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.

Packit Cooler Bags

Question from Stacey

Hi Debra,

I just discovered cooler bags and lunch bags called Packit, that are designed to keep food cool up to 10 hours. I love the concept and design of the bags which would be great for kid’s lunches as well as for many other uses.

The children’s lunch bags are made of polyester on the exterior, while the interior is made of PVA. It is also stated that these bags are PVC and lead free. Some of the other bags have a lining made of EVA/PE/high-density polyethylene.

What do you think of these bags? Would you add them to your List of safe products?

Debra’s Answer

I would and I’m going to! I’m in love with these bags too.

They are bags that have a freezable gel right inside the sides of the bag, so foods are kept cold from all directions. I can see these bags being useful for shopping, travel, lunch, so you can really take your food with you.

The materials are plastics, but the least toxic ones. There’s no way to make this product without plastic.

What a great idea! Bags come in 12 sizes, including a grocery-size bag.

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Quilts And Comforters

Question from Sue P.

Hi Debra,

I am trying to figure out if a commercially made quilt would typically contain flame retardants or any other harmful chemicals. I have found a quilt online that says the cover is 100% cotton, but the filling is 100% polyester. Are there flame retardants in 100% polyester? Would washing this several times, remove any harmful chemicals? Thanks for your great website and research.

Debra’s Answer

It’s unlikely that polyester fill would contain flame retardants. Furniture manufacturers use layers of polyester to help them pass the flammability tests. It doesn’t burn, it melts.

Many many years ago I was wearing a polyester nightgown. I took it off and threw it on the floor—right on top of my hot curling iron. And I saw that polyester melt right before my eyes. So it passes the flame test, but I wouldn’t want molten polyester on my skin.

Polyester itself is not particularly toxic, it’s usually the finishes that are the toxic part.

But again, polyester is plastic, so if you want to avoid plastic for other reasons, then that’s something to consider. But it’s not toxic.

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Nonorganic Cotton vs Polyester Clothing

Question from Marilynn

Hi Debra,

Non organic cotton has pesticides.

So is it healthier to wear non organic cotton or polyester? or something else?

We cant afford to wear organic cotton for all our clothing.


Debra’s Answer

That’s an easy question.

Nonorganic cotton.

Nonorganic cotton is grown with pesticides that pollute the environment, but those pesticides are no longer present in the final fabric. They are present in cotton batting used in comforters and pillows, but not in fabrics used to make clothing.

Polyester is a plastic and virtually all polyester fabric is coated with a formaldehyde-based permanent-press finish. It lessens with time and washings, but is designed to remain for the life o the fabric.

If you can’t afford organic (I can’t either), choose cotton clothing that is not permanent press or no-iron. These finishes release formaldehyde vapors.

There are many inexpensive cotton clothing items. I live in Florida so I wear cotton sheeting capri pants and tank tops all year round. I also wear linen shirts and cotton knit sweaters in the winter.

I understand making the best choice you can afford.

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Non Toxic Kitchen Faucet To Garden Hose Adapter

Question from Susan

Hi Debra,

Have large non toxic drinking water containers for emergency water supply.

Have found a non toxic garden hose.

All that is needed is a non toxic kitchen faucet to garden hose adapter.

Please advise.

Thank you.

Debra’s Answer

I’m looking at various adapters online and there seem to be some made of metal and some made with plastic.

The thing is, leaching requires contact time. The water is going to be rushing past this half-inch of adapter in a nanosecond. It’s unlikely any material would leach into the water.

I would be much more concerned about the container first and the hose second. Good you have already handled those.

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Breastfeeding Exposes Babies to Chemicals Linked to Immune System Problems

According to a new study from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, water- and stain-proofing chemicals can transfer from mother to baby during breastfeeding, suggesting that the mother’s milk is a major source of these harmful compounds for the developing children.

Researchers looked at five types of perfluorinated alkylate substances, (PFASs) in the blood of 81 children who were born in the Faroe Islands between 1997 and 2000. They checked the children’s blood at ages 11 months, 18 months and 5 years old, and checked their mother’s blood at week 32 of pregnancy.

They found that children who were exclusively breastfed had levels of the chemicals increase about 20 to 30 percent each month. Children who were only partially breastfed had smaller increases.

While researchers say that the benefits of breastfeeding outweigh the risks, they are also asking how mom’s exposure to these chemicals can be reduced.

The compounds also are not fat or water soluble, and are widely used in products such as waterproof clothing, food packaging, paints and lubricants [think Teflon, Gore-Tex and Scotchgard] to make them nonstick and water resistant.

Perfluorinated chemicals have a half-life in people’s bodies of more than three years, which is a long time and makes it difficult for women who might get pregnant to avoid exposure.

Environmental Health News: Breastfeeding exposes babies to water- and stain-proofing chemicals

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Is this chair safe?

Question from Stephanie Baker

Hi Debra,

I’m trying to find affordable non toxic seating for my living room and am having trouble knowing what to look for. Is this a safe option?

Debra’s Answer

Well…It’s OK!

It’s made of solid wood, metal, and polyproylene plastic, which is the same plastic used to make disposable food containers.

It should be fine.

If there is a problem, it would be from a finish applied to the wood. But I can’t evaluate that without seeing the chair, because retailers typically don’t have information about wood finishes.

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Remove the Leftover Smell From a Glade Plug-in

Question from Carol A

Hi Debra,

Glade plug-ins give me a head ache and I was wondering if you have any sense of what it takes to get rid of the smell and the associated chemicals.

Somebody put one into my space and am trying to get rid of the chemicals.

We have removed an empty device, aired out the space (no carpet, but brick walls and popcorn ceiling), washed and brushed every square inch except for the ceiling and the smell is still there and I still get a head ache.

We also had air filters and air scrubbers, …to no avail.

Do you ahve any idea or know of a reference?

Debra’s Answer

I don’t know what kind of air filters and scrubbers you tried, but I would recommend the EnviroKlenz Mobile Unit.

It contains natural material that doesn’t filter chemicals, but actually breaks the chemical down. I checked with them and they told me this is their recommended product for this purpose.

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Chemicals and Cancer

One of every two men and one of every three women in the USA and other western nations now have a chance of getting some type of cancer in their lifetime. Lifestyle and other environmental facts are known to be largely responsible for cancer.

So it’s none to soon that scientists are looking at what chemicals cause cancer and

A couple of weeks ago, Environmental Working Group (EWG) released their Dirty Dozen Cancer Prevention Edition which highlights 12 of the worst chemicals that are known to disrupt cancer-related pathways and gives you tips on how to avoid them.

But what’s even more interesting is their new guide Rethinking Carcinogens which summarizes new research about cancer from the Halifax Project, a collaboration of more than 300 scientists who are investigating ways in which toxic chemicals we are exposed to every day may cause cancer.

The Halifax Project team investigated 85 common chemicals not known to be carcinogenic on their own and found that 50 can disrupt cancer-related pathways at low doses typically encountered in the environment.

List of cancer-related chemicals being investigated by the Halifax Project

Just more evidence that we DO need to know what’s toxic, where we’re being exposed, how we can eliminate exposures, and how to detox these chemicals from our bodies.

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