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No More Toxic Tub Report

Although my site is narrowly focused, this might be of some interest to users:

A new report by the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics discusses toxic contaminants in children’s bath and personal care products.

Despite marketing claims like ‘gentle’ and ‘pure,’ dozens of top-selling children’s bath products are contaminated with the cancer-causing chemicals formaldehyde and 1,4-dioxane, according to the March 2009 Campaign for Safe Cosmetics report, ‘No More Toxic Tub.‘”

Of most interest to users of solveeczema:

“The chemicals were not disclosed on product labels because they’re contaminants, not ingredients, and therefore are exempt from labeling laws.

Formaldehyde contaminates personal care products when common preservatives release formaldehyde over time in the container. Common ingredients likely to contaminate products with formaldehyde include quaternium-15, DMDM hydantoin, imidazolidinyl urea and diazolidinyl urea.

1,4-dioxane is a byproduct of a chemical processing technique called ethoxylation, in which cosmetic ingredients are processed with ethylene oxide. Manufacturers can easily remove the toxic byproduct, but are not required by law to do so. Common ingredients likely to be contaminated with 1,4-dioxane include PEG-100 stearate, sodium laureth sulfate, polyethylene and ceteareth-20.”

Read the entire report at

Talk of Pillows

Someone asks me recently if I could suggest pillows that would work, a question I have been asked before, but I really cannot answer in relation to the material on Solveeczema, at least with any degree of certainty.

We still mostly do without.

At one point, I ordered several very expensive organic pillows (cotton, wool, etc.) that were supposed to have been formulated for people with allergies.  All caused congestion (but no eczema).

I did wash all of the pillows, which turned out to be pretty difficult — especially with cotton, any agitation at all would ruin the fill.  I did a lot of machine soaking and spinning out with no agitation.  There’s no way to know if the congestion was because of the materials or a failure of the washing technique.

In desperation, I did finally pull some old boudoir-sized 100% goosedown pillows out of the closet, and toss them in the washing machine.  At least I didn’t have to worry about lumps forming from agitation.  I wasn’t sure they would survive the washing, though.  I washed several times, including a soaking with oxygen-based bleach, followed by soap and including hot water washes, followed by lots and lots of plain water washes and rinses.

The pillows came out of the front-load washer as flat as pancakes.  They looked ruined.  But I put them in the dryer by themselves, and dried until they were thoroughly dry.  They came out beautifully normal in the end, like I had never washed them.

I can’t recommend this to other people, because down is expensive (and we were probably lucky we didn’t ruin ours), and I suspect a great many people will still be allergic to something like down even after thorough washing.  But it was the only thing in our case that we were able to wash thoroughly — and in the end, surprisingly, it didn’t cause any congestion or eczema.  (Though it did become clear that if we wanted the pillows to remain so, we would have to keep them pretty clean, i.e., wash them again on a fairly regular basis.  Who knows how long they will last this way.)

Web Site Renovations

I am taking an online web design class and making long-overdue updates to

The changes have taken a lot more time than I anticipated — among other things, making any file changes with my current web host is a nightmare — so the web site (and the content) will be something of a construction zone for the next several weeks.

After that I hope to go back and answer some long overdue emails for the site.

Avoiding Detergent "Dust": The Mattress Problem

For us, the crib mattress was never a problem because it had a waterproof surface that could easily be washed.  Many, if not most, crib mattresses seem to have waterproof surfaces.

Finding a safe twin mattress when the time came (per the issues on solveeczema) was more of a challenge.  Most mattresses are covered with fabric of some sort.  Many mattresses are filled with potentially problematic materials.  Even natural and organic bedding contained cottons and wools that were certainly washed along the way.  Latex was a potential allergen in our case.  Even if we did risk it with a “natural” mattress, the cost of most was prohibitive.

After much research and cost comparison, we ended up ordering a “No Compromise Organic Cotton Ultra – Twin” from Naturepedic Organic Cotton Twin Mattress.   We ordered it directly from the manufacturer, who was able to match the usual free shipping deal everyone else was offering on the web.

The mattress cover is organic cotton, coated with a waterproof dust-mite barrier of food-grade polyethylene on top, sides, and bottom.  It’s pretty inert.  We have had no congestion, eczema, or other allergy issues with it.  (Note:  When it arrived, it had a slight smell – not significant compared to most mattresses – which was gone after a week or so.  Not all of this manufacturer’s products are entirely covered by this barrier, this is the only one that seemed a pretty sure bet for us.)

We considered an inexpensive metal bed frame from Ikea, but at the time we were buying, they didn’t have a design we liked.  It was tempting, though.  They had one all-metal bed frame for under $40.

We ended up getting a solid maple bed frame from Pacific Rim.  It had the option of no finish or an oil-based finish.  We took a chance on the finish, and let it air out for a few weeks before using it.  We have had no allergy issues with it either.  (The model we chose also had fairly sharp corners – a problem for us in a very small room – so we simply sanded the corners.  It wasn’t difficult, it looked fine, and we no longer had problems when we bumped into the frame.)

Prices for this same bed varied wildly on the web.  We got the best price and terms from Satara Inc online store.

All told, the mattress and frame together were, for us, a big expenditure.  However, the quality is great and they should last for decades.  Having no allergy issues was priceless.

A Success to Share from Florida

I have been hearing from more and more people whose doctors gave them an article about or a link to the web site.  I heard this from a mom in Florida recently:

I want to start by saying Thank You!!!  You have helped my family sooo much.  I have two children with allergies and eczema.  I have been through so many doctors, and all they kept saying was use more lotion, use more drugs.  One doctor told me, “You’re in a search for a cause and effect that does not exist … use more lotion!!!”

I was desperate … on top of caring for my son’s disability I was dealing with the scratching and bleeding and cries through the night.  I always thought the detergent, which was [commonly recommended scent- and dye-free detergent],  was causing a problem… however the doctors said no.

Finally I switched to our current allergist who gave me your printout.  I removed the detergent and used soap flakes for washing clothes and also used Ben’s Bar from Ipswich Bay Soap Company.  After two weeks my kids’ skin cleared up completely.  They still get some spots from time to time on their feet and hands, but we can deal with that.  My daughter had been covered from head to toe.  Also my son has a breathing problem which needed a nebulizer from time to time.  Barely ever do we use it now (except if he has a cold).

Thanks soooo much again.  Before reading your article, going to the park with my daughter was such a nightmare.  She would be itching and scratching so hard blood would show.  I thought how unfair it was for a child to not be able to enjoy life.  My kids are doing soooo well.  Their skin looks beautiful and they are very happy!!!!  Thank you.



Grappling with the "cost" of fundraising

With my last post, I began a temporary experiment with fundraising. I’ve been thinking about doing something for awhile, because the domain name renewals for and come up in a few months.  I’d like to renew for five or ten years, but it’s costly in such big chunks (even though the per-year cost goes down).  Also, while I’m at it, I was hoping to transfer hosting to a better service, updating the site is just so arduous at the moment, I am rarely able to do it.

I have to admit that I have also wondered if I could duplicate some of the blogging stories I have read about lately, where bloggers have gotten enough donations to devote more time to their blogs.

However, I have also read that when a connection to a pay site like paypal links from your site, it’s standing in the search engines drops (for certain kinds of sites).   Whether it’s true or just coincidence, visits to this blog dropped an order of magnitude when I put the donations button up.  I also lost a subscriber.  I put up the site in the first place to help people; the donations button came out of my considering how I could afford to keep doing that and maybe do more, but I seem to be bumbling that attempt. 

I plan on removing the donations button in two or three months anyway, and leaving it off, especially if I am able to renew the domain name for several years.  Please consider a small donation to support the solveeczema site and this blog.  Given what has happened, I don’t think I will be putting a donations button on the site after all.

Temporary Pledge Drive

I am experimenting with a temporary donations button on this blog – and hopefully soon, on the solveeczema website – to ask for support to renew the domain names and transfer the site to a better web hosting service in a few months.

If possible, I also hope to afford to devote more time to updating the site, answering emails and questions, and maintaining the blog on a more regular basis. (In the interest of full disclosure, I will not be able to spend full-time with this no matter what the level of support. But I will be able to do far more than the small, spare moments I can offer now.)

This is a small blog; small donations are welcome!

If, however, someone has the means and desire to be a major angel, I would add the following wish list:

1) Funds to subscribe to relevant online dermatology and microbiology scientific journals – to help me finish a scientific article sooner.

2) Support a study! In the past year, more than one doctor has offered to help conduct a study. I have had little ability to follow up. (If you can fund a study, please write to me through the “Feedback” heading/link on my home page. Rather than donating to me directly – is a simple volunteer effort, not an official non-profit, so donations are not tax deductible – we could arrange for you to donate to the institution where the study would be conducted, where it would more likely be deductible.)

I have to admit that I am not very comfortable asking for donations, I hope it does not make my readers uncomfortable. The web site needs more than I have been able to give to it; I would like to do much more.

When I solved my son’s eczema, I was unable to keep up with questions and requests for help from friends and acquaintances, so I wrote a few articles. When the articles were published, I was inundated with requests for information, so I put up the solveeczema web site.

I can see from feedback that the site is doing a tremendous amount of good. I hear from people all over the world that the information helped them understand and eliminate a child’s or their own eczema. More than one doctor has told me that they refer patients to the information. I can see that this solution is consistent with a plethora of existing scientific literature.

I will take the whole thing to the next step sooner or later – a scientific paper, a study, etc. – thus I am experimenting with donations to see if I can make that happen “sooner.”

[Donation button disabled – please see side bar.]

Not an allergic reaction to detergents

Eczema from detergents – per – is caused by how detergents affect skin membrane permeability and function and is not a true IgE-mediated allergy to detergents. In fact, very few people (if any) have a true allergy to detergents, most detergent allergies are actually allergies to product enzymes and additives. Sodium lauryl sulfate, known to be highly problematic for people with eczema, is a detergent analog of a surfactant our bodies make and use to regulate membrane permeability, among other things. I’m not sure we even could be allergic to it in the true sense; again, the eczema comes about from how it affects the skin membrane.

Thus you could not test for detergent reactivity with traditional allergy blood tests. Initially I sometimes used the word “allergy” in regards to this reaction, with some justification, but it’s not a true allergic reaction to the detergents themselves.


Pets get eczema, too

Early on in my search for soaps, I asked a local saddlery about products. I must have had the term “saddle soap” in the back of my mind – I figured I’d find soap products for washing horses that would likely be fine for humans, too.

I was surprised to find that all of the products available for washing horses were detergent-based, most using sodium lauryl sulfate. I did a little hunting on the web, only to find that horses are having eczema problems in recent years, especially certain breeds. Family pets get eczema, too – You don’t even necessarily have to wash them to expose them to detergents, they get significant exposure just from detergents in modern household dust.

And it sure seems to me from everything I have read that the underlying causes (plural) as outlined on my site are the same as in humans. Makes sense.

I hear myself say this over and over, but … Although my site is geared to parents of babies with severe eczema – people who need to see rapid and dramatic results for infants who have the most permeable skin – if you read and understand the underlying issues, it’s possible to make sense of and solve eczema in pets.

I don’t know if eczema in pets makes them less cute and cuddly and more likely to be abandoned or worse (especially since detergent-caused eczema would be present early on), or if current trends of offering more advanced medical care to pets would make caring for a pet with eczema more common. The information I can find about eczema in family pets is very sketchy, so I fear the former may be an issue. I’d love to know more about the problem from anyone who works with animals.

Please contact me through the web site, via the feedback links on the home page.


New vs. Old Unscented Dove

For comparison, here are the formulas of the new unscented Dove Sensitive Skin bar products (not okay per the site) and the old unscented Dove product (fine per the site):

Old formula (fine per solveeczema):
Sodium cocoyl isethionate
Stearic acid
Coconut acid
Sodium tallowate
Sodium isethionate
Sodium stearate
Cocamidopropyl betaine
Sodium cocoate or sodium palm kernelate
Sodium chloride
Masking fragrance
Tetrasodium EDTA
Tetrasodium etidronate
Titanium dioxide

New Dove unscented Sensitive Skin formula (not okay per solveeczema web site):
Sodium lauroyl isethionate
Stearic acid
Sodium tallowate or sodium palmitate
Lauric acid
Sodium isethionate
Sodium stearate
Cocamidopropyl betaine
Sodium cocoate or sodium palm kernelate
Sodium chloride
Tetrasodium EDTA
Tetrasodium etidronate
Titanium dioxide