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 Lisa
I assume that the dishes are new. If so, Villeroy & Boch claims that their dishes use lead-free glaze. Even when manufacturers use lead free glazes, it’s possible that they could have traces of lead which can be a raw material contaminant. Typically white dishes are a safer bet. I believe the Manor pattern is white. You can read more here about lead in ceramic dishes.
The EU has been evaluating tightening their lead limits for ceramics but it hasn’t been updated since the 1980’s. I reached out to Villeroy & Boch to see if they meet or exceed California Proposition 65 limits but have not heard back. I recommend buying white ceramic dishwater that meets or exceeds Prop 65.
Tamara Rubin from leadsafemama.com tests products including dishes with XRF equipment to see if they contain lead. You could try that. The limitation of this is that it tells you if there is lead content but does not tell you if it leaches out of the product. You can use it as an extra precaution. The testing, however, is not done in a laboratory and only tests one sample. It can be a useful tool in some instances.
Question from Nicole
I would need more information than is provided on their website but there are some red flags. The crib is described on some reseller websites as made of 100% beech wood. On the Stokke site it is described as solid beech wood but then further down in the details it says it is a combination of solid beechwood, Beech laminate and beech plywood. I find this very misleading. Laminate is made with adhesives so I would need to know what type of adhesives are used. Plywood may contain formaldehyde. I don’t see any certifications to confirm that they use formaldehyde-free plywood.
Also, the natural color has a finish that I would need to know more about. The white and grey are stained and I would need to know more about the stain used. You can call the company and ask if the have Safety Data Sheets for the finishes and materials used. If you get those I can look at them to tell you more.
Question from Mir
My kids have been begging for toy dinosaurs. I am looking for your advice on the toxicity levels of a few, and what you’d do 😉
Depending on your answers, I think I may just make these ‘outside toys’. Please let me know if the risks of any of these materials, in your opinion, are still too high.
Most of the mass-produced ones seem to be made of vinyl, often described as “PVC-free vinyl”. Often I just can’t find the materials.
They like these (which are PVC!)
Materials are listed as:
ABS (Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene), Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC), Metal, Polypropylene
My gut tells me PVC-free vinyl probably isn’t any better, do you know?
Here are some seemingly safer options, what are your thoughts?
These actually look like the COULD be decent because they may just be like ABS plastic? But I can’t find details:
And in another ‘low-toxin’ forum, these were suggested, although I can’t seem to find details:
Sorry for all the links, I’m trying to do as much research as I can!
Based on the information available in the links, greenrubbertoys.com seems like the best bet. While I have a couple questions about their products, I am impressed with the information they do provide. They are made with natural latex. You might want to confirm that it is 100% natural latex with no additives but even if it isn’t, it’s a better choice than the others. They provide testing results for each product line. Toys with brown paint may contain very low levels of lead, far below allowable limits. Have your kids wash their hands after playing and of course, make sure they don’t put them in their mouths.
I would avoid anything with PVC. The Target item has PVC. The Hearthsong item has a Prop 65 warning label for Toulene, which means it is probably made of PVC. I couldn’t find any information on materials on the Bullyland, battatco or Desertcart websites.
PEVA and EVA are two non-PVC vinyls. They are typically safer than PVC because they don’t contain chlorine, and don’t typically contain phthalates. They are however, petroleum-based plastic and can contain a number of chemical additives. For example formamide is a hotly debated ingredient in EVA foam. I know it’s really hard to find toys that have no plastic. I think the natural latex dinosaur is a good choice!
Question from Lisa
So glad I found you in my research! Seems you have proof that I may not be a crazy person. I found it strange the few days after we purchased a Tempurpedic mattress, that I started wheezing and could hear whistling coming from my breath! (Never had issues before) but I’m aging and friends say asthma comes with age???
Hence, I went to my Dr., then was sent to a pulmonologist…and both Dr’s tell me my labs “look great for 56 years old and you must be having asthma with hormonal changes”?? But, my hormones are normal according to my bloodwork, so why are you giving me 2 inhalers, prednisone and nose spray?? Ok, so I did all that and notice I’m fine, until I go to bed at night and it starts up again… then I feel fine all day …when not in my bedroom? Not hard to figure it’s “maybe” the new mattress.
So , my husband says it’s the carpet… so we took out carpet…still wheezing at bedtime. I decide to sleep in another room for a week to see if issue goes away. Hmmm, wheezing got better, but not entirely gone? Husband feels bad and said how can they sell this mattress if it’s so toxic to people??? I can only find one lawsuit on tempurpedic and 2 comments from parents that had children with asthma like symptoms that started from when they had a tempurpedic mattress. Can I please ask you if you have better proof or solid research information if tempurpedic mattresses cause issues like mine?? I did look on you pages, but only saw polyurethane & latex or down feather info? Do you have any research on tempurpedic mattresses causing breathing issues? I’ve tried doing my own research, but feel you’re the professional with answers I cannot find? Help…tired of sleeping in the other room and want to know I’m not crazy that this started (I think) with new mattress. THANK YOU DEBRA FOR THE WORK YOU’RE DOING TO KEEP US ALL INFORMED & SAFE XOXO! Many Thanks & hope you have some info for me.
Unfortunately, I can’t give you proof that the mattress caused your asthma. Tempurpedic mattresses are made of polyurethane foam which can contain many different chemical additives. Companies are not required to disclose the ingredients in the foam and if they purchase their foam from a supplier as opposed to manufacturing it themselves they may not even know what is in it.
The company claims that they do not contain formaldehyde which is an irritant and can cause respiratory symptoms. If you search the internet for Tempurpedic and formaldehyde you can find claims that tests have found formaldehyde in their mattresses. I can’t verify if these claims are true or not.
I don’t recommend any mattresses made with polyurethane foam.
Question from Anu
I am looking for toxin free living room furniture.
Is the Amish Chemical free futon truly chemical free?
What mattress should I choose- natural latex, wool, organic cotton, coconut ? What do I ask to know if the mattress is truly non-toxic?
The Amish futon frame looks to be a good, non-toxic choice. I would just confirm that the linseed oil is 100% linseed with no added ingredients. Some very sensitive people do react to linseed oil. It is not toxic but it can be a problem for some.
I’m not sure if you are looking for mattresses specifically at the futonshop or are asking a vernal question about mattresses. Here is a good link to an article that Debra wrote about Naturepedic. In her explanation about why Naturpedic is the best non-toxic mattress it tells you what to consider when buying a mattress.
Question from Roya
I wanted to get more information about Austin Air purifier. I just bought the standard one and and turned it on for the first time on full blast. It made me feel light headed and queasy. Just wondering is this normal because of too much toxins in my home? I bought this because i read that it’s top of the line and even read a study on it from John Hopkins it was also used during 9/11 at ground zero. So, does this normally make people feel this way at first and then it goes away I just don’t understand why it’s making me feel this way.
I can’t tell you exactly what made you feel ill because everyone is different, though people with hypersensitive have reported reacting to this unit as well as other air purifiers. The housing is metal though the wheels are made of plastic and some off gassing will occur. Some people have found that allowing it to run at full power outside or in a garage for a few days helps.
This is a very good unit. There are a few others that I think are better but you can read more about that in my Portable Air Purifier Buying Guide. You can read other people’s comments at the end where some reader’s indicate which air purifiers they have reacted to.
Question from Pia
I assume you are referring to the carbon in the filter. Carbon is safe. Just make sure you are replacing it as directed. When the carbon becomes saturated it can re-release impurities back into the water. I recommend avoiding plastic coffee makers as discussed in prior posts.
Question from Bonnie
I’m not a doctor and can’t tell you the exact health impact of a one-time bleach exposure for someone with a thyroid condition. I don’t recommend using bleach. Most bleach products contain several ingredients so I can’t give you specifics about how harmful the product is without knowing the ingredients. In general, sodium hypochlorite, a common bleach ingredient has been shown to cause skin and respiratory sensitization, eye irritation, and neurotoxicity. It is also very toxic to the aquatic environment. Cotton used for fabric is washed and processed to remove impurities. I am not aware of any reports of negative health effects from organic cotton due to manure.
I’ve written recently about the possible presence of lead in ceramic dishes and cookware. The FDA recommends using lead test kits as a way to determine if it’s safe to eat or drink from your ceramic ware. This type of test is helpful but limited. It’s important to understand what you can learn from it and what you can’t.
Lead test kits became popular after the EPA established the 2008 Lead Renovating, Repair and Painting rule (RRP) that allows certified contractors to use certain lead test kits to determine if regulated lead-based paint is present in housing and other facilities where children are present. Because the tests were designed to test paint some brands , such as Scitus, specifically state that they are not intended for ceramics. It’s important to make sure the test you buy is appropriate for this purpose.
3M LeadCheck is the Best Brand for Testing Ceramics.
3M LeadCheck is an easy-to-use swab that is rubbed on the surface of the item you are testing. If it turns red it indicates the presence of lead. The directions on the package state that it takes just 30 seconds to determine the presence of lead but it’s worth noting that a Consumer Reports review found that it can take up to 2 hours if there are low levels of lead! Make sure to wait this long to see if the swab turns red.
This Test Can Tell You if Lead Is Present but Not if It’s Free of Lead
The limitation of the 3M LeadCheck test is that it only detects lead down to 600ppm. That means that a product could contain over 500ppm of lead and still test negative. For perspective, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) limits the amount of lead in children’s products to 100ppm. Because no level of lead is safe, this is simply not a sensitive enough test to determine that a product’s safety. If you get a positive result on your dishes or cookware, stop using them. If you get a negative result it does not necessarily mean that no lead is present.
Lead test kits can be helpful for identifying lead in children’s toys, ceramic tiles, older porcelain enameled bathtubs, sinks and toilets. Just remember that a negative reading doesn’t necessarily mean the item is free of lead.
Question from Dylan
You’ve probably seen the EWG article on Borax which recommends avoiding it.
Borax can be an irritant when it comes in contact with the skin and eyes but it can also be inhaled. EWG states that “Borax and its cousin, boric acid, may disrupt hormones and harm the male reproductive system. Men working in boric acid-producing factories have a greater risk of decreased sperm count and libido. According to EPA’s safety review of these pesticides, chronic exposure to high doses of borax or boric acid causes testicular atrophy in male mice, rats and dogs.”
For chronic exposure, Japan’s Globally Harmonized System (GHS) for chemical management rates it as a high level of toxicity for reproduction and The Endocrine Disruption Exchange (TEDX) rates it as a medium to high hazard level as an endocrine disrupter. I consider this enough evidence to determine it’s best to avoid it in general.
However, the fact that it makes up just 1% of the formula means that it is in very low levels. What I don’t know is how the product cures and if the borax would be encapsulated and not able to emit any fumes once cured. Have you looked at the safety data sheet (SDS) for the product. If you can post that here it might provide some more clues.
In general I don’t recommend wallpaper. It creates a favorable environment for mold and the wallpaper itself is often a source of toxins. A lot of wallpaper is made of PVC which is much more of a concern. Wallpaper inks can also emit harmful fumes.