Super Search

Submitted questions will be posted with my response by the following Tuesday or before.
Submitted comments will be moderated and approved within 24 hours.

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.

Translator

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Organic and Healthy

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“EnviroKlenz"

“Happsy"

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