Answers to Your Questions About Toxic Free Living

Do You Have Experience With Dental Materials? Please Share


Question from Sharon

Hi Debra,

I just had a cavity fixed and I had a reaction to the dental bonding material – mouth got really extremely dry and burning sensation, hard to swallow, one part of my lower lip a little swollen -just from the fumes after she put the bonding agent in my tooth. It will be 3 days tomorrow since the work was done.

I have been using the same materials for several years with a little swallowing problems, but goes away after a day. I took just a little bit of antihistamine last night and woke up with a really dry mouth and sore throat. Very concerned. I see a holistic dentist but they just told me to gargle (??) I have done that a few times, flushed the mouth several times while I was there, brushed my teeth, gums, upper mouth, all over the tongue – still an issue.

Wondering if I might need to have this stuff removed. But not sure what I would put in place of it. I don’t want to go to urgent care, they will just tell me to take antihistamines. I did the dental testing. I am sensitive to everything.

Have you heard about any non-toxic glues/dental materials? Or, what do other people with MCS do or use? Thank you.

Debra’s Answer

Dear readers, I need your help answering this question.

I can research from online materials, however, the best answers come from real experience.

I am fortunate to have not needed cavities filled and other dental work, so I don’t have experience in this area.

But I know many of you have because you have given bits and pieces of information in other comments.

I’d love to put together a really good resource for getting nontoxic dental work done.

If you have knowledge or experience with this, please comment.

Thank you.

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Finding Free Nontoxic Products

Most of what I write about on this website is how to find nontoxic products for purchase. Because most readers are buying products rather than making them.

But I do want to mention that it is also possible to simply find nontoxic products or have them “fall out of the sky.”

Three times in the past month I’ve had nontoxic products just appear. So I just want to acknowledge that there are nontoxic products everywhere and they can be obtained by means other than buying them.

The first one appeared on the night I moved here to California. All my things were packed but we were moving into Larry’s room at his mom’s house, so a lot of his things from the past were there. My wool comforter from Shepherd’s Dream was in the storage locker, so we just unzipped Larry’s old sleeping bag and threw it on the bed. I have to say I love this old sleeping bag so much that I don’t even want to go get my comforter. It’s got a 100% cotton cover on the outside, a 100% cotton flannel lining and 100% cotton batting on the inside (we know this because it’s so old the lining is frayed and the stuffing is coming out). It’s toasty warm, makes me think of Larry as a little boy lying out under the trees and stars in this sleeping bag, and we can just toss it in the washer and dryer and it comes out all clean and warm. We are planning now to repair it and use it for our comforter. We’ll keep our wool comforter too because we sleep with the window open and it can get cold here.

Then I needed some winter clothes. I had been living in Florida for 15 years so my winter clothes consisted of three frayed flannel shirts. I bought two more flannel shirts a few weeks ago on sale at Macy’s. But then yesterday we started cleaning out Larry’s closet and we found seven flannel shirts that were practically new! And they were exactly the right size for me. Larry didn’t want to wear them because he likes to wear fitted shirts and he had lost weight and these were now too big. But I like to wear baggy shirts, so they were perfect for me. Now I have a whole pile of flannel shirts and I didn’t spend a penny.

Then, when we went to Goodwill to take in all the clothes from Larry’s closet we had discarded, at the very moment we drove up there was a woman there wanting to donate a red Le Creuset cooking pot. We have one and we love it and we were wanting more. But Goodwill didn’t want it! The woman was about to leave to take it somewhere else and Larry said, “Are you giving that away?” And the woman just handed it to him. This is a $300 pot.

So keep your eyes open. You never know what nontoxic products will cross your path.

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How to find a holistic home?


Question from Emily

Hi Debra,

Thank you for all the information you have worked hard to share with others. There’s so much helpful advice on your website and I have barely started to read through it!

I am in transition as far as a place to live and am looking for a holistic home.. and by that, I mean, a home that wasn’t built with toxic building materials, is not near power lines or towers/antennas, and where I don’t have to dread the neighbors’ wifi networks. I would especially like to find such a home in a peaceful country-like setting, near organic farms and perhaps in or near a community of like-minded people (eco communities, or farming communities).

The problem is that I don’t know where to start and how to even search for such a place.

Do you have any suggestions?

Thank you.

Debra’s Answer

I’ve been doing this for three decades, so yes, I have a few suggestions.

First look for the setting. This is extremely important. When I move, I always look for the setting first.

I’m looking for clean outdoor air. So that’s going to be in a rural area, or a city like San Francisco which is right on the Pacific Ocean and has a lot of wind. The Richmond and Sunset districts of San Francisco, Daly City and all the communities along the coast there, for example, are residential communities where there is no industry or commercial farming, so the air is very clean and the houses are old. I know that’s not what you are looking for, it’s just an example.

I’m currently living in a small town in Sonoma County, California that is a few miles inland from the Pacific Ocean but there is nothing but open space between the ocean and our town. So it’s very clean and we have organic farms and you would find like-minded people here. But it’s also extremely expensive and at the moment there is NO housing. I have the extreme good fortune to live here because my family lives here.

Before this I lived in Florida at the top of a hill overlooking the Gulf of Mexico. I had no view, but I had clean air. Even though it was in a suburban neighborhood and not a rural area, the air was clean.

Before that I lived in a forest in a rural area in Marin County, California.

I’ve also lived in other towns in Marin County and in the city of San Francisco.

For you, I would look for a rural area near open space near a body of water.

Then I would find an area not near high tension power lines, towers, antennas, etc. You can’t avoid power lines entirely unless you are off the grid.

Then I would start looking for the house made with nontoxic materials. And that’s a whole separate set of guidelines.

Start looking for the place and when you find it, ask me again about finding the house.

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Things Are Better Now Than Yesterday

A reader emailed me a collection of product ads from the past and I just had to share some of them with you.


This advertising booklet tells the story of the Little Dutch Boy, peddler of Dutch Boy White Lead Paint, who throws a party for all of his friends who contain lead. Invitees include a toy soldier, a light bulb, various members of the china and enamelled ware community, a few rubber-soled shoes, a baseball, a pencil, and a gregarious bullet. Lead-based paints were banned for use in housing in 1978 because lead-based paint and lead contaminated dust are the most hazardous sources of lead for children in the United States.

And if that wasn’t bad enough, here’s an ad for Flavored Lead-Based Varnish (for kids who eat paint chips?)…




The pesticide DDT was banned in the United States for agricultural use in 1972, but not until after many ads promoted it as being safe.


When I showed this ad to Larry he said, “My father smoked Camels.” And his father was a doctor.

In 1965 the Surgeon General of the United States determined that smoking is hazardous to health and the Cigarette Labeling and Advertising Act required the following health warning to be placed on all cigarette packages sold in the United States:


This warning appeared on cigarette packs from Jan. 1, 1966, through Oct. 31, 1970.

In 1969, the Public Health Smoking Act of 1969 required all cigarette packaging contain the statement:



Read more about cigarette warnings at RJ REYNOLDS: Making Decisions Regarding Tobacco Use flavored lead-based paint.

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Want a Turkey Worth Gobbling? Here’s What to Look for on the Label

A couple of nights ago around the dinner table I asked my new family what everyone wanted for Thanksgiving dinner. Turkey, of course, homemade cranberry sauce, and gluten-free cornbread and rice stuffing with wild mushrooms topped the list. Since, as the best cook in the house, I’ll be doing most of the cooking, and we are living in Sonoma County, California—where we actually grow and raise some of the best food on Earth—I started wondering if we could get some kind of special turkey.

So I put together this list of what to look for on the label to help me find the perfect turkey for this year’s Thanksgiving dinner.

Here’s What You Get When You Buy a Cheap Turkey

The first thing to know about cheap turkeys is they are a hybrid breed that have been created to produce a lot of breast meat “Broad-breasted White” they are called. These turkeys are now so large that all are artificially inseminated because they simply can’t do it themselves.

They are also so big they cannot walk.

They are also bred to grow faster than the natural turkey and are give growth hormones.

These turkeys are raised in factory farms in overcrowded conditions.

Their feed is made from GMO corn and soy that has been sprayed with pesticides.

Excessive quantities of antibiotics are given to birds, and other chemicals may be used in processing.

PENN STATE EXTENSION: Modern Turkey Industry.


All Natural Turkeys

The word “natural” on the label of a turkey refers to how a turkey is processed, not raised.

A product can be claimed natural if it is minimally processed and contains no artificial ingredients, including chemical preservatives.

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has a definition of “natural” that pertains to turkeys (and all meats)

According to the USDA, “all natural” meats and poultry can only be called such when:

  1. No animal by-products were fed to the animals
  2. No growth promotants were administered to the animals
  3. No antibiotics are used (except for ionophores used as coccidiostats for parasite control)

The USDA only approves phrases including “raised without antibiotics,” “no added antibiotics” or “no antibiotics ever,” which indicate the animal did not receive antibiotics in their feed, water or by injection. The phrase “antibiotic-free” is not approved for meat and poultry labels.

Natural turkeys are hybrid Broad-breasted Whites and the meat would still have pesticide residues from their feed, Most are fed a “vegetarian” feed made up of GMO corn and GMO soy. But “all natural” is a step in the right direction.

Your local natural food store will certainly carry an all-natural turkey and you might find them in some higher-end markets as well. They are slightly more expensive than the cheap turkeys and a good choice if you can’t afford organic.


Organic Turkeys

Once again, organic turkeys are hybrid Broad-breasted Whites. The difference with organic is they are raised with certified USDA organic practices, so the meat is free from hormones and other growth regulators, antibiotics, GMOs and pesticides. They are usually farm raised and often drink well water.

Most natural food stores sell organic turkeys. They are twice the price of natural turkeys.


Heritage Turkeys

heritage turkeyA heritage turkey is one of eight specific breeds certified by the American Poultry Association. These breeds were raised in the USA prior to the 1950s, when the poultry industry began to cross breeding the commodity Broad-breasted White turkeys that are commonly sold today.

“Heritage” does not mean organic, all natural, or free range, though a true heritage bird should be free of artificial ingredients, raised on a farm and eat feed free from pesticides.

Heritage birds are different from Broad-breasted Whites in a number of ways. They:

  • are smaller
  • are prettier, often with elegant dark or colored feathers
  • mature more slowly (24 to 30 weeks, versus about 12 to 18 weeks for a commodity turkey)
  • can live longer—up to 15 years, instead of a year and a half.
  • can have sex normally and reproduce
  • have big, strong legs that can walk on their own
  • are raised outdoors and freely roam on pasture
  • eat the varied diet nature intended them to eat,

I’ve read that heritage birds are juicy and succulent and taste the way a turkey is supposed to taste. The meat is darker and gamier-tasting and tougher, so you won’t have the Broad-breasted White experience. And it can be harder to cook (here are some tips) . But you’ll actually be eating turkey, the same turkey everyone ate before 1950.

Heritage birds are more expensive to raise, and so are more expensive per pound to buy.

As of this writing there is no official certification program for the identification and labeling of heritage birds the way there is for organics. Although turkey producers are required to submit documentation to the USDA showing that the turkeys they’re going to call heritage are one of the officially recognized heritage breeds, this process is not as strict and regulated as needed to be dependably reliable.

Here’s where you really need to know your grower and ask questions and not rely on labels.

If you are willing to spend more money, do a little advance planning, and look beyond even your local natural food store, consider a heritage turkey. I’m considering this now because for once in my life I want to experiencing eating a REAL turkey.

Slow Food USA
American Livestock Breeds Conservancy
Livestock Conservancy 

Wild Turkeys

When I used to live in a small village in a rural part of Northern California, we had wild turkeys and some of the locals would hunt and eat them. I never did but I’m very curious to know what they taste like.

You can purchase wild turkeys online that have been farm-raised on natural forage with supplemental feed.

Wild turkeys are small birds with a slightly gamey flavor

Now this would be more like the turkeys served at the first Thanksgiving.

The Turkey I Chose This Year

After all this research, I decided to pre-order a heritage turkey, grown by local Sonoma County 4H club members and sold through the Slow Food Russian River Heritage Turkey Project.

You can only get one if you come pick one up in Sonoma County, California. But look around your local community. There might be a similar program.

At $9.00 a pound, it will be the most expensive turkey I’ve ever purchased, but it will be well worth it. In addition to the enjoyment of flavor and satisfaction of curiosity, I will also be contributing to the education of future farmers and the preservation of heritage breeds, and I will experience food closer to it’s original state in nature. I think that’s an excellent investment.

I’m actually going to see if I can participate in the whole experience of visiting my turkey live and being at the slaughter instead of just picking it up in a bag.

I’ll let you know how this goes.

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A Toxic Free Aesthetic


A few weeks ago I received this email from a reader:

“I’m wondering where you got your glass measuring cup shown here:

It looks like it is free of painted-on markings and has multiple pour spouts. Just wondering what brand it is.”

I replied that I purchased it at Crate and Barrel a few years ago, but they don’t sell it any more.

But this question got me thinking about design and style and aesthetics, and how one might define a “toxic free aesthetic.”

Aesthetics in general have to do with the beauty of something.

An aesthetic is a set of principles underlying and guiding the work of a particular artist or artistic movement. So one might say “a Victorian aesthetic.”

But I think this term could just as well be used to refer to how design and it’s beauty or lack thereof results from a particular set of principles.

For example, the “modern” aesthetic is rooted in industrial manufacturing. So instead of items having a style that emerges from things made by hand from natural materials, for example, forms are simple and made from materials that can flow cheaply and easily through an industrial manufacturing process.

Which led me to wonder: If we started with being toxic free as a guiding principle, what might the aesthetic look like?

Measuring Cup

This measuring cup in the photo above I think is a good example of toxic free aesthetic.

It’s simple and direct, form following function.

It uses a nontoxic material.

And it incorporates the design into the material of the product, rather than use a different material.

In the case of the measuring cup, most measuring cups use paint to mark lines and numbers. While the paint is nontoxic by the time it reaches the user, the paint itself is toxic and likely would produce toxic waste during manufacture, use, and disposal.

So part of the aesthetic would be to choose materials throughout that create zero toxic exposure or waste at all stages of the life cycle.


With the idea of toxic free aesthetic in mind, when I walked into a reception area and saw this cute little clock sitting on the counter, I immediately thought, “Oh this is toxic free aesthetic!”

Even though I hadn’t yet formulated guidelines, I could recognized it when I see it.

In real life, this appears to be an unfinished block of wood (no noticeable finish or odor) with a luminous LED display (the light aspect of it doesn’t really show in the photo).

I don’t know how they get the light into the wood, but the materials are simply wood and light.

I’m going to order one of these for myself. I need a clock I can see in the dark for my bedroom and this is perfect.

AMAZON.COM: GEARONIC Wooden Alarm Clock. Tells time, date, temp and also has an alarm clock function via LED Light. Tells time, date, temperature and also has an alarm clock function. Three AAA batteries, “No buttons or plastic parts.”

NOTE: The one I saw was battery-powered. The description says it is powered with USB cable. I think you can use either.


Two things inspired me to write this section.

First, I’ve been going to farmer’s markets every weekend for the past month and one of the things I’ve noticed is the beautiful faces of these farm women who are growing food and out in the fields. Just their beautiful bare faces without make-up.

And then I came across a photo ID card in my wallet with a picture that was taken on the spur of the moment. I had no makeup on because I don’t wear makeup everyday. I only wear makeup when I need to have a “professional” look.

And I looked at that bare-face ID card next to my driver’s license photo with makeup and I really preferred my bare-face photo!

Debra with Make-Up Debra without Make-Up

I was surprised because the idea of “beauty” that is promoted in the consumer world is full makeup and hairstyle, but my aesthetic is becoming wanting to see the beauty of the actual face of the person, rather than have it obscured with makeup.

So I think the toxic free aesthetic is no makeup or minimal makeup rather than looking “painted,”

Creating a Toxic Free Aesthetic

I think this is an ongoing discussion. I would love to hear your thoughts.

And I would love to develop a toxic free aesthetic that designers could use to create products that we would enjoy using.

Feel free to post other products you think have a toxic free design aesthetic in the comments. With images.

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Natural Fiber Winter Clothes for Plus Size Woman

When I was much younger and didn’t know anything about toxics, I was quite interested in fashion. I loved going shopping and trying on pretty clothes in nice stores. In those days there were nice dressing rooms and saleswomen who would get to know you and what you like and they would call you when something went on sale that they thought was right for you.

Nowadays shopping for clothes is quite different.

Back in 1978, when I first started writing about natural alternatives to toxic products, practically all clothing was polyester. Just about the only natural fiber clothing was jeans and t-shirts and flannel shirts.

And then as natural fibers became more popular, I could go into stores like Macy’s and Nordstrom’s and there would be racks of pretty dresses and shirts and jackets and sweaters made from natural fibers. I even still have linen shirts that I bought at TJMaxx.

But I’m sad to report that it seems like the tide has turned again. Two weeks ago I went shopping here in California and virtually all women’s clothing is now made of synthetic materials. I couldn’t even find a pair of jeans (for women) that didn’t have spandex in them and there were no conduroy pants at all.

Having just spent 15 winters in Florida, I had no winter clothing at all.

I didn’t need anything fancy. I’ve been dressing “plain” for years, inspired by the Amish and their beautiful quilts made from blocks of solid-color fabrics—scraps from the making of their simple solid-color clothing. In Florida this translated into solid color cotton capri pants and solid-color cotton tank tops. I had two drawers: one with tops and one with pants. Every morning I would just open the drawer and take out one of each and I was done dressing. I also had some big linen shirts in solid colors.

What I was looking for, for my California version of dressing plain, was simple long-sleeve cotton t-shirts and solid-color corduroy pants. So I went to a website that I have occasionally purchased from in the past called Woman Within, and I found exactly what a wanted.

Here’s what I purchased:

T-shirt, Perfect, with long sleeves, Henley neck Crew Neck Perfect T-Shirt T-shirt, Perfect, with long sleeves, crewneck
soft, washable combed cotton knit, imported washable soft pure cotton, imported soft, washable combed cotton knit, imported
NOTE: The description says “long sleeve” but they were I little shortchanged for my arms. However, I love this shirt so much it doesn’t matter.. NOTE: This neckline has a feminine cut with more space than a standard crew neck. NOTE: This color is called “Navy Holiday”. Haven’t received these yet to comment.


Pants in corduroy with comfortable waist 100% Cotton Comfort Pull On Jean
soft woven washable cotton corduroy washable woven cotton
NOTE: These are actually cut big. Next time I’ll order one size smaller. NOTE: Haven’t received these yet to comment.

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Bill Gates and Steve Jobs raised their kids tech free

Interviews with Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, and other tech elites consistently reveal that Silicon Valley parents are strict about technology use.

I think it’s important in today’s world for kids to become familiar with technology and know how to use it, but not have their entire world be on-screen.

I have an iMac and a MacBook and an ipad and an iphone and I know that seems like a lot, but I use them to do my work and keep in communication with my readers and other businesses. But they are not my whole life. I also have direct conversations with people face-to-face, spend time in nature, and have a reality of the real world that is not filtered through someone else’s online presentation. I used to have a friend who would say she wanted me to come visit so we could eat chocolate cake together, and you can’t eat chocolate cake via email.

I remember life before technology and I wonder if today’s generation even know what that’s like.

We are human beings whose lives are supported by our relationships with other humans and the natural environment. Technology is second in importance to the fundamentals of life in my world,

INDEPENDENT: Bill Gates and Steve Jobs raised their kids tech free and it should’ve been red flag

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What is “Tooth Remineralization?”


Question from Susan

Hi Debra,

I’ve been seeing some tooth products say that they “remineralize” teeth. What does that mean and how would I know if such a product is working and my teeth are actually being remineralized?

Debra’s Answer

That’s a very good question. I was wondering what that was too, so I asked Sarah Haydock from Rowan Tree Botanicals to answer that question. She makes and sells products that remineralize teeth.

Here’s what Sarah told me:

Tooth remineralization is a fascinating process, to me at least! Many people are surprised to find out that, contrary to conventional knowledge, teeth are actually living tissue. They have the ability to remain healthy, heal, and regrow under the right circumstances. Let me explain a little bit about teeth, how they are alive, the processes by which they can become unhealthy, and how remineralization can heal them:

The outer two layers of our teeth are composed of a protein that holds large amounts of minerals. The outer-most layer – enamel – is 96 percent mineral. The layer underneath enamel – dentin – is 45 percent mineral.

Acids in the mouth bind to minerals in the teeth. This is a natural process, and so long as the minerals are replaced, no harm is done. However, if more minerals are bound than are replaced, tooth decay is the result.

Acid in the mouth can be the result of various factors. The two most common factors are excessive consumption of acidic foods and beverages and acid-forming bacteria in the mouth. Sodas are among the most acidic things humans consume, and their consumption is directly linked to tooth decay.

Some bacteria in the mouth form acids. Many of those bacteria form biofilms known as plaque on teeth. The biofilms serve as protective housing for the bacteria. Because the plaque is on the teeth, the acids produced by the bacteria directly erode the teeth.

One way to remineralize is simply to remove the factors that promote decay. This means removing acid-forming bacteria. Reducing soda consumption (as well as excessive consumption of vinegar, lemon juice, or other overly acidic foods,) is helpful. So is rinsing the mouth or neutralizing acids after consuming them. I’ll explain more about how to neutralize acids in just a moment.

Minerals can be replaced in two ways. One is through nutrition. The other is through the saliva. The dominant way that the body replaces minerals in teeth is through saliva. So again, acidic saliva reduces mineralization of teeth.

Rowan Tree Botanicals oral care products address remineralization in several ways.

First, some of the ingredients in the products are naturally alkaline. For example, the clay we use is very alkaline, and when it comes into contact with acids in the mouth, it neutralizes them. Thus, brushing after eating anything acidic neutralizes the acids that would otherwise promote tooth decay.

Next, some of the ingredients in the products naturally help to remove plaque biofilms. These ingredients break apart biofilms, which means bacteria in the mouth cannot hide in their protective houses.

Additionally, many of the ingredients in the products are naturally antibacterial, specifically effective against the bacteria that are known to promote tooth decay. The ingredients have different types of antibacterial actions, and when combined, they have a synergistic effect.

Also, some of the ingredients are proven to counter specific types of immune responses that some bacteria cause. For example, some bacteria cause the body to secrete enzymes that break down protein structures in the teeth. Some of the herbs in our formulas block those enzymes so that the structures of teeth remain strong.

Finally, many of the ingredients in our products have traditionally been used to promote healthy teeth and bones. Science doesn’t understand all of the reasons they work, but they have been used for centuries and have a longstanding tradition of promoting good teeth. They have been used successfully and safely for thousands of years.

Tooth remineralization is a natural, lifelong process. Ideally, it is happening all the time. Our products are designed to support your body’s healthy processes naturally.

So, how would you know that your teeth are being remineralized? The results are unlikely to be dramatic and overnight, although some of our customers say that they do notice a significant positive difference in the way their teeth feel after just a few brushings. With consistent use, you can expect to experience stronger, healthier teeth and gums. You should start to notice results within one to two months of regular use, particularly if combined with a healthy diet and lifestyle. (I recommend that you read Joey Lott’s “How to Heal Cavities and Reverse Gum Disease Naturally” for more information about diet and lifestyle factors needed for healthy teeth and gums.) Research has shown, for example, that consistent oil pulling (such as with Rowan Tree Botanicals oil pulling mouthwash) produces significant reduction of acid-forming bacteria in the mouth after one month. Consistency is the key.

Results you may notice include smoother teeth, less tooth sensitivity, halting or reversal of decay, teeth firmer in sockets, and reduced bleeding of gums.

For best results, we recommend using our remineralizing toothpaste as well as our oil pulling mouthwash.

Hope this answers your questions on tooth remineralization!


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