Dangerous Household Chemicals

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Look under your sink lately? There are more than 100, 000 chemicals used in commercial products in this country, and only about 1% have been studied for any possible health consequences. We’ll talk about the dangers these chemicals (and potential alternatives) with Monona Rossol. She is President and founder of Arts Crafts and Theater Safety.


Monona Rossol

Comments [72]

Pam Laub from Florida

My crazy husband used full strength pool chlorine to clean the bathroom shower while I was out. The whole house reeks of clorine and is making me ill. I can't get the toxic odors out of the house. Open windows and fans aren't helping! He is the least concerned person I know about the environment and how chemicals affect it and us.

Feb. 21 2010 09:13 PM
dale reter from summit, nj

What can we use in dishwashers and washing machines that is safe?? None of the cleaners mentioned (vinegar, borax, etc.) are for machines, are they?

Mar. 16 2009 06:19 PM
Jane Davidson, MS Biotechnology from Englewood, NJ

Unfortunately, our economy is built on deception and false premises. My whole neighborhood is saturated with dryer fumes from everyone's laundry detergents, fabric softeners and dryer strips. There is a putrid smog of toxic fragrances, volatile organic compounds, solvents, petrochemicals and coal tar derivatives. It comes into my home. We are forced to breathe it. It's in the workplace and in the schools, adding more stress to our lives. When I come home my clothes stink from the stuff, it's so volatile.
Vaccines may be contributing to autism, but detergents contain heavy metals, mercury and who knows what else, too.
What can we do to change it?
I use fragrance and dye-free detergent. It's an improvement and a start.
Tons of these compounds are being pumped into the air 24-7, making us sick, accelerating global warming and polluting our waters.
If something isn't done soon, these toxic compounds will be to us what lead was to Rome.

Mar. 01 2009 01:40 PM
susan from santa fe, New Mexico


Please excuse the P.S.'s. I should clarify that I meant one of the companies said they looked at every gamut. There is so much information about this all. Please check your ingredients and their potential hazards. For instance crystalline silica is also in both of these milk paints and you can read about that one too. Crystalline silica may be associated with beryllium plus the silicosis hazard. Hope that everyone is being informed and using precautions etc. Thank you, Susan

Feb. 26 2009 07:44 PM
susan from santa fe, New Mexico

I should have added that I have contacted two of these milk paint companies. (I sent them both numerous e-mails) One says that their paints are tested for radioactivity levels. They feel they have looked at every gamut there is (although I did not really realize this MSDS discrepancy then and did not inform them). The other company basically said that if you look around, there are all sorts of toxicity issues. My feeling was not to contact them again.

Anyway, hope you can help with the MSDS discrepancy issue (i.e., why one MSDS would list detectable amounts of arsenic, beryllium, chromium VI and cadmium and another would not mention them in their MSDS?) I guess everyone should call the manufacturer and ask if there are uncertainties.

Thank you. Susan

Thank you again. Susan

Feb. 26 2009 07:25 PM
susan from santa fe, New Mexico

I have a technical question regarding manufacturer disclosure on MSDS's.

I noticed for example, raw umber (CAS #12713-03-0) on one or more MSDS's with the statement saying that there are extremely small but detectable amounts of arsenic, beryllium, chromium VI, cadmium (California Proposition 65). Another MSDS with an identical CAS# for raw umber pigment has no such disclosure of these impurities.

Do you know why this would be? Is it due to testing protocol, testing sensitivity, laws and regulations in different states (it could be that this is only necessary for California and an addendum added as I saw somewhere but really don't know, different pigment sources or dates of collection, different laws involving detectable amounts, manufacturer upfrontness etc.?
Wouldn't this be important as I have read that contaminants such as beryllium can be detrimental even in very small quantities.

I am not an artist but was looking at milk paint and then started to think about pigment toxicity after reading on-line that Kaolin Clay may be radioactive (by the way ultramarine may involve Kaolin Clay in it's synthesis). Additionally these milk paints are sold I believe in powdered form which may increase their potential to be inhaled or contact skin.

Thank you.

Feb. 26 2009 07:13 PM
aw from uws

Ms. Rossol said we should/could "demand" thimersol-free flu shots. These are often difficult if not impossible to find. When I have asked for this (for years now), I have been told that there are no more available, that there is a shortage, etc. Just today I took my 6-month old for her shots and was told that there are no more available. Especially if there is a demand and a shortage each year, why can't they make more???

Feb. 23 2009 12:46 PM
Karen W from Guatemala City

We live in Guatemala City for work and it is very hard to find organic vegetables here (found some organic chicken and lamb!) and I am afraid that my 2 small children are going to be exposed to all sorts of pesticides here (especially since the rules are less strict here). We also have to clean all vegetables with a special product against microbes and amebas, but I think the product contains ammonia. Would it be better to clean vegetables with vinegar or a little bleach even? Does it help at all in order to get rid of pesticides?

By the way, I highly recommend Aubrey products for face creams and cleansers and baby creams. I haven't been able to find anything bad on the ingredient lists, while I have found some bad stuff in Burt's Bee products. (check the website for ingredients in cosmetics and creams)

I clean my house with vingegar, borax, baking soda and murphy's oil, is the latter good?

In terms of laundry, I use "all natural" products like ecover, but is there anything more natural you can use?

Feb. 22 2009 11:59 AM
Lisa L. from Mamaroneck, NY

Forgot to ask you--what do you suggest as a soap for use in the dishwasher and the washing machine? Thanks again--Lisa

Feb. 12 2009 01:34 PM
Lucy from Frankfurt, Germany

Can you please comment on the use of Soap Nuts (that contain saponin?) as a laundry detergent?

Feb. 09 2009 03:32 PM
Lisa L. from Mamaroneck, NY

Thank you for this eye-opening information. It really seems overwhelming when you think of all the harmful chemicals we are exposed to throughout every minute of the day.

When cleaning with white vinegar--is 10 parts water to 1 part vinegar a correct mix? How long would this solution remain effective inside a spray bottle? Also, what do you suggest to use for cleaning bathroom shower tile that would prevent mold? Would baking soda work for that?

And lastly, you mentioned titanium dioxide causing lung cancer. Neutrogena sunscreen for sensitive skin (recommended by my son's dermotologist and the Environmental Working Group's website lists it as a "safer" sunscreen) contains micronized titanium dioxide. And my calcium supplements also list it as an ingredient. Are you saying to avoid all products containing it? If so, do you know of an effective sunscreen that would be safer for people with sensitive skin? According to Environmental Working Group's website-every sunscreen on the market contains harmful chemicals. Thanks so much for your help! Lisa

Feb. 09 2009 11:58 AM
B YELLOWITZ from Closter, NJ

Titanian dioxide is used on vitamin coatings. Should I avoid those or is it safe on or in a vitamin?

Are OXI clean type cleansers safe?

Feb. 06 2009 06:10 PM
david spittal from Fishkill, NY

Thank you for drawing more attention to a growing epidemic in our society. As the manufacturer of the world's only non-toxic memory foam, we are fighting daily to bring awareness to the VOC off-gassing and toxic chemical fire retardents in mattresses. We spend 1/3 of our lives in close personal contact with what is often a toxic hazard. If you would like to learn more about this specific area of toxic concern please contact me directly.

Feb. 06 2009 02:05 PM

thanks for all the helpful postings here, incl the book "organic housekeeping."

Feb. 04 2009 04:57 PM
Dawn Oliveira from Bristol, Rhode Island

Leonard, Monona..first of all, Thank you, thank you for this incredibly relevant, informative show.
I am a veteran textile designer (New York City 20+ years, now located in RI) with a new 3 yr old business creating non-toxic home textiles. We weave only certified, organically grown cotton and hemp,(land free of pesticides for 5 years), processed w/out chemicals, and print our goods with 3rd party tested inks..i.e. Oeko-Tex approved or GOTS approved--(Global Organic Textile Standard). Just want to make the point that, we, as designers & manufacturers in the Green Movement have our feet held to the fire order to force us to create only healthy products--that means safe to the environment(biodegradable) as well as safe to humans( free of all cancer causing chemicals, heavy metals, formaldehyde, resins, all!)
Our biggest challenge is educating our customers about the importance of eliminating toxins in our homes and on this planet. (2 family members lost battles with cancer husband-career artist, father-career shellfisherman, 3rd still fighting)
I will join a panel of speakers in Las Vegas at Fashion/Textiles trade event, "Magic" eductae a captive audience.
I look forward to familiarizing myself with your website and will e-mail you (Monona) with questions.
Amazing amount of info you shared today--loved it!!
Dawn Oliveira

Monona Rossol responds:

Anything I can do to help, I will try.

Feb. 04 2009 01:05 PM
JP from Hackensack

To all that want to know what to use to clean with, it’s already been mentioned several times on this forum, vinegar. You can use it on all surfaces in your kitchen and bathroom (might stain painted wall surfaces though). It works great even without baking soda. Just cut it with water. Plus you’ll have great streak free windows every time. You can dump it on your pets, kids and love ones without fear of a trip to the emergency room. For more non-toxic simple cleaning solutions, you don’t need to buy bogus overpriced “green” cleaners that will probably still kill you over the long run. Instead, consult your parents and ask what was used in the house they grew up in. You’d be amazed to find out that there was a time when houses were kept clean without Dow chemical products living under the kitchen sink.

Monona Rossol responds:

Well said. And a number of people now have said similar things. So we are a growing group.

Feb. 04 2009 01:01 PM
Paul Wood from Montclair, NJ

An indicator of just how little protection exists from our legal system and how really biased toward corporations and business the legal system is, simply compare the lists of lawyers and plaintiffs on the New Jersey Mass Torts website.

Very, very sad.

Monona Rossol responds:

It's why I do expert witness in asbestos cases that involve artists or theater people. It the little guys up against the lions.

Feb. 04 2009 12:51 PM
wendy sobelman from NYC

This raised more questions then answers. I've gone on to the website but found nothing in particular about house hold cleaners. So organic dry cleaners? just baking soda and vinegar? What does the author/ speaker clean her house with- like mirrors and floors??? What about hair shampoos? Are fancy shampoos filled with chemicals. What does she wash with? Your program continues to be wonderful and always pertinent. Wendy sobelman

Monona Rossol responds:

I have only one suit that needs dry cleaning. I find it better to buy clothes that do not need to be cleaned with toxic solvents and then ransomed back. Carbon dioxide dry cleaning is safer, but not many places do this.

The Bon Ami cleanser, Ivory liquid dish soap, vinegar, backing soda, and occasional use of bleach, is pretty much it.

And I've just answered about 100 emails generated from this show and about a dozen of them were from people who use the same limited kinds of cleaners. It can be done.

Feb. 04 2009 12:51 PM
Carolyn from Brooklyn, New York

Read Ellen Sandbeck's "Organic Housekeeping." Gives REALLY practical guidance on how to clean your house effectively without chemicals as we are discussing them here. We are down to white vinegar, baking soda when necessary and a bit more soaking and elbow grease -- not much -- to clean our home. You needn't read the whole book at once because it's divided room by room and covers each room's particular challenges. We've picked and chosen from her suggetions. An incredibly helpful book by someone who did a lot of research.

Feb. 04 2009 12:48 PM
Ralph from Williamsburg, Brooklyn

Why is there no law to put a label with all the active and non active ingredients on all those house hold products?
Just like with food!

That would be a great help to consumers!!!
Instead of buying an ridiculous number of "pseudo" specialized products, one would see that most of them actually share the same active ingredients...

What a help that would be!

Monona Rossol responds:

You really get it. The only answer is to know what is in the stuff. Why chase the MSDS if we can make them put it on the label? The best model is the FDA cosmetics labels. You can find 30 ingredients and a warning on even a little bottle of nail polish.

And they you such would see that most of the cleaners are the same dang stuff.

Feb. 04 2009 12:45 PM
arthur from jersey city

She is great. Have her back repeatedly Maybe I can get my wife to listen!! She and her mother have/had the attitude use the chemicals get the job done, her mother died of cancer.

Feb. 04 2009 12:44 PM
josh lev

Talk about the future author of a bestseller!

Feb. 04 2009 12:42 PM
BrooklynMatt from Brooklyn

I've heard that Bon Ami is an eco-friendly scrubbing powder, because its just pure Calcium Carbonate (or something similar). Does anyone know if that's true?

Monona Rossol responds:

It's a borax product. Pretty good. I recommend it as long as they don't suddenly decide to make it "new & improved".

Feb. 04 2009 12:39 PM
Gina Nicholl from Michigan

What cleaners should you avoid if pregnant

Monona Rossol responds:

Avoid any cleaner with an organic chemical solvent in it. Fantastic, 409, Windex, Simple Green, any of the fast cleaners. Solvents in high amounts are associated with birth defects. Low amounts are associated with hyperactivity, learning difficulties and other neurological problems in children whose mother's were exposed during pregnancy.

Find a nice partner and get him/her to do the cleaning!

Feb. 04 2009 12:37 PM
Marjorie Miller from Westchester

What about chlorine in a pool? Dangerous?

Monona Rossol responds:

Yes, it can cause respiratory problems in swimmers. And it will react with organic chemicals such as some of our body chemicals to form toxic chlorinated hydrocarbons.

The problem is, we have to put something in the pool or we are all going to get each other's diseases. And then there is---let's be honest---pee. So as long as we are what we are, I think pool chlorine is hear to stay.

Feb. 04 2009 12:37 PM

i have found the best cleaner for hands to remove almost anything is olive oil. it removes anything from paint to grease. vegetable oil works too.

Monona Rossol responds:

Bless you. That's what I've told painters for years and it's what I use.

Feb. 04 2009 12:37 PM
Yvonne McClain from NJ

Could you please ask you guest about the chemicals that are added to mattresses for fire retardation and it's out gassing potential as well as the memory foam mattress made from poly-urethane? Thanks

Monona Rossol responds:

There are about 50 different fire retarding chemicals. And you and I have no way of knowing which are in your particular products. I have no idea what outgasses from memory foam. And probably only the manufacturer does know for sure. Will they tell us? Don't you think they should?

Feb. 04 2009 12:37 PM
mike from nyc

What about Tree Tea oil products? I see it in soap and other cleaning products.Is this safe to use? I've heard that it is a hormone disrupture.

Monona Rossol responds:

You heard right. And it contains terpenes and limonene (citrus) among other things. It kind of Australian Turpentine. Buy the soap without the Tea Tree oil.

Feb. 04 2009 12:36 PM


Feb. 04 2009 12:36 PM
Laura from New Jersey

Do you have a "top ten" list for harmful ingredients we should look for? Would it be possible to have that printed on this website?

Monona Rossol responds:

There are no top 10. Not out of 100,000 chemicals.

Feb. 04 2009 12:36 PM
AJ from Brooklyn

Did anyone get the guests email address?

Monona Rossol responds:

Thanks for asking. Here's more than that:

Monona Rossol, M.S., M.F.A.,
industrial hygienist
Arts, Crafts & Theater Safety, Inc.
Safety Officer,
United Scenic Artist's, Local USA829
International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employes (IATSE)
181 Thompson St., #23
New York NY 10012-2586

Feb. 04 2009 12:35 PM
Alyce from Centerport NY

What should we look for when purchasing cleaning products? I used to buy tea tree oil based products until reading that tea tree oil was a carcinogen in large doses. I switched to biokleen products with "live enzyme cultures& lime peel extract" - HELP! Alos, what about the new products that use silver?

Monona Rossol responds:

I think I'm going to save you a lot of money. Tea tree oil was "in" back a while ago, then lime citrus, now silver. Just don't jump on any bandwagons and spend money on new things. Buy soap, dish detergent, vinegar, a borax cleanser like Bon Ami, and some bleach for those times when something really has to be disinfected. That's probably all you need.

Feb. 04 2009 12:34 PM
Pati from Staten Island New York

Is there a general list of dangerous substances to avoid and recommended products?

Monona Rossol responds:

No. And no one in their right mind recommends products because their ingredients change frequently. It always comes down to finding out what is actually in things and then looking up what is known, and what is NOT known about the hazards.

Feb. 04 2009 12:34 PM



Feb. 04 2009 12:33 PM
anonyme from nyc

How about Dr Bronner's

Feb. 04 2009 12:33 PM
Judy from NYC

For those of us who do not want to give up art carcinogens like Cadmium paints, what kind of exposure is most important to avoid. Necessary to avoid skin exposure, avoid breathing in dust, avoid swallowing?

Monona Rossol responds:

Yes, yes, and yes. The skin exposure is the least hazardous, but no exposure is completely free of hazard with cadmium.

Feb. 04 2009 12:33 PM
judy from brooklyn

i've noticed that a lot of products are listed as "paraben free." what are the long term effects of using parabens? they are illegal on europe, yes?

Feb. 04 2009 12:32 PM
TC from Brooklyn

How about the famous green cleaning method of using baking soda? Is this safe? I always confuse that is this a chemical compound or natural non-toxic substance?

Monona Rossol responds:

Baking soda is a good safe thing. And it truly is irrelevant whether it is nature or synthetic. Never judge the toxicity of a chemical based on it's origins.

Feb. 04 2009 12:31 PM
Robert Cowen from Queens

What about lead paint in older houses? If it is not peeling is it still unhealthy?

Monona Rossol responds:

If it is completely in tact and not in a location where children can get at it, it is not a hazard. But by law, you have to disclose it's existence to any potential buyer.

Feb. 04 2009 12:30 PM
Amy from Brooklyn

What is casein (milk-based) paint's toxicity issues, pigments aside?

Monona Rossol responds:

Casein is a milk protein. As such, it would be easily attacked by bacteria and degraded. So it is made very alkaline and unpalatable to bugs. As a result, it can be slightly corrosive to skin and in the powder form, can hurt the lungs.

Feb. 04 2009 12:30 PM
Nancy Sabato from South Orange NJ

Fantastic to know what's bad for us. But PLS tell us exactly what we CAN use to clean our homes (cleaning counters, bathrooms, etc) or what website we could go to to find this information. tx!

Monona Rossol responds:

Plan soap, borax cleansers like Bon Ami, some dish soaps like Ivory liquid, vinegar, and bleach when you really have to disinfect something.

Feb. 04 2009 12:30 PM
lisa from park slope



Monona Rossol responds:

What you do is to realize that this is the real world. You never should have trusted the seller in the first place. Find out what is in the stuff, look up the ingredients on reliable data bases and make up your own mind rather then leaning on a phony term.

Feb. 04 2009 12:29 PM
anonyme from nyc

One great benefit of the internet is finding good solutions - for example, tea made from ctnip and sprayed in the kitchen repels cucarachas - and bay leaves repel all manner of insects

Monona Rossol responds:

I LOVE catnip tea picked fresh out of the lawn or garden. It is the one thing I miss in my Village apartment. Maybe I'll grow some in the window box.

Feb. 04 2009 12:29 PM
judy from brooklyn

she discussed ammonia but not bleach. are there long term effects of bleach?
what are the effects of parabens? i've noticed that a lot of products are listed as "paraben free."they are illegal in europe, yes?

Monona Rossol responds:

Bleach is also only a short term acute problem for people. But the form the chlorine is in can create environmental toxins when it is disposed of. So it should be used only when absolutely needed.,

Parabens are antimicrobial agents used in foods, makeup and pharmaceuticals. They are approved for use by FDA. I don't thing they are banned in the EU--but they may be. And there is some evidence of long term problems with them.

Feb. 04 2009 12:29 PM
dizzle from olive, new york

to karen in nyc... latex gloves can be highly allergenic... especially when worn regularly... you could look into latex glove alternatives such as nitrile but i suspect that you will not get the same tactile satisfaction out of your art process... try the brush maybe? i get alot of lovely tactile enjoyment out of painting with a brush believe it or not...

Monona Rossol responds:

Good information to Karen. Wearing gloves is a little like kissing through Saran Wrap, but sometimes it's what we need to do. And nitrile is better for many reasons.

Feb. 04 2009 12:28 PM
Eliza from Crown Heights

sorry, another question:

how can we get these regulations changed?

Monona Rossol responds:

Keep watching the papers. There have been bills to require testing similar to those in Europe and they have died very quickly. When the next one comes up, let's all jump on it.

Feb. 04 2009 12:28 PM
David Harrington from Manhattan

Frontline: I put it on my dog 6 months a year. How dangerous is it to me and my family, though?

Monona Rossol responds:

Without knowing what is in Frontline, I can say: If you check the label and go to the manufacturer's website, I'll look up the hazards of the chemicals for you.

Feb. 04 2009 12:28 PM
Paul Wood from Montclair, NJ

My wife of 18 years died November 19, 2006, of malignant peritoneal mesothelioma. She was exposed to asbestos while she was a student getting her bachelors. At the time, there were no standards and no protection against asbestos. There still is no protection. I even purchased an asbestos soldering board off of Ebay--a board similar, if not identical to the type that contributed to the death of my wife.

Sadly, there is not even a sense of justice when enduring the years after her sickness and death when negotiating the labyrinthine system of asbestos mass tort in New Jersey.

Monona Rossol responds:

My deepest sympathies. I have done expert witness in mesothelioma cases for artists and theater people. And I have pleural plaque indicating an exposure probably also when I was in school.

Feb. 04 2009 12:28 PM
antonio from evillage

the label on my opaque markers notes:
conforms to astm D-4236 for us only
certified by Arts and creative materials institute.
What is ASTM D-4236?
it also states:
not suitable for children under 36 months

Monona Rossol responds:

Those are great questions, but it would take me more than a short note to explain them. However, I vote on the ASTM D-4236 standard and have written extensively about this law which I also helped get passed. If you will provide a postal (snail mail) address, I'll send you a data sheet on labeling that will explain it better than I can here. It's free, so there's nothing to lose.

Feb. 04 2009 12:28 PM
lisa from park slope

To Karen the painter-

It is widely publicized the danger of most oil paints and of course thinners too. Just assume that it is ALL toxic and definately refrain from contact with the skin.

Monona Rossol responds:

You gave Karen good advice. She also shouldn't use solvents that she can inhale without ventilation to remove the vapors from the air.

Feb. 04 2009 12:27 PM
sophie from manhattan

It's legal because our gov't has decided to shy away from any regulation that gets in the way of business.

So if "natural" products aren't a good alternative, What does the guest suggest we use to clean etc..?

Monona Rossol responds:

Some of the suggestions given by callers were good ones: vinegar, plain soaps, baking soda, elbow grease, and occasionally bleach if we really need to disinfect something. The stuff is cheaper, too.

Feb. 04 2009 12:27 PM
Eliza from Crown Heights

There was recently a wonderful article in the NYTimes on dirt and how essential it is to be exposed to germs and bacteria in the household.

I guess my question is: how did we start becoming so obsessed with dirt and hygiene? And (related to the question above) is vinegar and water the only thing to use for cleaning? How can I find out what cleaning products are safe?

I also want to thank Ms Rossol-- she was a sacred name when I interned at Glimmerglass Opera back in 1995. She had recently done a workshop there with the production administrators, and they were running the shop to her specifications. It was a real eye opener to me, and I've never encountered a theater shop that was as safe or aware.

Monona Rossol responds:

Thanks so much for remembering me. I still get to Glimmer just about every year.

I don't know how we got so obsessed about clean, but we now have a new problem that requires we be able to sterilize our environment at times. We now have super drug resistant bugs and mutating animal viruses like bird flu that really could do in significant numbers of people.

So somewhere between being fanatic about clean and being a bit of a slob is a relatively reasonable compromise--unless the wrong bug shows up. Then we'd better be able to aim the big guns at it.

Feb. 04 2009 12:26 PM
Lucy Forrest from the bronx

I love your guest's comment about "Natural" being not necessarily safe - I've been saying that for years. The other terms are "synthetic" and "organic" which have so many meanings!

Monona Rossol responds:

Right on! Those terms mean anything the manufacturer wants them to mean.

Feb. 04 2009 12:26 PM
Stephanie from jersey city

I'd like to know what your guest uses to clean her own house.

Monona Rossol responds:

Soap, Ivory liquid dish soap, chlorine beach when I absolutely must disinfect something, vinegar, and gritty borax cleansers such as Bon Ami.

Feb. 04 2009 12:26 PM
Mitch from NY city

Ms. Russel is so right about "natural" chemicals.

Last summer I decided to use an "all natural" insect repellent. I broke out with a terrible sun-sensitive rash that lasted for days and was extremely irritating.

I happily went back to Deet!

Monona Rossol responds:

That's a great story. And it happens so often. We are much more likely to be allergic to plants and plant material than to a synthetic chemical.

Feb. 04 2009 12:25 PM
David Harrington

At least there is organic dry cleaning now, right? (I know that's a scam too. Please explain.)

Monona Rossol responds:

The carbon dioxide system is not very damaging to the environment, but it is very expensive to install and not being used by many cleaners. Solvent dry cleaning, no matter what the solvent, is a hazard. But neither method could be called "organic.!"

Feb. 04 2009 12:24 PM
anonyme from nyc


Could you ask Ms. Russell about titanium dioxide coating on lightbulbs which kills mold in the air?

Also - I have long since switched to simpler things for cleaning - did you know chlorine is illegal in Germany? (Don't know if new EU standards have changed that) So I just use elbow grease, bicarb of soda, vinegar - you don't need more than that!

I buy Seventh Generation laundry and dish detergents.

Monona Rossol responds:

Mold lives and grows where there is no light, low air movement, and moderate temperatures. Mold is absolutely not going to get near a light bulb if it can help it. Perhaps the titanium dioxide coating is capable of converting the incandescent light to ultraviolet (UV) light. UV does kill mold. But you'd have to shine the light right on the mold and be careful because UV also can damage your eyes and skin. Sounds fishy to me.

Titanium dioxide is also an interesting chemical. It is now known to be a lung carcinogen. Hopefully, it stays on the light bulb even after it is broken and discarded.

I just looked at the EU REACH regulations and chlorine sure isn't listed there. Could you tell me where to find the regulation that applies to chlorine?

It sounds like you have chosen good cleaning materials.

Feb. 04 2009 12:24 PM
Guido from Brooklyn

I am from Argentina, and outside my city a friend used to have an small farm and he show me a pesticide from USA that here was banned but USA keep selling it elsewhere.

Thanks for the program

Monona Rossol responds:

Absolutely true. And it's not just the US. For example, England has banned lead-white paints for art and other uses in its country, but sells large quantities to the US market where artists still use it. And a number of countries that have banned asbestos are selling it to the countries that have not banned it.

Businessmen are businessmen. If they have a product, they will find a market somewhere.

We need international laws to get the really bad stuff off the market.

Feb. 04 2009 12:24 PM
Renata from NY

So, what about all these new products in the market, claiming to be safe? Can we trust those? Or can we assume, it's all a big marketing scam all over? If so, what should we use to clean our homes? Water and vinegar?

Monona Rossol responds:

If you were buying a used car, would you believe what the seller told you? Of course you wouldn't and it is the same here. Instead, get on the manufacturers' websites and get there material safety data sheets, and then look up those ingredients in independent data bases maintained by agencies that are not paid by the manufacturers.

Water, vinegar, soap, and baking soda are a good stop gap until you find a product or two that actually is what it claims.

If you have trouble interpreting the information on the MSDS, get back to me.

Feb. 04 2009 12:23 PM
Dan Kaplan from Chelsea

they say that because european nations have national healthcare, testing for such toxins, thereby preventing disease, the gov'ts see lower healthcare costs. our gov't hasn't the same incentives, as they don't pay for the higher healthcare costs as a result of their lack of regulation in testing. yet another reason for national healthcare!

Monona Rossol responds:

Exactly. I couldn't have said it better.

Feb. 04 2009 12:23 PM
Janet from NYC

what about Method products?

Monona Rossol responds:

If that is a brand name, you need to use the label information to get on their website and down load their material safety data sheets and other information. If you have trouble interpreting the MSDS terminology, you can always write back with more questions.

Feb. 04 2009 12:22 PM
antonio from evillage

Recently I have been working extensively and closely with opaque pigment markers by Sakura . It says "water and pigment based water and fade proof ink"
Should I take special precautions? Is there a consumer reports type web site where I can find such things out?
Thank You

Monona Rossol responds:

If it really says: "water and pigment based water and fade proof ink." Something is wrong with their English. Water is water. Pigments are pigments. There no such thing as "pigment-based water."

Get on Sakura's website and search for the MSDSs. You need to find out which pigments and ink colorants are there. If you can't find out, you better treat the stuff as very toxic because it could be.

There is no website that will tell you anything about all these art material products except the industry based ones that will tell you they are all completely safe.

I hope this helps.

Feb. 04 2009 12:22 PM
lisa from park slope

I don't understand the levity in this conversation...the sheer lack of integrity in regulation is more than upsetting.

Why is it actually LEGAL to state a chemical/product "non-toxic" because it was never tested???? This absurdity is accepted and tolerated? I don't understand!!!

Monona Rossol responds:

We laugh because it doesn't help to cry. But you are right. It is an awful situation.
And the core of the problem is the one you ask about: "Why is it LEGAL" to label an untested chemical "nontoxic?" I have been trying for several years now to file a Federal Trade Commission lawsuit against the art material manufacturers that do this. But the manufacturers' defense is that it is common practice. My point is that common or not, it is misleading and even fraudulent since consumers assume the nontoxic label means someone has tested the product and found it safe.

I will keep trying. And you keep up your anger and outrage because we need it if we are to eventually win this battle against industry.

Feb. 04 2009 12:22 PM
Karen Ruelle from New York City

I'm a painter and my preferred method is to paint with my fingers. I'm concerned about the toxicity of the oil paints I use. (I use the same method with oil pastels, which I assume have the same ingredients.) I try to use only the colors that are labelled as non-toxic, but your comments have given me pause. How do I ensure that the materials are safe to use? Do I have to give up using my fingers for the more predictable paint brush? Do latex gloves make a difference? I don't even know HOW to interpret those health labels on the paints, and in fact, some don't have any at all. Any advice?! HELP!

Feb. 04 2009 12:21 PM
dizzle from olive, new york

thank you for addressing this issue!!! i try so hard to eat foods & use products that do not harm myself, my loved ones, the earth! it bums me out that it is so hard... it should be hard to harm & easy to be kind but somehow we have created this situation where it is much cheaper & easier to (unsuspectingly even) pollute our bodies & world

Feb. 04 2009 12:21 PM
Karen from Westchester

so what do we clean with - products from the local health food store? what happens to these chemicals in our waste processing? do they get in our drinking water?

Monona Rossol responds:

The local health food store is a scary place. There is no testing requirement for healthfoods and supplement chemicals. And it's one thing to clean with an untested chemical, it's quite another to eat a bunch.

You also ask about the chemicals in our water. The pesticides, the industrial chemicals, and the household chemicals, are only part of the problem. It is now clear that all those medicines we take to stay healthy also are being peed into our drinking water.

There's no simple answer here.

Feb. 04 2009 12:21 PM
Judith from Long Island

I just started cleaning my house entirely with vinegar and baking soda. Cheap, effective, non-toxic. Vinegar can be used to repel ants. I just disposed of all the cleansers I accumulated over the years since I developed an allergy to the body was telling me something!

Monona Rossol responds:

Your body is the ultimate judge. And most scents are natural or close to it. Natural substances are just better at causing allergies: mold, pet dander, insect debris, pollens, flowers, trees, grass, foods--its just the way it is. And actually, I've never seen a documented allergy to a petroleum distillate! I've seen people ill from over exposure, but never a study showing an immune response allergy to refined petroleum.

Good cleaning suggestions.

Feb. 04 2009 12:17 PM
dizzle from olive, new york

thank you for addressing this issue!!! i try so hard to eat foods & use products that wont harm me, my loved ones, the world! & it bums me out that its so hard... it should be hard to be harmful & easy to be kind rather than the other way around...

Monona Rossol responds:

I agree. It takes time to check all these things out. Keep up the good work.

Feb. 04 2009 12:16 PM
PAC from nyc

what about the cosmetic database "skin deep"?

Feb. 04 2009 12:16 PM
Tom Graves from Norwalk, CT

The VA has identified a link between veterans that were in Vietnam and were exposed to Agent Orange have a positive link to type II diabetes and are eleigable for disability. (based on severity)

Disabilities from the other %@*^$%*## war

Monona Rossol responds:

Very good point. The only way other than animal tests to find out if a chemical is hazardous is to expose large numbers of perfectly health young people and wait and see. This unethical practice is not restricted to war. We are all lab rats the way things are run now.

Feb. 04 2009 12:15 PM
axe from Midwood, NY

Hello, I wonder WHEN and how all these household chemicals started to show up in such numbers in American household.

I have other questions lie why under the kitchen sink? Why not store them in some secure air-tight, child safe casing?

Monona Rossol responds:

Entrepreneurs have always experimented with available chemicals and tried to get rich making new products. And in the early 1900s when the chemical industry simple exploded with new chemicals, these chemicals quickly were tried for household use--without any concern for possible toxicity.

In fact, there has always been a feeling among inventors, scientists, and businessmen, that the new things they discover must be good. For example, within a short while after the discovery of radium, it was used to illuminate dials in watches and clocks, in novelty products of all kinds, and in patent medicines. No one even considered that perhaps something that glows in the dark just might be a hazard.

As for the kitchen sink question: you are absolutely right. The cleaning products, bleach and the like should all be secured in a house with children. And when I inspect a grade school, I am always astounded to see products under the sinks in the classrooms that clearly say "Keep out of Reach of Children."

Good questions.

Feb. 04 2009 12:14 PM
Jordan from Madison, NJ

Reposted from Lenny's Facebook Wall:

Len, I just heard a promo for today's topic on toxins in consumer products. Please ask your guest about the use and effects of mass market herbicides, such as 2,4-D and Round Up (glyphosate) on residential lawns. I have read, for example, that there is no published peer-reviewed study on the phenomenon and effect of Round Up (made by Monsanto) residue brought into the home on shoes, clothing, etc. Has the politicization of federally-funded scientific research under the Bush administration had a hand in suppressing such research?

Monona Rossol responds:

Right on. While there are detailed animal studies of ordinary exposures to these chemicals, what is needed are studies to detail the exposure to worker's families. These are called "Take Home Toxic Studies" and far too few have been done.

The Bush administration effectively stopped enforcement of many laws by 1) putting at the head of each Agency an administrator who ideologically was opposed to the work the agency was charged with doing; 2) encouraging the administrator to cooperate with the industries they were supposed to regulate; and 3) cutting the budgets so there would not be money to do much enforcing in any case.

You saw one of these when Whitman ran the EPA.

I have been reading the Federal Register every day for almost 30 years. It's my soap opera because I know who is sleeping with who. And these last 8 years have been a disgrace.

Feb. 04 2009 11:00 AM

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