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.

Pure Effect Water Filter

Question from Charlotte

I also have a Pure Effect filter under the kitchen sink
Do you know the origin of these filters, where they are manufactured?

I wrote to Igor but have not received an answer and am concerned if they are produced outside of the USA because of the health circumstances at this time.

I am in need of a replacement.

 

Lisa’s Answer

 

All of Pure Effect’s cartridges are made in the USA.  You can order them here.

Washer and Dryer

Question from Justin

I suffer from mold illness and moved into a tiny house so I could control my environment better. The tiny house came with an All/In/One Washer Dryer made by Best Appliance. Whenever I run it I get heart palps and terrible headaches. It’s off gassing or something. I need to replace it and have just enough room for a side by side 24in washer dryer set. (I’m guessing the All/In One components may off gas, or this is not a quality brand) Are there any brands you trust? It seems everything has that Prop 65 Cancer sticker on it too.

 

Lisa’s Answer

It’s impossible for me to say what you are reacting to because everyone is different.  I’m not aware of any washer or dryer that is completely free of chemicals that could off-gas to some degree.  You might consider getting a floor sample or used model that you could test before you buy it.

Is it Safe to Use Hand Sanitizers?

Photo by Anna Earl on Unsplash

Debra wrote a guest post this week in response to a friend who asked her what hand sanitizer to use to protect against the coronavirus.  I wanted to build on the topic a bit more because this has been on my mind recently.  I spent many years when my children were young trying to avoid hand sanitizer; it was everywhere, from super-sized bottles in the classroom to miniature tubes swinging from backpacks.  I told my kids to politely refuse but to instead wash their hands…a lot.  I surprised them a couple of weeks ago when I passed them a bottle while we were flying home from vacation.  Given the rapid spread of the virus, I’m following the CDC’s recommendation to use a hand sanitizer when soap and water is not available.

 

Fortunately, you don’t need harsh chemicals to protect yourself.  Follow these preventative actions and learn more about the CDC’s guidance to create a household plan.

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water. According to the FDA, it doesn’t matter what soap you use.  Antibacterial soaps have not been proven to work any better than regular soap.  My favorite non-toxic brand is Dr. Bronner’s Pure-Castile Soap.
  • If soap and water are not available, use a hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
  • Clean frequently touched surfaces using regular household detergent.
  • Clean your phone! Apple recommends cleaning the surface with a soft, lint-free cloth and warm soapy water but warns against getting moisture in the openings.

 

Which Hand Sanitizers are Best?

 

Ideally, you want a hand sanitizer that includes the CDC’s recommended 60% or higher alcohol content but does not include unnecessary, harmful chemicals.  Fortunately, in 2019 the FDA banned 28 active ingredients for hand sanitizers, including triclosan and benzethonium chloride.   Here are some additional ingredients to avoid:

 

  • Benzalkonium chloride is a biocide, preservative and surfactant that is associated with severe skin, eye and respiratory irritation and allergies. It is currently being reviewed by the FDA to determine if it is safe and effective for use in hand sanitizers.  It’s restricted for use in cosmetics in Canada and Japan.
  • Fragrance as an ingredient can be a mix of undisclosed chemicals including phthalates. These mixes have been associated with allergies, dermatitis, respiratory distress and potential effects on the reproductive system.
  • Color Additives, labeled as FD&C or D&C followed by a color name and number, are sometimes made from petroleum and some may contain heavy metals. Some synthetic colors can be carcinogenic.
  • Parabens mimic estrogen and can act as hormone disrupters.

 

Here are some non-toxic hand sanitizers (EWG rated 2 or better) that also have at least 60% alcohol:

 

Why is Hand Sanitizer Not Good for Long Term Use?

 

Not only are hand sanitizers not as effective as hand washing, they have health risks when used frequently. Here are some risks:

  • Regular use of antimicrobials such as benzalkonium chloride can lead to the development of resistant bacteria.
  • Ethyl alcohol, which is the active ingredient in most hand sanitizers, and isopropyl alcohol are being evaluated by the FDA to determine if they are safe and effective for use in hand sanitizers. Alcohol can be drying and irritating to the skin.  It can strip the skin’s natural barrier, leaving it more vulnerable to attack from irritants, allergens, bacteria and viruses.

I plan to only use hand sanitizers during periods when there is a  high risk of infection.

Hand Sanitizer for Coronavirus

Question from Terry

What hand sanitizer is the least harmful and would be strong enough for the virus?

 

Debra’s Answer (guest answer from Debra Lynn Dadd)

Here is a page recommending hand sanitizers for coronavirus. I don’t know if they actually did any research to see if they work on corona visor or if it’s just a list of hand sanitizers.
13 Best Hand Sanitizers to Fight the Coronavirus

The active ingredient in most is ethyl alcohol (ethanol). Two use benzalkonium chloride and one uses thymol as the disinfectant. Scroll down the page and you will see the pros and cons of each.

The first question I would ask is which of these active ingredients kill viruses?

Alcohol DOES kill viruses “on contact”, according to this source.

As for benzalkonium chloride, it deactivates some viruses after 10 minutes of exposure at room temperature, according to this source.

So I personally would choose alcohol. You could purchase any of the hand sanitizers that meet your needs listed in the article or just used plain rubbing alcohol, which you can get at any supermarket or drug store.

Here is a CDC link where you can track cases in the United States. So far the numbers are extremely low. But here you can follow along and see if there is a risk to be concerned about.

I’d also like to point you to the transcript of a Toxic Free Talk Radio show I did where I interviewed Pamela Seefeld, a pharmacist, about colds and flu. We talked about viruses.

Basically you want to support your immune system so it can do its job to control viruses:

  • vegetables and fruits regulate and up-regulate t-cell activity to go to find viruses (You need to have oil, some kind of fat present on the vegetables to be absorbed)
  • control stress
  • reduce toxic chemical exposure
  • do moderate exercise
  • take the herb Andrographis
  • take homeopathic remedy Engestrol by Heel
  • take coconut oil
  • take liquid zeolite

You can read more details about all of these at:

It’s Cold and Flu Season—How to Support Your Immune System and Why You Shouldn’t Get a Toxic Flu Shot

Portable Cooktop

Question from Jeana

I’m looking for a least-toxic portable cooktop. My current one is still working so it’s not urgent yet, but is on its last legs.

If anyone has looked into this, I’d love to hear what you found out!

My last two I’ve used are both Waring Professional Double Burner. Body is made of stainless steel. But the thing strongly offgassed for months. Maybe safe— I researched but did not find out much.

 

Lisa’s Answer

This is not something I have researched.  Readers, any suggestions?

Fabric for Truck Seat Cover

Question from Karen

Do you have any recommendations for fabric/material for truck seat covers? We need fabric or leather that does not off gas.

 

Lisa’s Answer

I recommend Two Sisters Ecotextiles.  All of their products are free of harmful chemicals.  You can contact them and find out if their upholstery fabric is durable enough for truck seats.  Leather is very durable but can be processed with hundreds of chemicals.  You can read more here about the chemicals in leather, natural leather, and sythetic leather.  There are vegetable tanned leathers that aren’t as chemically intensive, but you would need to find out what chemicals are used in the specific leather you are considering.

It’s also worth noting that the cushioning under the fabric is probably a bigger exposure than the cover.  The foam degrades over time and can release toxic dust.  Unfortunately, the fabric will not mitigate the exposure.  If you are re-covering your seats anyway, consider replacing the foam cushioning with natural latex.

Toaster Ovens

Question from Shirley

Which toaster oven is safe to use?

 

Lisa’s Answer

I have not done a full evaluation of toaster ovens.  It is challenging and time-consuming, and sometimes impossible, to accurately evaluate appliances because manufacturers are often unable or unwilling to disclose all of the materials used in their products.

Here is a link to one reader’s experience trying to find out more about the Proposition 65 warning label on the toaster oven box.  She found that while the oven contained BPA and styrene, 2 chemicals that should be avoided, they were present in the plastic feet on the bottom of the toaster.  While it would be better that they were not in the product at all, such small amounts in pieces not in contact with food, should not be a case for concern.

Lead and Glass

Question from Dee

Hi there I am really at a loss.

My baby is 10 months old and a couple of months ago for some reason I was looking at plastic and toxins and it’s heightened my anxiety. I am very scared about everything my baby has been exposed to and scared about his future.

I immediately changed to giving his food in glass bowls, he drinks out of glasses and I store his food in glass bowls. I bought Kilner (rayware) freezer glass containers and chop and cook and store all my baby’s different fruit, vegetables and lentils etc in there so they are stored over a month in the freezer usually and this allows me to give him homemade food.

I noticed black kilner writing on the base and I emailed them.

I received the below response:

“Thank you for contacting The Rayware group with your enquiry.

Whilst we are unable to advise all our products to be entirely lead/cadmium free I can advise that any trace would be to minimal and that all our products meet all European and UK standards for metal release.

I can also advise that any products that we supply directly to our stockist in America do not require a proposition 65 label”

My dilemma is do I go back to storing and using baby plastic bowls, cups and containers or not as I’m scared about the lead and cadmium.

I’m so confused and really unhappy as everything I try seems to be toxic so what do I do?

This has all made my anxiety worse and I’m feeling very down.

 

 

Lisa’s Answer

I would not recommend going back to plastic.  Plastic has the potential to leach an array of harmful chemicals into food.  It has been shown to leach under most conditions.  You can read more about it here.

Most glassware purchased in the U.S. and EU is safe to use.  You can read more about glassware here.

If you read the link above about glassware, you will find that there are some types of glass that it is best to avoid.  Lead glass, or lead crystal, can contain high levels of lead that could leach into food or drink.  Glass with decorations, such as painted rims, may have a high lead content from the decoration which could flake off and be consumed.  Vintage glass could have been made before regulations to limit leachable lead levels were in place (in the U.S., the FDA started regulating leachable lead levels in 1971).

Oven Liner

Question from Ruth

I have MCS. Would like to find a ‘safe’ oven liner. What is available from Amazon is a non-Teflon material which I don’t think would be good even though the company says it doesn’t have a smell.

What do you recommend? Might a silicone kitchen mat be a possibility if it tolerates temps up
to 500 degrees?
Thank you so much and keep sharing great information.

 

Lisa’s Answer

I did a quick search of oven liners and I would not recommend any of them.  I do not use them myself.

It’s hard to say if silicone is safe for use as an oven liner.  More research needs to be done on silicone and I plan to look into it further.  There are different types of silicone and some can release formaldehyde when heated.  You can read more about it here.  Using silicone in the oven at low temperatures is probably okay but I would not recommend it for use over 350 degrees.

Mattress Protector

Question from Suzie

I’m looking to find out what waterproof mattress protectors are least toxic for my daughter’s bed.
I bought one from a reputable company made of organic cotton and what I assumed was a P.U.L.  waterproof membrane. When I arrived it smelled that horrible toxic plastic way. It turns out the membrane is polyester. Would this give off a smell and is it toxic?
Another (cheaper) option I was looking at was an organic cotton with polyurethane laminated directly onto the back. Do you think this would be less toxic?
Any other options I could look into?  Do you think I should return the one I have bought?

 

Lisa’s Answer

Polyester will offgas.  Polyurethane is less toxic and a better option.  I recommend this one from Naturepedic.  Pure polyurethane is one of the least toxic plastics but some have additives that are not disclosed to consumers.  Read more about the toxins in plastics here.

Naturepedic is GOTS certified and uses pure polyurethane.

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