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.

Matchbox and Hot Wheels Cars

Question from Miriam

My quick question is: have you ever investigated Matchbox cars or Hot Wheels?
My longer question, which I know may have to wait, is: How do I research this? says they’re safe as of the last 20-30 years (from lead) but I found an article from 2015 that says they were found to contain ‘toxic’ chemicals – but can’t find more than this:
My son desperately wants some and I’m not sure how to proceed.


Lisa’s Answer


My son was obsessed with Matchbox and Hot Wheels when he was little so I get it.  He is now starting freshman year of college…it goes fast:). At the time my main concern was lead, I worked very long hours and didn’t have the time to do as deep dives as I do now.  A big factor is if he will put them in his mouth.  I assume he is past that age, but if not I would hold off.
The study sited in the article below is no longer up so I can’t see the testing methodology.  Most of the studies for heavy metals in toys are subjected to solutions to mimic saliva and digestions because the assumption is they will be mouthed or possibly digested by a very small child.  So, if a metal is leached under these conditions it does not necessarily mean that there is exposure when played with as intended.
The good news is that the U.S. regulation of toys is getting better, unlike in other segments.  All toys made in and imported to be sold in the U.S. must meet the ASTM standard F963 which tests for 8 metals including arsenic, mercury, lead, chromium, cadmium, barium, selenium, and antimony.  The regulations were strengthened in 2016 and 2017.
They do not test for cobalt at the federal level, which is what was identified in the attached study.  Oregon and Washington State have stricter requirements for children’s toys and require companies to report on the presence of a longer list of chemicals of concern.  Cobalt is one of them.  You can use this cool database to look up companies to see the presence of chemicals of concern in their products.  I looked up Mattel which makes both Hot Wheels and Matchbox and it does, indeed, show that cobalt is present.  It does not tell you anything about exposure or limits, simply that it is used in the product.
Interestingly, cobalt is the most reported material in this database.  It is widely used in children’s clothing but also present in toys and jewelry.  It is a colorant often, but not always, used for blue coloring.  The health effects of the type of cobalt exposure a child gets from consumer products is not studied.  Most of the studied effects are from industrial settings.  It is a possible allergen and there are dermatological studies.  You can read more here.
I would still choose a major manufacturer like Mattel over a cheaper version.  Heavy metal contamination from use of recycled materials can be greater in lower cost products.
I think this is a personal choice.  My choice would be to allow it if he is old enough to not put them in his mouth.  As an extra precaution he could wash his hands after playing with them.  I would focus more on eliminating cobalt exposure from clothing by buying organic cotton and ideally GOTS certified clothing.

Air Fryers

Question from Catherine

Hello, I recently came across your site and so happy that I did !I would like to purchase a air fryer and would like to know your opinion . I had my eye on a air fryer that QVC is selling but I saw that it had a California warning label. Are air fryers safe ? I know that they are a healthy way to cook, but are they toxic ?

Lisa’s Answer


I haven’t researched air fryers yet but I, too, am curious.  The California warning label is often due to lead in the cord of small appliances.  I am not concerned about this as an exposure unless you you have small children who might have access to the cord.  What I do want to look into is the coatings used on the inside of the appliance and the type of energy used to cook the food.  Check back soon and hopefully I’ll have some answers.


Question from Shelly

Do you onow anything about the daniel sofa from four seasons? My daughter is toxic week from aldehyde and we moved and I haven’t really found the source of it but now it might be our bedroom furniture so I can paint that will save seal but I’m wondering if I need to cancel my new sofa order. My bedroom furniture is from Ashlea and it says made in Vietnam. We’ve had it for three years. And my daughters sofa says that it’s phase 2 California formaldehyde compliant. So her issues might be from my furniture. It might be really bad because I’ve really suffered with constant UTIs and pain. Now I’m wondering if it’s some chemical in the furniture or maybe it’s the formaldehyde anything that you know that you can share is much appreciated.

Lisa’s Answer


There are several chemicals of concern that could be found in a traditional sofa.  The most concerning are flame retardants.  You could call the company and ask if they contain any.  Here is an article that references other concerns.  Most traditional sofas, including the one you mention, is made with polyurethane foam, which can have many chemicals of concern.  California Phase 2 (CARB Phase 2) only measures the content from the wood components.  It does not tell you about the foam and fabrics.  You can check out Debra’s List of safe furniture makers.

Electric Glass Kettle

Question from Kate

I have metal allergies, including to nickel and chromium. I REALLY miss my electric kettle. There are electric kettles w foodgrade 304 stainless steel (which i understand contains nickel and chromium) bottom and lid and borosilicate glass sides and lip (eg ASCOT). Q: Does boiling water leach nickel and chromium from stainless steel?  I know acidic food would.

Lisa’s Answer


I wrote an article about leaching from stainless steel into water.  One study showed that stainless steel did not leach into water in any tested scenario.  Most studies test stainless steel using acid solutions so more research is needed to provide a more definitive assessment of leaching into water.  One factor that determines the amount of leaching is surface area and given that only part that comes in contact with the water is the bottom, leaching would be further limited.  If you did not have allergies, I would say it’s a good choice. But given that you have allergies to metal I suggest you check with your doctor. I know some people with metal allergies avoid all stainless steel.


Question from Tracie

Sorry to bother you but i have looked for info and have had no luck on what tub to get because i cant afford to much. i was wondering if i got one that is plastic with a acrylic coat if it would work because a full acrylic tub just cost to much. if you have any idea i would be very grateful. i am very sensitive and can only eat 15 foods.

Lisa’s Answer


I’m sorry you are having a challenging time.  If you are very sensitive, I can’t tell you what you will or will not react to because everyone is different.  I can give you some general advice about the relative toxicity of different options.  I usually recommend porcelain enameled steel or porcelain enameled cast iron but I know those can be pricey.  Have you consider buying a used one?  I’m not sure where you live but stores like Restore sell used building products.  Just be careful not to buy one built before 1996 because the glazing could contain lead.

I don’t recommend acrylic tubs because they are made with petrochemicals and offgas.  I don’t know what type of plastic is in the core of an acrylic coated tub so I can’t really speak to its toxicity.

Toxic-Free Desk and Chairs

Question from Elizabeth

Thank you so much for your awesome work and resources!! I’m wondering if there are any specific brands that you would recommend for a toxic free chair and desk?

Lisa’s Answer


It’s hard for me to answer that without a better understanding of your budget and just how “toxic -free” you want the items to be.  You can look at the companies listed in the furniture section of Debra’s List for some good options.

Pottery Barn Whitney Desk

Question from KHedden

Does the Pottery Barn Whitney Corner Desk contain VOCs? I am trying to “de-tox” my bedroom and I was told that Pottery Barn Furniture is toxic!!

Lisa’s Answer

I can’t tell you the level of VOCs but there are some clues about the relative toxicity of the item.  The good news is it’s made of solid hardwood with solid wood drawers.  Engineered woods, which this doesn’t seem to use, tend to be significant sources of VOCs.  The source of VOCs will come from adhesives used for the veneers and the paint/stain and finishes.  You can call the company and ask if they can send you a safety data sheet (SDS) on the adhesives, paints and finishes but it is unlikely they will have that available.  You can ask if they use low VOC materials, but again, that is unlikely.  Finishes tend to offgas for a few months and then taper off, so the worst may be behind you.

While odor doesn’t tell you anything definitive about the toxicity of an item, it can be an indicator.  If there is no odor coming from the desk that is a good sign.

If you are trying to detox your bedroom, I would start with your bed.  If you have a traditional mattress made with polyurethane foam, I would be more concerned about that than the desk.


Question from Annique

I noticed an older question about Janice’s in Hartford, CT by people wondering if the company was still in existence.  I called Janice’s & learned they are still open for business. Their website isn’t currently available, but they do have a mail out catalog.

I found these phone numbers online:
Phone: 800-526-4237
2nd Phone: 860-523-4479
Fax: 860-523-4178

Just thought you’d want to know!

Lisa’s Answer

Thank you!


Affordable Storage

Question from Anusha

I have going above and beyond with ikea to find out about their bamboo shelves and haven’t got any answers back about if they use veneers or is there any toxicity in they clear lacquer finish , and finally I found the Elfa options on container store but they are Epoxy-bonded steel construction , I am not sure if these are toxic ? its like I cannot find a toxic free storage system

Lisa’s Answer

Neither system will be entirely free of toxics.  The epoxy-coated system will offgas.  You did not give me enough information about the IKEA system to know what materials are used.  If I had to choose one or the other without additional information, I would go with IKEA.  They have a chemical management policy that is more stringent than many stores.  They limit, but do not eliminate, the use of the most dangerous chemicals.  The system you are referring to has veneers and a lacquer so it will have some VOCs but at least they will be kept to a minimal level.  The Container Store does not have a similar policy and the levels of toxics in their products are unknown.

Here is a company called Simple Closet that sells solid wood closet systems.

SmileDirect Club TPU Aligners

Question from Rosie

I came across your wonderful website while researching TPU. I’ve been using SmileDirectClub aligners in lieu of braces for over a year and a half to straighten out my teeth . The aligners are in my mouth for about 22 hours a day. I found out from the company that they are made of a “BPA-free thermoplastic polyurethane material, as opposed to SLA (Stereolithography).” Do you think there is a health risk in having these aligners in my mouth for so long? Are there other questions I should be asking the company? Thank you!

Lisa’s Answer

I have looked into braces, aligners and retainers and unfortunately, there are no perfect answers.  Fortunately, TPU is a plastic with fairly low toxicity.  You can ask for a Safety Data Sheet (SDS) that may give you a little more information into the ingredients and health effects.



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