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.

Toxins in Dishes and Glassware

Question from Kelly

 

Do Mikasa Intaglio, Corelle Indian Summer, Fire King green dinnerware, any corning Ware or pyrex contain toxins? Does gold rimmed Monet glassware?   Does Monroe (Lenox) stemware contain toxins?

 

Lisa’s Answer

For the glassware, I don’t recommend any with rimmed decoration.  You can read more about glassware, including Pyrex in this article.  Regular clear glass that is not leaded crystal is very inert and does not typically leach.  The US Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment has limit levels for the externally decorated lip area of drinking glass.  Glassware in the U.S. must meet these levels (200 ppm lead and 800 ppm cadmium) but they are fairly high considering there is no safe level of lead.  Unlike glass that that is inert, the decoration could flake off and be ingested.

Active Chair for Kids

Question from Miriam

 

We are setting up our homeschool environment and I have a few questions about furniture.
We’d like to get an ‘active’ chair for my son.  Most of the ones I’ve found don’t look great, materials are not really disclosed.  I did find this one, although more pricey, does this seem like a good option?
Made of beechwood grown and harvested in Northwestern Germany
Certified sustainable by the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC)
https://www.fully.com/chairs/kids/tic-toc-tyke-chair.htmlIt has 3 options for finishes:
1. PU varnish as a finish for naural,
2.  black nitrocellulose lacquer for black, or
3.  red nitrocellulose lacquer for red
Would you feel comfortable with any of these?

p.s. here are a few of the non-wood ones I had found, here and here – if any of these look decent, we’d do one of these perhaps:

 

Lisa’s Answer

 

I’d like a little more information about the chair from fully.com but it seems like the better choice over the 2 plastic alternatives.  First of all, fully.com is a B corp and states that they are committed to transparency and minimizing toxins and waste so I imagine they will be willing and able to provide the information we need.  The chair looks to be solid wood but the top of the chair is probably engineered.  I would want the following additional information:

Is the top of the chair solid wood and if not does the engineered wood have any certifications such as CARB Phase 2, NAF, etc.?

Is the adhesive used low VOC?  Is a Safety Data Sheet (SDS) available?

Is the PU lacquer low VOC?  Is a Safety Data Sheet (SDS) available?

I’d also ask if there anything else they can tell you about what steps are taken in the production of the chair to reduce toxins.
Let me know what you find.  You could also get the chair and paint it with an AFM Safecoat product to seal in any minimal VOCs.

Safety of Microfiber Sheets

Question from Reenie

 

A friend ordered bamboo sheets and they sent her a soft microfiber set of sheets.  Are these safe for the body and the environment?  Thanks!

 

Lisa’s Answer

Microfiber refers to the size of the threads so without more information I can’t tell you exactly what it’s made of and the health or environmental profile.  In general, it is a synthetic fabric and usually made from polyester but can be a blend of materials or polypropylene.  I don’t recommend sleeping on any synthetic material.
Bamboo, however, is also not a great choice.  Bamboo is a sustainable material but it requires intensive chemical processing to make it into a soft fabric.  I recommend organic cotton, linen or silk for sheets.  GOTS certified cotton is ideal.

Empire Home Fresh Carpet

Question from April

 

Thank you so much for all your priceless info! Seriously. Thank you for this resources. I don’t know what I would do without it! I’m wondering if you’ve reviewed or have any insight into Empire Today’s Home Fresh carpet? It’s being touted as low to no VOCs and hypoallergenic. Not much is said about the installation materials. I’m wondering if this is a valid low cost option. I would greatly appreciate any info you can offer.

 

Lisa’s Answer

In general, I don’t recommend wall-to-wall carpet as it collects and traps dust and VOCs from the air in addition to the VOCs emitted by the product itself.  I looked at the website and it doesn’t give much information.  They say that it has no VOCs (that is highly unlikely because the backing is made from plastic.  It’s a better plastic than some carpets use but any plastic will emit something.). It doesn’t list any certification to help verify any of their claims.  I would ask them for a Safety Data Sheet (SDS) as well as any testing they have done to verify these claims.  Once you get them post them here and I can take a look.  As you point out, the installation materials also need to be considered.

Building a Non-Toxic Home

Question from Jordan

 

In your “about me” description you mentioned you have built a few homes using nontoxic/low emitting materials. My family and I are going to be building our first home and would like to do the same. I am interested to know how you did this and materials used. So more on this topic would be helpful and I would be willing to pay for a consult as well if that is something you do.
Looking forward to seeing/reading all your knowledge on non toxic living.

 

Lisa’s Answer

I will be doing paid consultations in the coming months but I am not right now.  If you need to start right away I recommend hiring a BBNC, which is a Building Biology New-Build Consultant.  They are trained specifically for this purpose.  A great place to start is to get the book “Prescriptions for a Healthy House”, 3rd edition, by Paula Baker-Laporte.  A 4th edition is in the works but I’m not sure when it will be out.

Dining Chair Emergency

Question from Jordan

 

Congrats and thank you on being a non-toxic expert! I could really use your help. We are in dire straits trying to find dining chairs. We have been looking for several months and still have nothing. We are looking for vegan, organic/non-toxic, sustainable, fairly made chairs that are soft and comfortable. We also need the seat height a little higher than a lot out there. Aye Aye Aye!! If you have any resources to direct us to, you would be saving our lives. This chair search is giving me a stroke LOL

 

Lisa’s Answer

I’m not sure what your budget is but I’m sure you are aware that to meet all of the needs you lay out prices will be fairly high.  Do you need a cushioned chair?  If so, I recommend Medleyhome.com.  They have a customizable dining chair that meets all of your needs.  I’m not sure about the chair height but they might be able to make a custom size for you.  You do need to select the option for natural latex fill if you want it to be truly non-toxic.  If you are okay with a solid wood chair there are many more options.  You could even have a cushion for it made with natural fill.  Check out Debra’s List for non -toxic furniture manufacturers.

Sheets

Question from Barbara

Looking for some no iron safe sheets. What is your recommendation? Thank You

Lisa’s Answer

Sheets that are labelled as “wrinkle free” or other no iron claims should be avoided because they often contain formaldehyde.  I always recommend GOTS certified organic sheets.  I have found that flannel sheets require the least ironing of the different types of GOTS certified organic sheets I have used.

Dental Office Scented

Question from Bonnie

Last year my dentist office had very strong smelling “natural” air freshner. They were using a small pulg in tabletop machine in each room that had a mist coming out of it. I think they said it was one of the eseential oils. I told them even the essential oils were harmful as I read it somewhere. The dentist said he would remove it if I could prove it was bad for chemical sensitivity, to send what I read. Do you have info I could send him? I have been going there about 20 years.

Lisa’s Answer

Here is an article I found referencing the problem.  I’m not aware of any scientific “proof” but this does identify that it is an issue for sensitive people.

Matchbox and Hot Wheels Cars

Question from Miriam

My quick question is: have you ever investigated Matchbox cars or Hot Wheels?
My longer question, which I know may have to wait, is: How do I research this?  Leadsafemama.com says they’re safe as of the last 20-30 years (from lead) but I found an article from 2015 that says they were found to contain ‘toxic’ chemicals – but can’t find more than this:
My son desperately wants some and I’m not sure how to proceed.

 

Lisa’s Answer

 

My son was obsessed with Matchbox and Hot Wheels when he was little so I get it.  He is now starting freshman year of college…it goes fast:). At the time my main concern was lead, I worked very long hours and didn’t have the time to do as deep dives as I do now.  A big factor is if he will put them in his mouth.  I assume he is past that age, but if not I would hold off.
The study sited in the article below is no longer up so I can’t see the testing methodology.  Most of the studies for heavy metals in toys are subjected to solutions to mimic saliva and digestions because the assumption is they will be mouthed or possibly digested by a very small child.  So, if a metal is leached under these conditions it does not necessarily mean that there is exposure when played with as intended.
The good news is that the U.S. regulation of toys is getting better, unlike in other segments.  All toys made in and imported to be sold in the U.S. must meet the ASTM standard F963 which tests for 8 metals including arsenic, mercury, lead, chromium, cadmium, barium, selenium, and antimony.  The regulations were strengthened in 2016 and 2017.
They do not test for cobalt at the federal level, which is what was identified in the attached study.  Oregon and Washington State have stricter requirements for children’s toys and require companies to report on the presence of a longer list of chemicals of concern.  Cobalt is one of them.  You can use this cool database to look up companies to see the presence of chemicals of concern in their products.  I looked up Mattel which makes both Hot Wheels and Matchbox and it does, indeed, show that cobalt is present.  It does not tell you anything about exposure or limits, simply that it is used in the product.
Interestingly, cobalt is the most reported material in this database.  It is widely used in children’s clothing but also present in toys and jewelry.  It is a colorant often, but not always, used for blue coloring.  The health effects of the type of cobalt exposure a child gets from consumer products is not studied.  Most of the studied effects are from industrial settings.  It is a possible allergen and there are dermatological studies.  You can read more here.
I would still choose a major manufacturer like Mattel over a cheaper version.  Heavy metal contamination from use of recycled materials can be greater in lower cost products.
I think this is a personal choice.  My choice would be to allow it if he is old enough to not put them in his mouth.  As an extra precaution he could wash his hands after playing with them.  I would focus more on eliminating cobalt exposure from clothing by buying organic cotton and ideally GOTS certified clothing.

Air Fryers

Question from Catherine

Hello, I recently came across your site and so happy that I did !I would like to purchase a air fryer and would like to know your opinion . I had my eye on a air fryer that QVC is selling but I saw that it had a California warning label. Are air fryers safe ? I know that they are a healthy way to cook, but are they toxic ?

Lisa’s Answer

 

I haven’t researched air fryers yet but I, too, am curious.  The California warning label is often due to lead in the cord of small appliances.  I am not concerned about this as an exposure unless you you have small children who might have access to the cord.  What I do want to look into is the coatings used on the inside of the appliance and the type of energy used to cook the food.  Check back soon and hopefully I’ll have some answers.

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