Answers to Your Questions About Toxic Free Living

$417 Million Awarded in Baby Powder Suit—Talc Connection to Cancer

On Monday a Los Angeles jury ordered Johnson & Johnson to pay $417 million in damages to a woman who developed ovarian cancer after using their trademarked baby powder for decades.

Many women use baby powder in their genital area for the same reason it’s used for babies.

Studies linking talc to cancer date back to 1971, when particles of talc were found embedding in ovarian and vertical tumors.

In 2006 the International Agency for Research on Cancer classified talcum powder as a possible human carcinogen if used in the female genital area. No efforts have been made to remove this product from the market or require warning labels.

Talc is a naturally occurring clay mineral composed of magnesium and silicon. It occurs in proximity to asbestos. While talc itself does not cause cancer, it is often contaminated with bits of asbestos. a known human carcinogen.

If you use baby powder, choose a brand made with cornstarch or other ingredients instead of talc.

THE NEW YORK TIMES: $417 Million Awarded in Suit Tying Johnson’s Baby Powder to Cancer

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Women of Color Exposed to More Toxic Chemicals in their Beauty Products than white women

According to a commentary published last week in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, women of color have higher levels of chemicals in their bodies related to exposure through beauty products than white women. The authors say even small exposures to these toxic chemicals can lead to health problems.

“Pressure to meet Western standards of beauty means Black, Latina and Asian American women are using more beauty products and thus are exposed to higher levels of chemicals known to be harmful to health,” says Ami Zota, ScD, MS, an assistant professor of environmental and occupational health at Milken Institute School of Public Health (Milken Institute SPH) at the George Washington University.

EUREKALERT! The Environmental Injustice of Beauty

METRO: Women of colour are being exposed to more toxic chemicals in their beauty products than white women, says new research

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Mercury in Processed Foods and Other “Indirect Additives” in Manufactured Food Products

This week a video arrived in my email inbox about a study in which mercury was found in a number of processed foods contain high fructose corn syrup.

They don’t intentionally add mercury to high fructose corn syrup, but it is an “indirect additive” that enters food as a result of processing natural corn into the industrial product high fructose corn syrup.

Watch this video for more about mercury in high fructose coren syrup

But mercury isn’t the only indirect additive found in processed foods.

The US Food & Drug Administration (FDA) has a whole of indirect additives at
List of Indirect Additives Used in Food Contact Substances

You can view the list of 3227 chemicals that are allowed in processed food products at the above link, and also search on chemicals you know to see if they are on the list. Formaldehyde is on the list, and so are styrene, phthalates, polyurethane resins, and many more chemicals we know to be toxic.

And none of these indirect additives are required to be on the packaged food label.

According to the FDA:

indirect food additives…are substances used in food-contact articles, and include:

  • adhesives and components of coatings (Part 175)
  • paper and paperboard components (Part 176)
  • polymers (Part 177) and
  • adjuvants and production aids (Part 178).

In general, these are substances that may come into contact with food as part of packaging or processing equipment, but are not intended to be added directly to food.

Additional “indirect” additives that are effective as part of the food contact substance notification program or that are exempted from regulation as food additives in accordance with 21 CFR 170.39 “Threshold of Regulation (TOR) exemptions for substances used in food-contact articles.” are listed in separate inventories.

This is why we need to grow or purchase our own raw foods and prepare them ourselves at home. Doing so eliminates all these indirect additives that enter foods through industrial processing.



Mercury is in many products we use every day and even in the outdoor air. We can’t escape it. So it’s likely that your body has built up a store of mercury and possibly other heavy metals that could be affecting your health.

Once mercury and other 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…

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Is It Toxic to Eat Off Depression Glass?


Question from TA

Hi Debra,

I’m wondering if you’ve ever looked into whether “Depression glass” is toxic to eat off of.

I have a set that was gifted to me years ago; it was a collection that was built up over time, just as a collection, not for actual use.

I am now wondering whether it is okay to eat off of, so I just did an internet search and feel unclear about the answer.

The answers from people who sell and collect depression glass is that it is safe; they mention uranium in some colors, arsenic in others…but it’s safe they say because it’s a tiny amount, it’s bound up in the matrix of the glass, and so forth.

Hmm. That also doesn’t really answer anything about my actual collection, which is pink.

But what concerns me more is whether there is lead in it. I found some info about there being two options in depression glass production — one containing lead and one not (but this no-lead option might have contained other undesirable ingredients).

Of course I would avoid lead crystal, but that doesn’t appear to be what they’re talking about in some instances, and it’s not clear to me whether other colors might have also contained lead to add to the clarity of the glass.

So overall it left me confused, and I just wondered if you’ve looked into this and can tell me anything definitive.

I don’t want to trash it without knowing anything for sure, given that it was a gift and it’s lovely to look at. But of course I don’t want to eat off of it — or donate it to Goodwill or sell it — if it contains lead or is otherwise harmful. If it were one cheap saucer or something I’d just throw it out (I’ve generally done that when it’s something I’m not sure about and don’t want to send it to Goodwill to lead-poison someone else’s child); but it’s a whole set and a collectible, so I’d rather know something before just getting rid of it.

Debra’s Answer

My general rule is when in doubt, err on the side of caution.

It may be true that there is so little uranium or arsenic in the glass that it’s not a problem. But the other side of the coin is not a problem for who? Age and body size can make a difference in how toxic it is to an individual person as well as the condition of their detox system and the health of their body as a whole.

Short of having the pieces analyzed for their content, we really don’t know if the glass contains something to be concerned about.

We do know from lead crystal that minerals can leach out of glass into food and then into bodies when the food is eaten.

Myself, I wouldn’t eat off depression glass, but wouldn’t have a problem keeping it to enjoy it’s beauty.

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Looking for a Nontoxic Wagon Sturdy Enough to Pull My Twin Boys

The Wood Wagon ALL Terrain Pulling Garden Cart


Question from Wandakay

Hi Debra,

I’ve been searching for weeks for a non-toxic wagon sturdy enough to pull two children. I’m finding nothing. The part wooden Radio Flyer and Berlin Flyer are sturdy enough but I’m not trusting them to be non-toxic. Our twin 11-month-old boys suck and chew on everything, so non-toxic is essential.

Could you please give me some direction to find such a wagon?

I’m looking for a wagon for their first birthday, September 9, 2017 :).

The only thing on your site I’m finding is The Wooden Wagon and they do not make a sturdy pull wagon.

Thank you! I look forward to hearing from you soon.


Debra’s Answer

OK I think you will like the wagon in the picture above.

Wood Wagon ALL Terrain Pulling Garden Cart from Best Choice Products an all-steel bed with a powder coat finish and the wood panels have no finish at all. It’s super heavy duty and can hold up to 200 pounds. In addition, it has  10″ pneumatic tires making it great for rugged terrain and the extra-long handle helps control its turning radius to prevents tipping.

Powder coat is a polyester or epoxy finish that is baked on at high temperatures to make an extremely hard and tough finish. I couldn’t find any issues with powder coat being toxic.

Readers, any other ideas?

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Crystal Vases and Bowls

Question from TA

Hi Debra,

I know that lead crystal is harmful in that one shouldn’t eat or drink from it. But is there any concern about having it in the house in general?

For instance, if there is a vase or decorative bowl, could a person end up with lead on their hands from handling it, or could dust end up with lead in it?

I know that this can happen if a person is handling dishware that has lead glaze, for example, but I’m wondering if it’s the same for something like lead crystal, or is the lead more embedded or something, so that it doesn’t transfer?

I have some that was gifted to me years ago, and it isn’t really in use in my home so I thought of giving it away or selling it as part of a decluttering process. But similar to my other question about depression glass , I don’t want to give away or sell something that could be harmful to another household; but if it’s safe for general use (decorative, really), I’d rather give or sell rather than throw it out.

I also have a set of crystal candlestick holders for taper candles; those could potentially end up on someone’s dinner table which makes the question more important. Of course, I really don’t know what the end use would be if I did sell it, so perhaps it is better to just throw it out so that no one could be unknowingly poisoned if they aren’t aware of the issues (if there is in fact an issue with this type of decorative items). I just hate to throw out a beautiful heavy vase and these other items if it’s safe to use them for those purposes.

Debra’s Answer

Lead is a particle and it does not outgas from glass in the same way a vapor outgassed from plastic. So lead crystal sitting on a table has no danger at all.

Also, you can handle lead and it is not absorbed through the skin.

But lead does leach out of glass into liquids and foods, then you can be exposed to lead through eating the food or drinking the liquid.

There are other exposures to lead, but this is the answer to your specific question.

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Craft Beer Brewers Consider the Effects of Beermaking


I read an interesting article about how and why craft beer brewers are finding “innovative ways to guard the water, soil, air and climate on which their businesses depend.”

Well, right there is something different than usual. We don’t often see the producers of products consider the environment on which their businesses depend. If this were common, our environment would be pristine.

Katie Wallace, assistant director of sustainability at the New Belgium Brewing Company says, “I ride my bike across the bridge every morning to the brewery. Underneath that bridge is the river that provides the water for our beer. We’re very connected to the resources that provide for us.”

This article outlines many things craft brewers are doing to protect the integrity of the environment from which their ingredients come. This is a great example for all industries.

NEXUS MEDIA: Beer Is the Greenest Beverage

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New Study Shows People Would Buy Green Products—If They Had Enough Information


A new study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, notes that Internet-based companies have the opportunity to help the environment if they would just tell consumers about their environmentally friendly choices.

Researchers found that consumers are willing to make climate-friendly choices when the options are available to them. Carbon footprints of products and services are often known to companies, but are not made known to consumers.

In experiment after experiment, consumers chose the green products when the information on the products was available to them.

I’m posting this study here because the same applies to companies providing information to consumers about how toxic or nontoxic their products are.

I just am having an experience this week with a website that is selling a product that appears to be nontoxic but there are no ingredients. An email asking directly for the ingredients produced a reply, but no mention of ingredients.

It shouldn’t be that hard to get information about products. This study shows that consumers are interested in having information so they can make informed choices.

THE WASHINGTON POST: People would buy green products – if only e-commerce showed them how

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How I Removed Mystery Odor from Apartment


Last week I wrote about how I helped a client furnish their new apartment with toxic free furniture.

This week I want to tell you how we removed a very strong odor from the apartment, even though we couldn’t determine exactly what it was.

It seemed to me that it was some kind of citrus oil-based product and I thought it had been used on the wood floors.

My client hired a cleaning lady to work with me. She brought a “steam mop” and we used a brand new set of clean pads to mop the floor so as to not bring any odors in from other places. This worked really well just by itself to reduce the odor, but it did not eliminate it completely.

Then we used EnviroKlenz Everyday Odor Eliminator according to the instructions on the bottle. We mixed it with water in a spray bottle and sprayed it all over the floors. We waited 15 minutes, and then used the steam mop again to remove it. This greatly lessened the odor.

Then we did the whole process again.

Each time the odor was less and less.

We also did this procedure in a closet that had a perfume smell and it worked there too.

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False Claim From Mattress Maker


What’s wrong with this picture?

There’s something known as “false and misleading advertising” and it’s all over this snip from the Tuft & Needle website.

First, it gives the impression that Tuft & Needle mattresses are nontoxic and even substantiates that claim by telling you that they meet the GREENGUARD GOLD and OEKO-TEX STANDARD 100 certifications.

But Tuft & Needle mattresses still contain toxic chemicals. I’ll tell you how I know in a minute.

But first, while they are certified, I couldn’t find one word on their website about their materials.

And while they meet the GREENGUARD GOLD and OEKO-TEX STANDARD 100, these standards do not test for all chemicals. The bigger problem, however, is their standards are not very stringent. So it’s very easy to pass the standard.

I’m often surprised at some of the products that pass the current GREENGUARD GOLD standard. Since GREENGUARD became part of Underwriters Lab, their standards have changed. Mattresses are now given GREENGUARD GOLD certifications that contain materials which I cannot approve, such as polyurethane foam, chemical flame barriers, and, in crib mattresses, PVC covers that emit phthalates.

Tuft & Needle is NOT the first mattress to be given the GREENGUARD GOLD certification. That occurred years ago. They were perhaps the first mattress to get the GREENGUARD GOLD certification in the mattress-in-a-box category, but that’s not what they say.

But here’s what really makes this claim false and misleading.

And here’s a video of chemical off gassing of Casper mattress.

And here’s another video measuring the TVOCs of a Nest mattress.

Now all three of these videos are measuring emissions from a brand new mattress that has been in a plastic bag. Those emissions are very concentrated. But they do show there are emissions. And anyone can get a TVOC meter and measure the emissions from these mattresses.

A couple of weeks ago I opened two Happsy mattress-in-a-box mattresses and there were no emissions. I had a TVOC meter in my hand and the TVOC reading in the room didn’t change when I opened the mattress packaging and laid the mattresses on the bed.

T&N hasn’t raised the standards, as they claim. That claim belongs to Happsy, the first certified organic mattress in the mattress-in-a-box category. And certified organic is less toxic than GREENGARD GOLD. That’s a fact.

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