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.

Is Real Salt Radioactive?

Question from Kathleen S.

Hi Debra,

My understanding of Real Salt is that it was mined in an area where nuclear testing had been done. My chiropractor said she would never use it, but recommend Celtic Salt. I read that Himalayan salt has problems too. So it seems very difficult to find any thing safe.

Debra’s Answer

I’ve done extensive research on salt and came to the conclusion that safest salts are those that come from underground sources. These are ancient sea beds that are not contaminated with modern pollution. So that would be Real Salt and The Original Himalayan Salt.

While I ate Celtic Salt for many years, I no longer eat any salts that come from the sea due to extensive pollution of sea water. Celtic Salt and some other salts are harvested from pristine areas and so are better than other sea salts, but underground salts are protected from modern pollution.

Here’s a response from Real Salt about your radiation question. Please share it with your chiropractor. “Nuclear tests were done in Nevada (not Utah) in the 1950’s, but it in terms of nuclear protection (time, distance, shielding), there is no possible contamination of our Real Salt.”

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Antimicrobials in Polyurethane Foam Used in Mattresses and Upholstered Furniture

Often when I am researching one chemical or product I will get clues about other chemicals in products.

And so it was that I came across a mention of “antimicrobials in polyurethane foam” and so of course I had to go find out which antimicrobials are used in polyurethane foam.

And it took me about two minutes to find this:

It’s the antimicrobial used in polyurethane foams. And they specifically boast they are “a proud supporter of CertiPUR-USA“.

It’s “US EPA registered, BPD compliant and Oeko-Tex listed,”

US EPA registered means it’s a registered pesticide. Here’s their EPA Registration

UItra-Fresh*DM-50, as received in its concentrated form, is a potentially dangerous material and should be handled with the care and common sense that be accorded to all biologically active • ( Ultra-Fresh”‘DM-50 – IDS Page 4 of4 March 1998 chemicals. Ultra-Fresb*DM-50 is corrosive to eyes and exposure.can cause skin irritation. May be fatal if swallowed. DQ not get in eyes, on skin, ~r on clothing. Wear goggles or faces shield and rubber gloves when handling. Avoid contamination offood. Treated effluent should not be discharged where it will drain into lakes, streams, ponds, or public water.

This is stamped ACCEPTED by the EPA, but nowhere does it say what the chemical is!

BPD compliant means it meets the requirements of the Biocidal Products Directive (BPD) which is a European Union directive regarding the placing of biocidal products on the market.

Oeko-Tex listed. It actually is Oeko-Tex listed, right here on this page:
OEKO-TEX Products with Biological Activity

It’s part of a group of active chemical products “which have been inspected by independent toxicologists and assessed as harmless to human health when used as indicated and intended. The safety assessments are based on information, test reports, recipes etc. which have been provided by the manufacturer for the product in question. The test reports taken into consideration for this assessment have been drawn up by accredited toxicological and/or dermatological institutes.”

The active chemicals products approved on the OEKO-TEX® list are in line with the latest European regulations, specifically with the Article 95 list of Biocidal Products Regulation No. 528.

In addition to Products with Biological Activity, other active chemical products are fiber materials with flame retardant properties and a list of accepted polymers without assessment which includes polyvinyl chloride.

I’m not sure this standard means anything at all. If all they are doing is certifying the materials meet government standards, then all products obeying the law would qualify. This isn’t the same standard as their Standard 100 for textiles.

Here’s a specification sheet for the antimicrobial that gives this warning:

Ultra-Fresh* Antimicrobial Additive is flammable. Keep away from heat, sparks and open flame. Use with adequate ventilation. May cause eye and skin irritation. Do not breathe vapour or spray. Wear suitable protective clothing such as gloves and eye and face protection,

And here is the MSDS

The MSDS reports a chemical in the Chemical Family Isothiazolinone and the listed ingredient is
2-N-Octyl-4-isothiazolin-3-one. And it turns out to be an antimicrobial that has very widespread use in a lot of consumer products. One of them being mildewcide in latex paint.

There is much concern about allergic contact dermatitis with this chemicals. Here is a summary of scientific studies about 2-N-Octyl-4-isothiazolin-3-one

Another Isothiazolinone, called Methylisothiazolinone (MIT) is known to be allergenic and cytotoxic, which has brought it to the attention of the European Union There the rate of people allergic to it is skyrocketing.

Here’s the Ultra-fresh entry the the Pesticide Action Network Pesticide Database.

Here it’s considered a “bad actor” product and says the active ingredient is Thiabendazole, which they identify as a carcinogen and a developmental or reproductive toxin.

Antimicrobials are designed to kill very tiny organisms. How can this be safe for humans? Our bodies are full of microorganisms.

What we know now is that there are antimicrobials in polyurethane foam and their safety is questionable.

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Thoughts on Earth Day 2017

PHOTO CREDIT: Smoke Stacks Upper Ohio River by Gerry Ellis


I first became aware of the “environment” in 1987. How that occurred is a whole story in itself, but
the result was that suddenly I became aware that the products I used every day not only could affect my health, but they could also affect the environment. And I began to explore this idea in a small newsletter printed on recycled paper called The Earthwise Consumer.

This was three years before “green” exploded in 1990 with the 20th anniversary of Earth Day and a little runaway bestselling book called 50 Simple Things You Can Do to Save the Earth. I happened to be there the day it was released. My booth was right next to theirs at some expo.

I wrote about both the health and environmental effects of consumer products for some years. The New York Times even called me “The Queen of Green.” But I came to a point where push came to shove and I decided I couldn’t consider everything. And I chose to go back to my roots and specialize in toxics. Because the green movement seemed not to be interested in toxics and health (green, after all, is about the environment), and someone needed to do this.

But more importantly, from my viewpoint, toxics is the most important environmental issue there is.

The whole environmental movement started because Rachel Carson wrote Silent Spring, which is about the poisoning of the environment by pesticides. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was founded to protect the environment (not people) from toxics.

But our government doesn’t have a People Protection Agency (so I have to at least identify the toxic chemicals, find out where they are in consumer products, find the products that are free of these toxic chemicals, and make this known to the world so people who want to protect themselves and their loved ones from toxic exposures can have a choice).

If you’ve ever taken an airplane flight you have heard the stewardess say, “Put on your own oxygen mask first,” and then help others. Because without helping yourself and being healthy and able, you cannot help others.

And so for me, I decided to help get all the people of the world healthy first. Then we can help the environment. But as it turns out, every time each one of us makes the decision to not use a toxic product to help our own health, it also helps the environment.

On Easter morning I was thinking about what to write today, and I thought about a problem I’ve had for a number of years. The problem is how do I describe what I am working for without describing it as a negative. “Toxic-free” starts with the problem of toxics and says. “No. No toxics.” OK. A world without toxics.” What is that? What does it look like? What are we reaching for?

In the time it took for me to write this question in my journal, I had the answer.

Though I have a lot of attention on removing toxics from our homes and the marketplace of consumer products, that’s not what I’m really doing.

In my own mind and heart, I am aware of what I call “the world of Nature.” also known as “the environment.” For me, it’s a living, breathing, amazing ecosystem that once was pristine and now has been polluted by human activities.

So when I think of ‘toxic free” it’s a picture of our living planet, which includes all life processes and species, including us homo sapiens, without all the pollution. It’s a picture of us all belonging to this incredible system of life and supporting it with our actions instead of harming it. That’s what I’m reaching for. That’s what I’m imagining. That’s what I want in my heart of hearts.

The first step in healing from a poisoning is “remove the poison.” When we live toxic free, what we’re restoring is life. Our own human lives and life as a whole.


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Sustainable Fashion?


An article from the UK newspaper The Guardian last week reported on a partnership between the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) , the world’s largest conservation organization, and an London-based fashion community AwaytoMars to create “the world’s first 100% sustainable clothing line.”

The clothes will be made of a “newly designed” cotton fibre called Infinifed Fiber “that can be recycled an infinite number of times and which won’t, in theory, wear out.”

I couldn’t find more than that one page about this fiber, and no photos whatsoever, so I’m not sure if this is real or theoretical.

But I do know something about recycling paper, which is a similar process since it is recycling a natural cellulose material. You can’t infinitely recycle the same paper. You use a little material every time you recycle it. You have to keep adding new paper to mix with the old paper. Here’s a whole article about Why cotton is so difficult to recycle—and how clothing retailers hope to change that.

And I know something about making new fibers from cellulose. This is done every day. It’s called “rayon.” And you can’t recycle cellulose into fiber without a lot of chemicals. (Here’s another company also attempting to do this: Evrnu.

But here’s the bigger problem with this: it’s not sustainability.

Sustainability is about sustaining the life systems of planet Earth.

It’s about using the renewable resources that have been designed by Nature, in amounts that can be sustained by the system. Organic cotton is a perfect example of sustainability. You grow the cotton organically, and theoretically you could put that cotton right back into the field at the end of it’s useful life and it would regenerate the soil. That’s what a tree does. It pulls from the environment to make leaves, then drops it’s leaves back into the environment to restore the environment.

We should be supporting organic agriculture, not inventing new manmade processes.

Sustainability is also about not poisoning the system with toxic chemicals. Every time each one of us make a toxic-free choice, we are not only protecting our own health, we are also helping the environment.

THE GUARDIAN: Fashion in new bid to be truly sustainable

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BPA-Free Cans & Disaster Foods

Question from Mary

Hi Debra,

I would like to order some canned beans to have on hand for disaster purposes. These say the can is bpa free but how do I know if it’s bps which I read is even more toxic. (Or in case of disaster, do I care?) I have some powdered beans but that would require boiling water.

Because of dental issues I am limited as to what I can eat, but what do environmentally sensitive people do re: disaster foods?

Vitacost Certified Organic Black Beans – Non-GMO and Gluten Free

Debra’s Answer

We’ve got two questions here.

What’s in BPA-Free Cans?

First, how do you know if a “BPA-free” can is BPS or not?

You ask them.

So I went to the VitaCost website and asked their customer service chat “If your can linings aren’t BPA, what are they instead?”

The chat representative couldn’t answer that (and there was no information on their website) so she sent my question up to a higher authority, who did answer my question within two hours. Here’s their response:

Now this does tell you it’s not BPS. But what about this modified acrylic and polyester?

I searched further and found a detailed report on this very subject called BPA: Buyer Beware.

Researchers found five major coating types are being used in can linings. In addition to the BPA-based epoxy, there are four “BPA-free” alternatives:

  • acrylic resins, many contain polystyrene, made from the styrene monomer, a possible human carcinogen. 39% of cans tested had a polystyrene-acrylic combination
  • polyvinyl chloride (PVC) copolymers, made from vinyl chloride, a known carcinogen. 18% of private label foods and 36% of national brands
  • oleoresin
  • polyester resins

Multiple formulations of these chemicals are used to make can linings and “there is no way to determine the specific chemicals used or how they are produced.” I would just add this points to one of the major problems with “free” labeling. It may be free of one chemical, but may contain others. This is why I look at what materials are actually being used (to the degree I can get the information), rather that the list of what’s not.

So I’m thinking the “modified acrylic” used in your black bean cans is modified with styrene.

And I’m thinking that polyester resins are used mainly for lids and not for can linings.

As food packaging is the larger source of exposure to BPA (BPA easily migrates from food packaging into food and drink), the best way to reduce your exposure to this hormone disruptor is simply do not eat or drink packaged foods and beverages. Within days BPA will leave your body completely.

BPA: Buyer Beware—Toxic BPA and regrettable substitutes found in the linings of canned food
This report, compiled by an alliance of toxics organizations, identified and analyzed the interior linings and lids of nearly 200 canned foods.

EWG’S BPA Bombshell
An easily searchable database of approximately 16,000 processed food and drink items packaged in materials that may contain BPA.

Disaster Foods

As for disaster foods, last year I wrote a post on my Toxic Free Kitchen blog called My Idea of 72-hour Emergency Food in which I outlined how I would put together a 72-hour emergency food supply to suit my own preferences. There were no cans.

I’ve never actually been in such an emergency myself but some years back after hurricane Charlie I volunteered to do disaster relief and my job was to hand out emergency meals. They were just sandwiches and cookies and apples and chips in a box with a bottle of water. If any of these people had emergency rations on hand, they were, literally, blown away. Their homes were gone, along with all their possessions.

So just think about what your disaster might be and plan accordingly.

Now if you are considering long-term emergency food supply in case our food supply collapses, that’s a different question altogether. I’d start planting and saving seeds and keeping chickens.

Last night Larry and I went to see the film The Zookeeper’s Wife, which was about a woman who hid Jews from the Nazis in her zoo during World War II. In the end, everyone had nothing. No amount of planning and being prepared can stand up to mass bombing.

And if you are ever in that situation, dear reader, I think the greatest good would be to eat any can of beans you can get your hands on, even if they contain BPA.

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Papa John’s Pizza Goes (a little bit) Organic


Pizza with a few organic ingredients isn’t new or unusual (type “organic pizza” into your favorite search engine and you’ll probably find a local pizzeria that has organic ingredients—I found one right close to me here in Florida with organic tomatoes and local ingredients).

But the news here is that Papa John’s— a chain pizza corporation—is doing an organic pilot program using organic Roma tomatoes, mushrooms, green peppers, and yellow onions.

It’s a step in the right direction.

Organic blogger Max Goldberg thinks this is important and significant.

Read his interview with Papa John’s Chief Ingredient Officer (that’s really his title).

LIVING MAXWELL: Papa John’s Pizza Makes the Decision to Go Organic — Why This is So Important

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New Program Verifies “Glyphosate-Free”


The Detox Project, who has been offering tests for humans to detex the presence of glyphosate pesticide in their bodies, is now moving into testing food for glyphosate residues and allowing the produce that passes to display the Detox Project glyphosate seal.

Last year they tested many popular processed foods for glyphosate residues and found m and published aa list of food products that do contain the pesticide in Glyphosate: Unsafe on Any Plate.

Now they are working on identifying the foods and food products that don’t contain residues of glyphosate.

They are currently inviting food producers to register for the process, so don’t rush to your local store and look for the seal.

There are two levels of verification.

Glyphosate Residue Free — “To be certified Glyphosate Residue Free, your product must have no glyphosate or AMPA residues down to the limits of laboratory detection (between 0.1 ppb and 20 ppb depending on the product), a standard that is tougher or the same as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Maximum Residue Limits (MRL).”

Glyphosate in Transition — “Glyphosate In Transition products have to show a low detection level (under 200 ppb of glyphosate and AMPA) in the first third party testing and then have to reduce this level to ‘Glyphosate Residue Free’ within a 2-year period.”

The transition seal tells consumers that a company is working toward eliminating glyphosate, which is good to know, but not good to eat. To me, “glyphosate in transition” means the food has been tested and it’s known to contain glyphosate.

It will be interesting to follow this and see if organic foods tested turn out to be glyphosate-free (as we assume they are) and who gets the transition rating.

THE DETOX PROJECT: Glyphosate Residue Free

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I received the following email this week from a woman who wants to take some action to get toxics our of automobile interiors. I’m all for a collective effort on this and would like us all to work together on this. Please post in comments your support for this and any experiences you’ve had with toxic auto interiors, difficulties finding nontoxic cars, and anything else related. Thanks!

Interestingly, as I was looking for an image for this post, I found the image above on an article about stricter regulations on auto interiors in China! The article was published in The Hog Ring a place for auto upholstery professionals to read news, connect and talk shop” Maybe this is a place to start a discussion on this topic.

Question from Maria

Hi Debra,

I sued a Dealership and Mfg. for a brand new car that I bought that made me very ill.

I also filed as the first case with the government. they actually sent an independent inspector out who confirmed the toxins within the car.

I’ve been involved in these issues for approx. 30 years. I am looking for speakers, people that have experienced symptoms, etc. from new cars, any legislation. I would like to submit a proposal to our state to write laws, label cars as we do foods, investigate., witnesses , etc.

Any info., assistance, etc. would be appreciated.

Years ago EPA told me I was 7 years ahead of them in investigating the auto interiors and I was shocked to find out 20 years later that it still was not done.

I am willing to get this moving but need to get enough people to show there is a problem.

Thank you!

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Unscented Bath Tissue

This is the unscented bath tissue I use.

Question from Kristal

Hi Debra,

I, along with many others, are having a terrible time finding bath tissue (toilet paper) that we can use. Charmin Basic worked well for all of us, but it has now been discontinued, and none of us have been able to find another tissue we can use without allergic reactions. Trying to find out what ingredients are causing this reaction is impossible, because they will not disclose ingredients contained in these products.

If you have any information, please share it…and in the meantime, I am planning on starting a petition to require ingredients to be disclosed on labels of all products that come in contact with the skin of consumers.

We also can’t find ingredients used in laundry detergents unless manufacturers choose to put them on their labels. I guess it’s not required. Any suggestions?

I subscribed to your page, but have not received a confirmation in my email yet so I can respond.

I have created a petition for Charmin to bring back Charmin Basic, so if you know anyone who might want to sign it and pass it on to others, that would be great. I did, at one time, manage to get a list of its ingredients, and I believe it contained Virgin Wood Pulp and a small amount of some kind of adhesive or glue to hold it together. Very few ingredients…three or less, is what I think they told me. I found 32 people who posted on Charmin’s facebook page who could not or would not use the replacements for various reasons, including many who had allergic reactions, and they could not find anything else on the market that was working for them. Just like me. Here’s a link to the petition:

I am going to need to find people willing to sign a petition to submit to my legislators in Washington regarding requiring disclosure of ingredients on labels of all products that come in contact with skin, so I’m hoping to have my ducks in a row before I create the petition. I’d like to know I will have some support behind it. My thinking is that if they won’t tell you what is in these products, there is a good reason they are hiding that information.

Debra’s Answer

Good for you to do something about ingredients. I’m totally in agreement with you and will help however I can.

Did you see my recent post about Californians overwhelmingly in support of right-to-know legislation for cleaning product ingredients ?

We DO have a right to know all the ingredients in all products on the market. And we need to assert that right.

I use Scott Unscented Bathroom Tissue.

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Food Safe Glass

Question from Chris

Hi Debra,

While looking at a large glass jar at Oriental Trading Wedding I noticed it was labeled “not food safe” use only wrapped candy. I was under the impression that all glass was food safe. I was reading your blog and am very curious niw about glass quality. Many of us store our foods in these jars.


Debra’s Answer

No, not all glass is food safe. There are many types of glass used for many purposes, each with it’s own characteristics.

The most common method of making glass is to heat raw materials into a molten liquid and then rapidly cool the liquid in such a way that the atoms remain in a random state.

The raw materials are various powders which include network formers, fluxing agents, property modifiers, fining agents, and colorants.

The two most common types of glass used in consumer kitchenware are soda-lime silicate glass and borosilicate glass.

Food safe glass is regulated by the federal Food & Drug Administration (FDA). Glass (and plastic) containers containers are consider “indirect food additives” by the FDA. These are substances that may come into contact with (and end up in) food from packaging or processing equipment, but are not intended to be added directly to food.

The FDA has determined that both borosilicate glass and soda-lime silicate glass are Generally Regarded as Safe (GRAS). The GRAS designation is given to substances added to food directly or indirectly that are considered to be safe by experts.

Here is a whole study about food-grade glass, prepared by The Glass Packaging Institute: Compliance of Glass Packaging with Human and Environmental Health and Safety Toxic—in—Packaging Requirements.

This document states:

Preference for glass has persisted throughout the ages and in all cultures due in large part to its safety, impermeability, and durability. In food packaging applications, glass has long been recognized as the gold standard, due in significant part to its being virtually inert, meaning that it does not react with other elements and forms no new compounds when it comes into contact with other chemical agents or compounds. As a result of this virtually inert quality, glass does not interact with the foods or beverages contained in it, and consequently does not affect the flavor of its contents. Similarly, glass is virtually impermeable to oxygen, so does not affect — and is indeed protective of — the freshness of its contents. Consequently, glass does not require the addition of any food additives or preservatives in order to maintain flavor or freshness, unlike many other food packaging materials. Glass has long been recognized as the preferred material for food packaging, due to this virtually inert quality and its protection of the food or beverage that it contains.

It also states:

Unlike other packaging materials, glass packaging is manufactured at extremely high heat with simple components, resulting in oxidation of most trace amounts of heavy metals that may be present in the raw production materials [italics mine]. For this reason, and because glass packaging is virtually inert, glass packaging properly does not present any significant health and safety or environmental concerns.

Therefore even if there were any heavy metal impurities in the raw materials, they would not be present in the finished glass product.

I haven’t read the entire 50-page document so there may be more relevant information. But these are the key items for this discussion.

Soda-lime-silicate glass is made from three ingredient—sand, lime and soda ash. No lead or other heavy metals are added to this glass for any reason. Borosilicate glass is made of by adding boric oxide to the basic soda-lime-silica mix.

Lead is added to glass to make it sparkle in the light. But this is very clearly labeled with lead warnings. This is limited to “cut crystal.” And the lead WILL leach into foods and beverages. Other types of decorative glassware may also contain lead and not be so labeled because it is not intended for contact with food.

For food storage, only use glass containers intended to be used as food containers. Those will be made with a food-safe glass.

Decorative glass items are usually NOT food safe and probably contain unknown substances that can leach into food.

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