Ask Your Questions About Toxic Free Living
and Get Answers From Me and My Readers

I’ve been doing this Q&A blog for about ten years, so there are literally thousands of questions and answers here. If you’ve got a question, there’s probably an answer, and if there isn’t post a question of your own. It’s free.

Question about Wikki Stix

Question from Tara Atkins

Debra, is this a product you would consider safe?

They say “Wikki Stix are made of hand-knitting yarn enhanced with a microcrystalline food-grade, non-toxic wax, the kind used in bubble gum and lipstick. They do not contain latex, gluten, nor peanut or other nut oils or byproducts which makes them an ideal creative activity toy for children with allergies.” Their UK site adds that the wax is refined with beeswax also: And I’ve seen comments that it has a light beeswax smell.

I’m just never sure if “non-toxic” truly means non-toxic. There are things considered “food” at the grocery store that I don’t eat, so I’m not sure if the food-grade part should inspire confidence either. I’m inclined to think this product is fine, but the unknowns, in my mind, are what type of colorants are used to color the wax, and what exactly is the food-grade wax.

Related to this question, I have also wondered if acrylic yarn and felt is okay (the typical yarn and pieces of felt found in craft stores and used in children’s crafts). There are wool yarns and wool felt, but I wonder if the wool has been processed with chemicals and pesticides and such. I’ve wondered which material is safer for children’s crafts and other uses.

And regarding the wax, I’ve been curious whether paraffin wax is safe. Not for eating, but other other uses (such as these Wikki Stix, if that is what is used on them), in crayons, etc.

Debra’s Answer

These are all good questions.

You need to ask the seller or manufacturer all these questions.

Or, you can shop at places who have already done the research, such as those found on the toys page of Debra’s List.

Acrylic yarn is a plastic, I don’t recommend it.

Paraffin wax is considered nontoxic, but it’s 100 petrochemical, the wax of crude oil, so I don’t recommend this either.

For safest children’s crafts, see the websites on Debra’s List.

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Floor Model Organic Mattress and Air Mattress

Question from Lauren

Hi Debra,

Thank you for taking the time to answer readers’ questions—I can’t tell you how many times your website has been a valuable resource!

My question is we found an organic mattress from a reputable company and the only way it is affordable for us is if we buy a floor model. Do you think this is alright? The mattress is completely organic wool, organic cotton and natural latex with no flame retardants.

My second question is that we are seeking to get an air mattress to pull out when we occasionally have guests—I found one called the Kelty Sleep Eazy that is PVC-free and is made of TPU Laminate and 70D Nylon—would this be a safe temporary mattress for guests (and for us to sleep on until we get a new mattress)?

Thank you!

Debra’s Answer

I think it would be fine to get a floor model if you check and make sure it doesn’t have any perfume or other contaminants that might have been picked up on the showroom floor.

As for the air mattress, there are some red lights flashing for me. Nylon may have a finish on it, and “laminated” may involve glues. So you need more information. Ask them if it’s heat-laminated or if glues are used. Ask them if it has an odor.

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Stainless Steel Eyeglass Frames

Question from Cheryl3

Hi Debra and all,

The eyeglasses my husband is considering are stainless steel front, with a zyl temple that contains a stainless steel core, silicone nose pads. I’m told by the manufacturer they contain no nickel or copper. They are covered partially by our insurance and are nice looking. However, I guess there are some concerns about stainless steel.

We could look further at places where we’d have to pay fully out of pocket to see if we can get all zyl frames since that seems the least toxic but my concern is with his schedule being so tight and it being very difficult to get info from manufacturers about specific frame composition we might not end up finding any he finds aesthetically appealing while the whole “get glasses” project is dragging on and if we end up opting for the stainless steel pair, they may no longer have them. Then we’d need to start all over again. Most of the plastic frames just say “plastic” and I have to contact each manufacturer to confirm what type of plastic. A lot of times they don’t get back to me.

Do you think these stainless steel frames are pretty safe? He has no known allergy to stainless steel, but we are trying to avoid heavy metal overexposure for some health issues he has.

Thank you so much as always,

Debra’s Answer

I had to look up what “xyl” is…short for xylonite, it’s just a new name for old cellulose acetate, a plastic made from plant cellulose.

Stainless steel is fine if you are not cooking food in it or putting it next to your skin for long hours.

So stainless steel front with zyl temples and silicone nose pads sounds fine to me. I don’t see any toxic exposures there.

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Study Finds Harmful Chemicals in Swimming Pools

From Debra Lynn Dadd

Chlorine in public swimming pools has long been a concern, but now a new study by Purdue University has found even more toxic chemicals in swimming pool water.

Previous research has shown that urine in pools can react with chlorine to create potentially hazardous chemicals.

Now there is the same concern about pharmaceuticals and personal care products.

“There are literally thousands of chemicals from pharmaceuticals and personal care products that could be getting into swimming pool water.”

Of the 32 chemicals investigated, researchers found that there were three which showed up more often:

  • Deet (found in insect repellants)
  • caffeine
  • tri(2-chloroethyl)-phosphate (TCEP) – a type of flame retardant


Huffington Post UK: Harmful Chemicals Found In Swimming Pools, Including Flame Retardants and Insect Repellant (scroll to the bottom of the article for a wonderful slideshow of 11 Natural Swimming Spots Around the World)

Environmental Science & Technology Letters: The Presence of Pharmaceuticals and Personal Care Products in Swinning Pools

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Study Shows BPS Might Be More Harmful Than BPA

From Debra Lynn Dadd

Just last week The Washington Post reported on a new “groundbreaking” study, which shows that bisphenol-S, an ingredient in many products bearing “BPA-free” labels, causes abnormal growth surges of neurons in an animal embryo.

“The same surges were also found with BPA, though not at the same levels as with BPS, prompting the scientists to suggest that all structurally similar compounds now in use or considered for use by plastic manufacturers are unsafe.”

Read more at …

The Washngton Post: BPA alternative disrupts normal brain-cell growth, is tied to hyperactivity, study says

Also read…

How to avoid products with toxic bisphenol-s

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Question from green-earth

Hi Debra,
I need a scanner for my office. I was thinking of getting a portable one because it was smaller, however I need to scan books and the smaller ones wouldn’t work for that purpose.

I am scanning a sketchbook, which has drawings in it (and I don’t want to rip out the pages of the sketchbook). If you move the scanner a little bit, the drawing might be distorted. I am importing my drawings to the computer which I will be drawing on top of, so there can’t be any distortion. So I need a flat bed scanner.

Have you or anyone else found a brand of scanner that doesn’t smell strongly of glue or plastic?


Debra’s Answer


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Mold Remidiation

Question from Bonnie Johnson

After a peak up into the attic crawl space it was discovered that there is some mold up there on the wood panels. The roof was done in 06 and have not been up there since then. I will get it tested and removed. I was wondering if anyone has ever been in a house that had that done or what the process is. Do I have to move out to get it done and how soon can I return…etc.

Debra’s Answer


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Question from jenny

Hi Debra,

Is this a safe alternative to the vinyl wall decals? We’ve heard about -water based adhesive backed fabric material for wall decals that is ‘CPSIA tested and it is compliant’. Thanks for your confirmation.


Debra’s Answer

Well, one site I read said, “FABRIC WALL DECALS are made out of fabric … a polyester weave with a water based adhesive which means : NO PVC’S, ECO-FRIENDLY and NON TOXIC. The advanced water based adhesive allows them to be re-used so no need to throw them out when your kids pulls them off the wall… just re-apply them.”

Polyester isn’t toxic, only the finishes applied to them are toxic. But if they have no finishes, I don’t see a problem.

Anyone have any experience with these?

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Lamp shades

Question from Stacey

Hi Debra,

I found some glass lamps that I like but wonder how safe the lamp shades are…the website states that the lamp shades are made of “a natural linen” but can I trust this? Are lamp shades usually made with a plastic/synthetic base also? And, do I have to worry about any flame retardants on the shade?

Thanks so much!

Debra’s Answer

I have one lamp with a fabrics lamp shade in my house, all the others are task lamps with metal shades.

I looked at the shade. Mine is basicallly two pieces of fabric stretched over a wire frame.

If I remember correctly, I seem to recall some paper lining (here is a how to make a shade that shows attaching a styrene plastic “shade paper”).

So I would just check and see. If the shade is 100% fabric, it’s probably OK. If it has a paper liner, I wouldn’t use it because the heat of the lamp would make the plastic outgas.

The other possible toxic exposure would be a fabric finish that would still be on the fabric because it probably isn’t prewashed.

As for fire retardants, you should ask as some may have it and others not. It may say “fire retardant fabric” in the description, but absence of these words does not necessarily mean there is no fire retardant.

To be really safe, you can choose your own fabric and have a lampshade custom made. Be sure to provide prewashed fabric and give exact instructions about what you want and don’t want. There are many custom lampshade makers online and probably available in your local community as well. If you are handy, you might be able to do it yourself.

The one lamp shade I have I bought when I moved here to Florida 14 years ago. It’s a synthetic fabric, I’m sure, but it had no toxic outgassing and is very pretty. But this is very much an exception to my general rules.

You just have to evaluate each lamp shade individually.

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Cali Bamboo Flooring

Question from 3kids

Cali Bamboo Flooring claims the following for their floors. Do you have any experience with this company? Floor would be floated as this product would be used in a basement. Home is located in the Northeast so tile is not optimal. Thanks for your help.

Low VOC Flooring

ASTM Laboratory Test Results Show Cali Bamboo Flooring

100% Formaldehyde Free

A recent extensive testing performed by the world’s preeminent emissions detection laboratory Benchmark International, shows several floors registering standardized concentration levels as “Not Detectable” with less than 0.000 PPM (parts per million). The floors with detectable levels were still 50 times lower than the strictest California Air Resources Board (CARB) Phase 2 standards 0.05 PPM. In fact, Cali Bamboo floors scored even lower than the typical air we breathe 0.02 PPM.

Due to Cali Bamboo’s proprietary quality control process, which includes the use of superior materials, adhesives and manufacturing techniques, we are able to manufacture a product that is beautiful, durable, eco-friendly and safe for even the most sensitive homeowners.

Debra’s Answer

I don’t have any experience with this flooring, but it looks pretty good on paper.

Anyone have any experience with this?

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