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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.

Lumber Liquidators Tumbles After Selling Toxic Flooring

I find it very interesting that Lumber Liquidators is having troubles after a story on 60 minutes reported the store was selling flooring that emitted excessing formaldehyde.

There is now a federal investigation going on, their stock has fallen dramatically, their CEO has quit…

If this kind of reporting were to happen for other toxic products, it would greatly speed their removal from the marketplace.

Plant Air Purifier

Question from Noel Kehrlein

Hi Debra,

Do you know anything about this product?


Debra’s Answer

This air purifier sounds doubtful to me.

Here’s their explanation.

The Plant Air Purifier uses a common houseplant to clean the air. Plants have natural air-cleaning abilities, but to use plants as air filters is difficult due to the numerous houseplants necessary to clean air sufficiently and efficiently. This is the capability of the Plant Air Purifier; one Plant Air Purifier has the cleaning power of 100 standard houseplants. The Plant Air Purifier achieves this through a unique design that increases airflow past the root system which is the host of toxin consuming microbes.

Air containing toxic elements passes through the porous growing media and activated carbon by means of a high velocity fan. The activated carbon within the media attracts chemicals and holds them until the microscopic organisms (microbes) eat the toxins. The byproducts of the consumption process are nontoxic food and energy for themselves and the host plant. Over time microbes adapt to their environment and the chemicals they are exposed to; they quickly acclimate to the amount and type of toxins in the air, thus becoming more efficient at consuming these chemicals.

They aren’t using the plant technology at all developed by Dr. Wolverton (the basis of their advertlsing). The plant is just sitting on top of activated carbon and it’s the microbes in the roots that eat the toxins.

If you are interested in this type of technology, the O2 purifier  that I recommend is much more specifically designed in terms of collection of the pollutants and presence of microbes. I don’t see any air testing here, and it just seems inadequate in size and power.

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Lyocell in Clothing

Question from Lanet Morales

Hi Debra,

I recently went to H&M since they are coming out with more of the natural fiber clothing like cotton, linen…. There is an organic cotton line (SUSTAINABLE-CONSCIOUS) which I notice is sometimes mix of 50% organic cotton and 50% lyocell. I have never heard of Lyocell before and I am not sure if it has been treated with toxic chemicals, if the material is natural and something I can wear and not inhibit toxins, comparing to polyester cheap clothing other companies sell.

I also noticed that high brand names of my clothing use Lyocell and Modal as well so I am assuming this is not something cheap like polyester.

Here is the link to one shirt that might help:


Debra’s Answer

Lyocell is a type of rayon. Rayon is made from regenerated cellulose fiber of various types. In the past, rayon was usually made from cotton fibers too short to spin into yarn. Lyocell is made from wood pulp. I’ve not heard of any problems with it and it is used as a blend with many natural fibers to make them less expensive.

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Non-Toxic Glue

Question from Cathy Loo

Hi Debra,

I’m wanting to make homemade ollas for my garden using unglazed clay pots. The problem is that I need to take 2 pots and glue them together to make the olla. I’m concerned about what would be the best glue to use to avoid any dangerous chemicals leaching into the soil or water. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated. Thank you!

Debra’s Answer

Well, the first thing that comes to mind is to not use glue, but instead use some type of cement to hold the pots together, like mortar for tiles.

You need to make sure it’s waterproof, and most waterproof glues are pretty toxic.

One that isn’t is TiteBond II, which you can get at Lowe’s or Home Depot.

Also EcoBond has nontoxic adhesives that might work for this.

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Prepainted Fiber Cement Siding

Question from Nancy Carew

Hi Debra,

We are building a new house and considering using prepainted fiber cement siding. I inquired about the paint used and was informed it is Olympic PPG Machine Applied Coating. In the information I was sent it says “VOC 0.6 lbs/gal.” Can you help me understand what this means? Also, if there are VOC’s in the paint and it is painted prior to being installed do you feel this is a concern as it will be on the outside of house? Thanks.

Debra’s Answer

VOC’s are volatile organic compounds. These are the chemicals you smell in paint.

“Low VOC” is used to describe a product with a VOC content at or below 150 g/L.

“Ultra-Low VOC” products have a VOC content below 50 g/L.

Now we have to translate that. to your measurement of lbs/gallon.

That math is beyond me, however, it doesn’t matter.

It’s prepainted, which means the paint is applied and dried in a factory. The VOCs are gone by the time you get the product.

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Question from Jackie DeGayner

Hi Debra,

I was shopping for area rugs today and ran into rugs made with Triexia.

I looked it up and it looks good on paper.

What is your take on it.

Debra’s Answer

I don’t have any personal experience with this fiber. It seems to have some pros and cons.

The chemical name is polytrimethylene terephthalate (PTT). I couldn’t find anything on the health effects.

It is a subset of polyester, which by itself has low toxicity. It contains 20% to 37% renewable material from non-food biomass, which is a step in the right direction, but is still primarily petroleum.

This looks to be a fairly nontoxic material, though petrochemical. Check the rug for any toxic finishes, such as stain-resistance.

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Off-Gassing and Shellac

Question from Jess Kidd

Hi Debra,

Thanks for a great website – really interesting.

I wonder if you could help me with a query. I have bought a 1940/50s plywood wardrobe from a furniture scheme. They have kindly sanded and prepared it for me to paint with eco paint as my daughter has asthma.

I would think the plywood would have off-gassed by now but could there be a problem from the shellac in terms of formaldehyde or VOCs?

I would be very grateful for your advice.

Debra’s Answer

I agree the plywood would have off-gassed by now.

Real shellac is made from insect bodies and alcohol. The alcohol would be long gone.

Sounds like it’s fine.

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Die-Cast Metal Cars

Question from Toy Shopper

Hi Debra,

Do you believe die-cast metal toy vehicles are safe for children? I saw this SIKU brand and am wondering if it might be better than some of the others, since it is designed in Germany, where standards seem to be higher. Here is some info from their site.

“SIKU toy models contain no PVC and meet German and international standards and guidelines for the safety of toys. SIKU toy models comply with the European Spielzeugrichtlinie 88/378/EWG, which is based on the CE code and other standardized norms (toy safety in accordance with EN 71 und EN 62115). In addition to our compliance with high quality standards for all materials and the manufacture of our products, we are also committed to the protection of all employees working for us.” – from:

That page also says: “The development, construction, sales, administration and production divisions are located at the company headquarters in Lüdenscheid. In addition, Sieper group has other production sites in Poland and China as well as its own sales subsidiaries in France and Hong Kong.”

And this page has info about their production process:

Debra’s Answer

This is a really excellent example of how every company should show their production process. Lot’s of information here!

But unfortunately not a lot of toxics information.

To summarize:

  • The body is made from cast zinc and plastic (but they don’t say what type of plastic)
  • The body is then lacquered with a powder that is melted on to the metal (but doesn’t say if there are heavy metals in the lacquer or not)
  • Printing of design details doesn’t say if the ink contains heavy metals (other printed products have been shown by testing to contain heavy metals)

Toys I list on the toys page of Debra’s List will often say things like “paint contains no heavy metals” and other such statements that indicate awareness of where toxics are in the materials. I don’t see that here.

I need more information to evaluate this.

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Soapstone Counter Tops

Question from Donna Tecce

Hi Debra,

What is your opinion on soapstone counter tops regarding, outgassing, non porous etc. clean and green.

We were leaning to Quartz but do not want manmade and even though sealed contains resins/plastic etc. Soapstone seems to be the way to go. There is natural ‘talc’ but I assume that is contained within the product and a food grade oil to use on top. Thx for all your advice.

Debra’s Answer

I can tell you there is no outgassing or any other toxic hazard I am aware of. I have a set of soapstone cooking pots that I love.

Just from a quick search I found that soapstone is not porous, does not need to be sealed, is inert, and long lasting. It was the standard countertop for science labs and they make stoves out of it. Sounds perfect for a kitchen countertop.

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How Do I Dispose of Toxic Sofas and Other Fabric and Foam?

Question from [NAMEOFSENDER]

Hi Debra,

Thank you for the good info. My question is, as we replace our toxic furniture, linens, clothing, etc, what do we do with the old toxic stuff? How do we responsibly dispose of flame retardant infused sofas, cushions, rugs? What do we do with the synthetics or conventionally processed cotton fabrics and clothing and bedding, laced with pesticides, petrochemicals, dyes, formaldehyde?

Passing it on to Goodwill seems callous. Throwing it into landfills only adds the chemicals to the environment…….. burning it??? What do we do with it?


Debra’s Answer

This is a very good question.

There are such things as Household Hazardous Waste programs, and you should have one in your city. But these are for a specific list of toxic products that are immediate poisons, like pesticides and paints.

But the products you are talking about have toxic exposures with long-term health effects and I don’t know of any programs for responsible disposal of them.

Here’s an article about some possibilities for disposing of sofas with fire retardants, but no current solutions:

I think what I would do is take all this stuff to the Household Hazardous Waste program in your area. Tell them it’s hazardous waste and ask them to dispose of it accordingly in a hazardous waste site.

This is a good example of why manufacturers need to take responsibility for the entire lifecycle of the product they produce. It’s not OK to make a product that ends up polluting the planet instead of gracefully returning to the ecosystem.

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Healthy, Green Cookware: No PFOA, No Leaching