Ask Your Questions About Toxic Free Living
and Get Answers From Me and My Readers
I’ve been doing this Q&A blog for about ten years, so there are literally thousands of questions and answers here. If you’ve got a question, there’s probably an answer, and if there isn’t post a question of your own. It’s free.
Question from Tara
Do you think Durham’s Water Putty is safe to use? We used it to patch holes in my son’s bedroom closet and I occasionally catch a smell in his room that I attribute to the putty, even though we used it a year or two ago. Here is the MSDS: www.homedepot.com/catalog/pdfImages/e8/e8833293-5ff5-47c3-b64d-24e3edf32408.pdf. According to the website (waterputty.com) it contains no VOCs. My husband is getting ready to use it for another project, so I wanted to get your thoughts.
Thank you so much!
From what I see on the MSDS and website, this looks like a good product to me. I don’t see that it contains anything that you would smell.
From their website:
Our material does not contain any toxic ingredients… of course, that toxicity is in regard to human beings… and it has never caused any problems to pets like dogs and cats who have licked or eaten it. Even snakes… but, not being a bee expert, I don’t think I can speak exactly to the point.
I have been here answering questions for nearly 35 years, and have never heard of our product being a problem for bees or had any reports of bees getting ill from contact with Durham’s. There are, however a couple of things to keep in mind. It is not a waterproof material and will absorb liquid sorts of materials. I guess a mold could develop on it, but I imagine that could happen on wood as well.
The ingredients in water putty are mostly derived from minerals, like limestone and a plant based starch binder. We’ve used the same formula for about 80 years, so it doesn’t contain anything that wasn’t around in 1932!
It contains no Volitile Organic Compounds.
Question from E. from Canada
Any tips for finding safe headphones?
I have decided to look for in-ear headphones since there is less material I might be sensitive to.
I thought I picked out a good pair: Reveal Bamboo Earbuds. They were anodized aluminum, phthalate-free and BPA-free but the cord still had a strong plastic odour.
What questions should I be asking manufacturers in order to figure out if their headphones are low VOC?
(E. from Canada)
You are on the right track with your Reveal Bambook Earbuds.
I’m not surprised there is a strong odor from the cord. It’s probably a standard PVC cord that may even have lead in it, which can be absorbed by your skin when you touch it.
The difficult thing is that I don’t think there yet are PVC-free cords for things like this.
The best thing I can recommend for you is to get these bamboo earbuds and then wrap the cords with something. Just any fabric would work to protect against lead, but not the VOCs. Foil will block the PVC fumes so you might use foil tape, or foil under fabric.
I would ask what types of plastics are used to make the headphones, because they are all plastic.
The ridiculous thing is that headphones probably could be made from some nontoxic, food-safe plastic, they just aren’t doing it…yet.
But…Here are a whole lot of choices for headphones made from bamboo and other natural materials, but probably still PVC cords.
Question from Melissa
I am decorating my daughter’s room and am having a hard time finding ready-made window treatments that I am comfortable using (all I want is a simple white cotton shade, which does not seem to exist these days . . .).
Pottery Barn Kids makes a variety of cotton and linen Roman shades but all have a blackout lining that is described as 80 percent polyester and 20 percent cotton blend. I have read other posts on your site in which concern was expressed about acrylic blackout lining. Is the polyester/cotton lining in these Pottery Barn shades ok, or would you have concerns with these too?
Here is a link to the item on the Pottery Barn website.
Thank you very much,
My only concern about the blackout lining is that polyester/cotton blends are generally treated with a formaldehyde-based finish. Even if you asked Pottery Barn about this, it’s likely that they wouldn’t know.
It’s fairly easy to get this type of shade custom-made online or locally, and it’s not very expensive. If it were me I would do this and provide your own fabric.
Question from Leona
Where can I get a cotton or a nylon shower curtain? Or a another alternative to vinyl, or polyester?
Most stores sell nylon shower curtain liners, designed to put inside a decorative fabric curtain to keep it dry.
I don’t recommend cotton shower curtains because they mold easily and the mold just eats them up.
Hemp shower curtains are a good choice and can be purchased online, on websites such as Rawganique.
But I finally just installed glass shower doors, which you can buy at Home Depot or Lowe’s for less than $100. Any handyman can install them.
Question from Alison
Thank you for your website and for all that you do!
My cook wants to wear gloves while working with raw meat. I was wondering if you know whether nitrile medical gloves are safe (ie don’t leach anything into the food), or do you know of a safe glove to use? Maybe natural latex?
The gloves won’t be used for anything heat related, just things like cutting meat, and making meatballs.
Thanks so much!
The use of gloves for food prep is common—it’s done in every restaurant.
I just took a peek at disposable gloves regarding your leaching question, and I’ll just summarize by saying that all the materials leach, and this is addressed during a step in processing. But it appears that different brands of gloves may be leached for different periods of time. I have no way of creating a reccommendation to evaluate which might be the best gloves because of this.
The main materials used to make disposable gloves are
- Vinyl / Poly (PVC)
But if you look at all the choices for gloves, it quickly becomes apparent that there may be other additives for various functions.
I would avoid the PVC gloves for toxicity.
Nitrile is a synthetic rubber made from acrylonitrile and butadiene. Acrylonitrile is a suspected human carcinogen, considered toxic, and know to release ions of cyanide. It also cannot be legally released into the environment because it is considered hazardous. More on acrylonitrile…
Latex would be OK if you are not latex sensitive.
It’s a tough decision. What is the reason your cook wants to wear gloves? Is it cross-contamination? I handle raw meat with my bare hands and then wash them with soap and hot water before I handle any other foods. And if I am making a salad, for example, I’ll handle the raw vegetables BEFORE handling the raw meat. I also use a separate cutting board and run my knife under the hottest water after using it to cut meat. I’ve never had any cross-contamination problems.
Question from Cecilia
I would like your opinion about these two stain removers:
I tried the first one, and I think it works pretty well, but every time I use it I would cough and sneeze.
I haven’t tried the second one, but I would like your opinion because it has a bad rating on the EWG website.
In your website I found some old comments about Oxyclean and similar products. Would you still think they are safe to use?
Thank you very much!
The Yoreganics stain remover is totally organic and nontoxic. If you are coughing and sneezing it is likely that you are individually sensitive to one or more of the natural ingredients. This is one of the dilemmas: organic products do not contain toxic chemicals but they can contain potential allergens, whereas petroleum products contain no allergens but may be toxic.
I can see why the Ecover product got a bad rating from EWG. It contains a number of synthetic ingredients, including synthetic fragrances and preservatives.
Another difference is the Yoreganics product is made from whole natural ingredients such as oils, aloe vera, and functional essential oils. The Ecover product contains ingredients that start with renewable resources, but are processed into industrial ingredients.
Oxyclean is made from oxygen bleach (sodium percarbonate) and hydrogen peroxide. Those are the active ingredients. Who knows what else may be in it. You can buy other stain removers with these active ingredients online. Or even just use them alone. Dilute the hydrogen peroxide so it doesn’t bleach your clothes on contact.
Question from R.T.
Debra and readers, are you aware of any cases where finding a chemical free living environment has also allowed emf sensitivities to heal? Finding a place to live that is chemical free is hard enough and finding one that is both chemical free and low-EMF is almost impossible so I am wondering if just getting into a non-toxic chemical free environment and doing some basic emf avoidance (no wifi, no cell phone, no tv, low radiation computer monitor) will be good enough to start recovering. Or does someone with emf sensitivities have to get completely away from emfs before they can get better? (for example, some sites say to get 1 mile form all cell phone antenna/towers which is quite difficult these days). Thanks for any info.
Readers, what is your experience with this?
From Debra Lynn Dadd
Yesterday I was in Micheal’s, a national chain craft store, and saw these giant clothespins sitting in a bin as I was waiting in line.
I looked on the label (lower clothespin in photo) to see what they were made of. Since it didn’t give the material, I slipped the packaging open to feel it, and it felt like wood, so I bought two. Purple is my favorite color.
When I got home and opened the package, there was another label inside that was not at all visible with the packaging. It was hidden under the other label!
This label very clearly states the product is made from MDF (medium density fiberboard) and is meets the Phase 2 California standards. I happen to know this is a “low emissions” standard, which is a clue that it is emitting formaldehyde, a carcinogen.
Even after all my years of examining products, I’ve never seen one like this, where the material is hidden and you can only see the material label after you buy the product. I wonder if this is illegal.
Question from Cypress
I am doing a big detox program and am more aware than ever of what I put on my skin.
I have not found an eye liner that does not sting or burn, either at the time of use, or later. I got one that was said to be made entirely of fruits and vegetables, though I did wonder how they made it black. It burned my eyes, both when I put it on and, particularly, later.
Does anyone know of an eye liner that really is friendly? I am not now looking for what SOUNDS good, but for actual experience as well.
Well, this really is very individual, but readers, do you have a suggestion?
You might like this. Here’s a recipe to make your own eyeliner, from coconut oil, aloe vera, and charcoal.
This recipe is from a kindle book called All Natural Living: 75 Non-Toxic Recipes For Home & Beauty, which also has a recipe for making your own mascara as well as other beauty products and cleaning products. A deal at only $2.99
Question from Jill
I have MCS . My old (and well tolerated) car was totaled in an accident. I finally got so desperate for a car (I live in mountains and have a child), that I bought a 2011 Subaru that had no detailing prior. I thought it might be old enough to be off gassed. I bought it from out of town and unfortunately didn’t have a long enough test time.
My former car (2003) had leather seats and I did fine with them – liked that they were so easy to clean if stuff got on them, especially scents.
Unfortunately, after spending enough time in the new car, I’m reacting terribly to the leather seats and leather steering wheel. After researching, I’m learning that it might actually be “fake” leather made from vinyl and some leather treated with chemicals, painted, and then impregnated with a “leather” scent. Either way – the leather – real or not – is causing terrible reactions. I saw online that even people without MCS have reactions to newer leather in cars, too.
I’m trying everything (super cleaned with baking soda, vinegar, safe cleaners, baked out in sun) and just bought seat covers in the hopes that will help. But the reactions are pretty severe. I’m wondering if anyone has ideas. I’m a but cautious to try ozone. Not sure if that has worked for others.
I did test out a lot of cars prior and didn’t do well in any. Mold issues are also a problem so older cars often have those. Not sure if I should try selling the car and search yet again for another, knowing none will be perfect, or keep working at this, and if so, how.
Readers, any suggestions?