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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.

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