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.

Reading an SDS for Tile

Question from Marilyn

I’ve been trying to verify content of tiles for a shower remodel. It took several days, but Daltile sent me an SDS for their 4″x4″ glossy white tile in the Restore line. I’ve been unable to get any SDS for the 4″ white Daltile tile sold at Home Depot. Neither company seems to offer it.

In the meantime, I’ve been impressed by Florida Tile’s longstanding eco efforts, their GreenGuard and GreenSquared certifications, and their philanthropy in both Appalachia and in Haiti. I’m wondering if your site has reviewed their products at all.

I emailed Florida Tile about their 4″ square arctic white matte tile. The SDS says: “Hazardous constituents: N/A.” Quoted from email I received from Chris Dobbs
Director of Quality and Technical Services at Florida Tile…

“There is no lead, barium, chromium, cobalt, or nickel in these products. There is Zinc Oxide and Magnesium Oxide, but not Zinc or Magnesium as anything other than a compound. If the tiles it would not be releasing the individual components but it would be releasing ceramic dust which can cause some issues if proper PPE and cutting methods are not utilized. Ceramic dust is still uniquely ceramic and not some portion of its individual components.”


“Ceramic tile is considered a single component as a result of the vitrification process that occurs during the kiln at extremely high heat. Once the tiles have been fired, no individual components are made available from the finished product.”

Lisa’s Answer


I was not able to open the file you sent but in general tile is safe to use.  There are concerns about cutting the tile as the dust can be harmful.  Lead is a particular element of concern from cutting, however, most will have trace amounts due to contamination and not as an added ingredient.  Once the tile is cut, lead will not emit into the air.  Cutting tile outdoors is advised.  Read more here for additional information.

Toxic Exposure Testing Kits

Question from Riley

I’m on the search for reliable tests to sample exposure in my home.

I have been spending a lot of time online trying to find the best most trusted companies, but that is hard these days.

Wondering if you have a sought out trusted company and/or specific tests that are affordable, and accessible? I’m primarily looking for- heavy metals, phthalates, molds, radon, EMF’S, and asbestos.

Thank you for your time and your impactful efforts to our people’s health.

Lisa’s Answer


I recommend working with a certified expert from the Building Biology Institute.  You can look for one in your area using the link.

Obasan Mattresses

Question from Lauren

Can you tell me anything about Obasan mattresses. I read on another website that they are a great choice but haven’t been able to find much info about them otherwise however they look promising. I have been doing so much research on mattresses and am really having trouble making a decision. What is your opinion on metal springs and EMFs? Thank you so much for any advice you can offer!

Lisa’s Answer


I have no personal experience with Obasan but based on what they have on their website its sounds like a good option.  They have GOTS certified organic cotton and wool and GOLS certified natural rubber.  They don’t say anything about factory certification, however.  I would need to learn more about their process.

Naturpedic is my favorite mattress brand because they use only the most natural materials at every step of manufacture.  Their factory is certified along with the materials they use.  You can read more about it here. Naturpedic also has mattresses with no coils.

The topic of EMF in bed coils is a complicated one with many conflicting viewpoints.  I am not an EMF expert but based on what I have read I do not think mattress coils are a concern.

Coil Springs in Mattresses

Question from Mary

I have Naturepedic beds in my house and we had a emf specialist come and a few of the beds have a magnetic charge that he said would be coming from the steel coils in the mattress. What are your thoughts on this? Are there any latex no coil mattress’ you recommend. Thank you!

Lisa’s Answer


Naturpedic has mattresses with no coils.  Naturpedic is my favorite mattress brand because they use only the most natural materials at every step of manufacture.  You can read more about it here.

The topic of EMF in bed coils is a complicated one with many conflicting viewpoints.  I am not an EMF expert but based on what I have read I do not think mattress coils are a concern.

Acrylic, Wood Veneer, or Wood Composite

Question from Lanny

I am desperately searching for a bed tray to use for my laptop. I need it for those days when I am in bed from MCS & Fibro.  I have found three options and would like your opinion on the least toxic. (I realize unfinished wood would be ideal but there is no such thing, plus I do have problems with pine.)




Lisa’s Answer

Unfortunately, there is not a clear answer based on the information provided.  All three will have chemical emissions.  The acrylic is made from petrochemicals.  The wood veneer will have adhesives and probably a lacquer finish.  The wood/wood composite will also have adhesives, stain and possibly a lacquer finish.  You would need to understand the content of the adhesive, stains and lacquers to know how toxic they are.

I would not recommend any of these, particularly for use in your bedroom.

Ashley Furniture

Question from Kristina

Please help! I just moved a chaise up to my bedroom, and after 90 degree heat in No. CA this week, my furniture seems to be reeking of that same smell I smelled when it was new!!
I’m so worried now that I’ve been “poisoning” my family with this furniture!! Just read many horrible reviews of Ashley Furniture!!! 🙁
I’m getting rid of it ASAP.
Can you refer a safe furniture manufacturer?
We bought this large sectional from Ashley in June of 2018, and have been moving it around lately. I wonder if I’ve rekindled these horrible chemicals?
Thanks for any help you can offer!!


Lisa’s Answer

I just wrote a post on the chemicals in upholstered furniture.  You can read it here.  I can’t tell you specifically what is in your piece but upholstered furniture can off-gas indefinitely.  The heat can accelerate the off-gassing but just because you were not smelling it before does not mean it was not off-gassing.  Debra’s List has several non-toxic furniture makers.

Car Seat Cover

Question from Kristina

Any recommendations on non toxic seat covers for the car? Im seeing a lot of “p65” products which I didn’t even notice before


Lisa’s Answer

Here is a previous response to this question from Debra.

Flame Retardant-Free Furniture Is Better, but Is It Safe Enough?

Photo by Bence Balla-Schottner on Unsplash

Readers occasionally send me suggestions for furniture that they consider safe because they are free of flame retardants.  Flame retardants are among the most harmful of chemicals found in traditional furniture but unfortunately, they are not the only chemicals of concern.


Fire retardants became common additives to polyurethane foam used in furniture in response to California flammability standard TB117 that was adopted in 1975.  U.S. manufactures adopted the standard for products sold all over the country so that they would not have to have a separate inventory for California.  Flame retardants have been linked to adverse health effects including cancer, lower IQ, learning disorders, hormone disruption and reduced fertility.


California revised their standard in 2014 to allow manufacturers to meet flammability requirements without chemical flame retardants.  There are now hundreds of couches and other upholstered furniture options that don’t use harmful chemical flame retardants in their polyurethane foam.  Keep in mind that these chemicals are not banned, they are just no longer required.


This is an important step in the right direction but it is not enough.  There are many other chemicals of concern in traditional upholstered furniture.


Polyurethane Foam


Polyurethane foam is made by reacting polyols, a type of complex alcohol, and diisocyanates, which are a petroleum byproduct.  The most common source of diiscyanate used in foam is TDI, or toluene diiscyanate.   In its raw form TDI is a carcinogen.  Once reacted it is inert but it can still offgas.1 


There are many potential additives to polyurethane foam.  Manufacturers often consider their additive ingredients proprietary and do not disclose them.  Formaldehyde is not usually added to foam but it can be a byproduct of chemical reactions or from adhesives used on the foam.


Upholstered furniture such as sofas and reclining chairs can be a significant source of VOCs.  One study tested a range of large furniture and appliances and found that the sofa emitted the highest level of VOCs.


Other Furniture Components


Treated Fabric

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.


Leather can be processed using hundreds of harmful substances including chromium, formaldehyde, phthalates and heavy metals.


Adhesives can contain solvents such a benzene, toluene, styrene or acetone.

Composite Wood

Particleboard, plywood, MDF are often sources of formaldehyde.


Stains and finishes can be sources of VOCs including acetone, methylene chlorine, benzene and toluene.


If you are looking for upholstered furniture that is safe and non-toxic, visit Debra’s List.

Removing Eye Glass Sanitizer

Question from Kendall

I have received a pair of eyeglass frames from Warby Parker (try at home option). I have multiple chemical sensitivities and can detect some kind of sanitizer/antibacterial residue on them–I imagine as a covid precaution. Do you have any recommendations for removing the sanitizer residue–I can smell and taste it.


Lisa’s Answer

Have you tried washing them with soap and water?  Readers, do you have any other suggestions?

UVC Sanitizers

Question from Jesse

Curious if you could post thoughts on non toxic Coronavirus related home cleaning. Specifically, I’ve read conflicting reports about in home UVC air sanitizers and wands (particularly if they are safe to use around people, pets, kids).

Lisa’s Answer


The concerns around the technology is that they can cause harm to skin and eyes (much like sun damage) as well as emit dangerous ozone.  Until there is research that shows definitively that these devices are safe, I would not use them.  Additionally, they are not part of the recommended protocol by the EPA because the EPA has not evaluated them for effectiveness against the novel coronavirus.



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