Submitted questions will be posted with my response by the following Tuesday or before.
Submitted comments will be moderated and approved within 24 hours.
Question from Stacy
I am using Ziplock freezer bags to keeps things dry in the car for my emergency supplies. Do I have to worry about offgassing in the car and with the high temperature? It it made of PE.
Food grade polyethylene is the safest plastic there is.
Question from Miriam
My son needs two cavities filled. The MSDS of the 3M filler our dentist uses has some unpleasant ingredients. What is the least toxic resin or non resin solutions for tooth fillers for a kid with allergies (including nickel allergy)? He also needs braces and I want to know the least toxic materials we can have placed.
I can’t speak to allergies. You would need to look at the individual MSDS to identify ingredients that your son is allergic to.
Is your son unable to wear metal braces due to his allergy? If you are looking at plastic brackets, polypropylene would be a less toxic option.
Another thing to watch out for is that many bracket adhesives have slow -releasing fluoride in them. Ask your orthodontist for an adhesive without fluoride.
Question from Debbie
I have a bike trailer which I’m guessing has flame retardants on it. Do these wear off over time? It is about 5 years old and I was wondering if I can safely use it for my new baby now?
It is impossible to tell without knowing what the product is and exactly what chemicals are used. In general, flame retardants are designed to not wear off. Other concerns are the use of PVC or water- proofing chemicals.
Are you wondering if it’s safe to use your stainless steel cookware? Searching the internet for answers can be confusing because some tout it as among the safest of choices and others deem it a toxic source of heavy metals and recommend complete avoidance. A more detailed assessment reveals that the safety of stainless steel is more complicated than a “use it” or “avoid it” label. Some individuals can use it safely under certain conditions while others should avoid it completely. Let’s break it down.
What Are the Concerns About Cooking with Stainless Steel?
Studies show that stainless steel cookware can leach nickel and chromium into acidic food. Before we get into specific results of these studies, let’s look at the health effects of nickel and chromium.
Is Nickel Harmful?
Nickel is an essential micronutrient that plays an important role in human metabolism (1). Too much nickel can be toxic, and therefore the National Academy of Sciences sets a Tolerable Upper Intake Level (UL) at 1000 µg (micrograms) per day. Adults ingest an average of 69-162 µg per day. Most nickel exposure comes from food and water. Foods that are naturally high in nickel include chocolate, soybeans, nuts and oatmeal. Once nickel is ingested it is removed by the kidneys and quickly passed out of the body.
Jewelry that contains nickel can also be a significant source of exposure and is thought to be why women are more at risk of developing nickel sensitivities than men. An estimated 10-20% of the population have a sensitivity to nickel that leads to dermatitis. For those who are sensitive, a single dose of 67 µg can cause a flare up or lead to systemic dermatitis.
The most serious risk is to people who breathe dust containing nickel compounds while working in an industrial setting. The EPA has determined that, under these conditions, nickel is a carcinogen.
Is Chromium Harmful?
Chromium is not as much of a health concern as nickel. It is an essential trace mineral in the human diet but is poorly absorbed. The recommended intake for adults is 50-200 µg and the most adults get 60-80 µg from their diet. Up to 7% of the population may have a chromium sensitivity that can cause dermatitis (2).
How Much Nickel and Chromium Leach During Cooking?
One study found that nickel and chromium leached into acidic food. A number of variables were studied:
The grade and composition of the stainless steel. The most common grades of steel are 304 and 316. The grade refers to the quality, durability, and heat resistance. Higher numbers mean higher quality. Many cookware items will also have a ratio, such as 18/8 or 18/10, which tells the percentage of chromium and nickel, respectively. This study did not find a correlation between the percentage of nickel and the amount of nickel leached, so it is unclear if there is any advantage to buying 18/8 over 18/10. Similarly, the study did not show that the higher grade (316) leached less than the lower (304) in all cases.
The cooking duration. In general, the longer cook times resulted in more leaching.
The age of the cookware. New cookware leached significantly more nickel and chromium. After the 6thcooking cycle, the amount of leaching levelled off.
On average, after the 6thcooking cycle, the cookware leached 88 µg of nickel and 86 µg of chromium. This is well within the Tolerable Upper Intake Level of 1000 µg. For perspective, a ½ cup of peanuts contains 68 µg of nickel. So, cooking with stainless steel may add a significant amount of nickel to an average daily intake but still be within acceptable levels. All tests were done using a high-acidic food (tomato sauce), so presumably foods with lower acidity would result in less leaching. It is important to note, however, that sensitive individuals could react to just one meal cooked in stainless steel cookware.
Recommendations for Using Stainless Steel Cookware.
- If you have a known sensitivity to nickel or suspect you may have one, avoid all stainless steel cookware.
- If your cookware is new, wash it thoroughly. Cook a solution of 50% vinegar and 50% water for a 2 hour period and discard the solution. Repeat these steps 6 times (3).
- There is a very high grade of stainless steel (430) that has only trace amounts of nickel. If you can afford it, look for cookware with this grade. Avoid any products that have an aluminum core as it could leach aluminum if deeply scratched.
- Avoid cooking highly acidic food, such as tomato sauce or chili, for long cooking durations.
- Rotate your cookware so that you do not get too much exposure to the same materials.
If you are simply more comfortable avoiding stainless steel cookware, it is a personal choice and do what it right for you. But, if you hate the idea of giving up your favorite pot or pan, follow these simple guidelines and keep cooking.
Question from Audrey
Would like to know what you and your mcs followers use for dry, chapped lips. I used to use vitamin E in a dropper from Needs – but they stopped making it. Too expensive to open up a vitamin E capsule. Coconut oil which is supposed to be great , smells and I cannot tolerate it. I have been using olive oil, but it gets rancid too fast and if I put it in the refrigerator it makes the oil get hard and cannot use.
I use Badger Unscented Lip Balm. It is non-toxic, but I can’t tell you if you will react to it or not. Everyone reacts to things differently.
Question from Page
Some years ago, thanks to Debra’s info, in order to avoid toxic metal, I purchased Xtrema ceramic cookware —& have been very pleased. But now am needing to cook faster (especially brown rice and legumes) and am wondering if you could guide me as to the possibility of a pressure cooker which would be acceptable.
Or if not, could you guide me how to cook brown rice, etc a little faster than the Xtrema can do. Please advise.
I am not aware of a pressure cooker that is not stainless steel. I use one for cooking rice and am not concerned about leaching since I only use it every now and then and for a short duration. This may not work for someone who has a nickel sensitivity. See more on stainless steel here.
Question from Tanya
During an exhaustive search for truly non toxic toilet paper I came across the following brand: Monkeylips Green Tea Toilet Paper on Amazon.
Have you heard of this toilet paper? If not could you please look into it to see if it really is non-toxic? It’s not very clear so I’m not positive about this but they claim (on Amazon) that it is made of organic green tea. 100% virgin (green tea plant?) pulp. And also unbleached but lightened with green tea as well. I am also not 100% sure about fragrances being involved.
It sounds interesting but I can’t confirm how it’s whitened, what type of pulp is used and if fragrance is added. They claim there are no synthetic chemicals or additives. The websites has no phone number but I submitted questions and will post any answers I receive. If the virgin pulp is from trees, it will have environmental impact even if it’s not toxic but that is a personal choice.
You can read more here in Toxins in Toilet Paper.
Question from Susan
we just purchased last week a whirlpool side by side refrigerator and the noise is driving me crazy and i am near tears. I have seen a website with this same complaint from many people who feel they are having neurological problems and feel as they are going insane.
have you heard about this problem? i think it can seriously impact me. I had no problem with the inside and outside of the frig as far as my chemical sensitivity but this noise is soooooo horrible. thank you for your help.
Readers, any advice?
We looked at IKEA bed frames in a previous post so it’s a natural follow-up to take a closer look at bedding. After looking at dozens of items the conclusion is the same; IKEA takes admirable steps to limit the use of harsh chemicals but in most cases the products are not completely non-toxic. This may be acceptable for some people in certain applications. I recommend taking extra steps to find truly natural products for the bedroom because we spend at least 7 hours (hopefully!) in it every night. The bed frame, mattress and bedding are most important because they are in continuous, close proximity to your body and you breath in any off-gassing chemicals. If you can afford to invest in purely non-toxic products for your bedroom there are many great companies on Debra’s List that sell beds and bedding.
If you are in need of more affordable products, IKEA offers some bedding that is likely to be less toxic than products from retailers that don’t restrict chemicals beyond government standards and aren’t as transparent about their materials. But keep in mind that IKEA has the following limitations:
- It doesn’t disclose all of the chemicals used in processing the final product.
- It doesn’t use third-party testing.
- It limits, but doesn’t exclude, use of harsh chemicals such as formaldehyde, phthalates, and fluorinated (water-repellant) chemicals.
Let’s look at the best IKEA options.
PUDERVIVA is the only model that is made of 100% linen. It’s possible to process linen without chemicals. IKEA does not disclose the chemicals used to process the linen but, in general, linen is produced with fewer chemicals than cotton. It also states that no chlorine or optical brighteners are used. This is the best choice from IKEA.
VÅRVIAL, DVALA, SÖMNTUTA, NORDRUTA, and FÄRGMÅRA are made from 100% cotton without the use of chlorine or optic brighteners. These are the next best choices from IKEA. They could still contain low levels of chemicals.
AGNSÄV, JÄTTEVALLMO, and ÖKENSTJÄRNA are made with 100% cotton but they do not specify that they are made without chlorine or optical brighteners. This is a clue that they use both. Optical brighteners are chemicals used to make fibers appear cleaner and brighter. There are over 90 types of optical brighteners in commercial production so it’s impossible to say what is used in this product. I would avoid these items.
All of the other sheets are made with cotton and lyocell blends, which should be avoided. You can read more here about the issues with lyocell.
KORNVALLMO, GULDPALM, and JORDRÖK are filled with duck down and feathers and have a 100% cotton cover. Down is a better choice for fill than polyurethane foam but it may not be entirely free of chemicals. You can read more here about chemicals that may be used to wash and treat down fill. These are the better choices among the IKEA pillows, but I would recommend instead to look for non-toxic pillows with fills such as 100% certified organic kapok, buckwheat or cotton that are comparable in price. There are several on Debra’s List.
All other pillows from IKEA are filled with polyurethane foam and are not recommended.
HÖNSBÄR, KÄLLKRASSE,and SÖTVEDEL are filled with duck down and feathers and have a 100% cotton cover. These are the better choices from IKEA but, like the pillows, they may not be completely non-toxic. Look for certified organic options from brands listed on Debra’s list.
All of the other comforters are filled with polyester and are not recommended.
JOFRIDis the best option from IKEA. It is a linen/cotton blend and is undyed and unbleached.
INDIRAis the next best option. It is made from 100% cotton without the use of chlorine and optical brighteners.
VÅRELD, TUVALIE, JOHANNE, and ODDRUN,are made with 100% cotton but it does not specify that they are made without chlorine and optical brighteners. Both are likely used in the production of these items.
All other bedspreads and throws are made with synthetic fibers and are not recommended.
Keep a look out for future posts on more IKEA products.
Question from Marie
Looking for a mattress that won’t negatively affect my health at a reasonable price point. For me it would be maximum price with taxes etc. $2000.)
Looking at Avocado but a little firm on standard- with pillow top very heavy.
There are great options in Debra’s List. Check out Happsy for a very affordable certified organic mattress at a great price point.