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 Maggie

Typically we have used fiberglass insulation. Son is building a Tiny house and researching a good insulation I’m finding very mixed information…alot of it depending on what they are trying to sell. although hard at time to differentiate the information at hand. I was going with the cotton batting until I read that cotton is the most heavily sprayed product. So how that translates into insulation I am not sure. Any ideas?

Lisa’s Answer

Teflon EcoElite

Question from Tricia

Hi – thanks so much for this service.  I’ve been  searching for eco/health friendly outdoor gear and recently came across Teflon EcoElite as a new waterproof coating.  Have you heard about this or know anything about it? Seems to have won some eco/innovation awards, but who knows what that really means …

Lisa’s Answer

This is an alternative to PFC-containing products, so it is better.  But, it is not clear if that means it is safe.  The company does not say on their website what chemicals are used in place of the PFCs.  The industry experts cited in this post says that the new PFC-free products being developed have very limited testing and do not have consistent results that shed light on their health impact.  Teflon’s product is rated by GreenScreen, which is a for-profit rating organization for the textile industry.  It is scored as a “good” alternative with a 3 out 4 rating, with 1 being the most hazardous and 4 being the least.  The rating doesn’t really tell you much, other than it is better than PFC-containing products which would be rated a 1.

Water Bottles for Kids at School

Question from Sarah

Hello! Thanks for your dedication and helpful research. I’ve enjoyed your website for many years. What is the best water bottle to send to school with kids (first grade)? I know that I could send a Life Factory but worried about glass and having it sent home because it is glass.
Any stainless steel ones testing well?

Lisa’s Answer

If your kids do not have a known sensitivity to nickel, I recommend stainless steel when glass isn’t appropriate.  Read this post on stainless steel bottles.  I use Kleen Kanteen when I’m not using glass.  They have a lid that is made of cork and steel.  If a hands-free lids is needed, they have one made of polypropylene.  Make sure you do not use it with fruit juice or anything acidic as it will increase leaching.
Some stainless steel bottles have tested positive for lead but it is not from the bottle itself, but rather from paint on the bottle or a solder point at the bottom of the bottle.  Read more here.

Lacquer Paint

Question from Claudia

I found this website while searching how to remove the smell of lacquer paint from our home. We had our kitchen cabinets recently painted, and I never thought to ask what they would use. The smell was so horrible we had to stay in a hotel for the weekend. When I came back home, there was a layer of colored dust on the floors and counters. I moped it all up and cleaned as good as I could – only to have a sore throat in the morning and a stomach ache. I have 3 kids that sleep upstairs and I’m worried the smell will hard us. I have aired out the house continuously, used air purifiers, placed out activated charcoal….but I’m still worried because the smell is strong. It was a lacquer oil based paint and I regret it all now. My question is, if I try heating the house to 90 degrees, will it still be benifical to do it for say 3 hours a day and then air it out, repeatedly? I only have a few hours a day I can do it during the week with kids naps and school schedules. I appreciate your advice and time. Thank you so much.

Lisa’s Answer

I do not recommend doing a bake out.  Here is a post that explains my position.  I recommend sealing it with a product that is made to seal in chemical off-gassing.  AFM Safecoat makes several products for this purpose.  I’m not sure which one would be best for your application.  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

Colophon in Shoes

Question from Nikolay

Are there any shoes proven free of Colophon?

Lisa’s Answer

I am not familiar with Colophon.  Readers?

Water Repellent Treatment

Question from Anderson

Are the water repellent treatments used on clothing toxic? For example, the “Rain Guard” by Carharrt?  Its described as a DWR durable water repellent. It is  my understanding that it means its probably a fluoropolymer such as the cancer causing class of chemicals used in Teflon and firefighting foam.

Lisa’s Answer

Yes, it probably is a fluoropolymer.  The outdoor industry is working on developing alternative to fluorine-containing finishes but the alternatives are not without risk and require more frequent applications, so a greater amount of chemicals.  Apparently, they also do not work well.  Here is a link about PFCs in the outdoor industry.

Are Tetra Paks Non-Toxic?

With fall in full force and Thanksgiving looming on the horizon, I started to stock up on some kitchen staples that I don’t buy at other times of the year.  A favorite is pumpkin puree that comes in a shelf-stable box, which I use to make soup.  During the summer it’s easy to eat mostly fresh food but during the colder months, I admittedly look for a few short cuts.  My pumpkin puree got me thinking about aseptic boxed packing, more commonly known by its brand name, Tetra Pak.


I remember when I first started to see items that were typically packaged in aluminum cans cropping up in boxed packaging in the supermarket.  I had sworn off canned food because of concerns about BPA in the lining and was happy to have a safer alternative for the few packaged staples I liked to have on hand.  But my recent pumpkin purchase got me wondering, just how safe are Tetra Paks?


Tetra Paks are made with 75% paperboard, 20% polyethylene, and 5% aluminum and the layers are adhered using heat and pressure.  Polyethylene is the only material that comes in contact with food.  Food-grade polyethylene is considered one of the safest plastics but, as I wrote about in this post, even plastics thought to be safe can leach chemicals with estrogenic activity.



I only found one study that specifically tested Tetra Paks and it concluded that Tetra Paks showed estrogenic contamination similar to that from plastic water bottles.    So, are they any safer than cans?  Cans with BPA lining have been widely tested and are known to leach BPA.  The evidence is clear that they are best avoided.  Read more here about BPA-free cans and why they may not be any safer.  The evidence is not as clear for Tetra Paks, but there is enough to cause concern.  I’ll be keeping my purchases of boxed shelf-stable food to a minimum.  Fortunately, more products are being introduced in glass jars, such as organic diced tomatoes, ready-made soups, and nut milks.  Glass is the safer choice.

IKEA Enameled Pot

Question from Karen

I know that Debra has recommended Le Creuset in  the past and I would love to own one one day, but its just not in the budget for me right now. When I was in Ikea the other day I noticed they have their own enameled steel pot. It says that the materials are just steel and enamel and that there is no lead or cadmium added.
Do you think this is a safe alternative or is there more information that I need?

Lisa’s Answer

The lead can comes from contamination even when it’s not an intentionally added ingredient.  In general, I try to avoid enameled steel cookware.  You can read more in my Ultimate Guide to Non-Toxic Cookware.

Polyester Slip-Covered Chairs

Question from Stacey

I am trying to find affordable, safe, comfortable dining chairs for my family. I see one company makes a slipcovered chair but the slipcover is made of polyester. The foam in the chair is polyurethane and polyester-wrapped.  A customer service rep told me that this company does not add flame retardants to any furniture (Pottery Barn). The slipcovers are washable, which I would wash a couple times before first use. Would you say these chairs are just too toxic and not safe, or would they be okay?

Lisa’s Answer

The foam in the chair is of greater concern than the polyester slipcover.  A chair without flame retardant is safer than the same chair with flame retardant, but there are many other materials of concern.  A sold wood chair with water-based adhesive and finishes is a more cost-efficient and safer bet than one with polyurethane foam.  There are upholstered chairs that are filled with natural latex but they tend to me more expensive.  Here is one I recommend.  You need to chose the Organic Natural latex fill option.


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