Mould Testing Overview - Pros and Cons of Different Methods

First I want to talk about the most reliable test which is how you feel in the house compared to other places. Unfortunately this is not always as simple as it sounds to execute. There are different ways to undertake this experiment. The simplest way is to stay in your backyard in a tent or all metal trailer without bringing any possessions from the house. The most obvious complication here is that you will need to go inside to use the washroom unless you get a porta potty! You may also be so sensitive that the house has contaminated the air outside (I have experienced being outside of a house and being able to smell the mould).

The next option would be to stay somewhere where other people recovering from mould illness (and MCS) have felt better. This could be a campground, KOA cabin, Airbnb or other rental. I have a lot more details on this in my post on the Locations Effect and Mould Sabbatical.

Once you have gotten "clear" and done some recovering you might be wondering how do you test a house to find out if it's good? Some people can walk into a house and know if it's good for them. But even the most sensitive people usually need to request to spend 3 nights trialling the house. This is not always an option, but you should ask. Usually people sleep better in a house that is mould free, but me and other CIRS patients have found that there is some mould that puts you into a zombie sleep where you sleep more (and then get sicker). So even a three-night test can be tricky.

It is also good to verify the house is safe with mould testing. The most common test for CIRS (mould patients) is the ERMI. It is highly recommended by Shoemaker certified doctors as the test to use. The range of the ERMI scores goes from minus 10 to positive 20. You need a score or 2 or lower to be treated and recover from mould illness according to Dr. Shoemaker.

Other types of mould tests can also be useful. A tape lift will get you definitive results on visible mould. I look at the options below. This is a very simple overview just to give you the general idea of what is out there in a way that is not overwhelming - you may want to look more into each of these different methods. Please note that my sources were biased towards mould advocates Lisa Petrison from Paradigm Change), Greg Muske from Biotoxin Journey, Dr. Shoemaker and Cheryl Ciecko, an architect who specialises in mould. I have attempted to cross-check their information. However, going with information from the companies that do house inspections can be biased and contradictory. (All sources at end of post, which you can read for more detail).



- Doesn’t work well in brand new houses.

- You need dust that has settled for a while.

- Having very little dust or a high amount of dust can skew results.

- Having a high amount of outside dirt inside can skew results.

- May not be an even distribution of spores throughout the house if mould is only coming from one place and the house is large.

- It is known to miss major mould problems when people are very sick in their house. Similarly, after a remediation, a CIRS patient can still be sick from the mycotoxins left behind despite a low score.


-"Only the ERMI and HERTSMI have been associated with sequential activation of innate immune responses, not air testing.” Dr. Shoemaker. Meaning it is the only test that he found that is consistently in line with lab results for CIRS, despite its drawbacks.

- It's pretty affordable at $300. You do it yourself. The lab recommended is Mycometrics.


-Similar to ERMI but tests for a handful of moulds most commonly associated with water damaged buildings. It is cheaper than ERMI. I would go for the full ERMI and you can still calculate your HERTSMI value from that. Shoemaker certified doctors will consider your HERTSMI score as well as ERMI score.

Tape Lifts


- You need to have visible mould.

- It assists you with what type of mould it is and not how widespread the problem is.


- Tells you what kind of mould you have when you have a visible sample.

- Allows you to know if this is a toxic mould.

- You can do it yourself.

I used this DIY Tape Lift to test a few areas in a house I go into often. The results came back showing me what type of mould it was. It confirmed that the mould was one that is toxic that comes from water damage. Though you need to get a decent amount of mould on the tape otherwise your results will just show scattered pieces.

Spore Traps (Air Test)


- Needs to be taken near the source, so you have to know where the source is.

- Shoemaker says: "The industry standard of sampling the air for spores is not an acceptable substitute for many reasons. One of the main limitations is that over 99% of the particles that carry the inflammagens from water damaged buildings are smaller than 3 microns. Spore traps can only detect particles that are larger than 3 microns and therefore, miss over 99% of the inflammagens.”

- Spore traps identify round, intact spores. So they will not catch evidence of past problem that have left mycotoxins.

- Can miss/underreport certain heavy species like stachy.

- Expensive.


- The test is more standardised than tape lifts, swabs, cultures, and mould-dogs, they claim.

- It is the most widely used mould test.

- You can compare inside and outside air.



- Hard to know where to place the dish to get capture the mould if you don’t know where the mould is coming from.

- Doesn’t get you an accurate relative reading since some mould is harder to catch and some proliferate faster in the dish than others.

- Stachy is a slow grower compared to other moulds in the dish.


- Can be used in multiple places to compare and for general observation.

- Can give you more details on the exact type of mould than other tests.

- Inexpensive.

Here is one you can do yourself.

Mould Dogs


- Can only detect a handful of moulds.

- Hard to know if they are well trained, look for good references of the company.

- They can’t tell you if it’s high amount of mould or a trace from after a remediation.

- The dog can only sniff in areas where they can reach.


- They are good at finding the source if it is within their reach.

- The dog can smell both live and dead mould.

- You can pinpoint the area where you need to do further testing.

VOC testing


- There is controversy around the accuracy of this testing.

- Not widely used.


- Test the levels of mycotoxins and other VOCs in the air.

Here is a company that does this kind of testing that is recommended. It goes to an AIHA accredited lab.

Public postings by Cheryl Ciecko (Architect).

Converting a Cargo Van - Chemical & Mould-Free Camper Construction

This post will cover converting a cargo van into a camper. I will focus only on a few key areas. The key factor here is insulating in a way that will not go mouldy - as metal walls are the trickiest thing to insulate because of the condensation factor. I will also look at MCS safe materials for the interior, and a few appliances that are recommended by others. Building a camper that will be both mould-free and chemical-free is tricky!

Keep in mind a cargo van can be anything from a metal box with a bed to a fully decked out camper with a stove, fridge, sink, heater, AC, and even a full bathroom. 

This will also be a review of the technical aspects of Camp Like a Girl and The Vanual

Insulating a Cargo Van 

The most important aspect of creating a mould-free camper is the insulation. Here is the key point: no water vapour can enter the wall cavity. With exterior metal walls, as soon as you are heating the van to the point where the exterior wall will be dewpoint, you have a serious risk of condensation and mould in the walls. So again, to keep it simple, no water can enter the walls if you plan to heat your camper when it's cold. 

Ridged Foam

The Vanual
In Camp Like a Girl, Sara uses some XPS and some EPS insulation. XPS is a vapour barrier (meaning no water can pass through 1.5 inches), and EPS is not. So using XPS foam is one option to insulate your van.  XPS or polyiso with foil backing should be tolerable to those with MCS as they don't offgas. Johns Manville Polyiso is the only foam without flame retardants. 

However, just the foam on its own will not be airtight. You can used canned spray foam to fill in the gaps if that is tolerable for you. It is not chemical-free but I have found it odourless once dry. Handi-Foam is the safest one, as it is GreenGuard Gold certified.

If you are putting the plastic covers back on the walls like Camp Like a Girl, I would silicone/caulk around those to make it airtight. The most tolerable caulking is Eco-bond.

Robert Lawson, another van owner, is trying this strategy to fill in all the gaps: he says: "I have 1-inch polyiso foam on the walls and ceilings. I plan to put Reflectix between the foam sheathing and the steel body so there will not be an air space where condensation could form. I will put another layer of Reflectix on top of the sheathing as well in order to cover all the irregularly shaped frame members."

Camp Like a Girl also uses insulation in the bed platform to keep the bed warm. Here I would definitely go for insulation that doesn't have flame retardants instead of XPS. But still, I wouldn't recommend this strategy because the mattress should breathe.

Spray Foam

Spray Foam is going to be your safest bet for preventing mould, as the foam will get into every crevice and form an airtight layer that will prevent all moisture from getting into the walls.

The best spray foams are Heatlock Soy line at Demilic (GreenGuard Gold certified) and Icynene Proseal (GreenGuard Gold certified) (closed cell). Both are polyurethane foams, from reputable companies that are usually easy to source. It must be closed cell, which is a vapour barrier. I recommend these to healthy people who are set on spray foam. I don't usually recommend them to people with MCS because I have heard bad stories (and there are better options for most homes). However, I have an extremely sensitive client who can tolerate Demilic. It is worth considering in a van, especially if you are mould sensitive but not chemically sensitive. You can also then try and put a vapour barrier over this or use metal walls or the plastic coverings to prevent the offgassing from the spray foam from entering your space. 

Walls and Ceiling

Metal is your safest bet unless you are putting the plastic covers back on. This all depends on what kind of van it is, as they are all different. But if you can use metal walls that is your safest bet. For an extra layer of protection, caulk around the seams to prevent moisture from going in the walls. If you are not using spray foam or canned foam, then this caulking sealant around the walls is crucial.

Sara used PVC ceiling tiles which are toxic, but real tin ceiling tiles could be used as a non-toxic alternative which add a fun look to your metal camper. 

While The Vanual looks very pretty with its wooden ceiling, but I would avoid plywood as walls, ceiling or subflooring. There are just too many points where the wood hits the metal. If you are intent on getting this look, you would have to have lots of insulation at all the metal ribs to make sure dewpoint would never be hit. If that is possible, then you could use formaldehyde-free plywood with strips of wood over it to get the look in The Vanual. 

Marmoleum floors

I wouldn't feel comfortable using wood to raise the floor joists as the wood right against the metal could be a recipe for condensation and mould. Ridged foam may be your best bet for floors to solve the thermal bridging there. Or else spray foam between the joists and then use metal flooring.

Different flooring materials could be considered - metal, which could be painted with different designs for a pretty effect, or covered with rugs, or Marmoleum (if you can tolerate the smell of natural linseed oil). You could also cover it with EVA mats. You could use wood if you are sure you have enough insulation underneath to prevent condensation from forming under the wood. MgO board could be used as subflooring here if you are using Marmoleum or wood. The MgO will crack though.

Interior Structures: Bed, Cabinets

The Vanual
Sara and the Vanual used plywood for their bed bases which contains formaldehyde and also doesn't let the mattress breath. Mattresses are very susceptible to becoming damp in campers. It would be best if the bed base was made of planks that allowed some airflow. The bed should be flipped and checked often for dampness, especially if you cook or shower inside. 

For cabinets, if you do use plywood, go for a formaldehyde-free plywood like Purebond.


You need fans that move air out - one above the shower if you have one, and one in the general space. My CampLite had two fans and we still have problems just with cooking humidity making the mattress wet. The standard camper fans are Fan-tastic.


The Vanual has some cool tips for solar power, wiring and appliances. If you want to go off-grid you will need solar and you will need to tolerate a fuel stove. The Vanual and other van owners speak highly of Goal Zero solar systems.

The other option is to wire the van to plug into a campground plug (or modify to plug into a house), this would allow you to cook on an electric hotplate and would allow an electric heater. Using an electric blanket or pad is  a good heating option to save energy.

For off the grid heaters I would go with the rooftop propane heater/AC combo that many trailers have. Though extreme mould avoiders have said these can get mouldy.

I would not use the stand alone propane heaters that go inside as they will not be safe for those with MCS.

For cooking, if you are off the grid you will need to burn some fuel to cook. Cooking outdoors is safer. Alcohol burning stoves are safer than propane. Though this won't be tolerable for many.

For a fridge I would go with a 3-way fridge that can run on propane solar or AC electricity. Unlike in most trailers propane is stored inside so this could become a problem. The Vanual recommends running this fridge on solar or the car battery.


An All Metal Tiny Home

Here is the tiny house being built for my client right now by Tiny Green Cabins! The house is made with no wood whatsoever, including plywood and OSB! This is ideal for someone sensitive to wood or sensitive to mould. 

Here are the specs:

Size is 8’ x 20’ x 12’-5 1⁄2” tall, with an approximate weight of 9k GVW.

The trailer is a custom welded steel channel beam trailer.

There are options for the paint used on the trailer.

The frame all ready to go! Photo: Tiny Green Cabins
Steel Underbelly 2 x 4, 16 gauge joists.
The cold-formed steel joists are bolted to the trailer frame.

Walls are framed with 2 x 3 18 gauge cold formed steel studs @ 19.2 on center, fabricated with screws and welded connections. 

Rain screen (furring) is made of metal (Rain screen in important in case moisture does get into the walls).

Roof structure is 18 gauge cold formed stacking above joists, fabricated with screws and welded connections. No wood used!

The loft has metal floor sheathing. Kitchen has a stainless steel sink with metal cabinets and countertops.  Other countertops options can be considered.

For the bathroom there are different options - yu can have RV hook-ups or a composting toilet andgrey water system. (Nature's Head is the best composting toilet. Others like Sunmar have major issues.)

There are a few options for windows. I prefer aluminum, but they cannot be sourced everywhere. There are other options  that people tolerate well. Typar zero-VOC window flashing is being used.

Fabral smooth painted steel to wrap the exterior walls, and Fabral “w” metal roofing for the roof. Metal at walls is riveted and steel roof and trims screwed. Fabral should be tested first to make sure the paint finish is tolerable. Other metal finishes are available with different brands.
Ceiling is corrugated steel.
Interior walls are Fabral steel attached with screws. Interior comes in different colours, or can be painted later with metal primer and paint. Caulking is used to prevent water vapour from entering wall cavity.
Metal flooring is 2 layers of 18 gauge steel layered. Foam is used as a thermal break and insulation.
    Doors are metal and glass.

    Insulation options are XPS foam or Johns Manville foil-backed polyiso (the only foam without flame retardants). Foam is being used as exterior sheathing/thermal break as well. Other materials could be considered for insulation but ridged foam is my top choice. Tyvek tape is used to seal the sheathing if tolerated (if not than Foil tape). I would also caulk the insulation on the inside side for an extra barrier to water vapour entering the walls.

    Heating and cooling a 12-15,000 BTU inverter heat pump, Daikin LV series or Mitsubishi hyper-heat models installed by a HVAC company is recommended. Other heating options such as wall mounted electric heaters or propane RV heater/AC combos (off grid) could be used.

    For a hot water heater we are using propane on demand. This is the best way to go for water to keep the house to 50 amps or less.
    Exhaust fans are very important in an all metal house to keep the humidity as low as possible. In the bathroom it should be exterior mounted as to not leak moist air into the ceiling. An ERV could be a good option if you have a composting toilet (this depends on your climate as well). In the kitchen the exhaust fan needs to vent to the outside. A dehumidifier may also be needed if condensation forms on the walls or the mattress becomes damp.

    For appliances, a propane fridge should be considered to reduce electricity needs (2-way or 3-way refrigerators can be good depending on your needs and if you are incorporating solar). An apartment sized stove can be used or else a small convection oven with a cooktop. If you can tolerate propane or alcohol stoves those can be considered for an off the grid house.

    Flooring can be left as metal. Tiles can be considered although this would add considerable weight.  Natural carpet or rugs can be considered as well to cover the metal.

    I can help you work with your builder to come up with a customised list of materials that will work for you and your tiny house. Please see my consulting page for more details and contact info. I recommend Tiny Green Cabins as they specialise in building for people with sensitivities. Thanks to Luke Skaff for help on the technical aspects.

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    What Green Certifications Mean for Those With MCS

    Here are some of the most common certifications for VOC levels and what they mean for the chemically sensitive.

    Green Label Plus - Certifies "very low" emissions on carpets. They test for 35 compounds listed under California Department of Public Health’s Section 1350. Each product category also includes additional compounds for certification, six for carpet, two for carpet pad, and seven for adhesive. They meet or exceed California’s indoor quality standards for low-emitting products used in commercial settings such as schools and office buildings. Here is the list of their levels of VOCs. I would find these levels to be too high for people with chemical sensitivities.

    Green Seal - Follows CARB levels of VOCs (more on CARB below). For example, on paint, this is between 100-300 g/l depending on the type of paint. This is not a low enough level for people with chemical sensitivities.

    GreenGuard - GreenGuard has two levels of certification, GreenGuard - 500 μg/m3 total VOCs, and GreenGuard Gold - total VOCs 220 μg/m3. (GreenGuard Children and Schools which also measured for phthalates no longer exists). For reference, the average house has a total VOC level of about 200 μg/m3 and the outdoor rate is about 1/10th of that. GreenGuard levels claim to keep VOCs below limits that would adversely affect health. However for extremely sensitive people the level in an average house is unacceptable, so GreenGuard Gold level may not be tolerable. I recommend GreenGuard Gold for people who are healthy but I would always aim for outdoor levels of VOCs for those who are ill. Because it states that the levels are below the given threshold, you don’t know if the product is 220 or 0 μg/m3. You still have to contact the companies to find out what the VOC level is. Note: GreenGuard measures the emissions and not the content in the material so these numbers cannot be converted to g/l.

    OSHA Guidelines - CA OSHA has the strictest government guidelines for VOCs in buildings. Here are their limits on VOCs. While CARB and OSHA are definitely steps in the right direction, they promote levels of VOCs that will not cause adverse effects in healthy people. These levels will not be acceptable for the extremely sensitive.

    CARB - Establishes a maximum VOC-content for consumer products sold in California. These are not necessarily low VOC. For example, low-VOC paint means less than 50g/l, while CARB levels for paint are 100-300 g/l. (Note: zero-VOC means less than 5g/l)

    Certi-Pur - Certifies polyurethane foam. All polyurethane foam can basically meet this level of 0.5 ppm (or 500 μg/m3 total VOCs).  A level that is too high for most sensitive people. They would not give out info on how long it takes to completely offgas. While this certification provides a maximum level of VOCs, some polyurethanes can be as low as 72 μg/m3 which would be an acceptable level for many people. It also certifies that they are made without PBDE flame retardants (although they almost always do contain other flame retardants). They say the are made without formaldehyde but the limit for formaldehyde in the foam is actually 100 μg/m3 (compared to the GreenGaurd Gold limit of 9 μg/m3). They say made without prohibited phthalates (not free of all phthalates).

    What Should the Chemically Sensitive Look For

    I always choose zero-VOC materials when available. You can find zero-VOC options for wallboards, insulation, siding, sheathing, flooring, paints, sealers, caulking, grout, thin set, tiles, beds, furniture, flashing, windows, roofing, and underlayments.

    Also, look for products without flame retardants, biocides, phthalates, and lead. (These are not listed as VOCs).

    There are very few areas in which we have to use VOCs such as pipes, some glues, wiring, and appliances. Flame retardants cannot be avoided in appliances and electronics.

    To support this blog please consider making your regular Amazon purchases through this link:


    Now Certified as a Building Biologist!

    Hi everyone,

    I am now certified as a Building Biologist with the International Institute for Building-Biology and Ecology. The Institute's mission is "to help create healthy homes, schools, and workplaces, free of toxins in the indoor air and tap water, and electromagnetic pollutants."

    This certification has helped me deepen my knowledge of how we can create homes that will aid in improving the health of its occupants.

    I am available for consultations by phone and email and can assist you with the following areas:
    • Choosing zero-VOC materials for a new build or renovation
    • Selecting non-toxic materials best suited to a tiny house
    • Discussing common trouble areas and mistakes made in the build of tiny homes
    • Sourcing special order zero-VOC materials 
    • Remediating a home that is toxic or scented
    • For those wishing to go GreenGuard Gold, selecting conventionally priced materials that are very low in emissions
    • Working with you and your builder by providing ongoing materials selection and sourcing support throughout your build
    • Tips for building a mold-free home
    • Experience with which materials tend to work best for the most sensitive individuals
    • Selecting non-toxic furniture, decor, bedding and other household items for your home
    • Research into the toxicity profile of specific items or materials you are interested in using
    • Choosing the best water filter for your home
    You can also opt for a team approach with a Building Biologist and Engineer to help select the best non-toxic materials that fit the technical needs of your build.

    The rate for consultations is $50 per hour. Feel free to email me at corinnesegura[at]

    Zero-VOC Sheathing

    Here is an overview of low-VOC and zero-VOC sheathing and subflooring options.

    Exterior Sheathing

    A great option is Georgia-Pacific DensGlass, which is around 3 times cost of OSB. It is very low VOC; they are going for GreenGuard certification. It is also a lot more mould resistant than OSB or plywood. Make sure with all materials it fits the codes where you live (in terms of high winds and earthquakes). Make sure it is also compatible with your exterior finish.

    MgO board is now starting to be used as exterior sheathing. Another zero VOC option. It is heavy, structural and about three times the cost of drywall.

    1-by lumber laid diagonally would is another zero-VOC option. This is not an airtight option so humidity and energy issues should be considered. Make sure to use housewrap. Consider double sided housewrap tape so that you get more of an air barrier.

    Rigid foam can also be used as exterior sheathing without any ply or OSB. XPS is basically VOC-free but does contain a flame retardant. The other option is Polyiso. The Johns Manville brand does not contain a flame retardant. Here is some info on how to brace when using rigid foam as sheathing. This is not structural and should be checked against local codes.


    AdvanTech Subflooring and Georgia Pacific DryGaurd claim to be lower emitting than typical OSB.

    It is possible to use structural cementitious sheeting board as a zero-VOC option however when I did this in my tiny house I needed additional framing support underneath. It worked out well for me. Here is an example of the support you need underneath. This is probably only suitable in a tiny house.

    Another green option is 1-by subfloor laid diagonally to the floor joints. The subfloor could be planks or tongue and groove. Here is a little more info and a pic of planks. This is a zero-VOC option but it will cost you quite a bit more. Make sure you use a subfloor adhesive otherwise you will have a very creaky floor. Liquid Nails is the lowest VOC option I have seen at less than 20g/l, but I find Almighty Adhesive to be more tolerable.

    Roof Sheathing (Decking)

    AdvanTech Sheathing (very low emissions) may be better than conventional ply. If there is an air barrier in place the choice of sheathing will not be that important (it will offgas to the outside).

    Purlins or skip sheathing can also be used as an alternate form of roofing which eliminates the need for solid sheathing and chemicals. This will only work with certain roof types (metal vented attic, in some cases cedar).

    Another zero-VOC option is 1x decking butted up to each other. This is how roofs were built before plywood or OSB. This will allow for many types of roofing types over it.

    Non-Toxic Furniture

    Non-Toxic Furniture

    We will take a look at some non-toxic options for sofas, tables, chairs, desks and other household furnishings. Many of the same stores that offer sofas also offer a wide range of other home furnishings. For mattresses and bedframes see my post on mattresses and bedding

    Non-Toxic Sofas and Couches

    For upholstered furniture you want to look for:

    -Natural cushion fill such as natural latex, cotton, down and wool 

    -No chemical treatments on the fabric (such as stain and water resistant coatings)
    -Solid woods 
    -Zero or low-VOC glues
    -No flame retardants 

    If you want a simple bench see my custom made sofa here
    Urban Natural: Start at $1700

    Their most natural line features 100% natural latex cushions, organic wool, organic cotton, and natural fabrics. No flame retardants.
    Elka Home: Start at $2000

    They use natural latex, solid woods, organic GOTS fabrics with no added chemicals, zero-VOC adhesives, no flame retardants.

    Viesso: Start at $2000

    Natural latex and wood used, natural fabrics with no added chemicals, hardwoods, low-VOC adhesives. No flame retardants.

    Urbangreenfurniture: Start at $2500

    They carry Cisco's sofas made with the Inside Green option which uses natural latex or wool, certified woods, organic fabrics, low-VOC stains, no flame retardants.

    Cisco Brothers: Start at $2500

    Have locations throughout the US and Canada. Any of their sofas can be made with the inside green option. You can also order online from some of the sellers.

    EcoBalanza: Average price $5700

    These hand made, customised sofas are made to last many generations. They use wool, organic cotton, and natural latex with no flame retardants. They use GOTS certified fabrics. The use non-toxic glues and Rubio MonoCoat stains. They can use a different finish if the customer is sensitive to linseed. They can also accommodate a latex allergy by replacing latex with their other materials.

    Non-Toxic Tables and Chairs: 
    Urban Natural

    For chairs and tables look for solid wood (with zero-VOC stains and varnishes) and zero or low-VOC adhesives. For some people the terpenes in wood might not be tolerable. Low odour woods are preferable to pine, cedar and douglas fir. Avoid laminated wood, plywood and MDF board.

    Many of the same companies above offer green furniture. For example:

    Urban Natural use either natural oils and beeswax finish or a zero-VOC water-based catalysed varnish finish. The glues vary by manufacturer. One brand uses a Cradle-to-Cradle certified (toxicity level yellow) glue. 

    UrbangreenfurnitureTheir wood furniture is treated with low-VOC stains. They use non-toxic, low-VOC glues.

    Viesso - Uses low-VOC or linseed oil finishes. (Linseed oil has an odour that might not be tolerable to some). Low-VOC glues.

    Vintage or reclaimed wooden furniture might be tolerable for some if you are sure it hasn't been refinished recently with conventional products, and it has not been exposed to chemical cleaning products, smoke, mould, or other chemical substances.

    Here are a few ideas for alternatives to wooden tables and chairs:

    Glass and metal are generally the safest options. Metal may need to be washed down in order to remove factory oils; powder coated metal is the best option. Hard plastics are fairly safe and are tolerable for most people. With marble tables keep in mind that a resin is used to fill in the fissures and a sealer is often used as well. There is no data on the VOC levels of those sealants.

    Click on pics for links:

    Non-Toxic Desks

    Urban Green
    Here are a few ideas for desks:

    Solid wood desk (pictured) with a low-VOC finish from Urban Green. Solid wood desks from speciality stores tend to be pricey.

    Here are some simple (and affordable) options: 

    Solid wood, unfinished - Standard glue, but very little used. 

    Metal and Glass, there are a few different styles of metal and glass desks on Amazon that are affordable. Look for powder coated metal.