probably okay, but of course, is not as safe as a mat made of organic cotton with a natural fill. I understand that this is easier to clean and provides more protection from falls, so the tradeoff is yours to make.
Another option is Cream Haus.
It is OEKO-TEX Standard 100 certified which tells you that there is an additional standard that the mats need to meet. I can’t tell you specifically which chemicals are absent or lower than the other mat because manufactures do not disclose the chemicals used in their processing but it is one more layer of regulation.
There are hundreds of portable indoor air purifiers on the market. Finding the best one for your needs can be a daunting task. Most air purifiers, particularly inexpensive models, only filter particulate matter but do nothing to remove gases, VOCs and odor. If your goal is to remove as many of the most harmful contaminants as possible from your indoor air you need to look for air purifiers that remove both particulate and gaseous matter.
5 Things to Consider When Buying an Air Purifier
Type of Filtration
Most filters are designed to remove either particles or gases. A unit that does both will have two or more types of filters. For example, a unit with only HEPA filtration will do nothing to eliminate gaseous pollutants.
HEPA stands for high-efficiency particulate air. True HEPA filters are manufactured and certified to a standard in which 99.97% of all particles that have a size greater than or equal to 0.3 microns are captured. But not all HEPA filters perform equally. Some air purifiers with True HEPA filters can have different levels of efficiency and performance. Keep reading to learn why efficiency is an important criteria when choosing an air purifier.
Sorbent media filters use material with very high surface area to capture gaseous pollutants.
This is the most common type of sorbent filter used in air purifiers. Carbon can be very efficient at capturing gaseous pollutants but it does not destroy them. According to the EPA, filters must be properly maintained to prevent the carbon from becoming saturated. Once saturated, captured gases can break through and re-release into the air. Carbon is typically not as effective at removing low-weight aldehydes such as formaldehyde.
Some filters use chemisorption to stabilize gases and to help to target a variety of chemicals activated carbon cannot effectively remove. Chemisorption occurs when a gas reacts with an agent that is impregnated into the sorbent media.
This is a proprietary type of sorbent media that is used in EnviroKlenz purifiers. It is comprised of zinc oxide, magnesium oxide, and titanium dioxide. The earth minerals adsorb, neutralize and breakdown the chemical compounds into basic, non-toxic elements. This media also uses chemisorption to stabilize chemical compounds.
Ultraviolet Germicidal Irradiation uses UV lamps to kill or deactivate captured microorganisms such as bacteria, mold spores, and viruses.
PCO and PECO
Photocatalytic Oxidation (PCO) uses UV light and a filter coated with titanium oxide to convert harmful pollutants into harmless water and carbon dioxide. PCO can be effective at transforming many pollutants but may produce chemical by-products, such as formaldehyde, and some may produce ozone.
PECO, photo electrochemical oxidation, is the proprietary technology used by Molekule. PECO was developed based on similar principles as PCO, photocatalytic oxidation, but it uses a different type of UV light to begin the chemical reaction that breaks down the pollutants and claims to not produce ozone or chemical by-products.
Ozone generators produce ozone which react with chemical and biologic pollutants and break them down or destroy them. Ozone is a lung irritant and its production can produce harmful by-products. No federal agency has approved ozone generators for use in occupied spaces.
How Well Does it Remove Particulate Matter?
There are 3 factors that will help you compare different air purifiers ability to remove particulate pollution; efficiency, air delivery rate, and room size coverage.
This is the percentage of a concentration of particulate pollutants that are removed when they move through the unit. For example, HEPA filters must have an efficiency of 99.97% for particles 0.3 microns and larger. Some manufactures will give a total efficiency percentage as well as percentages for different sized particles. This is helpful because not all models are as good at removing smaller particles.
Particulate matter can be categorized based on its size.
Course particles (2.5 to 10 microns) include pollen and mold spores.
Fine particles, (0.1 microns to 2.5 microns) include household dust, bacteria, pet dander, and virus.
Ultra-fine (<0.1 microns) include some wildfire smoke, tobacco smoke, soot, and some virus.
If you are concerned about removing a particular contaminant, look for the efficiency for that size. Make sure the unit removes a high percentage of pollutants in that size range.
Clean Air Delivery Rate (CADR)
This measure tells you the volume of air that can be filtered by an air purifier in one minute. The higher the CADR, which is expressed in cubic feet per minute (cfm), the more air can be processed in a room in a given timeframe and the larger the room it can clean. The CADR is based on running the unit at the highest fan speed. Generally speaking, a delivery rate of 250 cfm is considered very good.
While CADR is one metric to look at, it has limitations. It is only a measure of particulate pollution and tells you nothing about a unit’s ability to remove chemical VOCs, gases or odors. Additionally, it favors units that perform well very quickly but not necessarily over a longer period of time.
Most manufacturers provide an estimate of how large a room the unit can clean. These calculations are usually based on a room with an 8ft. ceiling. If you have a higher ceiling, the coverage will be less than stated. You may need multiple units if your room is larger the recommended room size.
How Well Does it Remove Gases?
There is no standard for comparing how well air purifiers remove gases. If comparing air purifiers brands or models that each use activated carbon, the ones with more carbon weight will generally be more effective. Those that also use chemisorption will be more effective at destroying formaldehyde and other VOCs. For brands and models that use other technology, you will need to reply on third-party testing to assess their performance.
Test Results and Reviews
When reading testing results on manufacturers websites make sure the data is independent third-party tested with specific information on who conducted the testing and under what parameters. The greater the transparency around the testing, typically, the greater confidence you can have in the results. Consumer reviews can also be helpful but be aware that most of the reviews that compare different air purifiers evaluate larger particle removal and not removal of fine particles or gases. Make sure you understand what is being evaluated.
Unfortunately, even independent third-party testing cannot always be trusted. A stunning report by Wirecutter revealed that the makers of Molekule were advised by the NAD, an investigative division of the Better Business Bureau, to remove claims of “independent” testing from their marketing because much of the testing was done at labs which had received sponsorship from the company or where the founder was a director.
There is currently very limited independent research available and more is needed to compare air purifiers that claim to remove chemicals and gases.
Models that I am recommending here range in price from $699 to $1299. Most units that removes gases as well as particles are more expensive because they use multiple filter technologies.
Recommended Air Purifiers
I have only evaluated air purifiers that remove both particulate and gaseous pollutant because this website is dedicated to eliminating toxins. Most air purifiers do nothing to remove some of the most dangerous pollutants in your indoor air such as VOCs and gases from cooking combustion. If your primary interest is removing large molecule allergens like pollen there are many lower-cost options not covered here.
I recommend 4 popular models that rate well against all of the criteria outlined above. If you are looking at a brand or model not listed here, you can compare it against the criteria to better understand how it stacks up. Check back often as I will continue to update testing data as well as add new brands and models.
EnviroKlenz Mobile Air System
Technology: True HEPA filter
Earth Minerals material
UVGI (for UV Model)
Room Size: Maximum 1000 sq. ft.
Efficiency: 99.99% for particles >0.3 microns
Air Delivery: 250 cfm
Price: $699 without UV, $799 with UV.
Filter Replacement Cost: Earth mineral filter ($99) every 6 months, HEPA filter ($150) every 2 to 3 years.
Testing and Reviews:
EnviroKlenz provides extensive laboratory testing results on their website that compares their product with IQAir, BlueAir and Molekule. The testing shows the unit to be very effective at removing a range of VOCs. Additionally, they submitted a unit for review to Vacuum Wars, an independent review and comparison channel on YouTube. It is not a laboratory, but it does conduct an unbiased chamber test. They claim it could be the best on the market.
EnviroKlenz is a very powerful unit that effectively cleans both particulate and gaseous pollutants. It is a simple, no frill model made with a powder coated metal housing. Some readers on this site have reported quality control and customer service concerns though the EnviroKlenz website shows very positive reviews. The UV model provides extra protection against virus, mold and bacteria.
IQAir GC MultiGas
Technology: True HEPA filter
Activated Carbon (12lbs.)
Room Size: Maximum 1240 sq. ft.
Efficiency: ≥ 99% for particles ≥ 0.3 microns
≥ 95% at ≥ 0.003 microns
Air Delivery: 780 cfm
Filter Replacement Cost: Prefilter ($78) every year, Gas cartridges ($295) every 2.5 years, Post-filter sleeves ($95) every 2.5 years
Testing and Reviews:
IQAir does not provide testing data on their website but the testing on the EnviroKlenz website shows that this is extremely effective at removing formaldehyde. The Allergy Buyers Club rates it as the category winner for VOC and chemical removal because it is able to deliver excellent fine and ultra-fine particle removal as well as address specific chemicals and gases.
This is a top-of-the-line unit that does an excellent job of removing particles, even the most concerning fine and ultra-fine particles, as well as a range of chemicals, gases and odor.
IQAir HealthPro Plus
Technology: True HEPA filter
Activated Carbon (5lbs.)
Room Size: Maximum 1125 sq. ft.
Efficiency: ≥ 99.97% for particles ≥ 0.3 microns
≥ 99.5% at ≥ 0.003 microns
Air Delivery: 780 cfm
Filter Replacement Cost: Prefilter ($69) every 1.5 years, V5-Cell filter ($99) every 2 years, HyperHEPA filter ($199) every 4 years
Testing and Reviews:
Allergy Buyers Club rates this as the category winner for HEPA air purifiers.
Compared to the IQAir GC MultiGas, this model is even more efficient at fine and ultra-fine particle removal but not as powerful against chemicals, gases and odor. If you are concerned about smoke, virus or other ultra-fine particles, this might be the model for you. Note: Only the HealthPro Plus model removes gas, while the HealthPro model does not.
Austin Air Healthmate Plus
Technology: True HEPA filter
Activated Carbon (15lbs.)
Room size: Maximum 1500 sq. ft.
Efficiency: 99.97% for particles ≥0.3 microns
95% for particles ≥0.1 microns
Air Delivery: 400 cfm
Filter Replacement Cost: Replacement Filter ($360) every 5 years.
Testing and Reviews:
Austin Air purifiers are sold on many sites and have positive consumer reviews. There is a lack of independent testing showing how it compares to the other recommended units but based on its technology and efficiency at removing particles, it is a solid choice.
This is a simple but well-made unit by a company that has been around for a long time and stands behind their products.
Why I Don’t Recommend Molekule
I own a Molekule and purchased it because of the extensive third-party testing they provide on their website. The data shows compelling performance against VOCS, mold, bacteria, and virus, and provides evidence that no ozone or by-products are emitted. Experts have verified these results.
Consumers love the product. Repeat purchases are 200% which means people who own a unit are happy enough to go back and buy additional units.
Consumer reviews that have rated Molekule poorly only test for a short period of time and Molekule’s testing shows strong results over longer periods.
So, why don’t I recommend it?
As I mentioned above, makers of Molekule were advised an investigative division of the Better Business Bureau, to remove claims of “independent” testing from their marketing because much of the testing was done at labs which had received sponsorship from the company or where the founder was a director. If the results of the data cannot be trusted there is no compelling reason to buy this product over the other recommended models. It is possible that its new technology performs as well as the manufacturer claims and as the test results show, but based on this disappointing news, it’s a safer bet to chose the proven technology in one of the recommended units.
For chemically sensitive individuals, you may want to also look at mychemicalfreehouse.net which has a good overview of different media and purifier components that may cause a reaction. Additionally, make sure you understand the return policy for the unit you plan to purchase so if you are not able to tolerate it you have the option of sending it back.
Question from Irene
Hello, with people making do it yourself masks, I have seen that Blue Shop Towels are being recommended as they are considered to block small particles more effectively than any cotton, even if doubled. My concern though is whether they might have a level of toxicity if you are breathing through them. Can you let me know? I am in the process of trying to make masks for my family and I don’t want to put them in danger.
I looked at several different shop towels. Some claim to be made of polyester, some polypropylene, and some recycled fibers. None had a MSDS. What I really would like to know is if they are treated with anything. If you would like to call a company that makes them and try to find out the materials used as well as any treatments I could give you a better answer.
Question from Ruthe
I’ve been hearing some people are using waterproofing sprays on their homemade masks to prevent contraction and/or spread of COVID. This seems like a really bad idea to me – actually using it to breathe through. Is there any way to safely make a bandana waterproof for breathing through?
It sounds like a bad idea to me too. Waterproof sprays usually contain polyfluorinated chemicals (PFCs) which are highly toxic, particularly to put over your mouth and nose. You could apply beeswax to a bandana to make it water resistant but I cannot tell you if that would do anything to better protect you from the virus.
Question from Audrey
Are there any nontoxic recipes to make a disinfectant for the coronavirus?
I am allergic to alcohol and many scents so I usually use white vinegar and sometimes tea tree oil, but I have heard they are not strong enough to kill this virus. Would borax and/or iodine be a good option? Any direction on this would be helpful.
Unfortunately, I am not a scientist and cannot tell you what works to destroy the novel coronavirus. I have also read that vinegar is not effective. Please be cautious when reading about homemade remedies to protect against the virus and make sure the source is an appropriate expert.
According to Consumer Reports, there is not yet direct evidence that air filtration works to reduce transmission of the novel coronavirus but there is evidence from the SARS virus, which is similar, that air purifiers might help.
HEPA filters have the ability to capture 99.97% of particles that are 0.3 microns in diameter. According to CR, the novel coronavirus is 0.125 microns but the droplets it travels in is around 1 micron. That should be easily captured by the filter. There are many higher-end purifiers that capture much smaller particles which may be even more effective.
Keep in mind that HEPA filters capture the virus but do not necessarily destroy it. Caution is needed when changing filters because it is possible for the virus to live on surfaces for hours or days. There are some other technologies such as PECO or UV light that claim to destroy virus but there is less testing and evidence of results because the technology is less common.
It’s worth noting that CR recommends opening a window if there is a sick person in your home to dilute indoor contaminants including virus. While air purifiers may provide additional protection, they are only capable of capturing particles that remain in the air.
Read more about air purifiers in the new Portable Air Purifier Buying Guide that will be published on the site next week.