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.

Tea Steeped in Toxics

A new report from Beyond Pesticides gives an inside look into the tea industry, and it’s not a pretty picture.

Over the past few years, numerous reports have been published that point to high levels of toxic and illegal pesticide residues contaminating popular tea brands

Tea Steeped in Toxics reveals a list of pesticides banned in the USA to be imported in tea from other countries, including:


In addition, heavy metal contamination in tea leaves has been documented as a result of proximity to highway and surface dust contamination as well as uptake of lead in soil by the roots of the tea plant. Up to 83% of teas have lead levels considered unsafe for consumption during pregnancy and lactation, as well as excessive levels of manganese and aluminum.

If you are a tea drinker, the solution is to choose organic teas. These are easy to find on the shelves of any natural food store and on the Tea page of Debra’s List.

Organic certification does not allow these pesticides. In addition they are inspected to ensure only organic practices are used.

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PureBodyx2-214x300If you are a regular drinker of tea, it’s likely that your body has built up a store of lead, aluminum, and possibly other heavy metals that could be affecting your health.

Once heavy metals enter your body, it is very difficult for your body to remove them.

That’s why I take PureBody Liquid Zeolite every day. This natural mineral is uniquely suited to remove heavy metals. Tiny bits of negatively-charged zeolite act like little magnets to attract positively-charged particles—which include 99.9% of heavy metals, radiation, and organic chemicals–so they can be removed from your body via your kidneys. It’s simple, effective, and affordable.

Learn more about PureBody Liquid Zeolite here…

Safe Dishwasher Detergent?

Question from nclynn

Hi Debra,

Your books were my main teachers when i really committed to going green in the 90s. so wonderful!

i am on a thread right now where someone recommended a dishwasher detergent of borax, baking soda (1/2 cup each), 1/8 cup citric acid and 25 drops of ‘essential oil’.

Someone chimed in and said they used this and it ate up their enamelware. the rest of the thread is opinions about what was the culprit and they have ALL been named!!! lol.

The latest was a mom who has a chemist son. son said “borax will ruin your glassware (depending on the make-up) when added to hot water and can make it taste like play-doh – forever! “

I told them i had heard in the 90s (from you?) to use plain borax in the dishwasher. i used it once at a friend’s and it was fine but i’ve never had my own dishwasher.

Do you have any thoughts on that original recipe…good, bad, indifferent?

Thanks for all you do!

Debra’s Answer

I looked up my original recipe for dishwasher detergent and found mix baking soda and borax half-and-half and then put 4 tablespoons in your dishwasher. But I got that from a book somewhere and never actually used it.

I haven’t had a dishwasher since 1985.

So, readers, what are your thoughts or experience with this formula, and what do YOU use in your dishwasher?

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Himalayan Salt Lamps as Air Filters

Question from Bonnie Johnson

Hi Debra,

Does anyone have any experience using one of these? They are supposed to purify the air in your home.

Especially did it help a sinus condition?

Debra’s Answer

I had a Himalayan Salt Lamp in my bedroom for a while, but I had to remove it because I couldn’t sleep. I finally just gave it away.

As beautiful as they are, I wouldn’t use one as an air filter.

Salt lamps are natural source of negative ions.

At any given time, there are both positive and negative ions in the air. Negative ions are often found in nature, often created by lightening storms, sunlight, waterfalls, ocean waves and other natural processes. A salt lamp produces negative ions during the evaporation of water attracted to the lamp by the salt.

Positive ions are often created by electronic devices like computers, TVs, microwaves, and vacuum cleaners. They are known to contribute to problems like allergies, stress and sleep trouble.

Negative ions can neutralize positive ions by bonding with them.

Since air pollutants such as airborne mold, bacteria, and allergens often carry a positive charge, they can be neutralized by negative ions.

But that’s the limitation of a salt lamp as an air purifier.

For air purifiers that work to remove a broad spectrum of particles and chemical pollutants, visit the Air Filters page of Debra’s List.

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Flame Retardants

Question from Michelle W

Hi Debra,

I recently contacted a small furniture company to ask about the toxicity of the materials they use. Here’s part of their reply:

“The inner liner is made of a Polyester (92%) / Spandex (8%) blend. Likewise, they contain no known latex content. However, they are treated with a flame retardant called Pyrovatex SVC. This material is not known to cause allergic reactions or contain latex derivatives and is non toxic.”

I tried to look up the MSDS for the Pyrovatex flame retardant, but the website seems to be down (and has been for at least a week.) Do you know anything about this flame retardant or how they can claim it is nontoxic?


Debra’s Answer

Pyrovatex is a trade name for Phosphonic acid, (2-((hydroxymethyl)carbamoyl)ethyl)-, dimethyl ester

Phosphonic acid is an organophosphorus compound. There are many types of phosphorates, including Gyphosate (“Roundup”).

Here is an MSDS for Phosphoric Acid

It says it’s 98% phosphorous acid.

There is no toxicity information given, however, it is hazardous by burning the skin and is harmful if swallowed. Inhalation can cause chemical burns to the respiratory tract.

That’s how they can say it’s nontoxic.

It doesn’t appear to be volatile, so if you are not inhaling it as a powder, it would be not toxic.

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What Lightbulbs Should I Use?

Question from Dawn Magstadt

Hi Debra,

Thank you for all you do. Hey, I was wondering, I’ve come upon yet another seemingly simple thing with huge implications, lighting.

I’ve been avoiding the light bulb situation and I won’t buy the curly ones (mercury is mercury–bad enough. I have some in my mouth and the fish I eat, and like who’s gonna really toss the bulbs not in the trash can? please.

Then the Dollar Store, my refuge from Walmart confusion, let me down in that
they burned out within a month this time. So I resigned myself to go to Menards (like Home Depot etc) and saw LED.

Then there’s some kinds (can’t recall–from another excursion) that say they can get hot(I’m thinkin’ that’s Halogen). I had 3 Halogen tall pole lamps in the 90s and I never bought a replacement bulb in 10 years! I take that back, maybe once for one. Then I divorced and who knows, they probably still burned after that. So a few years ago I merely bought a desk Halogen and it burned out in a week! I’m like what gives in a decade? Now they burn out? Made no sense.

I don’t want any bulbs to start a fire in my cheapy Goodwill lamps, my god. Might as well burn beeswax candles; at least it would be healthy and cost about the same as those expensive bulbs. I don’t mind expensive if it lasts, but then I read LED is directional and may keep melatonine from happening. I love the light they give but not on people’s cars (which seems like I’ve seen–too bright, albeit clear, must be hunting snipes, lol). I thought those for melatonine were the UV watcha ma call it clear bulbs. It’s nice they all are in light bulb form now but it was easier to know what was what when their shapes were different. I mean Halogen were little bity, not a bulb.

And then they (the god makers of light) claim regular florescent works for plants when in fact, I read before you’d have to have them no further away than 4″, now they act like any old bulb will do. How can that have changed in only 7 yrs?

Would they just organize it, make up their minds so I can just grab a pack of bulbs and feel comfortable that I won’t burn my apt building down and lose everything and that I won’t get depressed
or end up with a sleep disorder. I mean come on people.

So I’m saying…have you done any research?

It just seems odd, does it not, that when it’s all about light, it’s in the dark. And of course it’s complicated and of course it’s polluted.

Debra’s Answer

I’ve done a lot of research about this over the years and could organize it, and will, but can’t in this blog post today. Lighting is changing so quickly it’s hard to keep up with it.

I’ll just give you a quick answer by telling you what I use.

First, I’ve done things to have more natural light in my home, like install skylights. I have a big skylight over my shower, so I rarely turn on a light when I go in the bathroom. Even at night I have a little nightlight, so there’s no need to turn on the overhead light.

Then, I’ve purchased light fixtures that take incandescent type bulbs. And I use Philips EcoVantage bulbs, which are halogens inside of a bulb that is the same size and shape as an incandescent. I’ve never had a problem with overheating.

I also have a fixture over my kitchen sink that takes small halogens. It’s all metal and glass, so no problem with overheating. The fixture is designed for halogens.

As a rule, I don’t use overhead lights, except in the hallway. I much prefer task lighting, which also saves energy.


Hope this helps your dilemma!

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A Sensational Spin on Toxics in Consumer Products

This week there has been a an article going around with the sensational headline:

There Are ‘Fracking’ Chemicals In Your Toothpaste,
Detergents and Ice cream.”


Well, I wanted to know what horribly toxic fracking chemicals were in toothpaste, so I started reading the article. But it just didn’t make sense.

So I searched for a different article on the subject and found the original press release about the study, which said no such thing.

In fact, the study tested samples of fracking fluid collected in five states, and found that the chemicals contained in fracking fluid were “no more toxic than substances commonly found in homes.”

The pollutants were various forms of ethylene oxide.

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) , ethylene glycol can have a variety of health effects.

In addition to eye pain and sore throat, exposure to EtO can cause difficult breathing and blurred vision. Exposure can also cause dizziness, nausea, headache, convulsions, blisters and can result in vomiting and coughing. Both human and animal studies show that EtO is a carcinogen that may cause leukemia and other cancers. EtO is also linked to spontaneous abortion, genetic damage, nerve damage, peripheral paralysis, muscle weakness, as well as impaired thinking and memory. In liquid form, EtO can cause severe skin irritation upon prolonged or confined contact.

It is used in the production of many consumer products, and may not appear on the label.

My point here is that information on toxics in consumer products should be presented in a factual way and not in a way that is misleading. Fracking chemicals were NOT found in toothpaste, detergents and ice cream. They were found in fracking fluid.

I take issue with both the article and the press release. One made it sound more toxic than it is, the other lessened the concern by comparing it to innocent household products.

I prefer facts.

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Yogurt TV Commercial is Makes Food Additives Seem More Harmful Than They Are

There’s a commercial running on television now that I’ve seen a number of times.

A woman picks up a carton of Dannon Greek yogurt and tosses it into a swimming pool after the voice-over says it contains sucralose, which “has chlorine added to it.”

And then they show Chobani, which is “sweetened naturally.” The natural sweetener is unrefined evaporated cane juice. That’s fine, it’s a natural sweetener.

But sucralose doesn’t have “chlorine added to it,” like chlorine is added to a swimming pool. It’s made

Through a patented, multi-step process that starts with sugar and selectively replaces three hydrogen-oxygen groups on the sugar molecule with three chlorine atoms. The result is an exceptionally stable sweetener that tastes like sugar, but without sugar’s calories…

Although sucralose is made from sugar, the sugar molecule is chemically modified to make sucralose which is classed as an artificial sweetener…

the addition of chlorine atoms converts sucrose (sugar) to sucralose, which is an inert, unreactive substance. The chlorine in sucralose does not separate in the body, nor does sucralose accumulate in the body. In fact, it is the presence of these chlorine atoms that prevent sucralose from being broken down in the body for energy, thus, making sucralose non-caloric.

Source: All About Sucralose: Your Questions Answered

So it’s not free chlorine like you would find in a swimming pool or tap water. The chorine is bonded with sugar molecules in a chemical reaction that makes a totally new substance. And it does not break down into chlorine in your body.

The point here is it’s important to know the dangers of artificial ingredients for yourself. Advertising is not a credible source.

Read more about the Chobani ads at Mother Nature Network: Behind the scenes of the Greek yogurt war

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GMO Labeling Gaining More Support

Two weeks ago Campbell’s announced their support for mandatory national GMO labeling.

See their statement at Why We Support Mandatory National GMO Labeling

Also see Campbell’s website, an excellent model for transparency in disclosing ingredients.

Here’s an example:


While the ingredients aren’t the best, in my opinion, they are taking a step in the right direction by telling us what they are.

Then this week there was an announcement that my own state of Florida has launched three bills for Mandatory GMO labeling. Yay!

Natural Society: Florida Laundhes 3 Bills for Mandatory GMO Labeling

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Reclaimed wood dresser

Question from Tania

Hi Debra,

I wanted to ask what are your thoughts about reclaimed wood. I like this dresser for my young son’s bedroom (he doesn’t have any strong sensitivities) but obviously I wouldn’t want to put something toxic in his bedroom.

Many thanks!!!

Debra’s Answer

I think reclaimed wood is a wonderful idea for the environment, however, many reclaimed woods are toxic.

Often they don’t reveal the source of the wood, but this one does: “The reclaimed pine comes from a variety of sources, including shipping pallets and packing crates.”

Now shipping pallets and packing crates have various toxic chemicals applied, including pesticides and wood preservatives. So I wouldn’t recommend using a reclaimed wood product with these wood sources.

Good you asked about this.

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Voice Over IP vs. Landline

Question from Marie

Hi Debra,

I currently have an internet and phone bundle through our local cable company. It is completely wired. Our internet is connected via an Ethernet cable and modem. Our phone is connected to a wired telephone modem as well.

Are Voice Over IP connections ok as long as they are connected with a wired modem? I don’t think we have landlines available where I live; most companies only offer phone plans that use the internet connection.

Thank you for your time!

Debra’s Answer

Here’s an article that explains what VoIP is and how it works.

To the best of my knowledge, it’s operating computer-to-computer.

If the modem is wired, and not wireless, it should be no different from using your computer.

If anyone knows any more about this, please comment.

I’m not an EMF expert. There’s a lot I don’t know.

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Q&A RESTORATION PROJECT While moving the Q&A to the new site, I lost all the category tags, so there are no categories here yet. However, you can use the search function at the right end of the navigation menu at the top of the page to search the Q&A for what you are looking for.