New Water Supply Info on Lead & TCE (Trichloroethylene)

In August 2018, EWG (Environmental Working Group) reported that 40% of schools in the U.S. had not even tested for lead in their drinking water.  California requires testing for lead statewide for public schools grades K-12.  However, their law does not apply to over 10,000 California childcare centers that are privately operated.  Legislation is now being considered for the latter.

Most of us are aware by now that lead in drinking water can cause serious health problems, including brain damage.  Although our Facebook page, A Quality Life web magazine, notified readers last year of a national drinking water data base, more action to address the problem is badly needed.

Did you know there is no safe level of lead?  Low levels of lead exposure can still cause serious health risks, according to EWG research.  For children, exposures could result in lower IQ or behavioral problems.  In adults, it contributes to heart and cardiovascular problems.

In addition, EWG analysis of tests nationwide from public utilities indicate that the drinking water supplies of 14 million Americans is contaminated with the chemical TCE, which is a carcinogen.

Apple Valley, Minnesota, is one of the areas that tests the water quality of certain structures individually every three years.  Individual households in this targeted grouping are provided with containers to collect samples.  These structures were built before 1982 when lead sodder was used.  According to a representative of the Apple Valley Water Dept., the city tests the general water supply for lead and copper every five years.

According to their 2017 Water Quality Report, “Apple Valley’s water meets or exceeds all Federal and State drinking water standards.”  Monthly quality tests for taste, color, odor,  hardness, iron, and manganese are done.  A Quality Life blog was also referred to the Minnesota Dept. of Health for more information.

The Health Dept. reports that TCE (trichloroethylene) is a chemical used  in many solvents, degreasers, wood finishes, adhesives, paint removers, stain removers, and in manufacturing of other chemicals.

The report further states that, “TCE spilled on the ground can move down through the soil into water under the ground where it may pollute private and public drinking water wells.”

In 2013, residents of a Minneapolis, Minnesota neighborhood sued General Mills.  Apparently, TCE had been dumped years before and filtered into the soil and groundwater.  General Mills installed ventillation systems (the same type used to remove radon) in problem properties.

The 2017 CCR (Consumer Confidence Report) for Minnesota found no violations for pesticides and industrial contaminants, which means they would fall below the MCL (maximum contaminant level).  There were six violations for lead.

To find the CCR for your area, contact your local water company or the Health Dept. for your state.  Well water testing (or lack of) varies from state-to-state and some well owners may be on their own or have new concerns.

The following resources may be helpful:

“How Safe is Your Tapwater?” post of Oct. 7, 2017, Check by zipcode                                          A Quality Life web magazine on Facebook   Drinking Water Contamination   Water Resources

Dept. of Health (your state)

Home Water Testing

                                                    Simple Water                                                                                                      Simpltek

How You Can Help with Toxic Recycling:

Some areas provide year round hazardous waste recycling centers.  Some also sponsor seasonal hazardous waste collection events usually in the spring and fall.  You can search the internet for Hazardous Waste Disposal using the name of your city/county.  Or, contact your city or county Public Works Dept. or information line.



Coming Soon

Hello!  We apologize for the delay.  We ran into a little glitch researching the ramen noodles further.  Who knew this topic would turn out to be so complicated?  We’re also researching drinking water and that issue varies across the country.  There is a town that tests the water of each resident every year and it will be fascinating to get into that more.  We do continue to post on A Quality Life web magazine on Facebook.  If you haven’t signed up yet, you are welcome to.  It’s not like a friend request, you can sign up without fear of rejection.

Tidbits: Canned Peas

Yes, we’re still researching Part 2 of the Ramen Noodle Adventure but in the meantime, this came to our attention.  Sometimes we receive comments that we don’t include in the Comment section because answers have to be researched.

A reader complained that when she went to buy canned peas (for a recipe) at the branch of Cub Foods she frequented, the six brands, including the “organic,” all had added sugar and she was unable to find any early peas at all.

Given the weather problems across the country, perhaps there is a shortage of early peas.  At any rate, she had a conundrum because at least two of the brands, including Green Giant and Del Monte, had BPA (bisphenol A) lined cans.  Also, she figured if she wanted sugar in her peas it was up to her to add it.

Although not at this branch of Cub Foods, there is a brand called Libby’s Naturals with no salt or sugar added and their label says “Sweet Peas.”  These cans are BPA-free, however not all Libby’s canned products are BPA-free.  It’s a step forward with canned vegetables, but their canned pumpkin is still questionable.

Anyway, Libby’s Naturals are available through Amazon and Walmart (not everyone lives close to a store with more natural choices).  Libby’s Gourmet Early June Peas on Amazon are listed as Currently Unavailable.

We contacted Cub’s corporate headquarters at 651-439-7200 during business hours twice and there was no answer or recording after 20 rings each time.  We then found a secondary number, 651-779-2000, and it rang 30 times with no response.


A Ramen Noodle Adventure, Part 1

Who didn’t depend on processed ramen noodles at one time or another, for convenience, economic reasons, flavor?  If you were under-the-weather, they were fast to make and comforting.

It was easy to make them versatile too, adding meat or vegetables or even draining some of the water and using less of the flavor packet for quick and tasty noodles.  The price couldn’t be beat so they became a staple for students or anyone on a tight budget, the stores frequently had sales on groups of packages as well.

The choice of flavors was nice, no boredom there.  They were not only filling but fun to eat with the curly noodles.

Then we found out the truth, that the processed instant noodles contained tertiary-butyl hydroquinone, also known as TBHQ, a petrochemical, according to the Food Revolution Network.  Quoting a study by Baylor University, eating a lot of processed ramen noodles containing TBHQ can increase the risk of heart disease, diabetes, and stroke.  Here at A Quality Life blog we say that people with chemical sensitivities should not eat foods with TBHQ.

Processed noodles are apparently much harder to digest than fresh, according to a YouTube video.  But, of course, there are grocery stores and restaurants that have unprocessed ramen noodles.

First, what are ramen noodles, really?  There may be some debate over the origin.  They are considered Japanese, yet are Chinese-style thin, wheat-based noodles.  Even though they differ from soba noodles which are made from buckwheat and wheat flour, they were once referred to as chuka soba.  Gluten-free ramen noodles differ as they are made with rice flour.  Gluten-free options will be discussed more in Part 2.

Fooducate readers looked over the ingredients of a brand of cup style ramen noodles and complained not only about the sodium and TBHQ but MSG, artificial flavors and had other concerns as well.

AQL ventured to an Asian grocery store that had products from China, Japan, Korea, Hawaii, India and more.  Not being noodle savvy, it was confusing at first.  There were many refrigerated sections as well as a large dry food section.

One doesn’t just waltz in and the perfect ramen noodles fly into the cart.  There were noodles that looked sort of ramen but weren’t.  There were dry packaged noodles but not sure they were much different than the processed noodles in the supermarkets.

The choice was to try TanTan Ramen, Spicy Sesame Seed Flavor, from one of the refrigerated sections because the label said, “Fresh ramen noodle with soup base, no artificial coloring or preservative added to noodle.”  These are made by Sun Noodle which lists locations in Hawaii, New Jersey, and California.

Granted, the package cost a lot more than processed ramen noodles, $5.29, but had two blocks of noodles and two liquid broth packets.  The total weight was 12 oz. and then one would add 10-12 oz. of water per block and packet, whereas the supermarket dry package is three oz. and one would add 20 oz. of water to one block that supposedly serves two.

At any rate, the TanTan Ramen noodle ingredients were:  wheat flour, purified water, wheat gluten, sea salt, sodium carbonate, cornstarch and riboflavin color (vitamin B12).  The soup base ingredients were:  water, hydrolyzed soy protein, sesame, vegetable oil, salt, soy sauce, sugar, soybean paste, alcohol, yeast extract, vinegar, garlic, ginger, clam extract, spice chili and fish extract.,  Nothing really alarming unless you have allergies.

However, there’s another element to consider here.  A package of Maruchan® chicken flavor ramen noodles contains 1660 mg. of sodium.  The package states the sodium is only 830 mg. per serving but that would be half a block.  It’s more common, though, to ingest an entire block at one sitting for an individual.  Remember, the weight would be less than the refrigerated noodles.  The TanTan Ramen actually does contain two blocks so it would contain 1740 mg. for each block and packet or 3480 mg. for both.

The FDA safe limit for sodium is 2300 mg. per day, except for certain groups which should limit the intake further.  So, these refrigerated noodles, while safer on many levels, actually have more sodium than the packaged.  Certainly, ramen can be made at home if one has the time and energy.  The quest will continue in Part 2.


Sodium Benzoate–A Common Additive–but is it Safe?

by S. K. LeVeille

Sodium benzoate is a synthetic product used to prevent mold and preserve acidic food.  There are natural methods used for this purpose including grape, garlic, green tea, acidophilin, rosemary, and many others.

Most of us have encountered condiment packets at casual dining places.  The packets also come routinely with food delivery.  In the ingredient list of many is “sodium benzoate.”  Examples of condiment packets containing this artificial preservative are hot sauce, duck sauce, soy sauce, and tartar sauce.  The bottled versions of these condiments on store shelves may or may not contain sodium benzoate, check labels.

Sodium benzoate, also known as E211, is sometimes found in certain brands of packaged meat, fish, cheese, pickles, soft drinks, fruit juices, salad dressings, sauerkraut, jellies, and jams. In wine, especially homemade, it can be referred to as “stabilizer” from “stabilizing tablets.”

Because ingredient labels have small print, some people find it helpful to carry a small magnifier in their pocket or purse to help while shopping.  If the ingredient is discovered at home, it may be helpful to make a list of products to avoid in the future.

According the the site, Foodeducate, when sodium benzoate is mixed with ascorbic acid (vitamin C), it transforms into benzene.  In addition, Naturally Savvy reported that scientists who evaluated the genotoxic impact in a laboratory study of sodium benzoate, found DNA damage when various concentrations were added to cells.

Sodium benzoate can also be found in some mouthwashes, shampoos, body lotions, deodorants, pills, cough syrups, and topical medications. Again, read labels and look for the words benzoic acid, benzene, E211, sodium benzoate, or benzoate, especially if you also see ascorbic acid or vitamin C.

Coca Cola eliminated sodium benzoate in 2008 in their regular Coke but not in all their products.  According to a June 2015 article in Livestrong entitled, “What Soft Drinks Have Sodium Benzoate E211 in Them?” by David B. Ryan, there were surprising findings.

While Diet Coke eliminated sodium benzoate in 2008, Fanta and Sprite still use it, supposedly because the company claims that  a flavor change would occur if natural alternatives are used.

Pepsi Max and diet versions of Mountain Dew, Sunkist Orange, Nestea, and Nordic Mist continue to use E211 worldwide. Diet Coke, Diet Pepsi, and Lipton Iced Tea now use potassium benzoate and citric acid in both bottled and canned versions.

Dr. Pepper uses E211 in plastic containers but not aluminum cans, while Mountain Dew uses E211 in all forms of packaging.  Dr. Pepper specialty drinks, such as Cherry Vanilla soda, contain E211. 7Up has shifted to potassium benzoate and vitamin E acetate.  Please refer to the article for further information.

According to sodium benzoate can interact negatively with Depacon (valproic acid) and Depakote (divalproex sodium).  These products may have other similar names.  Other drugs are ampicillin (probenecid), Proben-C (colchicine/probenecide), and other generic names.

When combining caffeine with sodium benzoate, which some sodas and other products do, the risk of adverse reactions with drugs increases to 87 drugs, including eleven major interactions with drugs such as Zenaflex (tizanidine). The side effects can include extra/irregular heartbeats, trembling or shaking of hands and feet.  Check the site for more information.

Remember, while small amounts of sodium benzoate may not affect the system, we are subjected to a deluge of products with this ingredient, from personal care products we use in the morning and throughout the day, some fruit drink products, possible medications, as well as certain condiments and food products, the soda we drink, and some types of wine with dinner.  It can really add up.

There are many safe products.  It may take time to read labels and adjust but worth it.  At home you can check Food Scores at the EWG (Environmental Working Group) site as well.



BPA (Bisphenol-A) became more widely known to the public when the battle to stop putting it into the making of baby bottles and sippy cups began.  Bisphenol-A is a synthetic chemical from the diphenylmethane group and is colorless.  It is in many consumer goods including types of sales receipts and a number of food and beverage containers.

Concerns over BPA include its hormone-like properties, which are endocrine disruptors.  Its safety has been seriously investigated since 2008 by many governments. Polycarbonate products were withdrawn by certain retailers.

States began banning BPA in baby bottles and sippy cups one by one until in 2012, the FDA stepped in with a complete prohibition for BPA in those items.  That prohibition does not reach into the making of other items and the trouble is, BPA can leach into food.

The American Assn. of Family and Consumer Sciences (AAFCS) wrote in 2010 about “Human Exposure to BPA,” which states that the constant exposure of consumers to BPA leads to risks not only with the reproductive system but prostate cancer, breast cancer, child asthma, heart disease, diabetes, and more.

In 2011, GreenBiz reported, “BPA Bans, Chemical Reform Laws in the Works in 30 States.”  These were bills and not all passed.  According to a July 17, 2012 article in the N.Y. Times, “F.D.A. Makes it Official:  BPA Can’t be Used in Baby Bottles and Cups,” a study of over 2,000 people showed that BPA was found in the urine of over 90 percent. Traces were also found in the blood of pregnant women and in breast milk, as well as umbilical cord blood.  Concerns include not only abnormal hormonal effects but effects of BPA on the brain.

BPA bans vary from state to state and things are changing but there isn’t uniformity nationwide beyond the baby bottles and sippy cups.

In 2009, Minnesota passed “The Toxic Free Kids Act.”  This required the Dept. of Health to create lists for “Chemicals of High Concern” and “Priority Chemicals.”                               

On December 1, 2010, New York included a BPA ban in items for children under three, including pacifiers, liners, cup lids, and straws in addition to baby bottles and sippy cups.

On October 1, 2011, Connecticut banned BPA in products for children under three, including reusable food containers/jars and cans containing food or beverage products.

In July 2012, Virginia banned BPA in sports bottles.

In 2013, the FDA banned the use of BPA in infant formula materials used for packaging.

Minnesota issued a ban on BPA in children’s food containers for those three years and under, effective August 2014 for manufacturers/wholesalers and August 2015 for retailers.

On March 17, 2015, Amanda Starbuck headlined an article, “Oregon Officials Want to Ban Toxins from Children’s Products.  A Federal Bill Could Stop Them.”  Apparently, the 40 year old federal Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) was poorly written.’s-products-federal-bill-could-stop-them

On June 3, 2015, Environmental Working Group (EWG) published “BPA in Canned Food, Behind the Brand Curtain.”  In 2014, canned food brands were analyzed and out of 252, there were 78 brands with BPA-based epoxy lining.

Some of the more recognizable names are Armour, Bush’s, Carnation, Chef Boyardee, Del Monte, Eagle, Early California, Green Giant, Lindsay Olives, Ocean Spray, Progresso, Wolfgang Puck Organic Soups.  For a full list, go to:                                                     

There is also a list of BPA-free brands and to check those items not on the list or for individual items, go to:

Salmon: Wild Caught, Farm Raised, and Something In-Between

After I learned some reasons to avoid eating farm raised salmon, I’d ask at a restaurant before deciding whether or not to order it.

“Do you know if the salmon is wild caught?” I’d ask.

I’d get answers like, “Probably,” “I think so,” “I’m sure it is,” or “I’ll ask the cook.” When I received answers like these, I’d decline to order it.  In my mind, a restaurant serving wild caught salmon would be proud of it and the workers would know.

Answers like, “I’m sure it is,” one can tell is a guess.  Even if the wait staff asks the cook, the cook could be guessing as well.  I love salmon but farm raised have high levels of PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls).  In addition, they’re given chemicals for color, as well as antibiotics, and live in crowded areas which limit movement and are disease prone.  Their lack of wild diet also means fewer omega 3s.

Then, I had an awful revelation after purchasing some “Wild Nova Salmon” at a supermarket.  The brand was VitaⓇ and the package boasted an “excellent source” of omega 3.  Now this was also sliced and smoked.

Yet, when I opened the package, the unusually red color gave me pause.  Although I’d been charmed by the words and design on the front, only now did I read the ingredients listed on the side of the 3 oz. package:

“Salmon, salt, sugar, natural smoke flavor, sodium nitrite (added as a preservative), yellow 6, yellow 5, red 40.”

So, four artificial chemicals added to the wild salmon.  I didn’t eat it.