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 Cynthia
I am looking for a safe sofa lamp and bedside lamp. Are there any manufacturers that you recommend?
I have chronic Lyme disease, “sick building syndrome”, reactive airway disease and more.
Also, what about light bulbs? Recommendations?
For lighting, I don’t have specific brands to recommend other than custom made. I do recommend Etsy to find makers who will tell you all of the materials used to make their products and who may substitute safer choices. For example, wood bases are ideal. Many makers on Etsy already use low VOC finishes and seals and some will use them on request. If you are not EMR sensitive, a metal base is also a good choice. For the shade, look for natural materials such as linen, silk or untreated grasses. Glass shades are a great choice. Many lampshade are lined with polystyrene, which does offgas. Again, you can ask the makers to use a natural material in its place.
Question from Zkel
In shopping for a mini or portable crib mattress. The mattress is usually made of polyurethane foam or polyester fiber batting and covered by either nylon or vinyl to provide waterproofing. Between polyurethane foam and polyester fiber batting, which one do you think is less toxic? My goal is to select a filling material that is less toxic and remove the nylon or vinyl cover and replace it with a TPU padding. Do you think that is a sensible thing to do?
None of these materials are ideal, particularly for a crib mattress but I understand that you budget may be an issue. I recommend Naturepedic organic mini crib mattress.
Polyurethane foam can include many chemical additives and they are usually not disclosed. Additionally, it is highly flammable and likely contains harmful flame retardants. I don’t recommend it, particularly for a mattress. Polyester fiber is more flame resistant and may not include added flame retardants but you should check the specific product to make sure. It is made with petrochemicals and does offgas. Unknown chemicals may also be added. Without more information, if I had to choose one over the other I would choose the polyester. However, I really don’t recommend either.
TPU is made from petrochemicals but has relatively low toxicity. A better option, if affordable is a Naturepedic organic mini crib cover.
Question from LM
I looked on the site and did not find anything about carbon steel cookware. Apparently it’s a “perfect hybrid of a cast iron skillet and a stainless steel frying pan. It has a cast iron’s heat retention, seasoning, and non-stick properties and stainless steel’s heat control, lightness and cooking speed.” Is it non toxic?
I recently published the Ultimate Guide to Non-Toxic Cookware. Carbon Steel is one of the safest options as long as it does not have a non-toxic coating on it. Carbon steel that is not coated needs to be seasoned regularly, just like cast iron.
Question from Patricia
I hesitated in bothering you but I am frustrated with not getting answers to questions regarding dental floss. After reading about the dangers of Pafs Teflon coatings on floss I am trying to find a brand to purchase that is organic and chemical free. I threw my Oral B glide in the trash. I love the Listerine Ultraclean brand because it’s easy to use and doesn’t break but it’s a light blue plastic string. I called them and they said no chemicals. Do you know if that’s true? I went to purchase other organic chemical free brands but after reading bad reviews Like from too thick, breaking easily…to poor packaging I am lost as to what to buy. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated. I would love to continue using the Listerine product but if it has chemicals I will stop.
Thanks for any feedback.
Unfortunately, I can’t tell you anything beyond what the company will disclose. If the product is plastic, the claim that there are no chemicals is not possible. Perhaps they said no chemical coatings? In any case, out of caution, I would not use it.
I use FlossPot. It’s made of silk and is fairly strong. My teeth are tight together and I do occasionally break the floss but not so often that it bothers me. I love that is comes in a stainless steel container that can be refilled.
Question from Karen
Does anyone else react to disinfectant sprays used in stores during this virus?
Question from Bonnie
I found bed sheets on the bed,bath,& beyond website. The description states micro sanded. What does that mean? Sanded with what? It does not list the manufacturer.
Sandwashing is a process in which the fabric is put in a container with lava rock, silicone or rubber balls and rotated so the material is brushed to make it softer. While the process in theory should not add any toxics to the material I can’t say for certain if any chemicals are added to the process.
Question from Debbie
Looking for references for nontoxic flatware and pots and pans made anywhere except Asian countries
You can look at my Ultimate Guide to Non-Toxic Cookware. Many of the companies listed manufacture in the U.S. or France. While I am all for buying products made in America, when I evaluate the healthfulness and safety of a product I am more interested in the practices and transparency of the company than the country of manufacture. I am more confident in the companies who demonstrate commitment to producing safe products, willingness to share information about materials and manufacturing processes, and have strict oversight of the production than I am about the location.
Question from Jennifer
I was wondering if you might be able to recommend safe bakeware, in particular a cake pan and muffin tin. What is the best material that won’t leach chemicals into my food?
You can read more about cookware and bakeware in the Ultimate Guide to Non-Toxic Cookware. Glass, stainless steel (if you are not sensitive to nickel), and cast iron are best choices.
I use a cast iron muffin pan and glass cake pans.
Question from Tgw
Recently I have read that many pure and naturally grown stuffings (ie kapok and wool) and even GOTS organic cotton from countries other than the USA are fumigated with chemicals (for insects) just prior to entry here to the US. Products often do not list the country of origin for materials used; how do I avoid this since I have many sensitivities?
I agree this is an issue. The only way I know of to find this out is to call the company. There is no other source that I am aware of for this information.
Most ceramic dishware is safe to use as long as it doesn’t contain leachable lead or cadmium.
Lead in Ceramics
Lead has traditionally been used in ceramic glazes and decorations to give it a glasslike finish and allow colors and patterns to show through. Lead exposure is a serious health concern and every exposure is harmful, particularly to children.1 The EPA does not consider dishware to be a primary source of exposure but because lead is ubiquitous in the environment, including soil, food and water, it should be avoided when possible. 2 Fortunately, many manufacturers now use lead-free glazes, although lead may still be present in low amounts due to contamination of raw materials from the environment. Ceramic that is properly fired and doesn’t add lead as an ingredient shouldn’t leach.3
Cadmium in Ceramics
Cadmium is often added to glazes to create bright red and orange colors. It is present in low levels in the environment and primary sources of human exposure are through certain foods and smoking. Higher levels of exposure in children have been linked to neurological problems.4
Regulations for Ceramicware
There are regulations to keep consumers safe from lead and cadmium exposure but they are limited. The FDA randomly tests ceramicware for leachable lead and cadmium and keeps a record of products that have failed. California Proposition 65, which requires warning labels on products that contain harmful chemicals at unsafe levels , has a much more stringent standard for lead and cadmium. If you’re buying new dishware, choose products that do not carry a Proposition 65 warning label. As an extra step before purchasing, check with the manufacturer to ensure the product doesn’t exceed Proposition 65 lead and cadmium limits.
Are Your Dishes Safe?
If you can’t determine if your current dishes were tested to meet California Proposition 65 or if they were purchased before the guidelines were published in 1987, you can follow these general guidelines.
- Plain white dishware is more likely to be free of lead or cadmium.
- These types of ceramic dishes are more likely to be a source of lead or cadmium:
- Handmade (unless you can confirm the ingredients and proper firing)
- Chipped or damaged
- Ceramics colored red, yellow, or orange
- Labelled as “Not Food Safe”
- Ceramics with decorations on top of the glaze or rim
- You can test for lead using lead test strips. A negative reading doesn’t guarantee there is no lead, but a positive reading will tell you there is lead.
- Tamara Rubin of leadsafemamma.com, uses special equipment to test individual products for lead content and reports on her findings. Keep in mind that even if a product tests positive for lead content it does not tell you anything about whether lead will leach out into food. Properly fired ceramics shouldn’t leach but you may choose to avoid dishware with lead content, particularly if levels are high, as a precautionary measure.