Answers to Your Questions About Toxic-Free Living
Question from Bonnie
I have owned Kenmore window ac over the years – no chemical odors.
I have a new one and now is 3 months old – still has the new smell chemical.
Could you post to ask others if they found one that has less odor. Thank you.
OK posted. Readers, any recommendations for a window air conditioning unit that doesn’t smell like plastic?
Question from Lindsey
Can you tell me if you know of a lead-free Ethernet cable? There are cloth-covered extension can red (links found on your site) & cloth-covered USB but I can’t find any Ethernet cables. Thank you!
It’s nylon. Not perfect, but no lead. 🙂
I have been known to wrap cords with wired floral ribbon, which comes in pretty colors. The wire in the ribbon helps it stay in place.
Question from Catherine
I just arrived in California to attend a weddinga nd my sister lent us a truck she has used in her business, so it’sa little rough.
My husband drove my two young daughters to the beach and hiking in it. I finally jumped in it when I was hit with a strong PVC (I think that was what is is) chemical odor and could smell it coming from the plastic floor mats. I had no idea that such toxic mats were in the vehicle, and to know my two kids were being driven in it for hours over a few days. I was so upset. The mats are apparently years old and no one else seemed bothered by them but me, butt hey smelled so strong I was hit with the odor when the door was opened.
My first question is are my children in danger from their exposure? Do I need to clean their shoes etc?
And how do you handle family who think your concerns are silly or when they don’t take your concerns seriously?
I also don’t like the smell of floor mats, but let’s take a look at what they are actually made from before we figure out the danger.
Here’s a couple of paragraphs from an article about materials used to make floor mats and liners.
What are the all-weather floor mats and liners made of?
In order to withstand punishing year-round weather conditions and serious spills, the all-weather floor mats and liners are made from durable materials. Most of the all-weather floor mats are crafted from heavy-duty rubber, which can survive serious abuses virtually unscathed. However, the lighter-duty Catch-All Floor Mats use a thick weave of nylon rather than rubber, but they can still be washed off with a hose.
Floor liners are also made from ultra-durable materials, many of which are proprietary fabrications by the different companies. For example, Husky Liners developed a rubberized-plastic material called polydurathene, which is guaranteed not to crack, splinter or break for 99 years. What’s more, the scientists at Xtreme created Xynet, a resin with the look and flexibility of rubber. Xynet is impervious to the most common chemicals found in and around your vehicle, such as motor oil, gasoline and even battery acid.
That said, I searched specifically for “PVC auto floor mats” and they came right up.
So let’s assume they are PVC.
I’m not worried about your children having this one exposure. The problem is being exposed to these chemicals day-in-and-day out. I would be much more concerned if you told me your children were sleeping every night on a crib mattress with a vinyl cover.
Cleaning their shoes won’t do much by now.
How do you handle your family? All I know to do is education. I’m actually working on putting together some materials that I hope will be more convincing for people who are not yet aware that they need to be concerned about toxics.
I don’t have floor mats in my car. If you think you need them, those made from nylon would be the least toxic. Or I might cut some natural sisal mats to fit.
Readers, any recommendations?
Question from Colleen
I have original Scheirich wood kitchen cabinets in our kitchen. How do I go about cleaning and fixing water damage on the front of the cabinets below the sink and cleaning grease and greasy fingerprints off them. I don’t know what type of finish is on them. Can anyone help? I have MCS and anything with fragrance cause migraines and breathing problems. Thank you!
The first thing I would do is contact the manufacturer to find out the standard care instructions and then figure out how to do the same thing in a nontoxic way. But looking online it seems like this brand is no longer being sold.
Here’s a whole pinterest page about “restoring mid-century wood cabinets”.
I had to smile when I saw this.
I grew up in a mid-century suburban house. My parents bought it in 1962 when I was 7 years old for $19,000. Now those homes are about $500,000.
Here’s an article about cleaning kitchen cabinets using Murphy Soap.
However, Murphy Soap contains fragrance. I see you can substitute unscented liquid castile soap for Murphy’s Soap.
Maybe my friend Gina will jump in and tell us how she cleans wood cabinets. She’s been a professional natural cleaner for as long as I have been writing about toxic-free products. Gina!!! Come help!!!
JUST AN ASIDE: While I was researching this I came across an EWG review of Murphy’s Oil Soap. Fragrance is NOT listed on their list of known ingredients (though it does say citronella oil) and it says “ingredient disclosure: poor” All they need to do is go to the Murphy’s Oil Soap website to find out there is fragrance. This is just one example of why I do my own research and don’t rely on EWG.
One of my most favorite readers sent me an article last week about air filters—one of those 10 tips articles that someone writes who doesn’t know anything about the subject. She thought I should write something on this topic, so here I am.
I agree that during a crisis—whether it be a fire, nuclear attack,or any calamity—outdoor air could be compromised. And last summer I had that experience first hand when I was mere miles from the Sonoma County Firestorm. I had to leave my home in the middle of the night and go to the beach to breathe, just a few nights after I arrived in California.
And now here we are in fire season again in California. At the moment we are fine. But you never know when there will be smoke or where it will go.
The photo above was taken Sunday afternoon in Las Vegas—445 miles as the crow flies.
When the smoke arrives, it’s too late to get an air filter.
I was a Girl Scout when I was younger. And the Girl Scout motto is “Be Prepared.” The idea is, obviously, if you learn what to do in life or in an emergency before it happens, you’ll suffer less, or you may not suffer at all.
Air filtration is just one of those things you just need to be prepared for.
And you only have seconds to get air filtration going when you need it most:
- Between 30-180 seconds of oxygen deprivation, you may lose consciousness.
- At the one-minute mark, brain cells begin dying.
- At three minutes, neurons suffer more extensive damage, and lasting brain damage becomes more likely.
- At five minutes, death becomes imminent.
- At 10 minutes, even if the brain remains alive, a coma and lasting brain damage are almost inevitable.
- At 15 minutes, survival becomes nearly impossible.
AIR IS THE MOST ESSENTIAL THING TO LIFE
Question from Liz
Thank you so much for all of the great information! I’m on the hunt for metal free and plastic/silicone/latex free braces or retainer.
I found a few silicone options but silicone doesn’t seem to work for me!
Thanks so much!
I don’t have any personal experience with braces or retainers.
Readers, any ideas?
Having said that, I just found an excellent article about materials used for retainers and braces at NOW: Is Mouth Gear Safe, Considering All That Plastic?.
They recommend asking your dentist for a retainer made of “somewhat pricier polypropylene.”
Is your objection to ALL plastic or the toxic plastics? Polypropylene is much less toxic than others.
Over the weekend Larry and I went on a little 2-day “honeymoon” to celebrate 31 years of being together.
I’ve been getting questions about travel lately, so I thought I’d give you a real life “case study” of how we put our vacation together and what happened.
When I want to go somewhere I’m always looking for a room that is as nontoxic as possible at an affordable price. For me, I expect to pay around $150/night. I’ll go a little higher for something special and I’m always happy when I can get a room for less, but I would rather pay more and be more comfortable than save money and be less comfortable.
When we were younger we would just get in the car and drive and stop wherever we wanted to stop and find a room. We had some great experiences doing that. One night—it was a Saturday night—we were in Monterey, California, where there are just no rooms on Saturday nights. We were standing in a hotel lobby, calling on a pay phone. I hung up the phone from “No Vacancy” #3 and the women at the next pay phone around poked her head around the divider and said, “Excuse me, are you looking for a room? I just had a cancellation.” We got a $500 room for $250. How could we not stay there. The room was beautiful and right on Montery Bay. We could open the window and look down at the water.
But now, with smart phones and online booking, we either book in advance, or I use hotel.com as we get close to an area. If you book last minute, you can get really good prices, but you run the risk of no rooms. One night, again, years ago, we had to drive half way across Nevada before we could get a room.
I generally start by looking for a bed and breakfast instead of a conventional hotel. They are just too toxic. Except in Fort Bragg and along Hwy 1 up the coast there, there are many, many small places to stay where the rooms are right on the cliffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean. So in that case, I would stay in a commercial hotel to get that view and that air.
We decided to spend the night in Fort Bragg on our trip. We had driven up Hwy 1 from Point Reyes, California to Victoria BC Canada on an earlier honeymoon, so this was a re-enactment of a trip we had taken before together. After living in Florida for fifteen years, I just wanted to reconnect with this land and the redwood trees and the ocean.
It took me about five minutes to find the Living Light Inn. It’s “Eco-Friendly Lodging.” That’s a photo of our room above. It’s an attic room on the third floor (no elevator). All wood paneled, with a view of the organic vegetable garden out the window. The ocean is only about four blocks away, so the air is magnificent. It’s just your average bed and carpet on the floor, but everything is so old that there are no toxic chemicals. No fragrance on the sheets from detergent, no fragrance in the bathroom from soap. We were totally comfortable.
This place has many many many glowing reviews. Most of the rooms have white walls and wood floors and are very bright an airy.
The only down side for me was that it was just a bit more funky than I like. The bathroom had a plastic shower enclosure and shelves that looked like exposed wood framing. But these were small things in comparison to the overall experience. This is not a luxury hotel. It’s good, clean rooms with clean air.
This is a vegan establishment. They have a kitchen that guests can use to prepare their own food, with a refrigerator and blenders and all the tools you might want to prepare vegan food.
They serve a vegan breakfast, which was interesting to me. I drink organic coffee with organic cream in the morning. They weren’t sure if the coffee was organic and the cream was rice milk. I was expecting plates of beautiful organic fruit. That’s vegan. But it was pretty much all packaged industrial food. But vegan.
The thing I really learned from this experience is that different people have different priorities. This establishment was “eco” and “vegan” and it expressed their understanding of those viewpoints. But they don’t have a “toxic-free” viewpoint and few places do. I need to do more work on this, to bring more awareness to lodgings about how they could really be toxic-free in addition to whatever else they are doing.
We started our trip with breakfast at the Cape Fear Cafe in Duncans Mills. I had overheard someone recommending it to a friend and wanted to try it. Very good.Since it was about 10:30 by the time we got there, Larry and I split a breakfast of veggie scrambled eggs with potatoes and toast and then we split a lunch of green salad with tandoori chicken and mango chutney on top.
Food choices is a big subject. Over the years I’ve come to having a line that I will not cross. I can’t say “I will only eat organic food” because often there isn’t any to choose. But I can usually find restaurants that serve dishes made from fresh ingredients, no additives, no cans, just real food. These places often use white refined flour and sugar and salt, but otherwise the ingredients are pretty good. That’s my line. My minimum. I won’t eat fast food or most packaged or canned food. I’ll just wait for the next meal if there is nothing else, or find some raw fruits or vegetables.
Cape Fear Cafe isn’t organic, but it could easily be as there is plenty of organic food in the area. Still, it was a very good meal.
Driving Hwy 1 the roadside services are few and far between. So when we got hungry again we stopped at the Black Point Grill in the Sea Ranch Lodge. Sea Ranch is an interesting place, worth a stop and a look around. I remember when Sea Ranch was built, starting in 1963. It was quite innovative then. The idea was to have people live in an ecosystem and preserve the natural beauty of the area. And they have accomplished and maintained that for almost fifty years now. There is no landscaping around the houses. Every house has weathered wood siding. Each house is unique. There are vacation rentals or you can stay at the Lodge. Lodge rooms start at $279/night, but it is well worth the cost. Staying here is an iconic California experience.
The food at the Black Point Grill was delicious and we were happy to see that they are vegetarian-friendly. I’m not a vegetarian but my diet is mostly plant-based, so I was happy to be able to order corn chowder and a chickpea veggie burger that was really delicious. Again not organic but they use “the freshest local ingredients.”Oh, I take that back. Some organic. The baby greens in the salad were organic.
When we reached Fort Bragg we asked the innkeeper for recommendations and she steered us to Mayan Fusion. This was a GREAT restaurant for us. It’s Mexican with a Mayan twist so the flavors were a bit different. They had a lot of nice entrees but we were able to stay on our diet by ordering salads and sides of rice and beans. Lest you think that sounds boring, we were delighted with how inventive and tasty they were. Homemade corn tortillas. And for dessert we had a Mayan chocolate ice cream with chilis, which is one of my favorite flavor combinations so we had to splurge. Larry and I rarely order dessert, but if we see something super-special, we always split it.
One of the things I love about the food in Fort Bragg is that they are very local-oriented. They really get what it meats to eat local. There are a number of local purveyors, so, for example, the Mayan chocolate ice cream was made especially for Mayan Fusion by the local ice cream maker Cowlicks. And the coffee ice cream at Cowlicks is made with a special blend from the local coffee roaster, and is unique to the ice cream. Cowlicks also has an ice cream made with a local mushroom called Candy Cap that tastes just like maple. Of course I had to try that and it really does taste like maple. Really really delicious. And the most popular breakfast spot, Eggheads, uses Canadian bacon smoked at the smokehouse down the street. You get the idea.
On Saturday morning I woke up looking for organic coffee. Since the innkeeper couldn’t guarantee their coffee was organic, he sent me down to Headland’s Coffee, his personal favorite coffee house. I walked in, wondering if it was organic. I looked at the list of “hot drinks” on the wall. It said “coffee” but not organic. And then I saw it. There was a whole rack of coffee bean dispensers and every single one said “organic.” I paid for my coffee and took my paper cup over to the double row of thermoses and every single one was organic. A dozen varieties of organic coffee! All brewed and waiting for me to try. If I lived in Fort Bragg, I would try a different one every morning.
After coffee, we tried to go to Eggheads,
but the wait was an hour. So we went down the street to the dedicated organic restaurant Cafe One. It wasn’t crowded, but the food was great. We had a Mexican breakfast of scrambled eggs on a corn tortilla with beans and rice and salsa. And a beautiful plate of assorted organic fruits, each cut carefully and arranged beautifully on the plate. The decor was unremarkable, but the food was delicious and I really appreciated their commitment to being organic through and through.
For lunch we went to Rhody’s Cafe at the Mendocino Botanical Gardens. We actually had planned to walk around the
Botanical Gardens, but it’s about a 2 hour walk and we didn’t have time. But the lunch was great. Lots of organic and local food. I had lentil soup and hummus with pita chips and dipping vegetables. Plates were decorated with edible flowers and herbs. We ate in an outdoor patio with a view o
f the gardens. Just lovely.
On the way home we stopped at a roadside stand and got the most fragrant strawberries! We at the whole basket.
The main purpose of this honeymoon was simply to be together, enjoy each other’s company and have an adventure. We love to just go someplace and see what there is to see.
So driving up the coast we stopped at a secluded beach Larry had found and wanted to show me. It’s a public beach but it has kind of a secret entrance through a grove of redwood trees that you could easily miss if you didn’t know it was there.
We stopped at Sea Ranch and looked around.
We stopped in the town of Mendocino,
which used to be one of my favorite places of all time. Charming street of Victorian buildings on a bluff overlooking the ocean. There used to be wonderful shops there but no more. It’s all tourist shops now. I remember when Mendocino first became popular. A single restaurant opened, Cafe Beujoulais, became so outstanding that it became a destination. I remember their ads in local newspapers said simply, “Cafe Beaujolais. Mendocino. Worth the trip.” And it was. They had astonishing food for
1977. I went. And so did many others. And shops opened. And Mendocino became Mendocino. But that’s gone now.
As I get older—I’m 63 now—I’m noticing with some sadness parts of my life that used to be there and I expect to still be there are now gone. Like Mendocino. Like Thomas Bros road maps. They are no longer sold in bookstores because maps are in your phone. But last week we were out in the rural part of Sonoma county and lost reception. We needed a paper map. And I couldn’t buy one at my local bookstore. I could go to AAA and get a folding map, but Thomas Bros maps are books of maps of individual areas so you can really see them. A smart phone may be smart, but only if you have reception. A paper book you can take anywhere.
On Saturday morning we walked around the downtown area of Fort Bragg. It’s both sides of the street around one square block. It’s not for tourists. These are shops that carry the everyday items people need living far far far from the nearest mall or Walmart. And it reflects their viewpoint. Clothing is pretty much all natural fiber. There’s a cooking store with real cooking tools for the kind of cooking you do when your food comes from the farmer’s market or the forest or the ocean. A bookstore is all about connecting with nature. It’s just REAL.
And we loved it.
There’s a lot to see and do on the north coast of California. Lots of clean air. Lots of organic food. Lot’s of inns to stay in, in all price ranges. You can even bring your RV and park it in one of the RV parks that are almost right on the beach.
There’s still some summer left. Get out and explore!
Question from Stephanie
First of all, I love all your emails and personal notes about you and Larry. Now I’m concerned if the fires are affecting you in any way. I know the smoke must be very bad. It is terrible here, by Modesto, and we aren’t even close to any fires!
I did want to say again, and I have meant to respond to readers questions, about which air filters are the best. EnviroKlenz 100%!!!!
I started with Foust in the 1980’s, and have bought very expensive and cheap ones ever since. I could never really tell a difference until I got the EnviroKlenz Mobile Unit.
Everyone that lives in smokey areas should have an EnviroKlenz Mobile Unit in their home. Everyone.
I have 2 Mobile units and I’m purchasing another one for my niece next door with 2 little boys. The air can be thick with smoke outside, and I turn my unit on full blast, shut all windows, (and our home is not airtight), but I cannot smell the smoke at all. Nothing. It is absolutely wonderful!
It has helped me with smoke, with chemical exposures, and just having better air to breathe. I wish I had more time to give you more specifics Debra, but I don’t.
However, I did want to see how you and Larry, and his family are doing. And also to tell you about EnviroKlenz, so people will know what filter is best to get help with this smoke!! I highly recommend it.
It is the ONLY air purifier I recommend after 40 years of searching.
I would definitely recommend a person purchase the EnvirKlenz Mobile UV Model. I have both models. Two times we had water leakage in an older Mobile Home with water inside the walls. Both times we put our UV Model in the area, turned it on full blast, and had No Problems with mold. We even had a mold inspector out to check the boards and inside the walls. No Problem.
I would also like to add that when we had the chemical exposure in our home I had a brand new 02 Air Purifier and an AirPura Air Filter. In 5 days, I had both running full blast in the room, and they did not touch the toxic smell at all. I called Debra, and I received the original EnviroKlenz Mobile unit and within 24 hours the smell was almost gone, and within 48 hours we could breathe good air with no toxic smell whatsoever. No Problems since.
I also had our home checked for EMF’s by a professional. The AirPura had horribly high EMF’s and I kept it right next to my bed. No wonder I couldn’t sleep! The EnviroKlenz Mobile Unit EMF’s were next to nothing. I can sit right next to it, No Problem.
I also want to relate our experience with the EnviroKlenz Breathing Masks. My husband takes care of our 3 acre Almond orchard doing all weeding, etc., by hand since we do not use chemicals. It is a dirty, dusty job. Before we purchased the EnviroKlenz Breathing Masks he would get sinus headaches, be all stopped up, red eyes, the whole works whenever he worked in the field or yards. Now he always wears the Breathing Mask when he’s outside working and he has absolutely No Problems.
I continue to be impressed with EnviroKlenz. The smoky air in the California skies is terrible right now where I live, but at least I can come inside my home and be able to breathe because of the EnviroKlenz Air Filter. Truly amazing!
Always fond thoughts of you.
Wishing you cool sea breezes,
Thanks so much Stephanie.
We’re fine for the moment. We’re south of the Mendocino fires. But it’s clearly fire season now and we all need to be ready.
I also want to mention that EnviroKlenz also has a face mask that works a lot better than the usual particle face masks. I have mine ready and at hand in case it gets smokey here.
It utilizes the EnviroKlenz patented earth mineral technology which has the ability to chemically dismantle a wide range of undesirable chemical compounds. The fibers of the mask can filter out many common particulates. Reduces exposures to fragrances, VOCs, pollen, dust, dander, odors, and more.The mask itself is odor-free.
I like to save money as much as all the rest of you, so I’m happy to report that I often do find toxic-free items at discount places like Ross Dress for Less, Marshall’s, and TJ Maxx.
One of my most favorite pieces of clothing of all time—a 100% boiled wool vest with embroidery—I got for $2 at Ross.
So when I needed to buy a waste basket the other night, Larry and I went down to TJ Maxx. Here are three items I we found that I felt were worth mentioning.
All at my local TJ Maxx.
Toxic-free products are everywhere. You just need to know how to identify them.
Question from Jackie
Hello, I am so tempted to buy this Large Desk Mat from Pottery Barn . I know I shouldn’t because it is made of acrylic. Would you happen to know of something better? Leather is pricey and this is for my 7 year old son who has ADHD symptoms.
This is easy.
Just get a piece of glass to put on the desk top.
Tell them at the glass store what you are using it for and the size of the desk and they will give you the right type of glass and cut it for you.