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Insights on What's Safe and What's Not from an "Almost Doctor"


Most of us have heard warnings about unsafe chemicals in plastic bottles or that substances whose names we can’t pronounce are probably not good for us. What we’ve heard less of is specifically why, or what we really should avoid and what’s really not so bad.

That’s what researchers are for, right? Sherry at This Young House was kind enough to take the time to pick her brother’s brain to get the real deal on potentially dangerous (or not so dangerous) household chemicals. Her brother is an “almost doctor” studying chemistry at Columbia. Good for us!

A sampling of the exchange:

What’s your take on BPA in plastic water bottles and other household plastics? Most evidence points to the fact that these chemicals are to be avoided, if not only for their effect on humans but also for their effect on the environment. It’s easy to use stainless steel or glass drinking containers to avoid BPA and I can’t imagine a time in the next hundred years that any evidence would point to dangers in glass or stainless steel, so those are a much safer bet.

With each question, Almost-Dr. Dan gives us a detailed explanation of the chemistry involved, and the interviewer gives her take on what the means for you and some suggestions on how to take action. The topics they covered:

  • BPA in plastic water bottles
  • fireproofing chemicals used in many standard mattresses and pillows
  • soaps and shampoos with sodium lauryl sulfate
  • teflon
  • grilling and dangerous carcinogens
  • phthalates
  • toxic ingredients in glues
  • when in doubt, follow your nose

Photo courtesy of tombothetominator on Flickr