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.

Space Heaters

Question from Melanie

 

I live in Minnesota, but will not be using my furnace this year. I believe there is mold in the air ducts. Had everything else checked but when I put it on I feel really out of it and last winter there was a lot of water dripping into my closet from the furnace & possible roof leak.

I will be able to get out March 1st. I have an infrared space heater & a utility heater you recommended. What can i do to make sure air doesn’t get too dry as I’m allergic to mold? I don’t want to get headaches or freeze to death with no heater either?

And what do you think about e3 air purification candles do they work?

 

Lisa’s Answer

 

Mold can grow in air ducts as it can feed on dust.  But it sounds like you may have a problem instead of or in addition to the duct work.  If you have water dripping into your closet that is a likely source.  I’m not sure I fully understand your question but if you are asking if running an infrared heater will kill the mold, it will not.  You need to find the source and eliminate the source of moisture.  Also, dry air will not increase mold, moist air will.  I looked at the candles.  They use a botanical blend that they do not disclose and provide no scientific evidence to support their claims.  I would not reply on this to eliminate mold spores.  You really need to find the source of the mold and eliminate the moisture that it needs to grow.

Getting fragrance out of leather seats

 

Question from LA

Our college daughter who lives with us bought a used car, and realized afterward (when it heated up and especially when the seats are heated) that it has been treated with a fragrance. It does not seem to come out of the heating and cooling system, however, the surfaces smell like this fragrance when heated. Especially the leather seats. Then the fragrance sticks to the clothing wherever the clothing is in contact with the seats. Is there a way to get this fragrance out of the leather seats?  Our daughter is not wanting to cover up her nice leather seats, so we’re hoping to find a way to remove the fragrance. The fragrance doesn’t bother her as much as it bothers me,  as I am chemically sensitive and she is not. The fragrance sticks to her clothes, and then to the furniture in the house. Any suggestions? Thank you!!!!

Lisa’s Answer

If you can tolerate vinegar, you can wipe the leather with a 50/50 mix of vinegar and water.  Test it on a small area first to make sure it doesn’t damage the leather.  If you live in a warm climate, try leaving the windows open for several days.  Readers, other suggestions?

 

 

Is It Toxic to Eat Off Depression Glass?

Question from TA

Hi Debra,

I’m wondering if you’ve ever looked into whether “Depression glass” is toxic to eat off of.

I have a set that was gifted to me years ago; it was a collection that was built up over time, just as a collection, not for actual use.

I am now wondering whether it is okay to eat off of, so I just did an internet search and feel unclear about the answer.

The answers from people who sell and collect depression glass is that it is safe; they mention uranium in some colors, arsenic in others…but it’s safe they say because it’s a tiny amount, it’s bound up in the matrix of the glass, and so forth.

Hmm. That also doesn’t really answer anything about my actual collection, which is pink.

But what concerns me more is whether there is lead in it. I found some info about there being two options in depression glass production — one containing lead and one not (but this no-lead option might have contained other undesirable ingredients).

Of course I would avoid lead crystal, but that doesn’t appear to be what they’re talking about in some instances, and it’s not clear to me whether other colors might have also contained lead to add to the clarity of the glass.

So overall it left me confused, and I just wondered if you’ve looked into this and can tell me anything definitive.

I don’t want to trash it without knowing anything for sure, given that it was a gift and it’s lovely to look at. But of course I don’t want to eat off of it — or donate it to Goodwill or sell it — if it contains lead or is otherwise harmful. If it were one cheap saucer or something I’d just throw it out (I’ve generally done that when it’s something I’m not sure about and don’t want to send it to Goodwill to lead-poison someone else’s child); but it’s a whole set and a collectible, so I’d rather know something before just getting rid of it.

Debra’s Answer

My general rule is when in doubt, err on the side of caution.

It may be true that there is so little uranium or arsenic in the glass that it’s not a problem. But the other side of the coin is not a problem for who? Age and body size can make a difference in how toxic it is to an individual person as well as the condition of their detox system and the health of their body as a whole.

Short of having the pieces analyzed for their content, we really don’t know if the glass contains something to be concerned about.

We do know from lead crystal that minerals can leach out of glass into food and then into bodies when the food is eaten.

Myself, I wouldn’t eat off depression glass, but wouldn’t have a problem keeping it to enjoy it’s beauty.

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Glass Cooking Jars

Question from Karen

 

I’ve been shopping for large containers to hold whole grains. I’d like to keep the grains in their original packaging so the jar needs to be big to accommodate that. Basically my concern is keeping mice out (as we speak they are making their annual pilgamage in). And I’m not wanting metal containers due to the potential for condensation issues because this will be stored in the cooler basement. Obviously I don’t want to go with plastic. My local discount store has large glass jars that would work well and at a good price. These are generic cookie jars made in China- no brand name. So my question is is glass always a safe bet, or can it also have contaminants? This glass is clear and with no paint or coloring on it.

Lisa’s Answer

 

Glass can have contaminants but it is typically inert and a safe choice.  Clear glass with no paint or coloring is the safest type of glass but I can’t guarantee that any specific item will have no contaminants whatsoever.  I think question is what is your safest choice?  I can’t think of anything safer than clear glass.  You can read more about glass here.

Mattress Cover

Question from Summer

 

I am writing to learn more about what mattress cover to purchase. Are you familiar with Boll and Branch’s organic mattress cover? https://www.bollandbranch.com/products/mattress-protector
This looks good to me and I thought I’d check here in case there’s another brand/company/consideration I haven’t thought of.  Thanks in advance for any suggestions!

 

Lisa’s Answer

 

This mattress protector is made from a GOTS certified organic cover, which is great.  The fill is organic cotton but it is not certified.  It is treated with an anti-microbial that is permitted by OEKO-TEX for their Standard 100 certification.  OEKO-TEX does permit a number of different fire retardants and anti-microbial that they have determined are non-toxic.  I would need to know more about what anti-microbial is used.  But, I believe there are safer alternatives.

Naturpedic

The reason I so strongly recommend Naturepedic is because their entire facility is GOTS certified and GOTS has the most stringent standard.  Their mattress cover is 100% GOTS certified cotton.  It is a waterproof pad so it does have a polyurethane barrier.  The polyurethane is GOTS certified which ensures that no harmful additives are added.  In its pure form, polyurethane is non-toxic.  This is a great option if you need a dust-mite barrier.

Coyuchi

This mattress pad is 100% GOTS cotton and does not have a waterproof barrier.

Bedframe Stains

Question from Stefany

 

Hello Lisa, do you recommend any of the finishes in this furniture website? Or is it better to get it unfinished and keep it unfinished (worried due to potential mold or termite). Or would it be better to finish it myself with Vermont natural coatings? (Even though I’ve never done it). Or is there another company you recommend more? I’m downgrading to a basement and would like to invest in a wood bed frame with the money I make from selling. I want to make sure I choose the right bed frame and non toxic finish. https://organicandhealthy.com/product/rolling-prairie/

 

Lisa’s Answer

 

I would need to have more information from the company about the different stain options.  Teak oil can be natural or it can have added chemicals.  The stain is referred to as “vegetable stain” but provides no further information.  Linseed oil can be an allergen for some so I would test that first before using.  The company looks to be committed to providing safe non-toxic products so I think its worth getting more information from them before taking on the project of staining it yourself.  If you do decide to do it yourself Safecoat Duratone is a good choice.

Children’s Nap Mats at Preschool

Question from Mathew

 

Does pu leather pose the same risks as PU foam? Is PET (PE) foam generally safer than PU foam? I work at a preschool where all the mats are 100% Polyurethane foam. I want to find safe and viable alternatives. I’ve just started learning about the unsafe nature of these materials. And am looking to phase them out of my home and work surroundings as much as possible.

 

Lisa’s Answer

 

Pu leather is generally safer than PU foam.  You can read more about it here.  PE foam is generally safer than PU foam but either can have chemical additives so it’s hard to compare on product to another.

Avoiding foam in general is a good idea unless it is certified organic natural latex.  I understand why preschools would want to have a cushioned mat for additional safety.  The safest synthetic foam play mat I have found is Cream Haus.

It is free of some the most harmful chemicals such as PVC, EVA, TPA, BPA, Lead, Phthalate, Fire Retardants, Formamide, and Formaldehyde and it is OEKO-TEX Standard 100 certified which tells you that there is an additional standard that the mats need to meet.

Candles

Question from Madelyn

 

Hi Lisa! I have some questions about the toxicity of burning candles. My husband and I completely revamped our lifestyle a few years ago to a more healthy and non toxic life. We are very careful with what we buy and or bring into our home, especially with 2 young kids.

So we haven’t burned typical paraffin wax candles (I.e. yankee candle, etc) in a long time. We first went to soy candles then read those are also problematic, so we stopped. Then we tried beeswax tealight candles, but they were so expensive yet burned out extremely quickly and we were very disappointed so we stopped.

We have a harsh winter where we live and we’ve been trying to embrace the “hygge” (cozy in danish) lifestyle so we can learn to enjoy the winter season more. One of these recommendations is to burn candles which adds to the coziness of the home and makes you happier.

So back to the problem of what type of candles are non toxic? Are soy wax candles truly a bad alternative? Is beeswax the only safe option? If so, do you have recommendations of a brand or type that don’t burn out so quickly?

 

Lisa’s Answer

 

There is a whole list of candles on Debra’s List.

Dresser

Question from Sheryl

 

Have you found any affordable unfinished wood dressers that are not made with toxic materials?
Thanks!

 

Lisa’s Answer

 

You can check out Debra’s List for safe furniture brands.  One of those listed is Unfinished Furniture Expo and they have reasonable prices.  You can also opt to have them painted with Milk Paint.

Styrene Butadiene Latex Toxicity

Question from Viki

 

Having trouble finding information, I am able to understand, on the toxicity of latex mattresses made with blended [synthetic 60%/30% natural}latex.
Most of what is available on line is connected to businesses selling competing products and seems
biased.
Wondering if you could provide any insight or suggest a source for this information.

 

Lisa’s Answer

Styrene butadiene latex is a synthetic latex that is made with fairly toxic ingredients but once cured it is less toxic.  A blended latex will have lower VOCs than a 100% synthetic latex but it will still have VOCs.  I understand that natural organic latex is expensive but I think it is one of the biggest priorities if you are looking to lower your toxic exposure because you spend several hours every day breathing in it’s emission.

A mattress with 30% natural latex is not a natural mattress.  I am also assuming the natural latex is not certified organic which means it is possible it could contain chemical additives.

 

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ARE TOXIC PRODUCTS HIDDEN IN YOUR HOME?

Toxic Products Don’t Always Have Warning Labels. Find Out About 3 Hidden Toxic Products That You Can Remove From Your Home Right Now.