Sunday, December 30, 2007

Prius broken Multi-Function-Display update

I have not yet heard from Toyota of Berkeley's owner, Tim Southwick. I wrote the letter in May of 2007 and it has been over seven months (see letter in a previous post). So I have contacted the Toyota Customer Experience hot line (800-331-4331) and had several conversations with a woman named Robin. She has been very courteous and diligent about getting back to me. After about five calls, including calls she made to the national and regional offices of Toyota, she informed me of the bad news. This I find hard to believe, and you may also. Toyota is not going to give me a break on the MFD replacement. Well, actually, they claim that the $850 or so they want to replace it IS a break already, and that a new unit is over $3,000. This is a factory refurb unit they want to sell me. I insisted that I had read on the Priuschat site that people had gotten much better deals, even no charge or $200 or so, and Robin confirmed this. However, she said the customer cited in that post had purchased five Toyotas from that dealer so they were doing the loyal customer a big favor. I said that this is ridiculous. The MFD is known to be bad in the 2004 Prius model year and they often fail. (Toyota technical service bulletin TSB #EL002-05 details this issue.) She said there were nothing they can do for me. I have to say that I'm very disappointed in Toyota, and in Toyota of Berkeley particularly. I asked Robin to have someone from Toyota of Berkeley at least phone me to tell me the news and respond to my letter. But so far there has been no call. It's been a few weeks now. I have no intention of paying $850 to have Toyota repair a piece of equipment that has a known defect, and that there is even a technical service bulletin for. Toyota should replace these free of charge when they come in broken in the way that is the known and expected failure mode, in my opinion! This does not speak well of the Prius, nor of Toyota USA.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Memory foam update

I have definitely determined with the help of my BioSET allergist that I am allergic to the memory foam mattress I paid $1500 for from Foam Creations in Albany, California. This mattress is 6" of natural latex (NaturaLux from, and 3" of memory foam from
Foamex ( What I bought is called "300-10." I have written to both companies to ask if they use PBDEs.

FYI, Polybrominated diphenyl ethers or PBDE, are a flame retardant. For years, manufacturers have used chemical additives to reduce the flammability of everyday items, from computer casings to carpet pads to foam cushions in chairs and couches. Some of the more widely used of these additives are polybrominated diphenyl ethers, or PBDEs. In lab tests with rodents, some PBDEs have been linked to problems in brain development and thyroid hormones. Most of these problems stem from pre-natal exposure and exposure soon after birth. The health effects appear to be permanent. PBDE levels in humans are about 10 to 100 times higher in the U.S., the world’s largest producer and consumer of PBDEs, than in Europe. Scientists say North American levels appear to be rising at an exponential rate, doubling every two to five years, while countries that have banned their use have seen levels decrease. U.S. levels of PBDEs are rising. Studies have found them in human blood, fat and breast milk. Breast-feeding appears to overcome some of the effects of harmful chemicals and remains the healthiest way to feed babies.

I went to the store once again to complain about the smell in the mattress that would not go away (I have waited six months) and was told by the owner that over the years he's been selling foam (which is quite a few) that state regulations have slowly mandated that all mattresses be treated with flame retardants. In days of olde, he said, you had a choice of "F" grade (flame retardant) or not. All I know is that I feel very bad when I wake up in the morning, and the smell is pervading the whole bedroom, even though I have been opening the doors and windows all day long for the last six months. I suspect that the latex mattress does not have PBDE or other flame retardant, because it is less flammable and claims to be all natural. Since there is, unfortunately, no return policy on the mattresses from Foam Creations, I will be removing the upper 3" of memory foam to see how that improves things. I will post the replies to my emails to the manufacturers if and when I receive them.