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The masquerade of synthetic-fragranced products as “natural”


Question from Jane

Hi Debra,

You are one of our “household gods” and have been for many years. It is such a relief to find a source of information about chemical sensitivities and allergies that is non-judgmental and so widely and wonderfully informative!

My specific concern right now is Mrs. Meyer’s products, especially her laundry products. I have only moderate MCS, but I cannot use Mrs. Meyers at all. Several years ago, I actually had to get up in the middle of the night and change our sheets because they had been washed with her detergent.

The company makes so many claims to be fresh and natural, and yet their scents do not smell at all natural to me! For example, I know real live honeysuckle and its beautiful scent. Mrs. Meyer’s version of “honeysuckle” is not what I recognize as the real thing!

Yet I read and hear, on YouTube especially, people I would think of as intelligent just rhapsodizing about Mrs. Meyers products and, worse, convincing other people to buy and use them! What are the long-term effects of exposure, especially to children, of these highly fragranced, super-hyped items?

I know you share a longstanding concern about fragranced personal care and household items. But this line of products is marketed with such sweet promises that they make me think of the scene in the Disney film Snow White, when the witch looks at the beautiful apple she has prepared for Snow White, and we see a skull and crossbones take shape over that lovely red surface. Isn’t this what is happening here?

Thank you for any comments you can make!

Debra’s Answer

It’s not a secret that Mrs. Meye’s products contain synthetic fragrances. They disclose this right on their Ingredient Glossary.

Note they are not organic, so whatever pesticide is in the natural material gets concentrated into the essential oil. My standard is ONLY certified organic essential oil (and if you see anything otherwise on my website please let me know so I can remove it).

I agree with you that this is exactly like the poison apple from Snow White.

There has been a period of time where our product purchases have been influenced by how well advertising appeals to us, rather than what we need and rather than evaluating the product. I think we’ve all be there. I know I personally have made an enormous shift from buying things because advertising convinced me to buy, to buying based on my real needs to sustain my own life and health and planet.

It’s a whole different mindset to consider how to sustain a life, but that is the question Larry and I discuss every day. Will making a particular choice contribute to sustain ourselves, our health, our relationship, our ecosystems, or will it contribute to their destruction. This is the basis of our life together.

A reader asked me the other day with so much information available, that often conflicts, who do we listen to? For me, it’s not WHO, it’s WHAT is the result of using that information in my life.

Larry and I sometimes talk about using toxic chemicals for glamour, fun, and profit. A face covered with toxic cosmetics is no longer beautiful to me, bright blue food doesn’t make me want to eat it. Give me a farmer’s market and linen sheets and essential oils and water fresh from a spring and I will be very happy and deeply satisfied.

Now, about Mrs, Meyers. I think the biggest problem here is that their message and their ingredients are not aligned. And that is a problem of Truth in Advertising. They are making you believe that the product is natural and pleasurable when it’s not. There are laws about this.

Here’s a website where you can report companies making bad claims, take legal action, and more (or so they say, I have no experience with them): TruthIn

I could spend all day reporting false claims but I would rather spend my time educating consumers and making more known companies that are making true claims and using toxic-free materials.

There! I did have a few comments on this.

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Dharma Trading Company

This is one of my local California stores that has been around a long time—1969! They are basically a fiber art supply store, so there are a lot of things you may not be interested in, but I’m listing them here because fiber arts are about putting art on fabric and clothing, and they carry a good selection of natural fiber fabrics, clothing and other dyeables that can be used “undyed.” They have many types of cotton fabrics, including some organic and even 100% cotton for making sweat clothes, hemp and hemp blends, linen and linen blends, and many silk fabrics. Also extra wide natural fiber fabrics undyed for curtains or bedlinens. Clothing for babies, kids, women and men include such things as undyed cotton tank dress for only $16 and cotton sweat pants and sweat shirts for under $20. Clothing is not organic, but no dye and all sewn with cotton thread. Plus bags, wallets, totes. Yarns, lace, ribbons. Almost anything and everything. And they sell all kinds of dyes and markers (not all nontoxic) to make your own creations.

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Wisconsin Goes Fragrance-Free

The above sign was spotted in a roadside rest area in restroom, maintained by the state of Wisconsin.

Other public places could do the same.

This may be a response to a 2016 ruling a woman’s chemical sensitivity was a disability under the American’s with Disabilities Act (ADA) because it interfered with the major life activity of breathing.

The link in the above paragraph outlines accommodations employers may need to make in the workplace for those with fragrance allergies, which go so far as to ask or require other employees to abstain from wearing or using scented products.

I remember when smoking cigarettes was first banned in public places and now it is widespread. So I am optimistic the same will happen with fragrance.

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Toxic Free Paper Notebooks

These are the recycled paper notepads I use from Staples. (I don’t like spiral-bound notebooks).

This week I received TWO emails asking about paper office products after not receiving one questions about them in almost forty years of doing this work.

I’ve never addressed this because I’ve never noticed a need to. I buy various recycled paper pads at Staples and I’ve never noticed an odor.

Bonnie wrote this to me:

I have been sorting my old papers which I keep in paper 2 pocket folders. 2 types have solid colors, one with a smooth surface, the other less smooth. I have manila folders which I assume are safe. I have a bank of America folder which is glossy. Also have spiral college ruled paper notebooks. The front are solid colored and the back looks like cardboard.

The back has an odor. I was thinking to buy paper only next time. Are any of these toxic? Thank you.

This is from Mary:

I had been using Mead’s 5X7 150 page notebook to keep track of what I eat, how I feel, etc., but they smelled strongly of disinfectant and I had to air each one out page by page over many days.

I found these notebooks at OfficeSupply. They have no odor. I thought maybe your readers might like to know about them. I don’t knotice an odor with things like steno pads but I needed this style. They are only 120 pages though.

Anyone else having trouble with paper notebooks?

And anyone else have favorite sources for notebooks with no odors?

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Natural Treatments for Dry Skin


A few weeks ago I sent out a survey and at the end I gave respondents the opportunity to be sent the survey results.

A few days ago I sent the survey results to anyone who wanted them, and soon received this reply:

Still reading the wonderful compilation (and have to do other things today – will get back to it tonight) –

But I was saddened by the woman with severe MCS who is completely isolated. The comment that was really sad was she said her skin is shriveling up because she can’t use any lotions.

I hope you can write to her, or write a piece at some point, not only about the wonderful unscented products out there (I use Griffin Remedy in Bulgarian Lavender, but I know they make a completely unscented – not masked – product), but she could be using organic coconut oil, or extra virgin olive oil, or just some fresh avocado on her skin. Lots of choices besides purchased products!

And most of the good texture in our skin comes from what we eat, not what we put on it. She could be getting more essential fatty acids in her diet I would guess.

So grateful for the work you do so people don’t have to suffer so much!

Love, D

I don’t have dry skin, so I don’t have personal experience with this. But something did come to mind.

Years ago I used a product that was made with a base of honey and it was my favorite skin care product ever. It had some other natural things mixed with it, but I could feel the healing properties of the honey. If I cut my finger, I put honey on it to help it heal. So I would suggest honey, or honey thinned with water.

Ah! I just looked this up and found:

Honey is a natural humectant, meaning it draws moisture from the air into the skin and ensures it’s retained it in the layers where it’s needed most for penetrating, long-lasting hydration. Try it: Spread one teaspoon raw honey on clean, dry skin, and let sit for 15-20 minutes. Rinse with tepid water.

Another post says honey is full of antioxidants and is great for slowing down aging.

I suggest getting raw organic honey because it will be more “alive” than supermarket honey.

If you do have dry skin, leave a comment on what you use that might be tolerable for someone with MCS.

Thank you.

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Choosing Kitchen Storage Containers

Question from Washed Cat

Hi Debra,

I’ve recently moved & am in the process of sorting the pantry. I’ve been looking for storage containers which are the safest to use but are lightweight. I’m finding that glass & ceramics are to heavy for modern kitchen shelving but what are the alternatives? I’ve read your articles on stainless steel & containers made from wooden materials are difficult to find. I’m looking to store flours, sugars, lentils & pasta / spaghetti. Do you have any suggestions?

Debra’s Answer

Here one made of bamboo that I easily found online. It only comes in one size (5.5-Inch Diameter x 7.6-Inch H) but it’s intended for bulk storage of coffee, tea, beans, spices, noodles and other dry food. Includes a removable, food grade plastic lining.

Here’s another one that is glass with a bamboo lid, also online. Looks to be a rather lightweight glass rather than a heavy glass like a jar.

If you want wooden containers, look for bamboo. There are many affordable products now made from this fast-growing wood.




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Resources for Electromagnetic Fields (EMFs)

I put together this list of resources for you regarding EMFs because they are a health concern of equal magnitude to toxic chemical exposure and I want you to get information from experts that are more trained and experienced in this field than I am.

It is especially important to know about EMFs because simultaneous exposure to EMFs and toxic chemicals makes the toxic chemicals even more toxic.

…we have hundreds of pollutants in the air we breathe (indoors and outdoors), the water we drink, the food we eat, and the products we touch. Depending on a number of factors, some or most of these potential toxins can enter the bloodstream. Under full body high power flux RFR, these toxins can penetrate the various blood-organ barriers normally impermeable to them. Other types of barriers can be penetrated as well, and the protective compartmentalization of the body can become very dysfunctional. However, to display the full extent of these adverse effects in safety studies, where the RFR is functioning as a promoter/enabler, experiments are required to include these other toxic stimuli in combination with the RFR.

“Radio Requency Radiation (RFR) as a promoter/Enabler of Adverse Health Effects”

So in addition to creating a home that is free of toxic chemicals, I also encourage you to learn about EMFs and create a home that minimizes EMF exposures as much as possible.

Here are some resources recommended to me by experts. Please let me know if you know of additional resources that should be added to this list.







Independence from Toxic Chemicals


Tomorrow is Independence Day, so I’m taking a holiday from website work this week to celebrate one of my favorite holidays of the year.

Independence Day has a special meaning for me because I am descended from nine Patriots who fought in the Revolutionary War for our freedom. My grandmother and great aunts were members of the Daughters of the American Revolution, so in my family, freedom was something to be honored and celebrated.

Some years ago I wrote a piece about independence that I want to share with you today. Every year I bring this out again, because independence as a concept is so important to me, and particulary independence from toxic chemicals in consumer products.

 * * * * *

For me, Independence Day is about more than having a picnic and going to the fireworks (usually we have both picnic and fireworks, but today it looks like we might be rained out). It’s a time to bring my attention again to the concept of independence in my own life, and for the nation in which I live.

I love the Declaration of Independence.

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

This is the idea that our country was founded on. This is the idea that men and women fought for and gave their lives for, that we should have Life, Liberty, and Happiness.

Life is not just an individual human being alive. Life is the whole of life that supports each individual organism. We have not just the right, but in the words of our forefathers, the unalienable right to be alive as individuals and to have all of Life there to support our individual lives.

Today, the primary attention of our nation is on the industrial economy. How different things would be if our first priority as a nation was to ensure that Life is sustained.

What is independence?

Here is part of a dictionary definition:

  • not subject to control by others : self-governing
  • not affiliated with a larger controlling unit
  • not requiring or relying on something else
  • not looking to others for one’s opinions or for guidance in conduct
  • not requiring or relying on others (as for care or livelihood)
  • showing a desire for freedom

Each entity must have the freedom to be independent, the freedom to govern themselves. to make decisions in their own best interest and in the best interest of all Life. Each individual person, each individual relationship, each individual household, each individual business, each individual community, each individual town, each individual state, each individual nation. We must claim independence for ourselves and grant it to others.

At the same time, we must recognize that we are also interdependent, that our life, liberty and happiness depends on every other living organism having their life, liberty, and happiness. Every one. Birds and trees and fish and butterflies and all other living things in addition to humans.

We are both our independent selves as individuals AND interdependent with all the rest of life.

This is what I remind myself of on Independence Day.

USHISTORY.ORG: The Declaration of Independence Has the full text of the Declaration, along with profiles of the signer, Thomas Jefferson’s account of the writing of the Declaration, and more.

THE CO-INTELLIGENCE INSTITUTE: Interdependence, Interdependence Days and Declarations of Interdependence Discusses independence and interdependence and gives a history of Declarations of Interdependence, along with links to them.

 * * * * *

Now I also want to say that independence has everything to do with living toxic free. Manufacturers need freedom to make toxic-free products and we need freedom to choose them.

We CAN be free from the harmful effects of toxic chemcials by exercising our human right to make the choices that lead to that freedom. We can make our own choices to have life, liberty, and happiness.

Happy Independence Day!

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