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Pull-Down Kitchen Faucet Sprayer Replacement

Question from Miriam

Whew, that was a long title!  We need to replace ours, as the  part that pulls down has sprung a leak.  What ought one look for in this type of purchase?  It seems important as it will be in contact with our water.

I’ve found a few on Amazon that look decent – do these seem ok?

Lisa’s Answer

Both of these faucet heads are made of ABS plastic with a finish that looks like metal.  I would opt for a stainless steel head if you can find it.  You also want to make sure that it is certified lead-free and does not have any PVC parts.  It’s not clear whether these do or not.
The faucet head itself is not the only source of toxins in your faucet.  If the hose to which it is attached is lined with PVC or PET, it could leach.  You also want to make sure there is no lead in any of the other parts.  Overall, though, short of high levels of lead, I would not get too concerned over this one part.  For leaching to occur it needs to be in contact with the water for some time, but the water moves very quickly through the faucet.  The most important step is to make sure you have a high quality water filter.

Living Near Power Lines

Question from Stacey

We are currently looking to move to a new twin and have found two possible houses. The house that is closer to school and more convenient is situated near large power/transmission lines ( approx.  .25 mile away). I’ve called the town for more information, but since I do not own the house, they will only tell me that the wood poles will be converted to metal. What is your recommendation on living near power lines such as these?  I’m not sure what else to do…

Lisa’s Answer

I recommend you hire an EMF professional to work with you on this.  This is currently outside my area off expertise though I plan to get certified in the topic this summer.

Fiesta Dinnerware

Question from TG

Is Fiestaware (claim to have glazes free from lead and cadmium) safe to use in any color?  Historically, their famous red Fiestaware had uranium from  the ’30’s to the ’50’s.  They  are manufactured here in the USA and are beautiful.

Lisa’s Answer

All of the colors are lead free.  Here is a statement from the company on lead.
Not all colors are cadmium free. Here’s the list of cadmium-free colors (both retired and current): shamrock, chocolate, peacock, turquoise, cinnabar, plum, black, white, heather, lapis, sage, slate, cobalt, claret, mulberry.

Xtrema Cookware

Question from Beth

Asked Debra and never got a response on Xtrema cookware. Based on her recommendation I purchased hundreds of dollars of this cookware.
A friend told me about Tamara Rubin online site is Lead Free Moma. She found the cookware to be toxic based on her testing.
Wondering where you and Debra’ stand on this. It looks like u are still recommending this cookware. Maybe I am missing something.

Lisa’s Answer

I still recommend Xtrema and use them myself.  While I admire the work Tamara Rubin is trying to do, I believe what matters for cookware is what leaches out of the items and into food.  I have spoken at length to the owner and founder of Xtrema and know that the company is very transparent and dedicated to creating the healthiest products.  They use third-party testing to verify that their products are free from extractable lead and cadmium.  Read more here about their testing.  Plus, they are having a site-wide Thanksgiving sale.

New Tire Odor

Question from CMP

I never thought about it until after the fact…got 4 new tires put on my SUV today & the smell of them & in the inside of my vehicle is now intolerable. I have MCS, multiple allergies (including latex) & asthma. Does anyone have any suggestions as to what to do? I use many of the EnviroKlenz products & was wondering if washing the tires with their product might help? I’d appreciate any help.

Lisa’s Answer

Readers, has anyone tried washing tires with EnviroKlenz products?  Try leaving the car outside with the windows open for several days.  Also, you could try charcoal bags like these in the car.

Non-Toxic Art and Framing

When I moved into my new, non-toxic home I was very careful about which furnishings to bring with me.  It didn’t make senses to invest so much time, effort and money into building a clean home only to fill it with items that could off-gas or leach harmful chemicals.  Most of our old furniture was safe because I had made a house rule years before that any new furnishing must to be fully vetted for safety.  One category I had not given much thought to was wall art; the pictures, paintings and other wall décor that help to make a house feel like a home!  As we settled into our new house, our walls remained white and bare.  I knew I had to do a deep dive on the topic.


Paintings: Acrylic vs. Oil


My husband and I love art and we hated the idea of not being able to display our favorite pieces.  We have some oil paintings and I recalled reading that oil paint was more toxic than acrylic paint because acrylic paint is water-based.  My research indicated it’s not that simple.

Oil paintings use a pigment for color and a vehicle that holds the pigment in suspension.  Some pigments, such as cobalt and cadmium are toxic but only if you ingest them or breathe particles.  A painter who works directly with pigment needs to take precautions, but pigments do not offgas and should not pose an issue hanging on your wall.  The vehicle used in oil painting is a highly refined vegetable oil such as flax, safflower, poppy or walnut.  If used alone these would not release chemicals into the air.  What makes oil paintings potentially toxic is the use of solvents, such as turpentine or mineral spirits, to thin the paint or clean up brushes.  Fortunately, artists are being educated about the health implications of the materials they use.  Read more about artist materials here.

I contacted the artist of one of our paintings and was pleased to learn that he was very careful to use materials with very low toxicity.  If you own oil paintings and are unable to determine the materials used, be assured that most off-gassing should occur within the first 2 to 3 months.

Acrylic paint uses the same pigment as oil paint but its vehicle and binder, which holds the pigment together, is plastic.  When the painting dries components of the vehicle can offgas.  Because acrylic paints are water based, they may also contain formaldehyde as a preservative.  Even if you don’t know what materials were used in the painting, it is safe to assume that, like oil painting, most off-gassing should occur within the first 2 to 3 months.  Formaldehyde, however, can offgass continuously.  It is likely in small amounts but if you are sensitive to formaldehyde you might want to avoid acrylic paintings.


Pictures and Picture frames


Inks used to make posters and prints have toxins.  Even water-based, eco-friendly inks have some toxins.  Have you ever gotten a catalog in the mail, particularly a high quality one, that smells like it just rolled off the printer?  That smell is off-gassing VOCs.

My kids like to decorate with posters, but it is very difficult to get enough information on a commercially produced poster to determine which chemicals are used in their materials and processes.  While I’d prefer my kids don’t have posters in their bedrooms, I figured out a compromise to at least limit the VOCs.  I buy an uncoated aluminum metal frame and have a local framing store cut a piece of glass to fit.  Instead of foam board which is used in 90% of framing jobs, I use plain corrugated cardboard.  I found a store that sells target practice supplies (go figure!) that carries many sizes of precut, unprinted cardboard.  If you are concerned about adhesives used in cardboard production, you could cover it with a piece of plain kraft paper.  Then, to further seal the enclosure I tape the edges with an aluminum foil tape to block fumes from the adhesive and any lingering VOCs from the poster.

Finding frames for your pictures and prints can also be a challenge.  Metal frames or solid wood frames are best but if you have frames that you are not sure about you could seal them with a product like AFM Safecoat Hard Seal, which seals any off-gassing.  If you are looking for solid wood frames, read more here.  Etsy might be a good place to try and you could request that the artisan use low or zero VOC adhesives and stains.


Thinking Out-of-the Box


Fiber art is becoming more popular and widely available.  Wall hangings made with natural fibers are prevalent on Etsy and might be found at local craft fairs.  Search for macrame wall hangings, woven wall hangings or tapestries.  Look for ones made with organic cotton, hemp or wool and hung on untreated wood.

If you are artistic, you can make your own art using natural art supplies.  Learn more about them here.  My daughter paints with these and finds them easy to use.


More About Blenders

Last week I wrote about PTFE as an ingredient in the seal at the bottom of Vitamix containers.  I want to reframe this discussion because this is not an issue about one brand.  I have researched further and found that other blenders, high-speed, professional-grade blenders in particular, also contain PTFE.  And some that do not use it will not disclose what they use in its place to keep the containers water-tight.


I also want to make sure it’s understood that there is no regulation that prohibits PTFE use in consumer products including those that come in contact with food.  Manufacturers are free to use it.  It is a matter of choice whether consumers WANT it in their products.


What is PTFE and is it Safe?


PTFE is one of 3000 poly- and perfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) used in consumer products.  PFAS chemicals are known as “forever chemicals” because they are persistent in the environment and in our bodies.  Most people looking to avoid toxins choose not to use non-stick pots and pans because the PTFE-containing coating, when heated, can release fumes that coat the lungs and can cause fluoropolymer fever, also known as Teflon flu.  PFOA, another PFAS chemical, used to be used to manufacture PTFE and was sometimes found as a contaminant in products made with the chemical.  PFOA is considered a toxic substance by the EPA and has been linked to adverse effects including cancer, birth defects and liver damage.  Fortunately, most reputable companies no longer manufacture PTFE using PFOA.

So, is PTFE harmful even when it is not heated and when it is not contaminated with PFOA?

Some health experts contend that the chemical is safe because it is inert and will pass through the body without harm.  According to the Environmental Working Group (EWG), PTFE is considered a moderate health concern because it hasn’t been studied and there is no evidence that the PFAS chemicals that have replaced PFOAs are much safer.  There is no direct evidence that PTFE coming in contact with food is harmful, but there is also no conclusive evidence that it is free of harm.

Which Blenders Contain PTFE?


The following blenders use PTFE in the seal at the bottom of the container:

  • Vitamix
  • Blendtec
  • Ninja

The following blenders do NOT contain PTFE:

  • KitchenAid: There is no PTFE in any KitchenAid product.
  • Breville
  • Cuisinart


Are Blenders with PTFE Safe to Use?


It is important to understand whether or not the PTFE migrates into the food and unfortunately, I can’t answer that.  All other things being equal, I personally would choose a blender without the chemical as a precautionary measure. However, I don’t plan to stop using my Vitamix because of the health benefits from the smoothies I use it to make.  I do hope that companies, particularly those that sell the promise of better health, will look beyond regulatory compliance and seek materials that are proven to be safe for consumers.




Plastic-Free Holiday Lights

Plastic-Free Holiday Lights
While shopping in San Francisco last week I found these wonderful little holiday lights. I bought a box and brought them home and hung them up. 
Even though they are very tiny, they produce a lovely light.
These are tiny LED lights on a thin copper wire, but the effect is dazzling. They are battery-powered so you can hang them anywhere, and they even have a timer that is 6 hours on and 18 hours off. I set mine to go on when it gets dark at 5:00 and they greet me when I walk into my dark bedroom. I get to enjoy them all evening and then they turn off automatically after I fall asleep.
I love these so much I am going to buy more.
Now that I know these exist, I see there are some others. They seem to be called “Fairy String Lights” or “Flrefly Lights” as well. Some have copper strings and some silver steel strings. The cheaper ones may be of lesser quality than the ones I bought.
Anyway, I’m very happy to find these. The wires are much less obvious than the plastic green or white wires and much prettier. And they are not plastic.
Debra Lynn Dadd
new website on life beyond industrialization:


Question from Shana

I’m looking for bedroom furniture for my son’s room, as well as the master bedroom.  I’d like to find non-toxic furniture that’s traditional, rather than contemporary.  The more I look, the more confused I get!  There are many Amish manufacturers that use solid wood furniture, but the stains are low VOC.  I know that no VOC is preferable, but is low VOC ok?  Most of the Amish companies use either Ohio Certified Stain or a catalyzed conversion varnish.  Are either of these ok?

Lisa’s Answer

Ohio Certified Stain has different types so I would need to know which one.  Also there are different versions of conversion varnish.  But, since you are going to the trouble and expense of buying solid wood furniture, why compromise and use a stain with any VOCs at all?  Will the company use a stain or paint that you provide?  Can you purchase it unstained and do it yourself or hire a handyman?  There are times when it is necessary to compromise and pick the best options available but this seems like one in which a totally non-toxic product can be created.
Its really a personal choice if low-VOC is okay.  The lower the better.  I have always chosen stricter standards for our bedrooms because we spend so much time in them.

Materials for a Desk

Question from Miriam

I was wondering if you could help me with a desk.
I’m looking at this one, and there are 3 different options for materials.
I purchased the converter in rubberwood as I figured that was the safest, but it’s not big enough and now I am thinking of upgrading to the full desk.  Before I spend so much, I figured I’d see if you had any thoughts on it!
If you scroll down to “Top It Off Any Way You Like”, it goes over the different materials.
I had emailed about the desktops, and got this response:
“The Eco desktops are made with recycled MDF whereas the bamboo and rubberwood are solid bamboo and rubberwood. The rubberwood is just another name for the trees that they harvest for making rubber and latex. We recycle those trees once they’re done being used for their sap and use them to make these desktops. “
Obviously, I shy away from MDF but it is GREENGUARD-certified.  My understanding is that bamboo can be toxic from the glues they use, but here they claim it is solid bamboo.
What would you recommend?

Lisa’s Answer

This looks like a good choice.  The top is hardwood and the base is metal.  There are a couple of small plastic parts.  You could ask them what the plastic material is and avoid if PVC or polystyrene.  They say they use glues and finishes that are environmentally safe and non-hazardous.  I would just confirm that they are low- or ultra-low voc formulas.  Since it’s hardwood there should be minimal if any need for glues.  You could even ask if they make you a top that is unfinished.  I have a similar adjustable desk made of metal with a hardwood top and it’s great to be able to stand while you work!


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