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.


Question from Shana

I’m looking for bedroom furniture for my son’s room, as well as the master bedroom.  I’d like to find non-toxic furniture that’s traditional, rather than contemporary.  The more I look, the more confused I get!  There are many Amish manufacturers that use solid wood furniture, but the stains are low VOC.  I know that no VOC is preferable, but is low VOC ok?  Most of the Amish companies use either Ohio Certified Stain or a catalyzed conversion varnish.  Are either of these ok?

Lisa’s Answer

Ohio Certified Stain has different types so I would need to know which one.  Also there are different versions of conversion varnish.  But, since you are going to the trouble and expense of buying solid wood furniture, why compromise and use a stain with any VOCs at all?  Will the company use a stain or paint that you provide?  Can you purchase it unstained and do it yourself or hire a handyman?  There are times when it is necessary to compromise and pick the best options available but this seems like one in which a totally non-toxic product can be created.
Its really a personal choice if low-VOC is okay.  The lower the better.  I have always chosen stricter standards for our bedrooms because we spend so much time in them.

Materials for a Desk

Question from Miriam

I was wondering if you could help me with a desk.
I’m looking at this one, and there are 3 different options for materials.
I purchased the converter in rubberwood as I figured that was the safest, but it’s not big enough and now I am thinking of upgrading to the full desk.  Before I spend so much, I figured I’d see if you had any thoughts on it!
If you scroll down to “Top It Off Any Way You Like”, it goes over the different materials.
I had emailed about the desktops, and got this response:
“The Eco desktops are made with recycled MDF whereas the bamboo and rubberwood are solid bamboo and rubberwood. The rubberwood is just another name for the trees that they harvest for making rubber and latex. We recycle those trees once they’re done being used for their sap and use them to make these desktops. “
Obviously, I shy away from MDF but it is GREENGUARD-certified.  My understanding is that bamboo can be toxic from the glues they use, but here they claim it is solid bamboo.
What would you recommend?

Lisa’s Answer

This looks like a good choice.  The top is hardwood and the base is metal.  There are a couple of small plastic parts.  You could ask them what the plastic material is and avoid if PVC or polystyrene.  They say they use glues and finishes that are environmentally safe and non-hazardous.  I would just confirm that they are low- or ultra-low voc formulas.  Since it’s hardwood there should be minimal if any need for glues.  You could even ask if they make you a top that is unfinished.  I have a similar adjustable desk made of metal with a hardwood top and it’s great to be able to stand while you work!

Chemical Smell New Paint

Question from Rick

We hired a painter to redo our master bedroom with BM low VOC paint and after 5 weeks it still smells. We’ve tried a number of things to clear it, but nothing works. I recently read that heating the room to 85-90 as a Bakeout for a couple days might remove the smell. Is that a real way to get rid of the smell?  We cannot move back into our bedroom and winter is coming, so airing it out everyday is no longer an option.

Lisa’s Answer

Here is thread about a similar problem with BM Eco Spec paint.  Read here why I do not recommend bakeouts. AFM Safecoat is a sealer you could apply that is designed to seal in off-gassing chemicals. I recommend calling a green building supply store that has a lot of experience with this. Get their recommendation on which AFM Safecoat product to buy and purchase it through them. Here are two to contact. or

Will Outside Deck Offgas Into Home?

Question from Linda

I live in San Francisco and am putting in about 50, 3″ x 10″ x 24 feet beams to cantilever a deck under our house. Its treated with ACQ-A and I’m wondering if the pesticides will off gas into our home, through the floorboards.
They will reach under our living room floor (between a basement room and the upstairs living room about 18 feet. The deck will stick outside about six feet.

Lisa’s Answer

I can’t answer that.  I assume that it would depend on the construction of your home and how airtight it is.  Readers, any thoughts?

Bite Guards

Question from Kathleen

Any recommendations or warnings about OTC and custom-made (by dentist) bite guards?  I know to avoid phthalates (hence methyl acrylate), formalhehyde, and BPA.  No one seems to even report BPB.  And I’m guessing there’s a bunch of other yucky chemicals in these things.

The dentist-made guard looks like a combination of silicone or soft plastic on the inside and hard plastic on the outside.  My dentist practices biologic dentistry, but doesn’t know what’s in the bite guards she makes.  Said she’d try to get that info for me.  Meanwhile, she gave me a sample.  Holding it in my mouth for a couple hours gave me me an odd taste in my mouth; not sure what else it’s doing.  Ugh….

Lisa’s Answer

Unfortunately, I am not aware of any great options.  Here is a thread on fillings and braces which shows similar difficulty with finding safe options.  I would ask your dentist to get a MSDS on the materials that will be used.  When my children got braces, I has the orthodontist help me find an adhesive that did not release fluoride.

Plastic Bins and Hairbrush

Question from Stacy

1) Does PET plastic containers offgas? I have the plastic in my car and can get hot.

2) What do you think of the Wetbrush materials? It says nylon66 (which is fine) but what about the epoxy tips?

Lisa’s Answer

PET does offgass but minimally as compared to other plastics such as PVC.  Keep in mind that there are many plastic surfaces in your car.  That said, I always try to use natural materials when possible, so can you replace the plastic bin with a cotton tote?
I don’t know all of the materials in a Wetbrush and they were not listed on their website but nylon is relatively inert. Again, I personally would chose an unfinished solid wood brush with nylon or hair bristles.

Washing Clothing in Unfiltered Water

Question from James

My house uses city water i cant afford the pure effect whole home filter at the moment but i was wondering is their another way i can wash my clothes safely without worrying about any vocs,chemcicals getting in my clothes especially the organic cotton ones.Also is this something i should be concerned about or am i overreacting?

Lisa’s Answer

There are many bigger exposures that I would first try to address such as PU foam in mattresses and upholstered furniture and formaldehyde from engineered wood.  You can get a report on your city’s water to see if there are specific chemicals of concern, but unless there is a significant contamination I wouldn’t worry too much about this. I will be writing more in future posts about clothing.

Plastics Used to Make Telephones

The other day one of my consulting clients asked me a question about the plastics used to make telephones.

In the process of researching this, I came across this article:

It gives the materials used to make phones throughout the history of phones.
And then it concludes that the plastics used to make phones today are unidentifiable because they are custom plastics made for performance.
So if you are using a plastic phone, you just can’t find out what type of plastic or additives are used.
I also couldn’t find a wooden phone on the internet. They used to be available when I started looking for nontoxic products.
If you are concerned about exposures to plastics from phones, the solution is to cover the plastic parts with aluminum foil tape. It looks a bit space-age, but the aluminum foil will block any plastic exposure.
Debra Lynn Dadd
new website on life beyond industrialization:

Sink Repair

Question from Jade

My young daughter accidentally cracked my bathroom porcelain sink. It’s a very small crack so I would like to repair it over having it replaced but the products I’m finding are all very toxic. I suffer from Environmental Sensitivity Illness so a non-toxic product is necessary. Do you know of any porcelain sink repair kits that are non-toxic?

Lisa’s Answer

I do not know of any.  The total exposure would be very small, particularly once it is cured but given your sensitivity I understand that a non-toxic product is needed.  Readers, any recommendations?

Vinyl Flooring

Question from Liberty

Looking for your opinion for safety on the LifeProof Vinyl Plank Flooring, which claims to be both phthalate-free and formaldehyde-free, and Cali LVP flooring, which is supposed to be no voc odor free vinyl flooring.

Lisa’s Answer

Check out The Green Design Center.  The owner, Andrew Pace, tests the products he sells and has found formaldehyde emissions from products that claim to be formaldehyde-free.  Cali LVP flooring is the only LVP brand he sells.


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