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Submitted questions will be posted with my response by the following Tuesday or before.
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Question About Freezing Plastics

Question from J.K.

Hi Debra,

Thank you for all the work you do figuring all this out. I’ve seen a lot of things on plastics, but one thing I’m not sure of is; how safe is it to freeze plastic containers? I make broth and like to freeze it and have always done so in glass containers, but as you know, they can crack while unthawing. I tried freezing in some of my old washed sour cream containers that are plastic, but I ended up tossing them for fear of the plastic leaching. What about making homemade popsicles in those plastic containers, or even ice cubes? If #’s 1, 2, 4, & 5 are safe, are they safe to freeze in as well?

Thanks again for your help.

God Bless!

J.K.

Debra’s Answer

I found a webpage called Freezing Plastic Water Bottles that addressed a rumor going around that one should not freeze water in plastic bottles because it releases carcinogenic dioxin. This had been attributed to Johns Hopkins University.

The author of this webpage did some research and found…

This sounds right to me because I know that heat increases outgassing and cold inhibits outgassing. So I would say the SAFEST place to use plastic is in the freezer.

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Safe plastic food packaging?

Question from BB

I am curious about how to avoid plastic packaging in the supermarket. Almost all meats are and many fruits are packaged in number 6 plastic, which is supposed to leach some kind of toxin. I hear it is one of the “bad ones” along with numbers 3 and 7. Does anyone know who might use the new bioplastics?

Debra’s Answer

I personally make a point to not purchase foods packaged in plastic. For meats, I go to a butcher at a natural foods store or a local natural meat butcher, both of whom wrrap my meat in paper.

FYI, bioplastics would not be used for food wrap as they don’t hold up well against moisture.

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Using Natural Progesterone Cream For Hair Renewal

Question from Joan E Fletcher

You recently wrote that your husband starting using a natural progesterone cream for hair loss (Q&A: Natural Hair Restoration) and it had helped. I have also been losing my hair for approximately six years. It is very thin but i am unwilling to use rogaine or other products on my head. Could you tell me if he used it as directed and how long before he noticed a different in his hair. Thank you so much for all the helpful information you provide.

Debra’s Answer

Here’s my husband’s response…

The product he uses used to be called Best Gest. It has now been renamed to Moisturizing Cream #1. It has the exact same ingredients. The website for Nature’s Botanicals, maker of the product, is currently down, but the product is available and can be ordered by calling 800-203-9668.

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Plastic Shower Hoses

Question from Deb H.

Debra,

We have a whole house water filter.

After reading your Home Safe Home book on plastics, I’m concerned about the plastic hoses on our hand-held shower handles.

I prefer the hand held shower handles because we can rinse the shower/bathtub walls easily and completely after cleaning them with AFM’s safety bathroom cleaner. Our current shower handles do not have any kind of filter on them.

Are the plastizers, etc leaching into the water that I’m showering in? If I replace them, do you know of a hand held shower handle that does not use a leaching plastic hose? If I buy a hand held shower handle with a filter on it, will the filter filter out the leaching plastics?

I’ll swith back to the old standard shower heads if need be but I sure hate to lose the convenience of the hose type for cleaning.

Debra’s Answer

I think most hand-held shower handles have plastic hoses, but I don’t know what type of plastic is used. If you can call the manufacturer of the brand you have, I can better answer your question.

Without testing the water that comes through, here’s my logic. Since I know heat makes plastic outgas, a lot of the plasticizers that may be present probably have already been released because of the heat of the water. So it would be better to keep using your old one than to get a new one.

If the shower handle had a filter in it, and I think some of them do, I think it would be such a small amount of filter medium that it would do very little. However, since you have a whole-house filter and the filter in the shower handle wouldn’t have to remove other pollutants, it may remove whatever plasticizers may be present.

It’s really really important to remember with plastics that there is a wide wide variety of plastics with very different levels of toxicity. So it’s really important to identify the type of plastic and not assume a danger where there may be none.

Find out the type of plastic and I’ll help you sort this out.

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Safety of Cellulose Insulation

Question from Charlotte Shoemaker

I need to supplement the existing (fiberglass) insulation in the outside walls of my home. (It is in the San Francisco Bay area; it is not terribly cold here but my heating bills are too high.) Cellulose insulation sprayed into the wall cavity from the outside would be the easiest and least expensive way to go but I am concerned whether or not the ink residues and other possible chemical additives could seep though the inside walls and make my otherwise very healthy home become a problem for me. I am chemically injured so I need to be very careful about any changes that are made to my home. I am interested in other peoples experiences with this product.

Thank you,

Charlotte

Berkeley, CA

Debra’s Answer

Readers?

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The Toxicity of Plastic

I’ve had a few questions this past week about plastic water bottles, as some readers have budget considerations about purchasing metal resuable water bottles.

To respond to this, I want to give you a little primer on plastics and toxicity, so that you all can evaluate for yourselves which plastics are toxic and which are not.

The primary concern about plastic water bottles is the leaching of bisphenol-A, which has been well publicized. The best source I’ve found to learn about the health effects is Our Stolen Future.

There is now another website BisphenolA-Free that is posting items on the dangers of bisphenol-A as they occur in the news.

The main message is that polycarbonate plastic leaches bisphenol-A and so all polycarbonate should be avoided.

But there’s a little more to the story.

Many years ago, when I first started researching plastics, I learned three important things, which I wrote about in Home Safe Home.

1. There are many many many many plastics. Each are different in their toxicity. When we say “plastic” we are referring to a huge field of materials. So it’s not really fair to say, “It’s plastic, therefore it must be toxic.” Because that’s just not a true statement. There are plastics which are very toxic, and plastics which are pretty safe, and plastics that are in between.

How do you tell which is which? There are two very easy-to-use and helpful documents that can help you sort this out. I’m glad others put these together.

* Quick Start: Plastics at a Glance notes the plastics to avoid and those which are OK to use, giving brand names for both in different common product categories.

For water bottles, they recommend some BPA-free bottles on this guide, but I was unable to find them online. This list has been around for at least a couple of years, so my recommendation is to look on the bottom of any plastic bottles you are considering and choose those with a #4 (LDPE–low density polyethylene) or #5 (PP–polyreopylene). Check the bottles you find in local stores and search on “LDPE water bottle” and “PP water bottle” on the internet (more results came up than I can list here).

* Smart Plastics Guide has more information on identifying plastics, along with data on the dangers of specific plastics and general guidelines about what you can do.

Here’s the shortcut tip to remember: 1-2-4-5 are OK. Forget the rest.

2. The form of the plastic makes a difference. A single type of plastic can be used to make many different products. Various plasticizers are added to the basic formula to make the plastic softer. The general rule is that the harder the plastic, the less it outgasees, and the softer the plastic, the more it outgasses.

Let’s look at polycarbonate again. The polycarbonate used to make water bottles is fairly soft. The plastic itself is stiff, but you can squeeze the bottle. The Vita-Mix blender container is also made out of polycarbonate, but it is very thick and hard by comparison. You can’t squeeze this container. So, given the same conditions, the softer water bottle would release more bisphenol-A than the Vita-Mix container, which may not release any because the molecules are so tightly bonded together in the hard plastic.

3. Heat causes plasticizers to outgas. Whenevre you expose a plastic to heat, it will release molecules of plasticizer. And conversely, cold lessens the release of plasticizers. So if you have a case of plastic water bottles sitting in the sun on a truck or in front of a store, they are going to warm up and leach plastic into the water. Likewise, if you wash a water bottle to reuse it and use very hot water, it will leach. Also, whem you put plastics in the microwave they can leach, and the use of harsh chemicals like bleach can make them leach as well. So don’t try to sanitize a water bottle with hot water if you want to reuse it. Wipe it with vinegar, a natural disinfectant, instead.

I hope this has been helpful to clear up the confusions about plastics. Feel free to post any questions you have by clicking on POST A COMMENT.

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Teen developes natural product line…

Question from Nancy

Debra,

I don’t think I remembered to send you info on this young woman and her products. I saw her on Oprah one day. At 12 or 14 she got a bad hair product, felt she could do better, and went after it. Her parents encouraged her interest and scientific approach as she ordered herbs and natural products and learned her craft.

She just celebrated her Sweet 16. I haven’t ordered anything yet. Here’s Jasmine Lawrence’s website: www.edenbodyworks.com

Nancy

Debra’s Answer

I didn’t see any ingredients on the website, so I can’t evaluate these products for their naturalness, but they claim to be. If anyone tries them, let us know.

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Is Bon Ami Cleaning Cake Available Anywhere?

Question from Nancy Jacokes

Is is possible to find the Bon Ami Cleaning Cake? The last I found was in a very old hardware store and it is now closed. Is it still manufactured?

Thank you for any help you may give me

Nancy Jacokes

Debra’s Answer

I did a search around and couldn’t find it anywhere. It is no longer in production.

The “Bon Ami 1886 Formula Cleaning Powder” in the can is the very same formula as the bar, except ground up into a powder.

This can be ordered on the internet, if you don’t find it in a local hardware store (it’s not usually in supermarkets.

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Pickle Recipes

Question from Maria

I’ve been looking online for Pickle Recipes altough I keep finding some that dont tell me how to make them home made step by step without add pickle flavoring mixes

Debra’s Answer

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ARE TOXIC PRODUCTS HIDDEN IN YOUR HOME?

Toxic Products Don’t Always Have Warning Labels. Find Out About 3 Hidden Toxic Products That You Can Remove From Your Home Right Now.