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It’s Allergy Season – Are You Using Toxic Tissues?

Allergies are crazy this year, living in south where we had practically no winter, spring has come early and brought along lots of hay fever, sniffles and itchy eyes. Everywhere I turn I see someone affected by the crazy high pollen count out there.

Thank goodness my allergies are so much better than they used to be and my chronic asthma is completely gone. I’m talking going from taking three different prescription medications and steroids during allergy season for most of my life to ZERO. I’ve been medicine free for the past 3 years and this all happened through lifestyle, diet and regular acupuncture. My body just didn’t wake up one day and say I think I’m going to stop wheezing and sneezing today. Nope. It took work. I decided to love my body and it thankfully started loving me back with good health.

So I was thinking about this today and it reminded me of something I discovered late last year….I have to share with you.

When I got back from my Asia last fall, I also brought back a slight cold…The lack of sleep and 2 days of straight travel back to the US definitely weakened my immune system. When I finally made it back to work, at my desk every now and then I would reach over for a Kleenex and wipe my nose. I did this every hour on the hour for a few days until my cold went away.  My cold was gone in a short time, but it left me with a little present – a crazy big pimple on my nose!


Luckily, I’ve never had a problem with acne, so when this pimple appeared it was alarming to say the least. This may not be a big deal for some of you out there (and I’m sorry about that… I really am) but for me, it was a huge deal.  I really never get pimples. Needless to say when this happened I thought long and hard about what I had been doing differently…Did I change my skin care routine? Was I stressed out? What did I eat? The answers did not provide any clues to what it could have been…and then one day I figured it out.  It was staring right back at me on my desk at work with the words “With Lotion” written on the it.

So I did some digging and I found a list of ingredients for those Kleenex tissues I had been catching all my sniffles with the week before.

Screen Shot 2012 04 09 at 10 48 54 AMAfter researching the ingredients, I found out that “Isopropyl Palmitate” can clog pores . AH HA! Found it! Those dirty rascals! It turns out Isopropyl Palmitate is considered a natural product because it is chemically derived from the palm plant. So it is reasonable to assume that this would act like coconut oil, which is also taken from the palm plant and doesn’t clog pores. But then they add alcohol to the formal to make the chemical compound CH3(CH2)14COOCH(CH3)2. The problem with this is that when you start messing with nature and start extracting stuff and adding chemicals back in, this can cause all sorts of other unintended side effects from skin irritation to acne. Who would have ever known you can get acne from using a tissue! Sheesh!

This upset me to no end… because for goodness sakes how cautious do you have to be to avoid chemical derivatives like this!? Seriously!? And why in the world was I using those Kleenexes at work anyways? At home I don’t ever buy that brand, because I know they are bleached. When wood is treated with chlorine to whiten paper products, it forms dioxins. These are terrible toxic chemicals that have been proven to cause cancer and are leached into the air and water supply harming not just you, but the plants, animals and your environment.

I found out Puffs Plus isn’t any better either. They are most certainly treated with chemical bleach and there’s one ingredient to take note that is most likely genetically modified – Soybean Oil. I can’t stress enough how much we need to avoid being exposed to and consuming genetically modified ingredients – it’s near impossible to avoid GMO products these days without proper labeling, but once you find out something has been genetically modified, it’s time to make a choice and stop buying it.

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My tissue box of choice at work (now) and at home is Seventh Generation.  I buy them off Amazon, because they are cheaper for me that way and I can buy them in bulk so I don’t ever have to worry about being stuck with conventional brands offered at most stores. If you really want to take it the next step like this article from Grist suggests – you could eliminate the need for any tissue and go back old school by starting using a reusable hanky. Fortunately, if you don’t want to take it quite that far… you can use this handy pocket guide that helps you navigate the paper product brands that use recycled paper and environmentally safe processing practices. Take a look – your favorite brand of toilet paper might be on the list to AVOID.

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Luckily my pimple eventually went away, and I haven’t used one of those dirty rascal lotion chemical covered tissues ever since. I’d love to know if you’ve ever thought about the paper products you buy for your household and the ones you use outside of your house… Have you ever gotten pimples all of a sudden and didn’t know why?  Looking into the chemicals in your household products could help crack the code…

“In our every deliberation, we must consider the impact of our decisions on the next seven generations…”

Voting with your dollars is important even when you buy tissues…I never thought what I blew my nose with would matter so much!

In Good Health Always,

Food Babe

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58 responses to “It’s Allergy Season – Are You Using Toxic Tissues?

  1. This is good to know! I have a box of kleenex on my desk!! You know what’s really driving me crazy? The office hand soap! It dries out my hands to no end!

    I slowly looking to transition to a more natural beauty routine – can you recommend your top choices? I need haircare that gives volume, and make-up that caters to combination oily skin (with big pores)!

    1. I completely agree with you Gillian! I need suggestions on what make-up, face wash, lotion, etc. I have very sensitive combination skin and I struggle with slight acne. Any advice would help :]

      1. Yes- unfortunately nothing oily will work for me!! I will look out for these products. I noticed bare minerals just came out with a compact line – so curious to check them out!

      2. Hmm. I’ve been interested to read what you think about WEN hair products. I’ve liked them and my hair has looked better than using shampoo, but I don’t go into a lot of research and I don’t know what to look for like you do.

    2. I hear ya on that soap. Everyday at work, I think about brining in my own… instead I slather on shea butter.
      For Haircare – my favorite volumizing shampoo is by Aubrey organics. I also like Giovanni and John Masters Organics too. And for makeup – I love Tarte cosmetics – however their blush maybe too oily for you. The mascara, eye liner thin pencil and lip stains are incredible though! I think I have every single color of their lip stain…it’s a sickness 🙂

      1. I got so fed up with the orange chemical hand soap at work (on the invoice it is listed as a hazardous material) that I found a simple recipe and made my own. I take it with me every time I use the restroom. At first I was teased about it, but I am hoping my quiet but consistent resistance to a problematic hand cleaner will make the powers that be take notice. The recipe I use is 1/2 gallon boiled filtered water and a bar of Castile soap ( I use Kirks or Dr. Bronner’s.) I grate the soap and mix until soap is melted.

  2. interesting that your post was about allergy (and tissues)… i was going to write to tell you something interesting. i have had allergies all my life. i’ve never taken prescription meds (some over counter) and i have tried lots of natural products. they never worked very well. a couple of years ago i went for several sessions of acupuncture because my eyes were so itchy and swollen i couldn’t sleep… on with the story. i quit eating meat 14 months ago, eat fish only occasionally, eat very little dairy, try to eat mostly organic…guess what?????? i have had ZERO allergy symptoms this spring…0, zero 0!!!!!!! and i read and hear about what a terrible allergy season it is. give me your take on this!!!!!!!

    1. Kerry – This is incredible. You are a testament to what can happen to someone who experiences “dis-ease” and can cure themselves by eating the right foods. Congratulations on your huge accomplishment…I bet it feels great not having to sneeze with the rest of them!

    2. 100% our food is Toxic! to rid our bodies of all the toxins around us is to EAT A PLANT BASED DIET! we need to take a stand for better health and a better world

  3. What is your take on vegetable emulsifiers? They claim the emulsifiers blend the whole pulp and don’t leave it out like juicers do. Thoughts?

    1. Are you talking about the latest Montel Williams gadget? or like a Vitamix? I drink green smoothies and also drink juice but for different reasons – both have their place in a plant based nutrient dense diet.

      1. I had seen both the Montel Williams emulsifier and the Vitamix on TV and thought I would ask. Just last night I bought a Braeville juicer and the book Juicing, Fasting, and Detoxing for Life: Unleash the Healing Power of Fresh Juices and Cleansing Diets that I had found on a raw food/juicing website that came highly recommended. I am just starting to make these changes in my diet as well as my children’s (and husband). Any other sites or books you would recommend for a newbie like me? Thanks!

  4. Wow, I never would’ve thought to check the ingredient list on a box of tissues, but I will be watching out for them from now on! Soy?! The sad news is every classroom has these, and tissues are on every back-to-school supply list. It would be great if the “healthier” tissues were just as inexpensive, and readily available as the “others.” I will be switching our family’s tissues now…thank you Food Babe!

  5. I just got over a cold and my nose was peeling like crazy and I had two big pimples! My tissues were just generic Target brand tissues but now I’m realizing why I had the breakout. Will definitely check out the Seventh Generation tissues next time I’m at Whole Foods!

  6. Love this post, I am constantly gaining more and more awareness of everyday products that contain toxic chemicals. I’ve already changed my make-up, all lotions, toilet paper, paper towels, hand soap and basically all products in my home. My allergy’s have not effected me this season yet and I strongly believe its because of my healthy diet and lifestyle which you mentioned in the article. I didn’t even think about switching tissues, since I haven’t used them in awhile. I would love for you to do a post all about toxic chemicals in make-up and beauty issues, unless you already have and I missed it! I often refer to the skin deep database online which rates how many chemicals certain brands contain. It’s surprising how many high end makeup brands at department stores contain cancer causing chemicals. Let me know your thoughts.

    1. Ok I should have read through all your previous post first because I found your post all about skin care/make-up and hair! Thank you!

      1. uhhh.. your welcome 🙂 If you have any other questions let me know!

    2. Liz…Congrats on making the switch all around. I love hearing from you and other people who have done this…You are one of the few who are ahead of the curve. Think about all the people who are still using toxic chemicals and don’t know any better… we have a long way to go! Keep spreading the good work…

  7. I’ve always been suspicious of those tissues with aloe vera, and it seems I had good reason! I only buy an Australian brand called “Safe”, which makes toilet paper, tissues and paper towels from recycled paper and its all unbleached and uses paper packaging with no plastic. That is the best brand I can find, I haven’t looked into the paper-making process in heaps of detail though. Your “7th generation” sounds good too. I can never understand why toilet paper needs fragrance either, it always makes me sneeze. And on the subject of hygiene products at work, I have started bringing in my own cakes of soap so I don’t have to use the dodgy liquid soap of unknown ingredients. Congrats on beating your allergies!

    1. I know what you are saying about scented toilet paper… I hate it! I am so allergic to that stuff… Good for you for bringing in your own stuff at work. I think about that everytime I wash my hands at the sink during the work day…

  8. I have that ugly pimple right now 🙁 Great article, thank you so much, now I know why and already bought new tissues. I have chronic sinus infection so I use tissues several times a day. I also have asthma and chronic bronchitis 🙁 BUT I continue with acupuncture that helped a lot and now changing my diet to be even healthier so hopefully I will find little relief.
    You are a great inspiration, I am so happy I found your blog. Thank you!

    1. Zaneta – Hope you get through the dietary changes easily and get to experience relief of your conditions soon! Good Luck.

  9. I want to thank you for this article. I have never used any Kleenex with lotions because they irritate my eyes. Thank you for your research. I didn’t like using hankies as a kid because I never had enough to stop my nose from being raw, they got wet to fast.

  10. I would love to hear about your journey with asthma and allergies. My son has both….including food allergy to eggs, nuts, sunflower seeds, and dairy. He is on several medications and inhalers and I hate it! He also does a few steroid tapers during his bad time which is usually Dec-May. Would love for him to come off his medications (He has actually had a good year….I am hoping he is outgrowing some of the asthma stuff). Food allergies are another story though!

    1. Kristi – I am happy to help/share anything I can… Regular acupuncture for allergies has really helped me… along with understanding the food sensitivities I have that the normal “pin prick” tests can’t detect, but muscle kinesiology can…The first step I would take is to find a good acupuncturist that specializes in NAET therapy. I would also of course only buy organic food and feed him as much non-processed food as possible. Keep your house as clean as possible without chemicals – invest in a steamer to clean countertops and floors chemical free. Make sure his soaps, laundry detergent and shampoos are free of harmful chemicals. All of these things aggravate my asthma. If you have more questions – let me know. Good Luck!

  11. Foodbabe, that is great that you switched over to Seventh generation! They are an excellent company with awesome products. I also use their bathroom tissue since they do not have dioxins. Whole Foods and I believe Earthfare also has Dioxin free paper products. Dioxin is really a horrible chemical. Thanks for all you do!

    1. Me too… I’ve got the whole suite…bathroom tissues, paper towels and facial tissues 🙂 When I run out I sometimes buy EF brand or the ones from Trader Joes before my next shipment comes in.

  12. We bought the anti-viral kleenexes when they first came out and honestly – they burn. Kleenexes shouldn’t burn. The lotion ones seem to make me blow my nose more than I normally need to. I will stick with plain kleenexes from now on. But I really need to look into Seventh Generation and compare ingredients. Thanks!

  13. Wow–we use several 7th Generation products, but I didn’t know about their facial tissues or tp. In my house we all suffer from allegies & sinus issues, & I always wondered about all the dust motes that fly into the air when I grab a Kleenex out of the box. Will get some 7th Generation tissues & tp today! We’ve begun cutting back on meat consumption too (I just started the Quantum cleanse, where you avoid meat, gluten, alcohol, caffeine & sugar) so hope to see some positive benefits soon. Thanks for the valuable info!

  14. I have been suffering from severe and chronic asthma, mostly allergy based for the past year. I’ve had allergies all my life but my asthma was adult onset in my late 30’s and over the past couple years just debilitating and doctor’s are at a loss for what to do. Your post gave me so much hope. I originally started looking at diet because I had a nephew pass in his 30’s of heart cancer. I didn’t understand how someone so young and healthy could get such a rare and deadly cancer. Luckily he survived 10 years but was never instructed to change his diet. I really think his doctors did him a disservice. But it didn’t stop me from digging and I started with Alkaline vs Acid, I came upon The China Study and was so excited to see it in your Recommended Reading list. Am reading the Organic Manifesto and am on fire! Trying hard to convert to no meat, no dairy, no GMO and only organic foods. Hoping for the same results as you! Thanks so much for your passion, your posts and your persistence! Please please keep up the good work!

  15. Thank you for your information on facial tissues. It is so important to use products that don’t contain harmful ingredients. It seems we really need to check everything. Label reading is so important but this helps to know what you are looking for.

    I also had asthma and three inhalers and found a way to add more fruits and vegetables to my diet and haven’t had any problems since so now I’m a distributor as I really feel that we are lacking nutrients in the foods that we eat and now I’m filling the gap with Juice Plus+. check it out. It shows in research that it boosts the immune system. The gold standard research is what made me look into the product.

  16. You seriously wrote a hate article about the evils of bleached paper and chemical processing because you got a pimple on your nose?! I’m not trolling here, but that seems a little ridiculous. If you don’t like the tissues at your workplace, go to the bathroom, blow your nose in your hand, and wash it. Or, is the soap in there full of scary chemicals too? Our entire society is based around chemistry that your probably disagree with, but I bet the poisonous, silicon-leeching computer you’re typing on isn’t a problem for you. Or that questionably brain tumor-causing cell phone. Just saying.

  17. Be careful with recycled paper products. I have been using them for a while now and like to do anything to help our dying planet. However, I recently read an article regarding a study that was conducted and found high traces of BPA and BPS (hormone disrupters) in ALL products made with recycled paper:

    That is scary! I have now switched back to regular tissue and toilet paper. I hate to have to go back to store bought brands, but I can’t afford to have any more BPA or BPS in my life…

  18. Vani: What brand of toilet paper and paper towels do you use? I love Seventh Generations products and use their entire line of baby products, diapers, household cleaning supplies & laundry detergent…but I wasn’t a fan of their tissue / paper towel products as the texture seems a bit rough.

  19. As a person who continues to try and STAY a recovered insulin resistant person, anything to do with endrocrine system disruption is of interest to me. All the products that are mass marketed-pushed down our throats constantly can have very negative effects on a person like me. Just turn the tv on for a few and wait for it….. glade, febreeze, swiffer wet mop, even suggesting you spray your childrens play area with these chemicals (that smart mom is saving time isn’t she). Smelly old kids- just spray febreeze!! They’re a family company they say. BPA cans, cleaning chemicals, heating plastic containers, cosmetics, all of these things can causes changes in our hormones that, for one, can interfere with insulin and leptin. A person can have feeling on hunger that are difficult to control and be blamed by society as being undisciplined and weak. Its so complex, I don’t understand it. Any little change has got to help though. I’ve switched to using nothing but vinegar, baking, soda, and hydrogen peroxide to clean my home. I make my own deodorant (6T coconut oil, 1/4 c arrowroot powder, 1/4 c alum. free baking soda, 4 capsules vit E oil squirted out, add essent oil of choice, orange works nicely, or lavender. Just melt together) and it works VERY well. I was using Secret clinical strength twice a day. I learned this recipe from a food blogger. Also the lotion bars (ala pinterest- shea butter, coconut oil, essent oil of choice, melt together (i have a special little crockpot just for this) and chill to firm in cupcake pan. I am saving money making my own stuff, and that was not my intention, but a welcome benefit, and I am mentioning that for all the people who feel they can’t afford this lifestyle. Saving money here helps me afford all organic. It comes back around. I’ve learned these ideas from bloggers and I am so grateful. Thank you for taking the time to post on these topics. Detoxifying our little worlds, one change at a time.
    Do these products that cause endrocrine system disruption have a role in reported increasing obesity rates? Could our plastic wrapped, artificial chemical infused world be causing our youth to be heavier, and reach puberty faster? Its WORTH keeping our eye on. I’m going to.

  20. Purell hand sanitiser is the best underarm deodorant I have tried. The alcohol kills most of the bacteria that cause underarm odor, and the alcohol odor dissipates quickly. It may burn the first application but the rash quickly heals and it will not burn. It is much more effective than ordinary underarm deodorant and for a longer time. Joe Hardcastle

    1. Yeah but Purell has all sorts of other stuff I would definitely avoid. Not sure if that’s a good choice. Have you tried naturally fresh or primal pit paste?

  21. This is actually a question about allergies. I have been giving my son a liquid medicine for close to a year, almost everyday. For the first time today I read the ingredients, and I could not believe a few of the INACTIVE ingredients listed…two especially: methylparaben and propylparaben. I have been avoiding ingredients like these in lotions and soaps, and here they are being ingested by my 5 year old son! He is not a picky eater and is good at trying foods. What foods should he be eating more to help him??

    1. I was referred to this page because of allergies. I would like to add that I agree that you have to be careful about what you use everyday on your body and what you put into your bodies.
      I take a nutritional supplement and distribute it because it has almost eliminated my allergies and the allergies of my Grand children. If you would like more information go to my Web site.
      Your Health is Your Wealth!

  22. Korea is believed to be the second country that acupuncture spread to outside of China. Within Korea there is a legend that acupuncture was developed by the legendary emperor Dangun though it is more likely to have been brought into Korea from a Chinese colonial prefecture.

  23. Shots might seem like an unusual way to treat allergies, but they’re effective at decreasing sensitivity to triggers. The substances in the shots are chosen according to the allergens identified from a person’s medical history and by the allergist during the initial testing. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) oversees the standards used in preparing the materials for allergy shots given in the United States.

  24. Hi there, this post is a year old so I’m not sure that this will get a response, but I just wanted to share my story.

    Every time I get a cold or sinus infection which involves me blowing my nose repeatedly in a short period (going through a tissue box in eight hours, or enough to turn my nose red, etc), a few days after I recover I inevitably end up with an angry sore on the bridge of my nose. Sometimes it forms sort of inside the nostril, but usually it’s just underneath the bridge. It isn’t like a pimple though, it looks like a boil. It’s yellow and shiny, and sometimes it turns red and looks bloody. It takes about two weeks to disappear. It’s gross, and I can’t cover it in makeup. I don’t know what it could be but I’m starting to wonder if it is related to the tissues I use. I live in New Zealand and I don’t think Seventh Generation is available here, but typically I use run-of-the-mill Kleenex. Sometimes I use the ones with aloe vera but usually just the plain ones. Unfortunately no ingredients are listed on the box or on the company website, so I have no idea what is used in the manufacture of these tissues.

    I know it’s hard to diagnose online, but do you think this could be a reaction to the tissues I use? I use probably one or two tissues a day normally but when I’m using them intensively this happens. Any ideas?

    1. It could be the cause! You can buy Seventh Generation tissues through Amazon. There is a link in the post. Good luck!

  25. But then what’s a good alternative to the Kleenex with lotion? I have yearlong allergies and if I get a cold, I can go through 1-2 boxes a DAY. Regular tissues chap my nose and upper lip really badly to the point I can’t use them anymore.

    However, I’d rather not put extra chemicals on my face over and over. (never gotten pimples from them btw). So, suggestions?

  26. So you use Recycled paper, with all the chemicals in it, select out the already bleached paper, and then sell it at a premium as chemical free tissue. What a country! Seventh Generation is laughing all the way to the bank.
    Am I wrong? Does recycling take all the chemicals out of the product? I kind of doubt that.

  27. Hi: I had thought on the matter of chemicals in tissue paper and have come to the tentative conclusion that certain tissue papers add scents, lotions, ect and if you think about it, when you blow your nose, you also wipe after. From that action, the chemicals or scents ect are exposed to your mucus membranes causing you nasal passages to keep running ie you need to keep using the tissue paper.
    For me, the best tissue paper is the 365 facial tissue at Whole Foods. $1.39 for 150 hypo-allergenic; no chlorine used; fragrance free.

    Thanks for your work Food Babe. Have garnered a lot of good info here.
    aloha, neal

  28. Thanks for the wealth of information you share with your readers, I have switched to a lot of products that you recommend. I was wondering if you have researched about the safe and organic condoms and natural lubricants. For lubricants, some blogs claim that aloe cadabra and good clean love are good options. Please share if you have any information on what kind of ingredients are OK in condoms and lubricants. Thanks!

  29. Interesting article! I never thought of things like that!
    PS. sorry…what do you mean by “my Asia”?

  30. I had a cold then the flu. My sinuses were a mess. I got lotion tissues because I was using them all day and most of the night for weeks. I’ve rarely gotten blemishes, so when I got a little zit on my nose, I was surprised. Then, two weeks later, I got a gigantic zit under my nose. Well. Then I wondered about the extra lotion in the tissues. My skin is very dry so I didn’t think this would matter but what else could it be? So I googled it. Sure enough!

  31. I know your post is several years old, but it showed up when I did a Google search for “contact dermatitis from facial tissue lotions”.
    For me, it was from the Walmart brand of lotion-impregnated tissues, apparently. I go through tissues pretty quickly because of sinus issues that I cannot pinpoint the cause of; the cold weather just amplifies them.

    Some time within the past 2 months, I suddenly developed an ugly rash right under my nose and above my lips. It first resulted in small raised bumps (typical of contact dermatitis, now in retrospect) that would then form a dry, raised area. Trying to cover it with any type of make up didn’t help, and applying various moisturizers/humectants didn’t help.

    Last week, it finally occurred to me that because of the very discreet location of this rash, perhaps it was possible that something in the tissues was causing it. After purchasing some regular facial tissues without “lotion”, I started seeing a reduction in the redness and scaling – and most importantly – no formation of new bumps.

    I had looked for a list of the chemicals used on the tissues, but to no avail. So, not sure specifically what it was, but based on your post, it’s a reasonable assumption it could be any one of them. Either way, I’m sticking to the “lotion-free” tissues from now on, and will assume that the residual rash I’ve got will be gone within a week.


  32. I found this post when searching to see if anyone other than me has experienced getting stuffed up more when using tissues with lotion. I didn’t read through all the comments, but it made sense after reading this that it would cause some sort of reaction and for me, it is worse than not having tissues. I have started buying tissues without anything even if they are more abrasive. I had not heard of Seventh Generation tissues but will be searching online for them now.

    I’m still not sure if anyone else has experienced what I do, but at least I know I’m obviously triggering an allergic reaction.

    Thank you for a great article.

  33. So glad I found this I couldn’t even find any other article acknowledging how toxic paper tissues are!
    I looked this up today after seeing (with sunlight streaming in) that my lotion Kleenex have tiny iridescent (rainbow colors) glitter all over them! I’m assuming this is aluminum dust, looks like the glitter you see in a Teflon finish.
    All I can find online is a bunch of jokes about it, and supposedly it’s from dried lotion and I’m not buying that explanation, and I won’t ever be buying these again either!
    I have a feeling this is why I have terrible allergic reactions every time I have a cold and use Kleenex. (Forget Puffs they’re way worse with all the dust!) I try to use cloth handkerchiefs whenever possible now.
    As soon as I start using paper Kleenex while having a cold, I start having uncontrollable sneezing episode and my eyes and sinuses start itching horribly and my eyes won’t stop tearing.
    Please look into what these shiny flecks are I have a feeling it is something horribly toxic and much worse than anything you mentioned above. Whatever this is we are breathing it into our lungs while using these and I’m sure that is carcinogenic! There was a huge dust cloud in front of my face after using a Kleenex while sitting in a stream of sunlight and the metallic flecks also floating in the air!

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