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.

Staub Stoneware

Question from Lisa

Staub is on your list of safe products. But does include their ceramic stone ware rectangular baking dish here?

I read your post about enamel coating- it’s essentially glass sometime mixed with something else.

But this uses “porcelain enamel.” It’s my understanding enamel is as you describe glass based. Porcelain though is clay based. So what is “porcelain enamel.”? Does that meet your safe criteria?

To make it more confusing it’s called “stoneware.” Does that give you an idea what the enamel is coating exactly?

Lisa’s Answer

When buying stoneware the things to watch out for are the clay and lead contamination in the glaze.  I have not seen any testing on this item.  You can call the manufacturer and ask if they have third party testing that shows no lead leaches from their stoneware.

Comfortable Mattress

Question from Karen

I am shopping for a non toxic mattress. Do you have a list of Comfortable mattress that is not drowned in flame retardant ?

Lisa’s Answer

There are many materials to avoid in a mattress in addition to flame retardants.  Start by looking at the mattresses on Debra’s List.  Also, you can type in mattress in the Q&A Super Search, in which many readers have commented on their experiences.  I can guide on the materials but comfort is a personal choice.

New Apartment

Question from John

I moving into a new apartment How shoud i go about storing my clothing, pots, pans, and etc when having to work with an apartment where you cant determine what materials the closets and cabinets are made of or if you know they are made of things such as mdf,particleboard, etc

Lisa’s Answer

I would be more concerned about you breathing in chemical emissions from the mdf, particleboard, etc. then your belongings absorbing the fumes.  I would purchase a good quality air purifier that removes VOCs, such as EnviroKlenz.

Paint Off-Gassing

Question from John

Painters painted our room with eco spec claimed no smell I went in 3 days  later not much smell but I felt poisoned with a headache
Fans going windows opened
I have asthma
Any suggestion? Or experience with this paint?

Lisa’s Answer

I assume you are referring to Benjamin Moore’s Eco Spec line.  According to the MSDS, it has zero VOC (0g/l) for any tint and base combination.  Many paints have zero-VOC bases but add tints with VOCs.  This one does not.  I would keep running the fans with the windows opened as much as possible.  Consider purchasing a good air purifier that removes VOCS such as EnvirKlenz.
Readers, does anyone have experience with this paint?

Vinyl Plank Flooring

Question from David

I was trying to put floor in kitchen called life breath vinyle and have one box in room to test  no odour and voc and philates free   I am mcs so odour big for me   is this floor okay to use  I have filter with hepa and carbon running in room

Lisa’s Answer

I was not able to find information on a product called Life Breath.  If you can find a material safety data sheet (MSDS) on the product I can take a look.  In general, I don’t recommend vinyl plank flooring even if it claims to be free of VOCs and phthalates, especially if you are sensitive.  Products can claim to be VOC-free and phthalate-free if emissions are below a certain level.  This does not necessarily mean there are no emissions.  Read this thread for more information on what readers have tried and the problems they have experienced with vinyl flooring.  Also, you could have a sample tested for formaldehyde.  Andrew Pace from The Green Design Center tests products for formaldehyde emissions for a $100 fee. He has found formaldehyde from samples of flooring that claim to be VOC-free.  If you are intent on using this brand it might worth testing before you install it.

Non-Toxic Kitchens

Question from Pam

Who creates a non-toxic kitchen environment?  IKEA??

Lisa’s Answer

Are you referring to cabinets or all of the items you would find in a kitchen?  IKEA has a chemical policy that limits the use of harmful chemicals in their products but it does not eliminate all chemicals nor does it fully disclose all of the chemicals in each item.  Generally speaking, their products are likely less toxic than items found at traditional retailers but it possible to find products like cabinets that are non-toxic.  Check out Debra’s List for some ideas.  There are many options but it would depend on your price range and whether you want low chemical emissions or no chemical emissions.

Plastics in Hydroponics

Question from TL

I hope u can help provide more educational information related to hydroponics materials used to make the plastic frames, net pots etc. Most sellers claim they are HDPE food grade so totally safe to use at home. But as consumers, how do we know if they are truly HDPE Food Grade materials? My concern is there any such recognized industry standards that the sellers have to produce to substantiate their claims as totally HDPE food grade, safe for human consumption?


Lisa’s Answer

Food Grade materials are regulated in the U.S. by the FDA.  They cannot contain certain dyes or additives or recycled content that are know to be harmful.  However, read this post about plastics and how even food-grade plastics have been shown to leach hormone-disrupting chemicals.  Food-grade plastic may be safer than regular plastic but that does not mean that it is safe.  I’m not sure if manufactures are require to provide to consumers certification of food-grade status, but you could ask.

Bemberg Fabric

Question from Jason

Im about to purchase a dress suit and the jacket is made of 100% organic wool however the lining is made of Bemberg is it safe to buy this suit?


Lisa’s Answer

Bemberg is similar to rayon in that it is produced from natural fiber (cotton) and is highly processed using chemicals.  I would have to do more research to understand more about the chemicals used to produce it.  Generally, this type of fabric does not have a a formaldehyde finish so it’s not the worst thing you could wear, but why go to the expense of buying organic wool if the layer closer to your skin is a chemically processed fabric?

Why I Don’t Recommend Bake-Outs

Photo by Gabriel Gurrola on Unsplash

Bake-outs are a frequent topic of discussion on Toxic Free Q&A.  Many people have reported success reducing odors from off-gassing building materials and household items using the bake-out method.   After reviewing available research, I believe the risks outweigh the potential benefits.

A bake-out is a method of heating rooms to make chemicals from paints, finishes, and other building materials offgas more quickly.

The bake-out method was designed to accelerate the curing process of certain building materials that have some toxicity during application, but cure to a nontoxic finish. In these materials the sources of off-gassing are solvents used to keep the material pliable (as in the case of caulks, paints, and other finishes) or residual chemi­cals used in manufacturing that have not completely dissipated (such as adhesives used to hold together wood floor tiles). Once these chemicals offgas, however, the resulting product is non-toxic.

Unfortunately, research shows that the method does not routinely lower VOC levels.


Bake-Outs Can Increase VOC Levels


Researchers have found that bake-outs do not lower, and can sometimes increase, VOC levels (1,2,3).  One explanation for an increase in levels is that the high concentration of VOCs generated by high temperature can become reabsorbed by porous material.

According to the Healthy House Institute, bake-outs seem to have little effect on formaldehyde levels, probably because formaldehyde-containing materials, such as particle board, are thick enough to have a substantial reservoir of formaldehyde in them.

There are additional risks to conducting a bake-out:

  • Studies show that some chemicals are released into the air that are not released at room temperatures.
  • All materials in the heated room can potentially emit VOCs. The mix of chemicals could form new, harmful compounds.
  • Some materials will heat faster than others which can cause building materials to warp or crack.


Flush-Outs Recommended for New Construction


A flush-out is a technique that forces large amounts of air through a building before occupancy to lower VOCs.  This is the method recommended by the U.S. Green Building Council for LEED credit prior to occupancy.  The method requires very specific levels of ventilation, humidity and temperature.


Tips to Reduce VOCs in Your Home


  • Purchase building materials and home furnishings with low or no VOCs.
  • Improve ventilation. Open windows frequently and use fans to bring outdoor air inside. Consider mechanical ventilation for new construction.
  • Seal building materials and wood furniture that are known to have high levels of VOCs with a product designed to seal in toxins, such as AFM Safecoat.
  • Use a high quality air purifier designed to remove VOCs.
  • Work with an indoor air quality professional if you are considering a flush-out for new construction.

Blackout Shades and Curtains

Question from Deborah

I’m looking for advice on a few toxic free items such as blackout shades and curtains and couches. My husband died from leukemia so I’m very concerned about toxins in the home. I’ve searched but have been unable to find zero VOC blackout shades and curtains.


Lisa’s Answer

If you are looking for entirely natural shades with no chemicals you would need to have them custom made.  I am not aware of any pre-made shades that are free of any VOCs.  Two Sisters Ecotextiles sells a great variety of chemical-free fabrics.  I’m sure they could help you find the appropriate materials for your needs.  Hunter Douglas, which is a leading brand of shades, is GREENGUARD Certified, which means they have low VOCs, but not no VOCs.  There are more options on Debra’s List but note that not all products from some of these companies are entirely VOC-free.
There are many options for couches on Debra’s List.


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