Last Week’s Cartoon: “A Volatile Situation”

I’m playing catch-up here, as I had to go back to Virginia last week to get my stuff out of storage. If any of you are thinking about doing a cross-country move, let me advise you not to do it in fourteen different stages as I’ve done.

It’s been a while since I did an autobiographical comic, but it felt appropriate for this one. In the process of furnishing my apartment, I have been sucked into a vortex of competing scientific claims. For example, this Planet Green article, ominously titled “Five Ways Your Bedroom is Killing You,” insists that conventional carpeting, paint, mattresses, pillows, and furniture are all pretty much deadly. In other words, your entire bedroom! I’ve become a master of indoor-pollution vocabulary, from “bioaccumulation” to “PDBEs” (flame retardants) to”off-gassing” (probably my new favorite word).

It’s hard to say where to draw the line — how much is cause for concern, and how much is marketing hype. I actually like the idea of nontoxic mattresses made by local hipsters, but the prices will kill a hipster budget. One starts to sense an eco-class system at work, with people making products they couldn’t afford to buy themselves, at least not without an employee discount.

Wool carpeting, VOC-free paint, solid hardwood furniture free of formaldehyde-leaking fiberboard — it’s all expensive stuff. So we have “green” products for the affluent, and for the masses? Let them be off-gassed! Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to return to my bubble.


  • Tom

    Oh my Gawd, yes, this one definitely hit a nerve! The older I’ve gotten the more I’m amazed that I survived battling the roaches with home-mixed sprays, putting an old used rug on the floor, peeling old paint and wallpaper off the walls of a 1942-vintage duplex apartment, working under the hood of my clunker without protective gloves, and any number of other low-scale poisonings. Every now and then, when doing something germy or slightly toxic, I just tell myself “Oh well, that what I pay my immune system for.”

  • Alex Hallatt

    Hey Jen

    I don’t know about over there, but when I moved into my flat in Melbourne I was able to order a handmade, wool futon. It is TOTALLY different to the crappy foam ones you get from Ikea. I’ve had it over two years. As long as you roll it up every other day and turn it occasionally it doesn’t get hard as hell.

    Plus it cost about $175. You could put it on a frame (expensive), but I just use a foam mattress underneath….sure, that would be offgassing, but I’m not inhaling it from an inch away!

    Also… I’m in a tiny flat and when I roll up the mattress, I have space to do some yoga.

  • Jen Sorensen

    Alex – The handmade mattresses I was looking at were in the $1500-2000 range. $175 sounds pretty good! Although I’m not sure I’m into the rolling part.

Jen Sorensen is a nationally-published political cartoonist. She is a 2017 Pulitzer Finalist and recipient of the 2014 Herblock Prize and a 2013 Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award.