Super Search

Submitted questions will be posted with my response by the following Tuesday or before.
Submitted comments will be moderated and approved within 24 hours.

Fragrance Free Shampoo and Conditioner

Question from Audrey

First Granny’s went out of business and now Magick Botanicals is out of business. Need fragrance free shampoo and conditioner.  Cannot tolerate odor of herbs or flower extracts – has to be totally fragrance free. Carters has olive oil shampoo, but after a while, the smell of the oil got to me and I had to stop using it. Any suggestions?

Lisa’s Answer

Debra’s List has a whole section of fragrance free body care products. These are usually not organic, but they qualify here because they have eliminated the very toxic synthetic fragrance. These products have no fragrance of any kind—synthetic or natural. NOTE: Some of these websites sell products with fragrance and without.

Untreated Towels

Question from Audrey

I used to get my towels from either LLBean or Blair Catalogs. They both now have their towels treated so it is fade resistant.  LLBean has organic towels but are very expensive.  Where can I buy bath towels the way they used to be – not treated for fade resistant.  Thank you.

Lisa’s Answer

There are many untreated towels available on Debra’s List.  Readers, please leave a comment if you have found other reasonably priced untreated towels.

CA Prop 65 warning of Cadmium

Question from Chris

I have a question about (another) CA Prop 65 warning.:
I’m finding a warning for Cadmium somewhere in a bathroom vanity I was about to buy.
I can only guess Cadmium is used in the white paint on this.
Since this an item subject to the most head/humidity in the house, is this particular warning one I should take seriously? Should I assume Cadmium in the paint will off-gas in these temperatures?

Lisa’s Answer

The concern about cadmium is not from off-gassing but from ingestion.  For example, the European Standard bans the use of cadmium in children’s toys for fear that they will be exposed if they chew on the toy or put it in their mouth.
The greatest sources of exposure for a consumer to cadmium are through food and cigarette smoke. Absorption through the skin is negligible.
If you recall, reports of cadmium in children’s jewelry caused alarm in recents years.  The reason for limits on children’s jewelry but not adults is the assumption that children are more likely to put things in their mouths.
I would consider this a low risk of exposure, but certainly try to find something without cadmium if possible.

Chemical Safety Regulations

In 2016, the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21stCentury Act was passed into law, updating the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) which was enacted in 1976.   Under TSCA, only a few hundred out of 85,000 chemicals approved for use were reviewed for safety.  Only 5 of those were banned.

 

The Lautenberg Chemical Safety Act was intended to bring much needed improvement to our chemical safety regulations.  It required 10 priority chemicals to be assessed immediately and by 2020 it requires 20 evaluations ongoing at any time.  In 2017, the EPA changed the rules to allow the agency to only look at a subset of a chemical’s uses when assessing its safety.  As a result, when the EPA evaluated the 10 priority chemicals it did not take into account the risks caused by the chemical’s presence in air, water or soil.

 

Here is the status of some of the most dangerous chemicals in use:

 

Chlorpyrifosis a pesticide used extensively in fruit and vegetable crops.  Research has shown that even a small amount can slow children’s brain development and it is toxic to farm workers.

  • In 2016, the EPA recommended to ban the chemical.
  • In 2019, the EPA decided to keep it on market sighting insufficient data.

 

Asbestosis banned by most other industrialized nations.  It is a known carcinogen.

  • In 2017, the EPA refused to finalize the proposed ban claiming the science is unresolved.
  • In 2019, the EPA chose to restrict rather than ban the chemical.

 

Trichloroethylene (TCE)is used as a degreaser and is used as an ingredient in adhesives, paint removers and spot removers.  The EPA concluded that it causes cancer and other serious health effects.

  • In 2016, the EPA proposed a ban for use as an aerosol spray degreaser and dry-cleaning spot treatment. This was the first EPA proposed ban in 25 years.
  • In 2017, the EPA proposed to indefinitely delay the ban.

 

Methylene Chlorideis used in paint stripping.  It is a likely carcinogen and has been linked to more than 50 deaths.

  • In 2016, the EPA proposed a ban for use as a paint stripper.
  • In 2017, the EPA proposed to indefinitely delay the ban.
  • In 2018, the EPA banned the chemical for use in consumer products but allows for its continued use in commercial products.

 

N-Methylpyrrolidone (NMP) is used as a paint stripper.  It can cause birth defects and reproductive issues.

  • In 2016, the EPA prosed a ban or restrictions for use in paint strippers.
  • In 2017, the EPA proposed to indefinitely delay the ban.

 

 

The EPA has not made progress banning harmful chemicals under the new TSCA law but it has been very quick to approve new chemicals, reviewing over 2000 and approving over half of them. Please consider supporting organizations like Environmental Working Group (EWG) which is a non-profit, non-partisan organization dedicated to protecting human health and the environment.

Styrofoam in Hydroponics

Question from TL

Hi, I have seen styrofoam float used widely in hydroponic farming. Agree hydroponic is pesticide free, but does styrofoam has similar”food grade” like PU foam MDI or is styrofoam used in hydroponic farming safe at all? Thank you.

Lisa’s Answer

There are two primary forms of polystyrene; solid and foam.  Polystyrene foam is either EPS (expanded polystyrene) or XPS (extruded polystyrene).  Styrofoam is a brand name for EPS and is used for products like foam drinking cups. XPS is a denser foam and is used for insulation as well as in food packaging, such as meat trays.   A product used for flotation would be foam polystyrene and could be either EPS or XPS.  Both are considered food grade.
But, back to your questions: are they safe?
According to chemicalsafetyfacts.org, The FDA as well as the European Commission/European Food Safety Authority consider polystyrene safe for use in contact with food.  However, the EPA consider styrene, which is a primary component of polystyrene, a probable human carcinogen.  The reason for the discrepancy is that the FDA considers the migration of styrene form polystyrene products into food and beverages to be significantly below FDA guidelines.

So, you need to make the call for yourself.  Personally, I don’t want to risk leaching of a probable carcinogen into my food.  It is possible to uses polyurethane floats in hydroponics however, according to 365aquaponics, polyurethane is sometimes “improved” for better insulation by adding isocyanurates, which are hazardous chemicals.  Its’ also worth noting that some XPS foam board is Greenguard certified.  Don’t let this fool you; Greenguard does not test for leaching into food or water so it says nothing about the safety of eating food grown in this meduim.

 
I don’t mean to give hydroponics a bad rap.  There are materials used in conventional farming that also cause concern.  It highlights the lack of transparency in food production as a whole.  If you are growing your own food or buying from small, local producers it makes sense to understand the materials used in the process.

Hydration Bladders

Question from Pedro

Hello, I recently started looking for hydration backpacks and I am finding that the bladders are made from either TPU or PEVA.  Which one is less toxic? Are there better options? Help! I just want to keep my kids safe. Thank you.

Lisa’s Answer

If you plan to use them infrequently either is fine.  Both TPU and PEVA have very low toxicity.  However, as they are still made with petrochemicals, you might not want to drink out of them on a regular basis.  Unfortunately, I have looked for non-plastic bladders for my family and not found any.

ATC Trailers

Question from Kelly

Has anyone with MCS tried the ATC (Aluminum Trailer company)?  It can be ordered with all aluminum interior.  This option is impossible to find used and it seems I will need to order a new one.  I have severe MCS, Athsma, COPD, and allergies (allergic to wood so can’t do the toxic free trailers).  I cannot find any reviews on them for MCS on the ACT and am concerned with how long it will take to off gas.

Lisa’s Answer

Readers, does anyone have experience with this company?

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.

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