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.

Can Water Make You Fat?

The cover of First for Women on magazine racks this week says

can water make you fat


Oxford University researcher confirm drinking H2O speeds weight loss by 550%

But 95% of women don’t see results because the water they’re drinking is slowing their thyroid




Well, I had to read that!

Unfortunately, First for Women doesn’t cite their studies, and I couldn’t find a study online to support the claim in their headline.

But it is widely known and documented that fluoride in tap water can effect your thyroid gland. Since the thyroid gland regulates weight gain and loss, drinking fluoridated water would impair your body’s ability to lose weight. Fluoride in tap water may even contribute to weight gain—so yes, one can get fat from drinking water.

It’s no secret that drinking water can help you lose weight, but drinking fluoridated water may defeat the purpose.

Since fluoride has many other health effects, it’s always best to drink fluoride-free water.


Increase Your Weight Loss by 550% by Drinking Clean Water


If you are drinking tap water, it’s likely that it contains fluoride.

Your best protection is to get a water filter that is specifically designed to remove fluoride.

The water filter I use in my own home is made by Pure Effect. It’s state of the art filtration removes just about everything that might be in your water that you don’t want to put in your body…including fluoride.

Learn more about Pure Effect water filters here…

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Toxic Chemicals and Food Allergies/Sensitivities

I first observed a connection between food allergies and toxic exposures more than thirty years ago when I was working in the office of a doctor who was treating patients with multiple chemical sensitivities.

They would come in reacting to chemicals and foods and the doctor would send them off to the beach for a couple of weeks to give their bodies a break from the bombardment of toxic exposures. This was the treatment then, before we knew about saunas.

And it worked, too. Patients would come back from the beach happy and excited that they could eat any food they wanted without reaction.

And that’s how I made the connection between toxic chemicals overloading your body and food allergies.

This week two emails came in regarding toxic chemical exposure and food allergies.

One was the RODALE WELLNESS: 10 Crazy Things Pesticides Do to Your Body.

The other is WHOLE LIFE NUTRITION: How Chemicals Increase Food Allergies and Food Sensitivities. This well-documented post shows how toxic chemicals damage your immune system, leading to food allergies (and allergies and sensitivities of all sorts).

I was happy to see the scientific support for this, after observing it all those years ago.

The pieces of this toxic puzzle are coming together.

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Harmful Chemicals from Natural Gas Operations Contaminate Bodies of Local Residents

shale gas extract Fracking is the process of drilling down into the earth before a high-pressure water mixture is directed at the rock to release the gas inside. Water, sand and chemicals are injected into the rock at high pressure which allows the gas to flow out to the head of the well.



You may not have considered fracking operations as a source of toxic chemical exposure, but it’s something you should check on. 12.4 million people live in the threat radius. CHECK MAPS HERE to fnd out if your home or school is within a 1/2 mile of an active oil & gas well, and more about the pollutants that may be present from fracking. Thankfully, I’m not in a fracking zone here in Florida, but if you live in the midwest, northeast, or California, please check the map.

A new study has found that many of the toxic chemicals used at fracking sites may be present in higher concentration in the bodies of people in nearby communities.

A first-of-its-kind study combining air-monitoring methods with new biomonitoring techniques detected volatile organic compounds (VOCs) released from natural gas operations in the bodies of nearby residents at levels that were as much as 10 times that of the national averages.

The study focused on measuring ambient levels of a specific family of VOCs named BTEX chemicals — which include benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, and xylenes — because these chemicals are known to be hazardous to human health even at low levels. Researchers then used new biomonitoring methods to detect these chemicals in 11 local residents who volunteered to participate in the study by wearing air quality monitors and providing blood and urine samples, and found evidence of eight hazardous chemicals emitted from Pavillion gas infrastructure in the urine of study participants.

EARTH ISLAND JOURNAL: High Levels of Toxins Found in Bodies of People Living Near Fracking Sites

EARTHJUSTICE: Unfractured: Joining Together ro Fight Fracking

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Travel Cribs

Question from Jan

Hi Debra,

Have been researching safe Bassinetts/cosleepers. The best I have found are Nuna Sena and Lotus.

Do you have an opinion on these?

Debra’s Answer

Lotus website says they are “nontoxic” (and do extensive testing to ensure the bassinets are free of a long list of chemicals, and also that they are GREENGUARD GOLD Certified (they are the only travel crib in the world to receive this certification).

These are both good indicators that the product is nontoxic. However, I don’t see their materials listed, so I can’t verify for myself.

Nuna Sena is made with OEKO-TEX certified materials, but again, I don’t know what they are.

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10 Ways Pesticides Harm Your Body

Here’s a great overview of 10 documented health effects of pesticides:

RODALE WELLNESS: 10 Crazy Things Pesticides Are Doing to Your Body

Of course the answer is to eat organic, but this post might make the connection between pesticide exposure in foods and a condition you or a loved one may have.

For example, did you know pesticides in food are liked to memory loss, diabetes, and obesity?

And there’s more…

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My Personal Experience With “Second-Hand” Asbestos

Hi Debra,

I saw that you haven’t posted much about asbestos and I wanted to share my experience with this dangerous mineral. Exposure to asbestos is a truly silent killer and something that everyone should be aware of.

Many people think asbestos is a problem of the past, as laws were passed in the 1970’s that limited its use. While asbestos production took a sharp turn and began to decline around the time these laws were passed, it is still NOT banned in the US and Canada. It can still be found in older homes and buildings, schools, naval yards, automobiles, and even consumer products- leaving everyone at risk for exposure. Until asbestos is totally banned and eradicated, the potential for asbestos exposure will remain.

Exposure to asbestos is something that changed the path of my life forever. I am a mesothelioma survivor and advocate. I was initially exposed to asbestos through wearing my father’s work jacket. I wore his jacket to do outside chores so I wouldn’t get my clothes dirty. Little did I know that asbestos fibers were embedded into that jacket and would lead to a diagnosis of mesothelioma in 2005 when I was just 36 years old. My prognosis was not good; I was only given 15 months to live. Luckily, I was a candidate for a dangerous surgical procedure that involved the removal of my left lung. Recently, I am happy to say I celebrated my 10-year survival anniversary and I use my second lease on life to continue the exhausting fight for an international ban on asbestos.

Asbestos was originally thought of as a “miracle mineral”. It is extremely flame retardant, heat resistant and very cheap. Because of its cost-effectiveness and many benefits, it was produced in major quantities. However, people working with the product were found to have associated health problems as early as the 1900’s. The major health issue that asbestos causes is mesothelioma, a rare and aggressive cancer that doesn’t show symptoms until 20-40 years later. Mesothelioma is usually found in lining of the lungs, heart and stomach, and leaves those diagnosed with a prognosis of about 12-21 months to live.

For more information about this dangerous cancer caused by asbestos, head over to

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My Indoor Air Quality Passed the Test! Will Yours?


Here I am with my HomeLab app, showing excellent indoor air quality in my home.


For more than thirty years I’ve been writing about toxic pollutants in indoor air and how to reduce them—even before there was a whole field called Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) that addresses this.

My method has always been to find out what products in a home contain toxic chemicals that could end up in indoor air—either by direct application (like spraying a pesticide to kill flies) or outgassing (like formaldehyde emissions from particleboard). I knew I was reducing the concentration of air pollutants in my home because I felt better, but I couldn’t measure indoor air pollutants to be sure levels were safe. Indoor air quality testing cost more than I could afford.

Now there’s a new service called HomeLab app that monitors your indoor air quality for only $7.99 per month! I couldn’t wait to try it!

HomeLab sends you an air monitor that just sits there and collects air samples in your home (or office, or wherever you want to put it). It takes about a week to calibrate, but once it gets to know your space, you get continuous real time readings (based on an average of the previous 24 hours).

But that’s not all. The monitor also sends your data back to HomeLab , where certified building scientists analyze your data and offers recommendation about what you can do to improve your indoor air quality. Recommendations range from simple and free to major investments, but they tell you the easiest solutions first.

You also get a free app for your cell phone that keeps you informed about your indoor air quality. A set of green-yellow-red buttons (see photo above) show you at a glance if four categories of air quality indicators are in a healthy range (green), need attention (yellow) or are dangerously high (red). The data is also displayed in graphs (see photos below) that show an actual numeric measurement that goes up and down over time as change occur in your air quality, for better or for worse.

I got my monitor and let it calibrate. When the first measurements appeared they were green-green-green (and the humidity was yellow). According to HomeLab, only about five percent of the homes test this well when they sign up for the service.

Debra’s home showed our target reading for VOCs. The fact that Debra has already accomplished this goal is a testament to her knowledge and commitment to a nontoxic home.

— Nate Bellino, Founder of HomeLab

Now you can really find out what’s floating around in your indoor air, and learn exactly what to do about it from professionals. No more guesswork.



20-offThrough next Monday, HomeLab is offering a 20% discount to my readers, bringing the price down to only $6.49/month. Just enter coupon code “debra” at checkout. That’s AFTER your first month free.

NOTE: HomeLab requires wi-fi. See Q&A: How to Minimize the Risks of Wi-Fi to Have the Benefits for my comments about wi-fi.


HomeLab app in graph mode shows changes in levels of indoor air pollution over time. Here my graph shows a change in VOCs from 127 ppm to 125 ppm. As you make changes in your home to improve indoor air quality, the graph will show your progress.


Here my HomeLab app suddenly showed a spike. I didn’t see this until the next day, but if I had been watching more closely I could have pinpointed what happened that caused that spike.



This is the same spike. You can move the circle to a particular point in the graph to get the exact reading for that moment.



If you get HomeLab I would love for you to leave a comment with your results.

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How to Minimize the Risks of Wi-Fi to Have the Benefits

I was prompted to write this post because I wanted to use a service called HomeLab, which monitors key indicators of indoor air quality in your home and gives you recommendations on how to reduce the toxic indoor air pollutants that it finds. All for less than $10 per month. This is an incredibly valuable service that can help millions improve their health by reduce their exposure to toxic chemicals in the air they breathe. Because you can’t see air pollutants and often cannot smell them either, having a simple tool to measure indoor air quality is extremely important for good health.

But it requires a cell phone and wi-fi.

I had a cell phone, but I didn’t have wi-fi. So for the last two weeks I’ve been doing a lot of research to see how I could have the benefits of HomeLab without the risks of wi-fi. I decided in the end to get the wi-fi only for the purpose of using HomeLab. And I’m doing things to minimize my risk, which I will tell you about below.


The type of EMF that is used for wi-fi is a radio frequency (RF). The World Health Organization has stated:

To date, the only health effect from RF fields identified in scientific reviews has been related to an increase in body temperature (> 1 °C) from exposure at very high field intensity found only in certain industrial facilities, such as RF heaters. The levels of RF exposure from base stations and wireless networks are so low that the temperature increases are insignificant and do not affect human health.

However, some users of wi-fi report health effects. Many of these users have had higher levels of exposure than an average user would have (such as working in a technology job in the wireless industry) or have overloads of chemical or electromagnetic exposure.

My concern about wi-fi—and indeed all exposures to man-made electromagnetic fields—is that they vibrate at a different frequency than the frequencies of the natural world. When in a natural environment. our bodies vibrate “in tune” with the frequency of the Earth. Man-made frequencies interrupt that connection, whether we can observe the health effects in present time or not.


One of the characteristics of EMFs is that the effect decreases with distance. A cell phone, for example, is much more dangerous when you hold it touching your ear than it is when you hold it at arm’s length and use the speaker phone. Likewise a cell phone is a lot less dangerous if it’s sitting in another room at night rather than under your pillow or even on your night stand.

And it’s the same with wi-fi. The further you are from the source router, the less you will be affected by the radio frequency.

The biggest problem I see with wireless is the same problem we have with toxic chemicals: just too much exposure. Each of our bodies can tolerate a certain amount, and when we go over that amount, we could have health problems.

And so I have done things like take a gaussmeter with me when I was looking for the house I live in now, and chose a location that was sufficiently distant from electrical substations and high-tension wires. I had building biology experts come test my house for EMFs and then removed the highest sources, which happened to be my cordless phone holder (which was sitting right on my desk) and my backup battery (which was sitting right under my desk).

I can’t claim to be EMF-free. I use a cell phone with a radiation shield. I sit in front of my computer all day (at a distance). I have a television, which I watch from across the room.

Regarding wi-fi, the actual truth of it is, if you live in a city or even a suburban neighborhood, you are surrounded by wi-fi all the time. When I turned wi-fi on, on my computer, it received 12 wi-fi signals in addition to my own, and these were there even before I installed wi-fi. And they are locked, which is necessary or I would just be able to use my neighbor’s wi-fi. So those frequencies are certainly surrounding me.


When considering the use of wi-fi. it’s important to weigh the benefit achieved from the risk involved.

A couple of years ago there was an article in the LA Times about all the new gadgets that are now available that use wifi. People are using wi-fi for everything as if it is absolutely harmless. My internet provider has a service were they put wi-fi routers all over the house so every inch has wi-fi and there are no dead spots. Their commercial shows a young child watching their favorite television show on a tablet hiding under a blanket. To me that’s just unnecessary. And I wouldn’t install wi-fi simply to avoid having a cord between my computer and printer.

Knowing the dangers of indoor air pollution, measuring indoor air pollutants with HomeLab seemed to me to be a benefit greater than the risk of wi-fi.


Given that we are surrounded by wireless frequencies that we cannot control, the best advice I can give you is to minimize sources of man-made frequencies from all sources as much as you can in your immediate home environment. Learn more about EMFs in general and eliminate the unnecessary exposures so you can use wireless where you have a benefit you can’t get any other way. I, for example, only use my cell phone when I am away from home, and always use my corded landline at home.

There are different ways to install wi-fi. I took the precaution to install the wifi in a way that would give me the least exposure and the most options. My internet provider had already installed a modem for my corded internet connection. They told me that I had two choices: they could replace my modem with a modem that had wifi built in, or I could get an external wifi router that could be plugged in to my existing modem. I chose the external router so I could plug it in and unplug it whenever I wattmeter to use it.

Also, place the router away from normal areas of activity. I put mine in a corner that is hard to get to, near a window. This applies the law of danger diminishing with distance, but since my computer is picking up wi-fi from the neighbors, I don’t know how much difference this makes.

Another option is to reconnect your body to the natural frequencies of the Earth. Earthing offers a special mat on which you can place your feet while sitting at your desk. Earthing would help to balance out  wi-fi. You could also get that rebalancing by walking barefoot on grass or at the beach, where your body can get direct connection with the Earth. Earthing helps with all exposures to EMFs from all sources. While I personally have not used their products, I do know a number of people who have and they love them. I do make a point to go walking on the beach and otherwise put my body close to the earth to achieve the same effect.

I’ve also read that nutrition can make a big difference in how well our bodies can tolerate EMFs of all kinds. That makes sense to me because the stronger our bodies are, the more easily they can defend themselves from dangers around them. Reducing exposure to toxic chemicals is also recommended, which again lessens the stress on the body.

Since we now live in a wireless world, we should all understand how it works and the health risks so we can make wise decisions. I’ll be writing more about this in the future.

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Excessive Lead in Tap Water Across America, says NRDC

tap waterIn an extensive analysis of official EPA violation and enforcement records, NRDC mapped lead-related issues in drinking water systems across the United States. Our research illustrates the extraordinary geographic scope of America’s lead crisis. In 2015, 18 million people were served by water systems with lead violations

What’s in Your Water? Flint and Beyond (article)

What’s in Your Water? Flint and Beyond (study)

tap water 2



pureeffectsfiltersIf you are drinking tap water, it’s likely that it contains chlorine or chloramines, fluoride, lead and other heavy metals, perhaps radiation, and unknown contaminants of various sorts.

Your best protection is to get a water filter that removes a broad spectrum of known pollutants and unknown contaminants.

The water filter I use in my own home is made by Pure Effect. It’s state of the art filtration removes just about everything that might be in your water that you don’t want to put in your body.

Learn more about Pure Effect water filters here…

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