Submitted questions will be posted with my response by the following Tuesday or before.
Submitted comments will be moderated and approved within 24 hours.
Question from Michayla
We’re looking to buy a used leather sofa. This is one that was made by Executive Leather Inc “Manufacturer of quality leather furniture” (Hickory, NC). It was owned by the seller’s grandparents she believes maybe 10 years who then gave it to them who have currently had it for 7 years. The tag was hard to read but looks like the cushion is 90% urethane foam 10% polyester. Unfortunately, I can’t find anything online to get more information. Would you think this would be safe enough to own after ~17 years of offgassing? **After asking her husband he said it might be closer to 15-20 years old that the grandparents owned them. So between 17-27 years offgassed.
Unfortunately, upholstered furniture with polyurethane foam is not something that gets better as it gets older. Flame retardants were used in foam starting in the 1970’s so that couch most likely contains them. As the foam degrades over time the flame retardants end up in household dust. Additionally, formaldehyde, also a likely component, can off-gas indefinitely. Finally, leather is processed with hundreds of chemicals. I can’t say for sure if old leather is better or worse than new leather because I would have to understand each chemical used in the process.
Question from C.S.
Though I’m diligent, many items in our home still may have been treated with chemical flame retardants. How can I find out what is and what isn’t? Is there a way or place to have samples tested? My children want their prized stuffed animals back in their beds, and I really like my burlap bed skirt.
Unfortunately, I am not aware of home test that does this.
Duke University has a program that allows you to send in polyurethane foam from household mattresses and furniture to see if it has flame retardants.
Question from Jayy
Hello, I am a D.J. that smoking is allowed in the night club I work at.. I recently had an drastic experience w/ Covid 19 with intubation of 24 days the whole works… After I was blessed to be released Dr. told me My lungs looks as if I was “SMOKER” Never been a smoker but have been expose to second hand smoke for yrs…
I needed to know if there a certain mask that I can wear when I report back to work….
Cigarette smoke is comprised of both particles and gas so you would need a mask that filters out both. EnviroKlenz makes a mask that does both but it is currently out of stock.
Readers any other suggestions?
Question from Anna
I have been becoming sicker and sicker and am not sure if I will be able to tolerate living in society much longer. I have already been sleeping in a tent behind a house rather than in the house itself.
I think perhaps what I might need is a very long camping trip to get away from the toxic chemicals and the cell phones and the WiFi and all of it.
I was wondering if you might suggest a decent portable water filtration device (I was thinking Lifestraw, but I don’t know if there’s something better but still affordable), a low-toxicity sleeping bag that will still be fairly winter-proof, reasonably affordable wool or other non-cotton clothing that is at least free of naphthalene and paradichlorobenzene, a low-toxicity bivouac sac, minimally toxic boots, some sort of first aid kit appropriate for a chemically injured person, and some sort of non-plastic water bottle durable enough for hiking. I was reading that for winter hiking, you basically have to use an insulated stainless steel water bottle anyway, but maybe some of these are better than others. I was also wondering if you might have any suggestions on re-usable pads and/or period underwear.
I’m sorry you are having such a difficult time. For non-toxic clothing and shoes/boots you can look at Debra’s List or use the search button on the site to look up clothing. There are several articles and threads where readers have reported on clothing that is both non-toxic and tolerable. As always though, because everyone is different, what is tolerable to one person may not be to another.
Here is information on a lightweight wool sleeping bag that might work for you.
Here is some more information on Lifestraw. I have not done a full investigation of these type of filters so I can’t tell you about other options.
I use Kleen Kanteen for hiking because glass is not practical for this purpose. If you are sensitive to nickel you should not use stainless steel. Here is some more on using stainless steel for drinking.
You might want to consider reaching out to Debra for a paid consultation because you have many specific needs. She is available for paid consults until June 18, 2020.
Readers do you have any other suggestions?
Question from Dac
See below comments from Andy Pace of The Green Design Center.
Question from Zara
I was really hoping for some help in that direction.
I am glad you are finding the site helpful! Unfortunately, I am not familiar with dishware from the UK. Readers, any suggestions?
Question from Jen C.
Yes, take a look at Happsy.
Question from Pia
Pyrex is safe to use. Pyrex made in the United States is made from soda lime glass. The only glass that uses lead as an ingredient is leaded glass (otherwise known as leaded crystal). Lead can be found in small amounts in other glass as a contaminant. The main source of contamination is recycled glass. Out of caution, it is best to avoid recycled glass. Colored glass is often made with recycled glass, so again out of caution, it is best to avoid colored glass. Mason Jars, as long as they are not recycled or colored, are probably fine. Decorations on glassware can be a source of lead so it also best to avoid glassware with decorations. You can read more about lead in glassware here.
My favorite brand of cookware is Xtrema. I will be publishing a Buying Guide for cookware in the near future. In the meantime, you can look at recommended brands on Debra’s List.
I have written previously about how cooking is a major source of indoor air pollution but a new report highlights particular risk from gas stoves and ovens. Homes with gas stoves can have nitrogen dioxide concentrations that are 50 to 400 percent higher than homes with electric stoves.1
Gas appliances can emit a range of pollutants including:
- Carbon monoxide
- Nitrogen oxides, including nitrogen dioxide
- Fine particulate matter
- Formaldehyde and other VOCs
Health effects from these pollutants include respiratory illness, cardiovascular disease, and premature death. Children who are exposed to nitrogen dioxide have an increased risk for asthma. There is also evidence that suggests a small increase in fine particulate matter can lead to a large increase in COVID-19 death rates.2
The impact on air quality from gas cooking is greater the smaller your living space because the pollutants are more concentrated.
What to do if you own a gas stove or oven?
- Consider replacing it with an electric stove/oven.
- Properly ventilate.
Make sure your range hood meets code requirements. It’s estimated that only half of new U.S. homes meet code requirements for range hoods. Studies also show that many people do not use their range hoods when cooking. If your range hood doesn’t extend over your front burners, make sure to cook on your back burners.
If you don’t have a range hood that vents to the outside, open your windows while cooking.
- Purchase an air purifier that removes small particles and gases.
Be aware that many popular air purifiers are not effective at removing small particle and gas pollutants from cooking. (see Air Purifier Buying Guide)
Question from Phil
I called the company and they claim there is no Proposition Warning label for the filters. I also did not find one on the filter. Where are you seeing it and on what model? Could you be referring to the copy of the filter that states that if it is not maintained and operated properly as specified in the owner’s manual, there is a risk of exposure to contaminants? If so, that is not a Prop 65 warning but rather refers to the fact that if the filter is used past its intended life, some contaminants from the water that have been collected by the filter could be re-released. If you can provide me with more information on the model and exactly where you see the Prop 65 warning I might be able to be of more help.