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Question from Sheryl

My daughter got some earings that come with a warning that says this product may expose you to chemicals such as nickle and cyanide which are know in the state of California to cause cancer, etc. Would you be concerned or is this just one of those Prop 65 warnings that has to be labeled?


Lisa’s Answer

Nickel is an allergen, with approximately 10-20% of the population effected.  If she does not get a rash from it, it’s probably fine.  The cyanide is probably from electroplating.  Is it silver-plated?  Cyanide is used in the electroplating process.  It is likely only in trace amounts and probably okay.  All of that said, earrings made of surgical stainless steel, platinum, titanium or 14k gold are best.
Also, you did not mention the age of your daughter.  If she is young, you might want to check with your pediatrician.

2019 Holiday Gift Guide

Photo by Nynne Schrøder on Unsplash

I’ve put together a list of holiday gift ideas for friends, family, and for yourself.  Most of these items are ones I own or plan to buy.  Please leave a comment if you have additional ideas to share!


Hostess Gifts/Stocking Stuffers


KeepCup Glass Travel Mugs 

A great alternative to plastic or stainless steel travel mugs.  They are made from tempered glass and have an option for a natural cork band for gripping.  The lid is plastic (food-grade polypropylene and polyethylene) but the beverage only passes quickly through that part.


Dryer Balls 

Use these in place of fabric softeners and dryer sheets.  Made from 100% New Zealand wool and free of chemicals.  Trader Joe’s also sells a version of these.


Beeswax Wrap

These wraps come in a variety of sizes.  They are made with GOTS organic cotton and dipped in beeswax, jojoba oil and tree resin.  They are a great alternative to plastic wrap and bags.  Trader Joe’s also sell a version of these and they also have beeswax bags.


Urthware Cutting Board

This company makes premium cutting boards and cooking utensils from solid, untreated maple.  They don’t use any glues or chemicals.  Even the feet on the cutting boards are made from natural rubber.  These are built to last!


Kleen Kanteen Tumbler with Straw

Unless you have a nickel sensitivity, stainless steel is a good choice for drinking water.  Kleen Kanteen has been a favorite of mine but I’ve long wished for a non-plastic cap that doesn’t need to be unscrewed so I can use it while cycling.  This fits the bill and can be used for hot as well as cold beverages.  I will remove the silicone tip since I will only be using it for cold water.


For the Home and Car


Molekule Air Mini

This is a new, smaller version of the powerful Molekule Air Purifier.  It’s made for rooms up to 250 square feet, so it’s perfect for a small bedroom or office.  The mini version is made of a medical grade polycarbonate unlike the full-size version which is made of aluminum.  If you are particularly sensitive this might not work for you.  It’s currently is on sale for $319.


Atem Car Air Purifier

A mini version of the IQAir Purifer designed for your car.  Research shows that over 275 chemicals can be present in your car at any given time.  This powerful unit removes 99% of particle pollutants and adsorbs odor and gas molecules.


The Citizenry Rugs

A beautiful selection of chemical-free rugs.  These rugs are made of wool or cotton, with no backing.  A few of the rugs have no dyes and those that are dyed use natural vegetable and animal dyes.  There are no post-production chemicals used.  Please note, they also sell a few animal skin rugs.  I don’t recommend animal skin rugs in general because of the many chemicals used in the tanning process.


Chemex Glass Coffee Maker

This is a one-piece poor-over coffee maker, made of heat-resistant glass.  Use it with Chemex unbleached filters.


Silicone Placemats

A beautiful selection of FDA food-grade silicone placemats.  I don’t recommend cooking with silicone products because there is evidence that they may leach at high temperatures.  As a placemat, the material is safe to use.  They are easy to clean and last for years.  They have a 20% off sale for the holidays.


For Her


Coyuchi Pajamas

These are the most comfortable GOTS certified, organic cotton pajamas that I have ever owned.


Henry Rose Fragrances

I gave up using fragrances years ago because of the lack of transparency around their chemical ingredients. This is the first EWG Verified fragrance.  While they do use synthetic ingredients, they are fully transparent about what they use.  The scents are sophisticated and on par with high-end products.  They sell a sample pack for $20.  This is probably not appropriate for those with chemical sensitivities but perfect for someone who wants a safer alternative to traditional fragrances.


For Him


Organic Latex Travel Pillow  

My husband is getting two of these because he is always leaving things behind on airplanes.  This is the first travel pillow I have found that is made with GOLS certified latex and an organic cotton cover.


Kyrgies Wool Slippers

These are super comfortable house shoes made from felted wool.  You can add a soft, felted insert for extra comfort and support.  The soles are synthetic with a silicone grip but, overall, they are a much more natural choice than conventional slippers.


For the Kids


Nova Naturals Toys + Crafts

This is a unique selection of classic toys such as dolls, dollhouses, trucks, and crafts made from natural materials.  They are pricey, but one-of-a kind.


Natural Earth Paint

These natural, vegan paints are made from earth and mineral pigments.  They can be mixed with oil (we use walnut oil) and are surprisingly easy to use.


I haven’t included any items for teens, which reflects the fact that my two teenagers and I are at a stalemate when it comes to holiday gifts.  They don’t want anything that I want to buy and I don’t want to buy anything they want.  I don’t expect we will reach any common ground but I’ll keep you posted if we come up with any great compromises.

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.

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
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