Answers to Your Questions About Toxic Free Living
Environmental Working Group (EWG) released another report last week on our exposures to toxic chemicals in everyday life.
If you remember the true-story movie Erin Brockovich from 2000, chromium-6 was the chemical discovered to cause numerous cancer cases in the town of Hinkley, California. Now EWG has tested samples of tap water across the nation and found this same chromium-6 in 75% of water supplies in America.
According to EWG, “In 2008, a two-year study by the National Toxicology Program found that drinking water with chromium-6, or hexavalent chromium, caused cancer in laboratory rats and mice. Based on this and other animal studies, in 2010, scientists at the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment concluded that ingestion of tiny amounts of chromium-6 can cause cancer in people, a conclusion affirmed by state scientists in New Jersey and North Carolina.”
In 2010, an EWG investigation found chromium-6 in the tap water of 31 cities. This prompted the EPA to order local water utilities to begin the first nationwide tests. From 2013-2015 more than 60,000 samples of drinking water were taken. EWG’s analysis of the test data estimates that water supplies serving 218 million Americans – more than two-thirds of the population – contain more chromium-6 than the California scientists deemed safe.
Are You One of the 218 million?
EWG has provided an interactive map of the USA,where you can click on the county you live in and find out if you have chromium-6 in your water.
I checked Pinellas County, Florida—where I live—and found that chromium-6 was detected in 87% of samples tested.The range was from “none detected” to 0.620 parts per billion (ppb). The California Public Health Goal is 0.02 ppb.
What to Do
So, OK, I have my local numbers from the interactive map, but, is the water from MY tap “none detected” or 0.620 pub or somewhere in between?
Since I have a PureEffect Water Filter, I asked founder Igor Milevskiy if I needed to be concerned about chromium-6 in my water.
Igor said, “Due to varying water chemistry from place to place, and the heightened concern for Cr6 across a wide span of water supplies, we highly recommend to test your specific water at home with inexpensive and very simple to use test strips. This way you will know for yourself how much Chromium (if any) is in your water and how well the filter is performing on this contaminant.”
PureEffect water filters contains the type of filter media that removes chromium. “Our 3 and 4 chamber systems have 3 different types of metal removal media, which also target Chromium. The principles of the media are such, that they should have a good effect on reducing this contaminant.”
Again, test strips.
Igor said, “In the event it becomes necessary to provide even greater Cr6 removal power, if your readers let us know their test results, we can make a custom cartridge for those with extra stubborn situations.”
Seeing this report again reinforces for me the need for every home to have an effective water filter system that removes a broad spectrum of pollutants. You never know what might be in your water.
Question from Linda
Could you tell me some brands of hair dyes that are less toxic?
Way back in the 1980’s when I first started looking at toxics in products, hair dye was pretty toxic. There were few safe alternatives.
But times have changed and there are a lot of new “natural” hair dyes available now.
Because you asked, I took a look at them.
Big Brand “Natural” Hair Dyes
If you type “natural hair dye” into a search engine you’ll get some results like Clairol “Natural Instincts” which are not natural at all. But it is ammonia-free.
Ammonia used to be the major problem chemical in hair dye, but how you can just type “ammonia-free hair dye” into a search engine and you will find plenty. Here’s a whole list at amazon.com
But while most of the major brands—like Clairol—now have ammonia-free perms, they are still made primarily from petrochemical ingredients, including synthetic fragrance.
Good Housekeeping did a whole article on Finding Safe Organic Hair Dye Products Rather than repeat everything they said about the dangers of hair dye, I suggest you read their article.
Natural Hair Dyes That Are Really Natural
But there are some hair dyes that are actually made of natural ingredients, sold online and at most natural food stores. Here are some brands I was able to find easily. I’ve included the manufacturer’s website as well as amazon links because some of the manufacturers are in Europe and amazon often has the best prices.
Hair Dye That Restores Your Hair’s Natural Color
To me, the most interesting hair dye is HairPrint. It’s a hair color that restores gray hair to it’s natural color, rather than stripping color and then applying an artificial coal-tar dye. It’s odor-free, hypoallergenic, and you can eat it too! All ingredients are disclosed and explained. Their patented formula takes natural ingredients and creates eumelanin, the pigment that colors all brown and black hair. While you cannot choose your color, you will have a color that your hair has chosen in response to the eumelanin, and each strond will be it’s own natural shade. This treatment also strengthens the hair and adds luster and shine. There is a special formula to be used to prevent hair from turning grey as well. My hair isn’t turning grey (yet), but when I does, it I decide to dye my hair, this is what I would choose.
If you want to use some natural materials that will create nature hues in your hair, you might want to try using plants that you already have in your kitchen. Like coffee, tea, herbs, juices, and the like.
It’s easy to find instructions for using these online.
Well, the world is changing.
Pioneering green products company Seventh Generation was just purchased by Unilever for $700 million.
Unilever is one of the top ten corporations that control almost everything that is sold in the mass market.
It was actually an emotional shock for me to get this news
I remember when Seventh Generation was started in 1988. It was just before Earth Day 1990 and the book 50 Simple Things You Can Do to Save the Earth, which brought awareness to the mass market that what we do in our homes every day has an effect on the environment—for better or for worse.
Seventh Generation really was the first company to develop products with health and environment being the guiding star. And they did Read more about Seventh Generation…
For Seventh Generation to sell to Unilever…it’s the end of an era. Seventh Generation was an innovator, they were visionaries who changed the marketplace. And now decisions will be made based on mass market values instead of life values.
All I can say is thank goodness for all of the small businesses that are independently producing toxic free products. Please support them.
France has become the first country in the world to ban disposable, plastic cups and dishes.
The new law, which passed last month, requires all single-use cups, plates and other dishware sold in the country to be compostable and made at least partly of bio-sourced materials. Businesses have been given until Jan. 1, 2020 to comply.
A ban on plastic bags has been in place since July.
The decision to do this was made based on environmental considerations—France currently throws away more than 4.7 billion plastic cups every year. But it will also reduce exposure to toxic chemicals in plasticware as well.
Manufacturers, of course, are opposing the law, asserting that lower-income families regularly use disposable tableware because they can’t afford reusable tableware. I can’t agree with that argument. I once was living in a rented apartment by myself and I had one fork, one spoon, one knife, one plate, one bowl, one cup, and one glass. That’s all one person actually needs. Anyone can obtain these for practically nothing at any thrift store.
I think this is a good move, but we also need to consider the use of disposable products altogether. It is possible to have a society where everything is reusable and biodegradable. We don’t need plastic at all. Indeed, as a species we survived perfectly well without it until the twentieth century (the first plastic was bakelite, invented in New York in 1907).
Question from Mimi
This is an area in need of change!!
We have been staying hampton Inns for many years and have always called before to ask them not to use fabrezee and any fragrance in the rooms.
For a couple of years we found most of the rooms to be at least ‘liveable”
But, for the last two years we have traveled Florida panhandle, and up and back on the I 77/ I81 corridor from Fl to NH…and had some horrible experiences.
At the Hampton Inns in Florida and Virginia.. the one in Tallahassee reaked so badly that we had to leave the property at 3 AM and drive for more hours to our home,because my husband and I were getting sick. it took us two weeks to recover.
We contacted the customer service department many times and they just kept referring us to one new person after another . Yes, they compted the room, but that means nothing when you have a whole night without sleep and have a full drive the next day!
We are very upset about this!!! There are so many of us out here wanting to travel and having chemical sensitivity.
Can you recommend a hotel chain or group that would identify which hotels have nontoxic options as of Sept 2016.
We support your work and will spread the word .. thank-you for any info you can give us! And keep up the good work. More of us need to join in and change this!
I totally agree with you!
I have a page about travel on Debra’s List.
I just went there and unfortunately found that the Safer Travel Directory website is no longer there.
And I searched online for anything new. Nothing. Old links broken.
I read that Hyatt Hotels and Fairmont Hotels are offering hypoallergenic rooms, but that was an old post, so I don’t know the current status. Would you contact these chains and see what the story is, and let us know?
We really need some improvement on this. Let me think about what we can do.
New Labels Can Help You Find Sofas Without Fire Retardants-But… They Still May Contain Toxic Chemicals
Last year there was a big change in the furniture world. A California law went into effect that allowed furniture manufacturers to make and sell upholstered furniture—such as sofas, loveseats, and chairs—without toxic fire retardants. That’s certainly good news!
The problem is that while the fire retardants are gone, most of the affordable sofas and chairs are still made with synthetic materials and toxic finishes like stain repellants.
Less toxic to be sure…but not toxic free yet.
Since January 1, 2015 the CA labeling law has required all upholstered furniture (couches, sofas, loveseats, and recliners) to have a label that states whether or not harmful flame retardant chemicals were added to the product.
I could have told you this last year but didn’t, because it only applied to upholstered furniture manufactured after January 1, 2015. Stores were still filled with furniture manufactured before this date.
Now, furniture manufactured since the beginning of 2015 is more widely available.
If you are buying upholstered furniture, what you want to look at is the “law label.”
And now I’m going to send you over to an article that has a very clear explanation of how to find the label, the three different labels you might see, and how to find the information about flame retardants—complete with pictures.
I know a lot of you are concerned about toxics in products from China.
Here’s a website that recently came my way via Q&A comments. I’m pulling it out and making a post so we can all find it easily.
If you know of any other sites with specific information about toxics in products from China, please post a comment with the name and link.
FDA has found residues of the weed killer glyphosate even in a food that is not produced with the use of glyphosate: honey.
All of the samples the FDA tested in a recent examination contained glyphosate residues, and some showed residue levels double the limit allowed in the European Union. There is no legal tolerance level for glyphosate in honey in the United States.
According to the FDA records, samples tested by an FDA chemist showed these residue levels:
|Carmichael’s Honey||Louisiana||107 ppb|
|Leighton’s Orange Blossom Honey||Florida||22 ppm|
|Sue Bee Honey||Lowa||41 ppm|
Sue Bee is marketed by a cooperative of American beekeepers as “pure, all-natural” and “America’s Honey.” Customers “can be assured that Sue Bee Honey is 100% pure, 100% all-natural and 100% American,” the Sioux Honey Association states.
The obvious recommendation is to choose organic honey, but I’m not sure it has less glyphosate. What is becoming more and more evident is that glyphosate is now widespread in the general environment, and not limited to GMO foods.
The good news is that honey has a tremendous amount of nutrients and inherent healing qualities. Of all foods, honey is the food most likely to have the ability to counteract the negative affects of glyphosate.
I would still choose organic honey.
This week, researchers, public health advocates, government officials, and industry spokespersons will meet at National Institutes of Health (NIH) to celebrate 25 years of scientific research on endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs).
Here is a good commentary on what we’ve learned about this chemicals, and where we need to go to learn more.
A new study came out this week that gives us more data than ever about what types of toxic chemicals are found in household dust and amounts.
The fact that household dust contains toxic chemicals is not new—but this study is the first to make a comprehensive assessment of consumer product chemicals of concern in the dust found in US homes, provide a picture of the toxic chemicals in the home, estimate potential exposures for children and determine heath threats.
The study identifies 45 chemicals from five chemical classes—phthalates, phenols, flame retardants, fragrances, fluorinated chemicals—that were measured in dust in US homes.
Some phthalates, fragrance, flame retardants, and phenols were consistently found in 90 percent or more of dust samples across multiple studies.
The articles below do a great job of explaining the problem, but fall short on giving workable solutions.
Here’s my advice.
1. All the things you are already doing to reduce your use of chemicals in your home that you are learning on this website are also reducing toxic chemicals in your house dust. So keep finding toxic products in your home and continue to replace them with nontoxic products.
2. Sign up for HomeLab and get real-time monitoring of toxic chemical and dust levels in YOUR home. The first 30 days are free, then it’s less than $10/month. If the test results show elevated levels, their certified building scientists will help you solve the problem, starting with free and inexpensive fixes first.
3. Get an air filter that removes both particles (dust) and gasses (chemicals. Check out my recommended brands at Debra’s List: Air Filters.
Find out what’s in your indoor air and take steps to improve it. This could make a big difference in your health.
NATURAL RESOURCES DEFENSE COUNCIL: Toxic Dust: The Dangerous Chemical Brew in Every Home
another blog post about toxic dust