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 Milena
Glad to find this website. I recently got married to a man who suffers from MCS in a very severe way. We want to travel, to any place in the world, to have some vacations. Do you know any hotels we could be using, anywhere?
There used to be a directory of hotels for MCS that I believe no longer exists.
Here are some posts where I’ve already written on the subject:
Hotels continue to be a toxic industry. I stay in B&Bs when I can.
Readers, if you have stayed someplace you consider safe, please put it in the comments.
Here’s a place in Berkeley, California that especially caters to MCS: The North Berkeley Hils Homestay.
Question from Sicili
I was wondering if you could please tell me which one of the three dishliquids you would use if you were choosing between , Better Life unscented, Attitude fragrance free and Seventh Generation free and clear? Thank you so much for your time. I hope you have a nice day 🙂
From coconut and corn
No SLS (sodium lauryl sulfates), SLES, ethoxylates, petroleum solvents, synthetic fragrances, dyes, parabens, or triclosan. No harsh chemical residue. Just the good stuff.
Purified water, potassium cocoate (natural castile soap), lauryl glucoside (plant derived), caprylyl/capryl glucoside (plant derived) glycerin (vegetable), disodium coco-glucoside citrate, aloe barbadensis leaf extract, tocopherol (vitamin E)
Non-toxic and biodegradable
Safe around kids, pets, and the planet
Never tested on animals
Kind to waterways and marine life
Made in the USA with solar energy
Attitude Baby Dishwashing Liquid
We promise to use only the safest and purest ingredients.
Aqua/water/eau, coco glucoside, myristyl glucoside, lauryl glucoside, sodium chloride, sodium gluconate, sodium citrate.
- Free of carcinogen ingredients and by products (IARC group 1 & 2)
- Free of 1,4-dioxane and ethylene oxide, tested by independent laboratory
- Certified eco-friendly by EcoLogo, the most recognized certification in North America
- CO2 neutral: no contribution to climate change
- Fragrance free
- Vegetable-based and biodegradable (OECD 301)
- Free of EDTA and NTA
- Not tested on animals
- Vegan product
- Septic tank safe
- Made in Canada
- I can find who owns Attitude or anything about them
Seventh Generation Natural Dish Liquid
Though this Seventh Generation product is plant-based and free from fragrances and dyes, the company is now owned by Lever, so I have less trust about the integrity of the product. Lever is not dedicated to making toxic-free products. So I wouldn’t use this one for that reason, especially since there are other choices available.
* * * * *
Either of the first two would be fine with me. The Attitude product is simpler and has fewer ingredients, the Better Life product has the added benefit of aloe and vitamin D, but otherwise their ingredients are very similar and they are both plant-based and fragrance-free. If I had to choose one, I’d go with Better Life, because they are more transparent about who they are and they are clearly motivated by purity of product. And I like that they use solar energy. I work in a solar-powered office. 🙂
Question from Cindy
I have been wearing orthotics in my shoes for the past 5 years. Recently, I found out that the owner of the company could no longer provide his orthotics, because the rubber in the middle layer of this product contains mercury, and has been banned. I have been able to walk pain-free in these orthotics, so am dismayed, but I am also concerned if the mercury is capable of leaching out into my foot. I wear these everyday, all day. Am I in danger of mercury poisoning?
Thank you so much.
First of all, I went searching online, but couldn’t find any reference to mercury in orthotics. FYI here’s a list of materials used to make orthotics. Mercury isn’t included. This doesn’t mean YOUR orthotics do not contain mercury, it just isn’t common.
And you mentioned it was in the middle layer. So you would have had no skin contact. The mercury would have had to have been outgassing for you to be exposed, in which case you would have inhaled it.
There are many types of mercury, from the elemental particle to oxidized vapor, and each will enter your body and move through it in different ways, with different effects.
I doubt this mercury has had any effect on your health, but if they have banned it, there is a reason.
I would suggest you go back to them and ask what form of mercury was used and why it was banned.
Then you could go online and look for the toxicokinetics for that type of mercury.
You can look up this kind of information for any chemical by searching for “toxicokinetics” name of chemical”.
Toxicokinetics is a description of the routes by which a chemical enters the body, the rate of entry, and what occurs to metabolize and excrete the chemical once it is in the body.
As long as you know the exact chemical in the exposure, you should be able to find it’s toxicokinetics.
Enriched wheat flour [flour, malted barley flour, reduced iron, niacin, thiamin mononitrate (vitamin b1), riboflavin (vitamin b2), folic acid], water, sugar, yeast, dehydrated onion, wheat bran, cornmeal, salt, wheat gluten, preservatives (calcium propionate, sorbic acid), grain vinegar, rice flour, monocalcium phosphate, cornstarch, mono- and diglycerides, polysorbate 60, soy lecithin, potassium iodate, onions.
And there it was: soy lecithin. It’s an ingredient you’ll find in a lot of chocolate bars, but I didn’t expect it in a bagel. I guessed the other ingredients were probably there, but this was an unusual circumstance. I thought I could eat a little Sara Lee bagel and get away with it. But I couldn’t.
This onion bagel was the joy of Larry’s day so I wanted to find a better bagel.
First I went to a local bagel shop. They didn’t have their ingredients posted, so I asked. I was told they didn’t know the ingredients. They just bake the bagels. Apparently it all comes in a mix or something, they aren’t actually mixing ingredients at this location. I’m not sure this is legal to not have the ingredients available for a food item, but that is not the issue here. We couldn’t find out the ingredients to see if the bagels contained fat or not. When we asked this specifically we were told, “We don’t know so don’t buy the bagel.” Talk about difficulty getting a list of materials used to make a product…
Then we went to a local independent grocery where we often shop. They had bagels in bulk bins that we could buy individually, but no ingredients. But there was an attendant at the bakery counter. We asked her and she said “These are authentic New York bagels. They only contain flour, water, yeast and salt.” And she picked up the phone and called the bagel maker to confirm.
We bought those authentic New York style bagels and loved them, The Sara Lee bagels didn’t even taste like bagel and were more like bread than bagels.
Now, you are probably asking why I didn’t buy organic bagels. Well, I tried. The first place I looked was my local organic food store. But they didn’t have any. We used to buy bagels at the farmer’s market made from organic hand-ground whole wheat flour and they were out-of-this-world delicious. But they are no longer being made.
So for the moment our best choice is fat-free, additive-free bagels. But they are a tiny part of our whole food intake, which revolves around whole organic foods, more than half purchased at the farmer’s market.
I’m telling you this story just because I mostly live in the world of natural food store and farmer’s market. It was actually shocking to me to look back at industrial food and experience what it is made from, how it tastes and what it does to my body, and to see how difficult it was to get the ingredients of food products.
Just a little slice of life to show the range of choices.
Now that I’ve had my bagel digression, I’ve decided I’d rather eat my whole organic food. The day after I wrote this I bought a loaf of hand-ground whole grain organic bread made from heirloom Italian grain. Oh so much better!
As you may know, Larry and I moved across the country from Florida last September. Last week we accomplished the momentous milestone of moving to a storage unit half the size, so I thought I’d celebrate by looking for my linen sheets.
Turned out they were in a bag I had brought into the house and stuffed in the closet months ago, but I was happy to find them.
I had one white linen sheet I had inherited from my great aunt, one white linen pillowcase I had received as a gift from Life Giving Linen and one natural linen duvet cover I had purchased at Macy’s last year on sale. At the time I had thought we would be doing a lot of traveling, so I bought a king size duvet cover with the idea that we could put it on top of any hotel bed and sleep between linen sheets. We haven’t yet done that, but we did try to use it as a duvet cover on our queen wool comforter and that didn’t work very well.
Meanwhile I had been looking at buying this Sheet Set from Rough Linen that is currently on sale. The description explained that it had two flat sheets to save money. It occurred to me that also made sense because my problem with sheet sets has been that the bottom fitted sheet wears out much faster than the top sheet and pillow cases, and with two flat sheets I could alternate which one is on the bottom and the sheets would last longer. In fact I think the two sheets should be numbered or have some indentification symbol on them so you can alternate them easily. Of course, we would all need to learn to make mitered corners, but it’s not difficult.
But before I could get to mitered corners, it was late and there were no sheets on the bed, so we just laid the linen duvet cover on top of the mattress and used the comforter with the cotton flannel cover that fit and I used the white linen pillowcase and it worked perfectly! My body so loved laying on that linen again! I could feel my body releasing tension. And then the flannel cover was cozy and warm. Just perfect, perfect perfect. Just laying the sheet over the mattress is working very well. No corners to fold and it actually stays in place better than the fitted sheet.
I highly recommend that you consider linen sheets if you can afford them. They are worth saving up for and will last longer than cotton,, especially if you alternate two flat sheets as I described above.
As it turned out I didn’t buy the sheet set because I was happy with the combination of the bits and pieces I already had. But one day I will buy a set of linen sheets and sleep happily ever after.
Question from Dean
Are you aware of any health dangers posed by UPF/UV treatments on clothing?
First let me explain what this is.
You’ve probably heard of SPF with regard to sunscreen. That stands for Sun Protection Factor and measures the amount of time it takes for skin exposed to the sun to redden.
UPF is a similar measurement for fabric, which indicates the amount of UV radiation that penetrates a fabric and reaches the skin. To learn more about the UPF rating system and choosing UPF clothing, see this excellent article from REI: How to Choose Sun Protection (UPF) Clothing.
Now to answer your question.
Sun protection fabrics are generally made from synthetic fibers. Those that have chemical additives don’t seem to be disclosing what those chemicals are. The only UPF additive I could find was nanoparticles of titanium dioxide.
I generally don’t recommend synthetic fibers and don’t recommend chemicals that do not disclose what they are.
There are many guidelines that explain how to choose clothing that offers some protection without wearing synthetics or unknown chemicals. Any dark, tightly woven natural fiber will offer protection.
Here’s an article with more information: SUN & SKIN NEWS: Dress to Protect: 5 Things that affect How Well Your Clothes Block UV Rays
Question from Sue in TX
I am allergic to polyester. I used to be able to buy nylon umbrellas from Totes, but they switched to 100% polyester (at least I have not been able to find an existing Totes umbrella, at this time, that is not 100% polyester). I have searched online, for any brand, and I cannot find a nylon umbrella. Thank you for any help!
I had no problem finding nylon umbrellas. Here’s a whole page of nylon umbrellas at amazon.com.
But while I was looking I found an interesting article about the construction of umbrellas at QUORA: Why are umbrellas made of nylon? Isn’t there a more waterproof material that could be used?
Umbrellas may disclose the basic material they are made from, but often don’t tell you they are waterproof because they are coated with Teflon or “most often” a polyurethane film.
Apparently the most common material now for umbrellas is Pongee, which is usually silk, but can be a synthetic material by the same name.
In purchasing an umbrella, try to find out if waterproofing chemicals or films have been added.
Question from Bonnie
I have an old winter coat I have been using for years that is finally going bye bye. I need to replace it with a new one but have not had much luck over the years. I am allergic to down. Anyone have any luck with this?
Readers, what suggestions can you offer?
I live in a fairly temperate climate, so I’m usually warm enough with several layers of cotton shirts and sweaters and scarves. I haven’t owned a winter coat in years.
But I did find a website called AlpenStyle that offers “outerwear for women [and men] manufactured by companies that reflect the best fabric quality and styling of European sweater pullovers and cardigans, coats and jackets. AlpenStyle carries three of the most prominent ladies’ outerwear clothing lines: Icelandic Design, Geiger of Austria and Skjaeveland. AlpenStyle specializes in these three producers of fine clothing because all three provide incredibly high quality products, all reflect that particular look associated with European clothing and because all three are companies with high integrity offering natural fabrics that feel good to the touch and stand the test of time.”
These are not inexpensive, but are very well made and designed to last. Plus sizes too.
What do you all do for winter coats in cold climates?
I finally got a whiff of the new scratch-and-sniff postage stamps at my local post office this morning.
Though I knew they were coming, I hadn’t written about them before because “scratch-and-sniff,” well, I didn’t know for sure if that meant one needed to scratch them before you could smell them.
But now I can tell you with certainty that they DO smell before scratching, just like those perfume inserts in magazines.
The scent actually upset my stomach and triggered me to rush to the nearest store to get something to eat/
To me, this is just an unacceptable infringement on my human rights.
Last week I wrote about a 2016 ruling a woman’s chemical sensitivity was a disability under the American’s with Disabilities Act (ADA) because it interfered with the major life activity of breathing.
The ruling outlines accommodations employers may need to make in the workplace for those with fragrance allergies, which go so far as to ask or require other employees to abstain from wearing or using scented products.
But it’s not just about allergies. Synthetic fragrances emit toxic chemicals . We are all being exposed now to yet another source of toxic chemicals for “fun.”
I don’t want scented stamps in my pile of mail, but I can’t opt-out of the exposure without opt-ing out of the United States Postal Service, which I have a right to use as a citizen of this country.
Please don’t buy these stamps. And encourage others to not buy them too. And how can we get the Post Office to stop selling them?
Question from Jane
You are one of our “household gods” and have been for many years. It is such a relief to find a source of information about chemical sensitivities and allergies that is non-judgmental and so widely and wonderfully informative!
My specific concern right now is Mrs. Meyer’s products, especially her laundry products. I have only moderate MCS, but I cannot use Mrs. Meyers at all. Several years ago, I actually had to get up in the middle of the night and change our sheets because they had been washed with her detergent.
The company makes so many claims to be fresh and natural, and yet their scents do not smell at all natural to me! For example, I know real live honeysuckle and its beautiful scent. Mrs. Meyer’s version of “honeysuckle” is not what I recognize as the real thing!
Yet I read and hear, on YouTube especially, people I would think of as intelligent just rhapsodizing about Mrs. Meyers products and, worse, convincing other people to buy and use them! What are the long-term effects of exposure, especially to children, of these highly fragranced, super-hyped items?
I know you share a longstanding concern about fragranced personal care and household items. But this line of products is marketed with such sweet promises that they make me think of the scene in the Disney film Snow White, when the witch looks at the beautiful apple she has prepared for Snow White, and we see a skull and crossbones take shape over that lovely red surface. Isn’t this what is happening here?
Thank you for any comments you can make!
It’s not a secret that Mrs. Meye’s products contain synthetic fragrances. They disclose this right on their Ingredient Glossary.
Note they are not organic, so whatever pesticide is in the natural material gets concentrated into the essential oil. My standard is ONLY certified organic essential oil (and if you see anything otherwise on my website please let me know so I can remove it).
I agree with you that this is exactly like the poison apple from Snow White.
There has been a period of time where our product purchases have been influenced by how well advertising appeals to us, rather than what we need and rather than evaluating the product. I think we’ve all be there. I know I personally have made an enormous shift from buying things because advertising convinced me to buy, to buying based on my real needs to sustain my own life and health and planet.
It’s a whole different mindset to consider how to sustain a life, but that is the question Larry and I discuss every day. Will making a particular choice contribute to sustain ourselves, our health, our relationship, our ecosystems, or will it contribute to their destruction. This is the basis of our life together.
A reader asked me the other day with so much information available, that often conflicts, who do we listen to? For me, it’s not WHO, it’s WHAT is the result of using that information in my life.
Larry and I sometimes talk about using toxic chemicals for glamour, fun, and profit. A face covered with toxic cosmetics is no longer beautiful to me, bright blue food doesn’t make me want to eat it. Give me a farmer’s market and linen sheets and essential oils and water fresh from a spring and I will be very happy and deeply satisfied.
Now, about Mrs, Meyers. I think the biggest problem here is that their message and their ingredients are not aligned. And that is a problem of Truth in Advertising. They are making you believe that the product is natural and pleasurable when it’s not. There are laws about this.
Here’s a website where you can report companies making bad claims, take legal action, and more (or so they say, I have no experience with them): TruthIn Advertising.org
I could spend all day reporting false claims but I would rather spend my time educating consumers and making more known companies that are making true claims and using toxic-free materials.
There! I did have a few comments on this.