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.

100% wool baby mattress

Question from Terry

Hi Debra, congratulations on the work that you do to make our environment a safer place.

I’m hoping you can give me your opinion. I’ve researched a lot about baby mattresses as we have twins due in 2 weeks.

I am leaning towards a 100% organic wool mattress in an organic cotton cover. I’m worried it will be too soft for newborns as we are continually told the most important thing is firmness. Australian SIDSANDKIDS here still recommend a firm foam mattress and advise against natural fibres like cotton and wool cores as they believe they are too soft.

I spoke with them about this today. They have no belief in the toxic gas theory. So it’s really frustrating.

I have been tossing up between an organic cotton futon and the organic wool futon. I have read that cotton futons can hold too much moisture and will harbour more bacteria and dust mites. Do you think this is likely? The only thing that worries me about wool is it may be too soft, baby could possibly be allergic to wool, and also Dr Sprott from cotlife2000 in NZ has a bedding analysis on his website which shows wool containing high phosphorous levels. He seems to recommend mattress wrapping for all mattresses whether organic or not.

Do you have any concerns about a 100% cotton futon or 100% wool futon, and which would you recommend the most? Thanks for taking the time to read my email, as I’m sure you get hundreds.

I really appreciate your advice as I really need to decide to ease my wifes pregnant mind:). Thanks Debra.


Terry (from australia)

Debra’s Answer

My best recommendation is a Naturepedic baby mattress. It is just the right firmness and organic cotton. They do not use wool because babies may have allergies to wool.

If you can’t have a Naturepedic mattress shipped to Australia, and your only choices are organic cotton or organic wool…firmness IS very important for babies. I would probably follow Dr. Sprott’s recommendation and get the firm mattress that is available and wrap it to reduce toxic gases.

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PEVA vs EVA and more!

Question from Wendi

Debra, just a note from a newbie in your peanut gallery:

I am more-often-than-not challenged in comprehending facts that help me make decisions, yet found your explanation of PEVA vs EVA (in shower curtain liners…) EZ to understand. Thanks for that!

NOW I wanna know – where can I find a heavy weight PEVA (8g or more), or even EVA, that measures at least 72″ X 72″???…(a few inches wider is even better). So far, everything heavy AND large AND PEVA/EVA is not quite wide enough for the tub/shower in the condo I’ve rented for a year…

Care to help??…w.

Debra’s Answer

Try a local TAP Plastics store. They do sell plastic sheeting cut to size. Don’t see PEVA on their website, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have it in the store and they may be able to order it for you.

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CozyPure Latex and Wool Products

Question from SARA


As you well know, I have a great amount of respect for your expertise and opinion.

I am on the hunt for new bedding, including a latex mattress, organic cotton sheets, and wool topper & comforter.

I have perused your list of recommended vendors, but I happened across a local company that manufactures latex mattresses, organic cotton sheets, and wool toppers, comforters, and pillows. It just so happens that the company, CozyPure, based in Norfolk, VA is not on your list.

Have you heard of this company and do what is your opinion about the quality?

Their list of certifications include GOTS.

Debra’s Answer

The description looks good, but I can’t speak to the quality as I have no experience with this company.

Readers, anyone know about CozyPure?

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Lead in Bathtub

Question from Hannah

Question about my bathtub…

I had my house spot-tested for lead today in preparation for a possible remodel next year.

The thing that tested highest for lead was the bathtub.

I knew this was a possibility but had not had it really on my radar until recently.

The lead inspector said that it was not an issue at all – that the lead from bathtubs does not leach and poses no danger to my kids.

But I was a bit skeptical as I have a 5.5 year old and a 1.5 year old who bathe in the tub nightly. so far their blood lead levels have always been

Do you consider the lead from a tub to be a hazard?

If so my options are to avoid that bathtub entirely and just have them shower in the newer bathroom upstairs that only has a shower stall.

Or I could refinish the bathtub.

My understanding is that the refinishing would be highly toxic and we would have to leave the house for it. But for how long would it be toxic? More than a week? Do you know how long the porcelain glaze takes to fully outgas?

Would love your thoughts as always. Thanks :)


Debra’s Answer

I wrote about lead in bathtubs in Home Safe Home in 2004. It was first reported in 1995 on the television show Good Morning America.

Tests showed that hands ribbed along the side of the tub, bath water allowed to sit in the tub, and washcloths soaked in bath water and rubbed on the bottom of the rub all tested positive for lead.

But here’s the interesting thing. I recently learned that lead is not absorbed through the skin. What happens is that lead gets on hands and then children put their hands in their mouths, or children and adults pick up food and it gets on the food and that’s how lead gets in the body.

That said, keep in mind there is no safe level for lead.It’s something to be very careful with. Personally I wouldn’t allow my children to soak their bodies in a tub leaching any amount of lead.

Lead is a heavy metal, so if you are concerned about lead exposure, PureBody Liquid Zeolite detox drops will remove any lead that is accumulated in your body or your children’s.

If you want to refinish your bathtub, you would probably need to leave the house for it. If I remember correctly, they use lamps to cure the porcelain glaze. Call a company and find out the details. Once cured, porcelain glaze is totally nontoxic.

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Lead Free Dishes

Question from R SWANSON

Can you tell me if Mikasa Bone China is lead-free or safe to us, our daughter has cancer and wants to stay away from dishes containing lead?

Thank you for any help you can give.

Debra’s Answer

I can’t tell you if there is lead in Mikasa Bone China or not.

We went through all this before on this blog some years ago, and at the time there was a list, but nobody has kept it up to date.

The best recommendation I can give you is to stick to clear glass dinnerware or choose one of the companies listed at
Debra’s List: Food: Dinnerware.

Here’s an article about heavy metals in dinnerware: Prosper Organics: Where can I find lead free and cadmium free dinnerware?

And here’s a facebook page with some interesting information about lead in dinnerware and other common lead exposures: Mislead: American’s Secret Epidemic

Here are all the posts on my website about lead in dinnerware. Many have suggestions for where to buy clear glass dishes. Search results for “dinnerware” on

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Cleaning/Polishing Cast Iron Woodstove Exterior

Question from Reenie

Do you have any experience cleaning the outside of cast iron woodstoves?

My friend has a woodstove and is going to remove the rust that’s on the outside, and then he wants to use a woodstove spray paint to make it look pretty again.

I have been online, looking up nontoxic alternatives to the paint.

There is a “stove black” that some say is better and doesn’t smell like the woodstove paint. But MSDS never tell the whole story because products rarely have full disclosure of ingredients. I wondered if you could use some type of food grade oil, maybe mixed with wood ash.

Do you or your readers have any experiences with cleaning woodstoves?

I am very grateful for your work to help share information and nontoxic alternatives. Happy Thanksgiving!

Debra’s Answer

I’m a little confused about why anyone thinks anything needs to be applied to the cast iron at all.

I lived with a cast iron wood stove for 12 years and never put anything on it. I just cleaned it with a damp sponge to remove dust.

I would tell your friend to remove the rust and let it be.

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Spain incorporates Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS) in its International Classification of Diseases

From Debra Lynn Dadd

Spain has recognized Multiple Chemical Sensitivity
Day 09/26/2014 – 3:56 a.m.

Incorporating the health system has been made in accordance with guidelines approved by WHO and other countries had already adopted

Spain has officially recognized multiple chemical sensitivity ( MCS ) to incorporate its International Classification of Diseases or ICD (the system that classifies the Health and encodes their diagnoses). With this decision, Spain joins the list of countries that recognize MCS as a disease: Germany (2000), Austria (2001), Japan (2009), Switzerland (2010) and Denmark (2012).

The process was carried out through a non-legislative proposal (PNL) presented by Deputy María del Carmen Quintanilla’s Party;following a request made to it by the Fund for the Protection of Environmental Health ( Fodesam ), in collaboration with theInformation Service Multiple Chemical Sensitivity and Environmental Health ( SISS ).

The SQM radically changes the lives of those who suffer. The recognition was a longstanding demand of those affected by a disease that turns many common chemicals in everyday life a torment for those affected by MCS. Detergents, soaps, colognes, or air fresheners become aggressive to them products they produce palpitations, vomiting, skin irritation or recurrent headaches. “MCS changes the lives of those who suffer and forces, in many cases, to live with many preventive measures to not contact or in the air, with these products,” says Carmen Quintanilla. Go outside or into a store can be, for these people, impossible to perform tasks.

This condition was further added the inappropriate treatment that many of these patients receive from the health system. Because it does not appear in the ICD as a disease is in an administrative “limbo” that involves “a state of complete helplessness. Something that should end with the recognition of MCS as a disease.

“The situation of these people is very difficult,” says Carlos Prada,Chairman of Fodesam. His intolerance synthetic substances frequently used in society often forces them to live homebound, almost like “bubble people”; wear a mask and the few times they go out.

MCS affects the central nervous system, but may also cause malfunctions in other systems such as respiratory, gastrointestinal or heart. This is an “emerging disease” of chronic nature and “environmental toxic ‘causing a’ physiological response to many agents and chemical compounds” that can be found in air fresheners, colognes, personal care products, cleaning supplies, food, water Griffin, clothing, cosmetics, snuff … Therefore, although as in other diseases MCS have degrees and symptoms vary according to the parameters of health and “chemical” environment of the patient, it is a problem difficult to handle, further “limited remarkable quality of life “form, noting the non-legislative proposal.

See article at BBC: Mundo: La difícil vida de las “personas burbuja”

International Classification of Diseases (ICD)

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Dry-cleaned clothes and Evaporation Rates of Solvents

Question from Stacey

Hi Debra,

I have some dry-cleaned clothes still in the plastic that have been in my closet for about 6 years. Would these be safe by now to wear, or would you dispose of them?

Thank you!

Debra’s Answer

The dry cleaning solvent perchorethylene is very volatile and will evaporate completely. I can’t tell you exactly the evaporation rate because it depends on the conditions. (Just so you get how complex this is, take a look at this paper on how to calculate evaporation rate which uses perc as an example).

So if you brought you dry-cleaned clothes home from the cleaners 6 years ago and had removed the plastic and hung them outdoors so the perc could freely evaporate, I would say in a day or so. Certainly 3 days or 7 days there would be nothing left. The plastic, however, slows evaporation. At 6 years I don’t know what it would be. But you could simply take the clothing out of the closet, remove the plastic, put them outdoors, and within several days the perc would evaporate completely.

As long as we are talking about evaporation, there is a toxicological factor of solvents called the “evaporation rate.” Each solvent has it’s own evaporation rate. These rates are established by supposing the evaporation rate of ether (or some other substance) = 1 and by indicating other slower drying solvents as multiples of the evaporation rate of substance it is being related to.

As an example, here is a chart of the evaporation rates of solvents used in printing inks, using ether=1.


But this still doesn’t tell us how long it would take for your perc to evaporate.

The MSDS definition of evaporation rate is “the rate at which a material will vaporize (evaporate, change from liquid to vapor) compared to the rate of vaporization of a specific known material. This quantity is a ratio, therefore it is unitless.” (MSDS HyperGlossary: Evaporation Rate)

In general usage we think of it as the amount of material that evaporates from a surface per unit of time. So there are three variables
* amount of evaporated material
* per space
* per time

Here is a chart where butyl acetate=1.


The problem is that you need to start with the evaporation rate of butyl acetate, which is unknown because the number would depend on a number of variables, such as temperature, atmospheric pressure, humidity, air flow, viscosity, and, as in the case of your dry cleaning, whether or not it was covered.

But here’s something you can glean from this chart. The evaporation rate of water is classified at 0.3. Heat the water and it will evaporate faster as we can observe as steam. Freeze it and it won’t evaporate at all. That’s true for solvents too—heat speeds evaporation. But if you know water is classified as 0.3 on the butyl alcohol scale, and you know that is slow evaporation, then you can tell that acetone (nail polish) at 5.6 is five times faster.

There is a line on the MSDS for “volatility” in Section 9: Physical and Chemical Properties, but there is no data on the MSDS for perc.

Well, there’s the science lesson for today. I wish it were simpler. I just try to think in terms of is it going to evaporate fast or slower. Formaldehyde, for example, evaportates pretty quickly from an open bottle, and very slowly when bound up in a resin in particleboard.

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Why Organic Fish is a Terrible Idea

From Debra Lynn Dadd

I’m forwarding this to you from Max Goldberg…

The USDA is very close to finalizing standards for organic
fish and what it has come up with is absolutely horrible.

If organic is important to you (even if you don’t eat fish), I
strongly urge you to read what is going on and take action.

Why Organic Fish is a Bad, Bad Idea

As always, thank you so much for supporting organic food!
Max Goldberg

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