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Non-Toxic Mascara Recommendation?

Question from wt


i’m looking for a non-toxic mascara that WON’T MAKE MY LASHES DROOP. my lashes are relatively thin, and anything heavy will cause them to droop in a heartbeat. is there such a forumula?

would appreciate a recommendation.

thank you!

Debra’s Answer

My lashes are thick, so I’ve never experienced this. Readers…?

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Dishwashing soap

Question from S.L.

On your website under the section “At Home With Debra . . . How I Really Live” you say that you use an unscented liquid soap that you got as a bonus to clean your dishes and countertops. I’m wondering if you’ve run out of that original supply and if so, what do you use now?

Debra’s Answer

We’re still using the dish soap we got with our water softener. Some other products I have used in the past to wash my dishes include Dr. Bronner liquid soaps (now made from organically-grown ingredients) and a dishwashing liquid I got at Williams-Sonoma that they don’t carry any more, which was scented with kitchen fragrances, such as sweet basil and meyer lemon. When we run out of what we have, I’ll probably go back to Dr. Bronner.

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Need Help With Kitchen Reno!

Question from V. L.

I find myself overwhelmed with choices for an eco kitchen reno. It seems that either solid wood cabinetry or cabinet boxes made of strawboard with solid wood

fronts are the only eco options. I’ve tried re-covering used cabinets from the paper, but they are always in really bad shape.

Further, are granite or soapstone the best environmental options for countertops, and doesn’t it depend on the granite’s source?

My kitchen is falling apart and I’m afraid to take one step forward!

Thanks for any help you can offer, and I really love your newsletter.

Debra’s Answer

There ARE are lot of choices for eco kitchens, more even than you list.

Building page of Debra’s List has a great article that outlines all the possibilities for countertops, and gives some resources. The best environmental option isn’t necessarily granite or soapstone–I once redid my entire kitchen with salvage gray marble slabs at $5 a square foot. Eco-options for countertops include tiles made from various recycled materials, too.

Both your choices for cabinetry sound fine. There are more options–such as metal cabinets, but wood is much more aesthetic. Consider having cabinets custom-built. I know that sounds expensive, but I had a local cabinetmaker build all the cabinets in my California kitchen with solid wood and my choice of finish, and the total cost installed was less than if I had purchased particleboard cabinets from Home Depot. So check around.

There are no single products that are “the best” choice for everyone. In a personal one-on-one phone consultation, I can help you choose the kitchen reno products that are right for you.

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Safety of Rubbing Alcohol

Question from D. M.

I came across a recipe for a homemade shower cleaner using equal parts water, vinegar, rubbing alcohol and a couple drops of liquid dish detergent. Is rubbing alcohol a non toxic ingredient to use for cleaning?

Thanks for your reply and I am looking forward to receiving your e-newsletter as I’m always looking for non toxic ways to take care of our home and ourselves. I make some cleaning and body care products myself. Any that I have to buy I get from the health store and I check those ingredient labels!!

Thanks also for what you do to help educate people and make the environment cleaner and greener.

Debra’s Answer

I don’t consider rubbing alcohol to be a nontoxic ingredient to use for cleaning. The chemical name for rubbing alchol is isopropyl alcohol. The Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) for isopropyl alcohol says “No significant effects beyond minor irritation are expected” for skin exposure, but if some accidentally gets splashed in the eye it can cause “Severe irritation and discomfort” and “Reversible and/or irreversible corneal damage may occur”.

From inhalation, “Respiratory tract irritation and/or headaches possible. Significant systemic toxic effects are likely following repeated exposure to high concentrations.”

I’m concerned about using isopropyl especially as a shower cleaner, as a shower is a small area with little ventilation. Therefore you would have a greater chance of inhaling a higher concentration of the alcohol.

I think your recipe would work without the rubbing alcohol. If you have problems with soap scum buildup, your water is probably too hard. Rather than using a toxic chemical, you could get a salt-free water conditioner from Go Beyond Organic.

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Nontoxic Lice Shampoo

This product was sent to me by a reader.

Lice R Gone ¨ is an enzyme based product that “has such low toxicity it is essentially harmless to people, pets, wildlife and crops…is completely biodegradable upon application…has no residual contamination…and is quick acting and totally effective against head lice and their nits.” It contains Purified water, anionic / nonionic surfactant blend, glycerin, enzymes, and peppermint oil.

FDA (GRAS) – Generally Regarded As Safe.

Order online at

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Liver and Kidney Detox

Question from B. K.

Do you have any special natural remedies to detox the body……the liver and kidneys??? I think sometimes feeling fatigue all leads to a good cleansing of the liver….getting it to be strong and flushing out all the toxins! Thanks!

Debra’s Answer

I’ve used the Kidney Rejuvenator and Liver Rejuvenator products from Peter Gillham’s Natural Vitality and they were very effective.

I started taking them after I read an article by Peter Gillham called “The Body’s Filter” (this is not posted on their website, but I think they would send you a copy if you asked). It tells how our bodies have specific organs whose purpose is to purify the blood and organs to keep toxins of all kinds from building up in the body and causing disease.

The kidneys, among other functions, are one of the main organs that filter toxins out of our blood. But I suspect that for most of us, our kidneys are not doing their job. Kidneys can be damaged by poor diet, stress, and chemical expsosure, reducing their efficiency. When our kidneys are damaged, they can’t filter out the chemicals we are exposed to and they build up in our bodies. So one of the best things we can do to help our bodies withstand the chemicals we are exposed to is to have strong, well-functioning kidneys. The kidneys and liver work together to remove toxic chemicals from the body, so both need to be supported.

When I read this, it was like a light bulb went off in my head. Of course! If we want our bodies to better tolerate the chemicals in our environment, we should strengthen those functions in our bodies that process them. So I started taking Kidney Rejuvenator and Liver Rejuvenator and they made a big difference in my body. My husband took them too and they helped him. They are completely natural, made of a blend of herbs (not organically grown).

There may be other similar products on the market. I know these worked for me. And other vitamins I have taken from them were effective too.

Both kidneys and liver process toxins and need to be cleansed for good health. I definately think you are on the right track with this.

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Nontoxic Outdoor Grill?

Question from B.R.

I want to purchase an outdoor grill for my husbands birthday. Is there anything that would be nontoxic?

Debra’s Answer

The burning of all fuels produce combustion by-products and smoke, which make food taste delicious, but are harmful to breathe. So regardless of which type of barbecue you choose, try not to breathe a lot of smoke.

There are basically two types of grills: gas and charcoal.

My husband and I barbecue over a small, inexpensive, portable charcoal grill. The point for us is to cook over the natural wood flame. We use a simple chimney-type starter rather than toxic lighter fluid, and we burn only natural wood briquets that have not been treated with any chemicals.

I’m not a fan of gas grills. They are more expensive to purchase, they require the purchase of propane gas for fuel, they are large in size, untilizing a lot of metal, which is very polluting to the environment, and in the end, it’s not much different than cooking over a gas stove indoors.

You can read more about healthy barbecuing in my book Home Safe Home on page 309.

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Green Bathtubs

Question from C. H.

I am looking for an airjet tub that would be safe. One company [name deleted] said that their urethane tubs are the only green product around. My HVAC guy says that 100% acrylic tubs are inert. However, as far as I can see, the acrylic tubs have a fiberglass and resin shell which is where the problem mostly lies. Any info?

Also, do you know how to construct a tiled bathtub where the bathtub itself is made of tile?

Debra’s Answer

I contacted the company that is making the claim that their urethane bathtub is “green.” Here’s what I found out.

Acrylic-lined tubs have a shell of fiberglass. So it’s fiberglass on the outside and acrylic on the inside.

The toxic element in fiberglass is polyester resin. Polyester resin has a styrene carrier which outgasses VOCs.

This company replaces the polyester resin in the fiberglass with urethane, which does not outgas, so there are zero VOCs. That’s the green claim–that it has zero VOCs.

However, the fiberglass is on the outside of the tub, which usually is completely sealed against a wall or within a tile surround. So whatever VOCs do outgas probably are not going into the room once the tub is installed.

Still I am concerned about the acrylic liner being a plastic and that none of these materials are renewable or biodegradable. Certainly I would call this a less toxic tub, but I would still stay away from any plastic tubs. A standard porcelain tub would still come out ahead.

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High Cocoa Dark Chocolates

Question from C. W.

I’m wondering if you could recommend a dark chocolate bar plain that is at least 74% cocoa. I don’t know how to “read” the labels to tell. For instance this Hershey’s Dark Chocolate I have here Ingredients: Sugar, chocolate, cocoa butter etc. I would think cocoa would be at the top of the list?

I want to try to put this article to the test:

Debra’s Answer

The percentage of cocoa is listed on the label for dark chocolates that contain significant cocoa. Not on Hershey’s because I don’t think they make one with that high a percentage. If sugar is listed first, then there is more sugar than cocoa, which means the cocoa is less than 50%. If you are looking in a regular supermarket for a high cocoa chocolate, check the labels of good “bittersweet” chocolate bars. These will be sweetened with refined white sugar, but a very small amount.

I suggest going to a good natural food store in your area and look for a natural brand. Dagoba 74% bittersweet is one that I know meets your needs.

Natural brands are often made with organically grown cocoa and sweetened with evaporated cane juice the whole sugar direct from the cane unrefined instead of refined white sugar. You might also try cacao nibs, which are 100% chocolate and no sugar. These taste a little odd at first, but I like them. They would be the best if eating chocolate for the health reasons you cite above.

Another option is to mix up your own chocolate using cocoa powder. You can mix a little with butter, cocoa butter, or coconut oil and any sweetener you want.

For more on chocolate, visit Debra’s List: Organic, Shade Grown, Fair Trade Chocolate and especially read my article “Choosing Healthy Chocolate”.

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Safety of Talalay Latex for MCS?

Question from H. G.

I am a regular reader of your columns and refer to your book regularly, however I must take exception with your recomendation of Talalay latex for the chemically sensitive. Talalay is processed with and contains 3% preservatives like poly ethylene glycol. Dunlop latex is probably a better choice for MCS types. Please see The “Dunlop VS Talalay” Truth and Natural Dunlop vs. Natural Talalay for more info.

Debra’s Answer

For those of you who don’t yet know about Talalay and Dunlop, they are two methods for processing latex used to make mattresses and pillows. They each produce a latex that has it’s own characteristics. But this question is not which is better latex, this question is about whether or not Talalay is safe for people with multiple chemical sensitivities.

As stated in your reference Natural Dunlop vs. Natural Talalay, “In the Talalay process synthetic chemicals are usually added, but not always.” The company making this statement, SavvyRest, says “We order natural Talalay only, and the company certifies that no synthetic chemicals are added to produce this latex.” So I don’t quite understand your statement that “Talalay is processed with and contains 3% preservatives…” and “Dunlop latex is probably a better choice for MCS types.”

To the best of my knowledge, it is true that some Talalay latex contains a percentage of preservatives and other chemicals. But I wouldn’t make a general statement that Dunlop latex is a better choice for MCS types. From the viewpoint of toxicity, chemical-free Talalay latex would be just as good a choice as chemical-free Dunlop.

I sent your question to Mary Cordaro, a certified Bau-Biologist who created her own line of natural beds “The Mary Cordaro Collection.” Bau-Biologie standards are the strictest in the world for toxics and she also has plenty of experience with multiple chemical sensitivities. And she chose Talalay. Here’s her reply to your question:

I agree with Mary and greatly admire the lengths to which she goes to ensure her materials are pure, but she is the exception. The practical reality is that most latex–Talalay and Dunlop–is not tested. For any material, the ultimate test for anyone with MCS is how you feel with the material. Does it feel life-supporting to your body or not? While it would be great to have a 100 percent toxic-free environment, that is rarely a reality. I believe that everyone should minimize their exposure to toxic chemicals as much as possible, within their ability to do so.

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