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Cadmium

Question from Olga

I recently purchased furniture from Wayfair.com.  The smell is awful and not going away after several weeks.  I contacted them and told them about it.  They really don’t care.  After looking into the furniture and maker I realized it has a warning for California proposition 65.  I called them back trying to get more information on this and how it can affect my health and my children’s Health.  The person I spoke to said we should be fine since we are not eating the furniture. The chemical in question is Cadmium.  I have looked into it and all the side effects of this chemical.  Is she right? Are we ok because it is on furniture and not being ingested??

Lisa’s Answer

I think you have two different issues.  The smell is not likely due to cadmium, which does not have a detectable odor.  The smell is more likely VOC off-gassing from adhesives, sealants or coatings.  It’s difficult to identify the source without knowing what type of furniture you have purchased and what materials it is made from.  One option is to seal any hard surfaces with a product like AFM Safecoat.  It may also help to air it out outside for several days.

As for the cadmium, it is most likely from a pigment or coating on the furniture.  While cadmium can be absorbed through the skin, that is not considered to be a major route of exposure.  The most worrisome type of exposure after cigarette smoke, is ingestion, which is why it’s so important to make sure your cookware does not contain cadmium.  Cadmium in your furniture is a lower risk than in your cookware but I still would not want it in my home.

Dental Compositites

Question from Kimberly

Hi Lisa,

Years of searching for dental composite replacements for simple fillings.

Most of them have BPA and TEGMA related compounds. The ones that do not still have horrible chemical tastes to them.

Would love some safer alternatives.

Lisa’s Answer

The most comprehensive study I have seen that actually tests the composites is the following from PubMed.gov:
Table 4 shows a list of composites that do not contain bis-GMA ( the most commonly used BPA derivative).  Only 1 contained neither Bis-GMA nor TEGDMA.
I can’t speak to the taste of any of them.
You might ask your Dentist to help you identify some options and request a Material Data Sheet.  Look out for the following: BPA, bis-GMA, TEGDMA, or UDMA.  Just because it claims to be BPA-Free doesn’t mean there isn’t potential exposure to BPA as derivatives such as bis-GMA can convert to BPA in the mouth.

Zeolite Detox Symptoms

Question from Barbara

Hi Lisa,

Checking to see if taking the zeolite will produce detox symptoms?  If so how severe or not?  Can I start out slow in taking the product?

Lisa’s Answer

I have not personally used zeolite but the Pure Body website had the following reply:
“The zeolite Clinoptilolite has been granted GRAS (Generally Recognized As Safe) status by the Food and Drug Administration. Since zeolites will attract water to facilitate the detoxification process, adequate filtered water intake is suggested (8 to 10 glasses a day). If any signs of dehydration do appear (headaches, tiredness), increase your water intake and reduce your zeolite intake for that day.

Safe Drywall

Question from Teresa

Hi Lisa,

Can you please share the best safest types of drywall? I was looking at Magnesium oxide but hearing things about cracking.
Thanks

Lisa’s Answer

I have also read about pervasive cracking with magnesium oxide boards.
EWG has a helpful guide on drywall.  They recommend looking for Greenguard Gold certified products.  I used National Gypsum Company’s Gold Bond for my house.  We then safeguarded our air quality by following instillation guidelines from Prescriptions for a Healthy House (Baker-Laporte, Elliott, &, Banta, 2008).   I recommend this book as a great guide for very specific information on new building and renovations.
There are alternatives to gypsum board, one of which is magnesium oxide boards, but I could not get comfortable with their potential cracking issues.  Another alternative is a paperless product called DensArmor Plus. I don’t have any experience with this nor do I know its shortcomings but it is both Greenguard Gold certified and recommended in the book mentioned above.

Ants

Question from Jen

Hi there! I’m looking for advice on how to handle an influx of kitchen ants this summer.  My usual methods (ie – clean counters, all food put away in sealed packaging, etc) aren’t working.  I can’t even tell where they’re coming from specifically, can’t locate ant hills in the yard. Very confusing. I’m not ready to call in an exterminator quite yet (although my husband is quickly losing patience!) I’ve heard good results with the following products but since I have kids who play on the floor and pets who lick their paws I’m hesitant to use.
1-Terro ant traps
2-zevo ant spray
Thanks for your help and any recommendations you might have for me.

Lisa’s Answer

I would definitely avoid commercial ant traps if possible.
The first step is to seal any openings.  I know you said you can’t locate where they are coming from but it’s worth continuing to try to identify the source.
There are many natural ways to kill ants.  My tried and true used to be a mix of Borax, sugar and water.  It worked great, but I recently read an EWG article about the toxicity of Borax.
Another natural option is mixing vinegar and water in a spray bottle and spraying the ants.  I’ve read that peppermint, cinnamon, and lemon juice are all effective but I haven’t tried them myself.
I was surprised to learn that Terro’s active ingredient is, in fact, Borax.  It’s better than more toxic pesticides but I would still avoid it, particularly if you have kids and pets.  As an absolute last resort, you could use the Terro traps outside the house to prevent them from coming in.  It’s not ideal but at least you wouldn’t have it inside your home.
Has anyone had success with a natural remedy?

PVC and Microban in Air Conditioning

Question from Paula

Hi Lisa,

My situation is that I’m getting central air conditioning installed, and want to avoid all toxic components. I’m wondering if having PVC or Microban in my attic is something I should worry about (my attic isn’t air sealed from my living space, and air sealing is probably too expensive at this time). I guess my question is, is there a distance from which toxic chemicals aren’t a health danger?

Lisa’s Answer

The distance is not really the important factor since air will be moving through the AC system, through your vents, and into your home.  I would avoid PVC and Microban if possible.

Non-Toxic Gardening

Its peak growing season in the northeast and we can’t wait for our first harvest of tomatoes, carrots and peppers. We’re already enjoying kale, lettuces, beets, and our house specialty, purple potatoes. My husband’s hobby is organic gardening, so my kids and I get to reap the rewards of his hard work. He is always experimenting with some new growing method or product and patiently allows me to research anything new before he buys it.
It’s always amazing to me that so many gardening products are made with harmful chemicals. Why go to the trouble of growing your own food, particularly organic food, if you are going to grow it in a bed made of pressure-treated wood or water it with a hose that leaches lead and BPA?

When you’re planning a non-toxic garden the first place to start is with high-quality, organic seeds. Some argue that it’s not necessary to buy organic seeds because studies have shown conventional seeds without trace chemicals from insecticides or fertilizers. I choose to err on the side of caution. Knowing that plants take in nutrients through their leaves, common sense would support that if leaves are sprayed with synthetic chemicals the plants will absorb those chemicals. There are other compelling reasons to buy organic seeds:

1. Organic seeds are grown to survive in organic systems. They may be more likely to thrive without synthetic chemicals than conventional seeds.
2. Buying organic seeds supports organic farming practices which is better for the environment, farm workers and consumers.
3. Organic seeds are relatively inexpensive at roughly $1 more per packet than conventional seeds.

Debra’s List has several high-quality seed companies to choose from.

If you are still using a garden hose that may be made with PVC or have lead-containing metal fittings, check out this study by healthystuff.org. It’s a bit out of date but it still provides great guidance. Debra’s List recommends Water Right hoses and Terrain Heritage hoses.

I’ll be writing more on garden products over the course of the summer. I am also working on an affiliate store where you will be able to buy recommended products. I plan to have a section on gardening supplies. Stay tuned…

PFAS Chemicals Found in Farm Produce

PFAS, or polyfluoroalkyl substances, are a family of chemicals that are used to make non-stick coatings such as Teflon.  Sometimes called Forever Chemicals, they persist in the environment and body and have been linked to health issues such as hindered growth and learning and increased cancer risk.

There has been increasing concern about contamination from PFAS-containing firefighter foam that is used on military bases and some airports.  The foam has previously been linked to groundwater contamination in neighboring communities. New reports show that PFAS chemicals have now been detected in milk and vegetables from farms located near military bases.  Read more food contamination here.

How to Avoid Contaminated Foods

Federal and state agencies are testing samples from potentially contaminated farms, but until more is known it may be best to avoid food from farms that are located near contaminated sites. EWG has an interactive map that shows sites with known PFAS contamination.

Take Action

The Air Force is recalling PFAS-containing foam from the U.S. and overseas, but they have not found a safe way to dispose of it once it is reclaimed.  The foam is being contracted out to private businesses for incineration, but incineration may not fully destroy the chemical.  There is an amendment before Congress to hold PFAC polluters accountable for cleaning up contaminated sites.  Click here to learn how you can help.

 

Handbag Materials

Question from Wendy

Lisa,

Can you tell me if it’s toxic to carry handbags made of these materials? I know I may need to find out more details about the chemicals but this is what I have so far.

Handbag 1:
Dyed Nylon with Water and Stain Resistant Coating
Dyed Italian Leather
Nylon Strap

Handbag 1:
70% Polyamide
30% Polyurethane
Vachetta Leather Trim

Wendy

Lisa’s Answer

Let’s take a look at each of the components of these handbags:

Handbag #1:

Nylon with water and stain resistant coating – Untreated Nylon is one of the least toxic plastics. It is still a synthetic fiber that is made from petroleum but there is little concern for its toxicity.  It’s the treatment that is more concerning.  It’s hard to say without more information but most stain resistant treatments are made with perfluorochemicals (PFCs) which can be highly toxic.

Dyed leather handle– the tanning process for leather can use 250 different chemicals including chromium which can be very toxic.

Nylon strap– If the Nylon is untreated it should be fine.

Handbag #2:

Polyamide– This is Nylon.  If it is untreated it should be fine.

Polyurethane– There are different types of polyurethane.  Read Debra’s post about polyurethane toxicity here.  It is likely that this is a food-grade film which would have low toxicity, but you would need to confirm that.

Vachetta leather trim– This is vegetable dyed leather.  Vegetable tanning does not use chromium which is a positive but since there can be 250 different chemicals used in the tanning process you might want to find out more about the specific chemicals used.  Some vegetable tanned leather may use all-natural materials, but you would need to check to be sure.

Based on the information you have provided, it looks like Handbag #2 is the safer options, but more information would be helpful.

 

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Removing Odors from Insulation

Question from Colleen

Hi Lisa,

Has anyone successfully moved into a house where the previous tenants used scented detergents and dryer sheets in the house.  I was under the assumption that the fragrances got into the insulation in the walls, etc.  How long did it take to outgass if ever?  Would a “bake out” even take care of it?

Lisa’s Answer

Debra interviewed Daliya Robson from Nirvana Safe Haven and they discussed a number of ways to eliminate odors (click here for transcript).

I would first try some low-cost options like zeolite or charcoal to try to absorb the odors. As a next step I would try the “bake out”, which has proven successful for many situations. If neither of those work, you might try some of the products mentioned in the interview. Finally, a good air purifier can be very effective. While it is an investment, you will have it for many years to help reduce toxins in your home. There are many sealers on the market that are great for reducing formaldehyde, but I have read that they do not always reduce odors, particularly if they are organic.

Has anyone else had success minimizing these types of odors?

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ARE TOXIC PRODUCTS HIDDEN IN YOUR HOME?

Toxic Products Don’t Always Have Warning Labels. Find Out About 3 Hidden Toxic Products That You Can Remove From Your Home Right Now.