Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Methylisothiazolinone and School Supplies

UPDATES ADDED February 2018
(see bottom of this page for specifics)

After my daughter was patch tested over spring break for contact dermatitis, I spent weeks finding the right shampoos, soaps, lotions, and other personal care items.  By the end of the school year, her hands were 90% improved, but she still had a couple fingers that were stubbornly refusing to fully heal.  It was around the end of May that I found out via support groups on social media (Methylisothiazolinone VictimsMethylisothiazolinone Free and Allergy to Isothiazolinone, Methylisothiazolinone and Benzisothiazolinone) that art supplies, glues, paints, insecticides, and almost every other item in the world contains the evil preservative Methylisothiazolinone.  My heart sank as I realized that my summer would be consumed by doing research for school supplies knowing that I would only scratch the surface.  I hated having to meet with the school’s art teacher to take pictures and make lists of everything in the supply closet and classroom.  The school was extremely helpful and the teachers accommodated my seemingly odd requests, but I am suddenly forced to feel like a weirdo granola helicopter mom.  My daughter’s teacher last year was well aware of contact dermatitis since her daughter struggles with even more allergies.  Even though I'm sure it will go fine, I'm still not looking forward to telling next year's teacher that I can't buy my daughter several things on the supply list and that I WILL be labeling all of her supplies to avoid cross contamination with other kid's lotions and soaps, and that she will not be wiping her desk down with Clorox or Lysol wipes.

I have thus spent many days of my summer compiling lists of school and art supplies and briefly researching a few cleaning supplies.  Some companies have been extremely helpful while others have given me the cold shoulder.  I find that, in general, the larger the company, the less helpful they are (with one or two exceptions).  I have found that the word “proprietary” makes my blood start to boil.  I did get some replies asking me to contact my doctor.  Evidently, doctors are allowed to know the secret ingredients, but customers are not.  I still need to request legal information to see what rights we consumers have. If anyone reading this is privy to legal requirements in the USA, please let me know!  I’d love to have a smart and valid response to “proprietary.”

Our school’s art teacher uses a lot of Blick artist supplies, so they were first on my list to contact.  Amazingly, the rep I was referred to was the most helpful person I found on my summer quest for art supplies and I can’t say enough good about this company and Audra, the wonderful rep that is still helping me out as I find more products to inquire about.

I sent this form letter to each company I contacted via email or online forms:

To Whom It May Concern:

My daughter was recently diagnosed with allergic contact dermatitis for glucosides (a common lathering agent) and for Methylisothiazolinone (a common preservative in, paints, glues and markers).  I am writing to ask you which, if any, of your {products} do or do not contain glucosides or methylisothiazolinone (derivatives listed below).

Even in trace amounts or hidden in fragrance mixes, these two ingredients cause an unsafe reaction for my daughter, so as thorough of an investigation as possible is essential for the safety of my daughter.  Since MSDS forms to not include methylisothiazolinone as a toxic ingredient, they are not sufficient in replies. I am contacting you along with several other manufacturers of office supplies, art/craft supplies and construction supplies.

Thank you for taking the time to address my family’s health concerns.


Jill Sandager 

1.    -glucoside, any ingredient ending with the word “glucoside”
2.    Names and derivatives of methylisothiazolinone
INCI names:
Methylisothiazolinone (MI / MIT)
Methylchlorisothiazolinone (MCI / MCIT)
Benzisothiazolinone (BIT)
Chloromethylisothiazolinone (CMIT)
Octylisothiazolinone (OIT, OI)
Chemical names:

CAS Numbers:
2682-20-4 – Methylisothiazolinone (MI)
26172-55-4 – Methylchloroisothiazolinone (MCI)
55965-84-9 – MI / MCI Blend

Brand names:
Amerstat 250
Euxyl K 100
Fennosan IT 21
Grotan K / TK2
Kathon CG / LX / WT
Mergal K7
Metatin GT
Mitco CC 31/32 L
Neolone CapG / 950 / MxP
Parmetol A / DF / K
Promex Alpha / BM
Proxel AQ / PL / XL2
Special Mx 323

***(If you cut and paste, please add the following to the list: Bioban tm 557)

While this list is current as of August 2016, keep in mind that formulas change over the years. I hope to keep up with this list as much as possible. This is far from a complete list as it is based on what I found in my own home’s art supplies and what our elementary school uses in the classrooms.  I have included the date I received information from each company and any extra pertinent notes that I received.  With the exception of Crayola, I found that the larger the company, the less helpful they were.  For purposes of this post "SAFE" refers to products that do not contain isothiazolinone products and "UNSAFE" refers to those that do contain isothiazolinones.

DISCLAIMER: I do not guarantee the safety of these products and many I have never tested or used.  The information is based solely on what I received from the companies I contacted.
Blick Art Supplies was and continues to be extremely helpful.  Audra, my contact, has replied to me as quickly as she gets the information.  I highly recommend this company! Even though all of their products are not safe for MI allergy sufferers, they are upfront and desire to help.

SAFE as of 7/25/16:
Ceramic Clay (clays are generally safe as mold is useful in the curing process)
Blick Studio Markers (most studio markers contain MI, but Blick’s do not)

*Yes! Stickflat Glue (contains Sodium O-Phenylphenate Tetrahydrate)


Blick Block Printing Ink
Blick Essential Glazes
Blick White Glue
Blick Washable Glue
UHU Glue Sticks

Crayola was also very helpful and prompt, though they could only confirm a handful of their many products to be free from MI.  They mentioned how helpful the list of derivatives was for understanding what the allergy encompassed.  Upon inquiry I found out that this list is only valid in the United States and that each country/region has different manufacturers and thus ingredients will vary based on location. Here is a link to Crayola's list of contacts across the globe, current as of 6/15/16 for products sold outside the USA.

SAFE in the USA as of 6/13/16:
Neon Color Explosion Markers (comes in kits)

Chalk and sidewalk chalks (not added in Crayola's factories, but could not confirm that the dry pigments from their suppliers was MI-free.  Most dry pigments are considered safe)

All other products were not confirmed to be free of MI.

School Specialty was another company that was very helpful in regards to Sax art supplies, commonly found in classrooms.  I was able to get a lot of information from Anna about Sax paints.

SAFE as of 6/28/16:
SAX Ceramic Clay

PROBABLY SAFE as of 6/28/16:

*The manufacturer did want to mention that they have a raw material in their factory (not an ingredient in the paint or gesso, however) that contains MI and MCI in low quantities. But, again, this chemical is not present in the formulations of any of the paints or gessos.

Sax Write on Black India Ink**
Sax Block Printing Ink**
Sax VersaBlock Inks**

**Note from School Specialty: "While the manufacturer stated that many of the inks they manufacture contain BIT, they assured me that none of the Sax formulations contain this ingredient. They did want to let you know that one of the preservatives they use in the Sax inks is CAS no. 56709-13-8.  POLYMETHOXY BICYCLIC OXAZOLIDINE. They did caution that they cannot be 100% sure that none of the 20 or so ingredients they use in the inks contain any of the chemicals you had provided in your list, but they do not add any as a raw ingredient themselves."

I will avoid until further information is provided.  I'm not sure if polymethoxy bicyclic oxazolidine is in the same class as MI.  My organic chemistry class from college was a long time ago!

Sax All Block Out White Paint (contains 1.23% Acticide)
Sax Versatemp Tempera Paint, standard, fluorescent, metallic, pearlescent (contains 1.23% Acticide)
Sax Versatemp Tempera Additives/Varnishes (contain 1.23% Acticide):
            - 100243 Acrylic Drying Retarder
            - 442136 & 247313 Gloss Medium
- 442139 Matte Medium
- 442142 Gel Medium
- 403960 & 403961 Gloss Multi-Media Varnish
- 405602 Matte Multi-Media Varnish
Sax True Flow Gloss Glazes, Colorburst Glazes, Crystal Magic Glazes, Underglazes (contain BIT)
Odorless Mineral Spirits

RIT who makes the popular dye products was another company that was prompt and helpful.  They assured me that none of their dyes contain MI or any derivatives.  Most people would wear gloves, but understanding that some people have airborne allergies and not just contact dermatitis, it’s good to know that it’s a safe art supply.

SAFE as of 6/14/16:

Sakura of America is the company that makes Koi Watercolors.  I bought these for my daughter last year on an Amazon Cyber Monday deal.  Sakura was helpful and prompt.  I only inquired about the Koi Watercolors, so I can’t verify any of their other supplies.

SAFE as of 6/21/16:

did not inquire about other 

Elmer’s was helpful and prompt in reply but disappointing. And based upon my research with school glue, I haven't found any school glue or white glue that is safe.  This has been the most frustrating of my findings.  I have replied inquiring if any product they make is MI-free and am waiting for a reply.

SAFE as of 7/16/16:

All kid’s school glues and glue sticks 

Faber Castell was helpful and prompt in reply.  I specifically requested information on markers. The customer service rep was friendly and forwarded my request on and is getting back to me.  It took some waiting, but I am thrilled to update that the connector pens, which are fine tip markers designed for children, are MI free.  Here is the official letter of confirmation from Faber-Castell and I have to say, it's the most official letter I have seen in my quest.

SAFEas of 9/13/2016:

Duo Tip Markers 12 and 24 count.

Earth Pigments is a company that sells dry pigments.  I have been looking into making my own paints and markers. Since dry pigments generally don't need preservatives, I thought this would be a safe bet.  I just emailed them today after I ordered my starter kit to make lime milk paint, so I haven't heard back from them yet.  I will update this as soon as I hear from them.  I expect good news.  This link has the company's recipes and how-to's for natural paints

Planet Inc.  As far as wipes go (they are always on our school supply lists), the only wipe my daughter can use are 7th generation baby wipes and they're terribly linty.  We tried them out on a road trip and they were only slightly better than rubbing a wet tissue on your skin.  Thankfully, I have found Planet Inc. and they have an all purpose spray cleaner that is free from all of my daughter's allergies including MI, fragrance and botanicals. They were quick to reply with ingredient lists and even offered samples.  In fact, with the exception of their Ultra Liquid Laundry detergent, all of their products are MI and fragrance free.  Here is a link to Planet's product ingredients as of 6/27/16 and a link to Planet's product information page that they sent me at the same time.

N-Dex Gloves  For now, my daughter is only allergic by contact, so I have purchased nitrile gloves for her to use at school when a project requires her to use a product that contains MI.  N-dex gloves were specifically listed on my ACDS CAMP list, so I am assuming they are produced without the use of MI (I hear, but have not confirmed that some nitrile or rubber gloves can be).  These come in extra small and are a decent size for my 10 year old's hands.  They are a little big on my 8 year old daughter, but still ok.  It's not ideal to have to wear alien green gloves, but it's a good alternative to simply not participating when the kids have to glaze ceramics this year in art class.

Plaid Enterprises, makers of Folk Art, Plaid, Apple Barrel, Mod Podge, Delta was prompt and helpful but ruled out every product they make.

SAFE as of 7/14/16:


I received this reply from Heather:

"I am sorry to inform you that the all of the paints that you have listed contain BIT and/or Kathon.  In fact, I cannot think of a single product we make that does not contain a biocide or mildewcide at some minute percentage.  If you daughter is as sensitive as you say...then I would advise you to find other paint products.   
In all may have a very difficult time finding art supplies from regular big box stores.  We add those ingredients to allow for long shelve stability.  It may be more to your advantage to make some of your own art paints as you need them.  Paints have been made for thousands of years, but traditionally they were made and used in a very short span of time so there was little need for preservatives.  If this is a route that you would like to investigate...may I suggest starting with The Artist's Handbook of Materials and Techniques by Ralph Mayer or the Formulas for Painters by Robert Massey.  They may seem technical but give good old masters formulas for egg and milk paints that children can use.  And who she grows older...oils may be a favorite for her."

Newell/Rubbermaid updated 9/1/16 (makers of SharpiePapermateExpoParkerUni-ballPrismacolor) took forever to get information from.  I filled out an online form for the mother company and also Sharpie. I got a mail or fax-in form, filled it out, and after bugging them frequently, finally heard a reply 4 months later. 

SAFE as of 8/31/16:
Sharpie Fine Point Permanent Markers- All colors
Expo Low Odor Dry Eraser Markers- All Colors
Paper Mate InkJoy Ballpoint Pens (styles 100ST, 100RT 300, 500, 550, 700, and Quatro)- All Colors   *These are NOT the gel pens*
Prismacolor Premier Colored Pencils- All Colors

gel pens
all other items are unconfirmed as of now.

BIC emailed back after about 3 weeks and confirmed that their ballpoint pens are safe, but would not confirm other products.  This is a quote from the email they sent: "BIC ball pen items such as Atlantis, Cristal, 4-Color, etc. are all safe for your use.  However, we cannot definitively confirm if our supplier’s water based inks are free from these ingredients.  Therefore, gel pens, rollers, felt pens, and markers might contain these ingredients."

SAFE as of 8/31/16:
UNSAFE (unconfirmed ingredients):
gel pens
felt tip pens

Michael’s Stores was prompt in reply, but generally unhelpful. They sent MSDS forms which I confirmed from the Consumer Product Safety Commission do not include the biocide in question (MI/MCI/BIT,etc.) hazardous.  Based upon the reply from Plaid Enterprises, I assume most of their products are unsafe with the possible exception of oil paints.

Mattel/Roseart was unhelpful in their reply which stated that they would not disclose any information I had requested.  The buzz word “proprietary” was tossed my way.

Liquitex was contacted on 6/8/16 via web form and has not replied.

3M  updated 11/2/2017. After several inquiries about Scotch glue sticks, I have finally received a reply.  It's good/bad news. A few gluesticks do not have isothiazolinones in their recipes, but they won't guarantee that they are 100% free, so I'm labeling it "possibly safe." I have not purchased any of these to verify that my they are safe for my daughter, but I plan to patch test her with a couple to be sure before I let her use it without gloves.

POSSIBLY SAFE as of 9/1/17 (see email response below):
Scotch Clear Gluestick
Scotch Wrinkle Free Gluestick

I received this reply in an email from Beth at 3M:
"We have been advised for our Regulatory Group that isothiazolanone-based preservatives are not intentionally added to Scotch® Permanent Gluestick, Purple Gluestick, and Craft Stick.  However, these preservatives may be used in the manufacturing facility, so we cannot guarantee the products are 100% free of these isothiazolanone derived preservatives.
The statement above does not include:Scotch® Clear GluestickScotch® Wrinkle Free Gluestick
This was all of the information that they could provide to you on our Scotch(R) Glue Stick Products."
MINWAX/Sherwin Williams Updated 2/15/2018. Because I have a child in shop classes at school, I contacted MINWAX to ask about their stains and polyurethanes. The company was very responsive and gave clear information. They confirmed what many of us who've done research (and reader Thomas who has left useful comments below) are finding: that in general, oil-based products do not have preservatives, but the water-based usually do use MIT, OIT or BIT.  I only inquired about certain products, so my advice is for you to verify with the company when you're ready to do a project.

SAFE as of 8/31/16:
All water-based and acrylic paints, gels, stains and finishes

Here are excerpts of 2 letters I received from Charisse at company:

"I checked the composition of the following products:
WOOD CLASSICS® Interior Wood Oil Stain, Pickled White
Neither product contains the preservatives listed below in the customer's email. This is based on current product formulation and information given to us by our raw material suppliers. Typically, the oil-based stains/coatings do not contain those preservatives, whereas water-based coatings may. If you or the customer would like me to check for the components below in any other specific SW or MINWAX® products, please provide the product number/sales number and I will do so. Thanks!"

"MINWAX® Fast-Drying Polyurethane Clear Satin product code: 43010/63010
MINWAX® Fast-Drying Polyurethane Clear Gloss product code: 23000/43000
MINWAX® Fast-Drying Polyurethane Spray Semi-Gloss product code: 33055
MINWAX® Clear Aerosol Lacquer Clear Satin product code: 15210

Do not contain any of the customer preservative chemicals of concern. This is based on the current product formulation and based on the information provided by our raw material suppliers. Please let me know if I can be of any further assistance." 


Here is a link to the very ugly Exel spreadsheet that I used to organize my original findings. I'll keep adding and updating as I find out more, so check back.

Please feel free to contact me with questions, other product information or any legal help you can offer for getting information from companies.  Thank you to all my support groups!

2/18/2018: Added MINWAX and Sherwin Williams (same company). Removed all Blick acrylic paints from the safe list until I get further information. I have been on the fence with this paint because my daughter reacted to it last year when she did not use gloves. Several readers have alerted me of reactions, but I'm 99% sure now that they have either changed their formula or gave me misinformation up front. SO FRUSTRATING.

11/2/17: Added 3M (towards the bottom). Also, good news! I am starting to collaborate with a couple other mothers who are researching common exposure sources that our children may be exposed to, so hopefully we can come up with more information to help protect you and your children!

2/8/17: *Reguarding the Yes! Stickflat Glue, a user said a rash broke out on her daughter when using this when it got on her hands, so use with caution.  It may have been due to misinformation from the manufacturer or may have been due to different allergens that are have been present in the formulation.

8/18/16  I have contacted Pilot, Faber Castell, Alex Toys, and Stabilo about their markers and pens.  Several have responded saying they will forward my request to the appropriate department.  Stabilo sent me a pat answer and a poison control number out of Germany. I have yet to call because I don't have time to spell out 3 dozen names of MI.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Garden Markers for, you know, marking gardens

I was shopping at one of my local garden centers and came across some really cute garden markers that used old wood and bamboo garden stakes with herb names burned into the wood.  They were $5.99 each...way too rich for my blood.  However, I love coming across DIY ideas and this one seemed very simple.  I happened to have both wood and stakes at home, but I didn't have a wood burning tool.

I used some leftover cedar trim pieces and my painted bamboo stakes and ran over to Hobby Lobby to pick up a wood burning tool that ended up being less than $10 with a 40% off coupon.  Not a bad price for as many garden markers as I cared to make.

Bamboo garden stakes
1x2" wood
wood glue
wood burning tool

1. Cut bamboo stakes to about 2 feet long (aprox. in half).  If you're using a power saw, you'll need to cut them very slowly through so they don't split.  If you're using a hand saw, don't use a really wide tooth saw.
2. Cut 1" thick wood (which is actually planed to more like 3/4") to about 2"x 3 1/2".  The measurements don't have to be exact, but you probably want to make them all the same size.  The less grain in the wood and the softer the wood, the easier it will be to burn the letters into it.  Use new or reclaimed wood according to your preference.  I used new because I had it and I know that cedar turns gray and looks pretty cool after the summer.

3.  Drill an approximately 1" deep hole into the long edge of the wood block.  Choose a drill bit that is similar in size to the end of the bamboo stake you're going to be pressing into the hole.

4.  Using wood glue, fill the hole 3/4 of the way full and press the bamboo into the hole. Wipe off any puddling glue that oozes out.  Let it dry for a few hours.

5.  Print out templates of the herbs or veggies you want to make markers for.  Draw over the words with a ball point pen pressing hard so it indents the words onto the wood. (I did this for my veggies)
You can just freehand the words onto the wood with a pencil. (I did this for my herb container)
You can buy the HotStamps Alphabet Set for the heating tool and just press the letters into the wood.  (I was too cheep to do this, but it'd be the easiest)

6.  Use the wood burning tool to burn the letters into the wood.  The tool kind of caught a bit on each grain line on the cedar I used making it a little tricky, but if I was careful and didn't rush, I was able to get the job done.  They aren't perfect, but they're pretty darn cute anyway.  If you want perfection, use the alphabet set.

7.  Leave the mess in the garage for your husband to clean up.

And you're done.

Thursday, April 14, 2016


I couldn't find a true free and clear recipe for homemade lip balm on the web that was free of botanicals or beeswax, so I went to work in my kitchen lab and came up with my own.  You can read the story of why I wanted this mineral/petroleum based lip balm at the end of the recipe, but for those of you who don't care, I thought it'd be nice to just give you the recipe up front.  I like the texture of this a whole lot better than the coconut oil/beeswax recipes I've tried that kind of melt as you apply.  This feels like a lip protection and stays put for longer than 10 minutes.  I used tubes because I don't like sticking my finger in a pot, but use whatever works or what you have.

This RECIPE fills 5 standard lip balm tubes

Food grade paraffin wax (I used Gulf wax available in canning supplies at the grocery)
pure petroleum jelly (I prefer medical grade)
clean (sterile) lip balm tubes or tubs or (cleaned out old containers)
Cheese grater
Microwave safe bowl or measuring cup (Pyrex)
Microwave or double boiler set up for stove top.
stir stick or spoon
Disposable pipettes (optional)
Small cookie sheet and ice packs if you're using tubes

2 packed teaspoons of grated paraffin wax
4 level teaspoons of pure petroleum jelly
(got that? 1 part wax, 2 parts petroleum jelly.  Make any amount you wish.)

1. Prepare your containers or tubes.  If you're using tubes, it's good practice to line them up on a cookie sheet with an ice pack under it. This keeps the tubes cool and helps keep the hot mixture from seeping down past the bottom push plug thingy (I think that's the technical term for it).  You could probably line up the tubes along a lunch ice block too.  Whatever you do, whether you use ice or not, make sure the tubes are level.

2. Grate wax with grater (you won't need much).  Measure it by packing it into a measuring spoon. It's not explosive, so it doesn't have to be perfectly exact.

3.  Melt wax in a microwave safe container, using 30 second increments.

4.  When wax is all or mostly melted, add petroleum jelly and microwave for an additional 15-30 seconds.  Stir well until all the petroleum jelly is melted and incorporated into the wax.

5. Carefully and slowly pour into the tubes or containers or pipette the hot liquid into the tubes.  Make sure you fill it all the way to the tippy-top because it settles down into the tube a bit as it cools.  I didn't use pipettes because I'm cheap thrifty.  It doesn't really matter if you spill, you can wipe it off later and clean it up with rubbing alcohol or something.

6.  Let cool until set up.

7. Put on the cap

8. Apply cute label...or not.

Clean tools with hot soapy water.

If you don't care about free and clear that much, you can experiment with the recipe.  You may substitute beeswax for the paraffin, add a bit of sweetener to the hot mixture, drop of flavoring oil or vitamin E oil, substitute some of the paraffin for crayon shavings for a tinted balm. You can probably mess with the ratios and add less wax to make it more of a cream consistency, though I didn't try that.  Whatever you do, stick with oil and wax based ingredients; don't try to add alcohol or water based vitamins or extracts.

***DISCLAIMER:  Petrolatum products are supposedly not good to ingest (so the organic mom bloggers say), so, uh...don't eat it.  This may deter you from adding sweetener for your children.


This post is no doubt going to throw a wrench into all the mommy bloggers who are all-natural, organic, plant-based fanatics. And the essential oil worshipers will likely hate it. I don't fault anyone for raising a fist to the mass producers who add chemicals and preservatives to our personal care and cleaning products.  I'm right there with you.  I feel like I'm being forced to become a DIY granola mom making my own stuff to avoid chemicals, though you won't catch me smelling of sandalwood and ylang ylang.

My daughter recently underwent contact dermatitis patch testing (that was a joy).  After her spring break of no showering, terrible itching at the reaction spots and being condemned to being inactive (the worst torture) because she couldn't sweat, she came home with a list of skin allergies and irritants.  The worst offenders were Methylisothiazolinone (preservative) and glucosides (lathering agent).  Most personal care products contained at least one of her allergens, so we tossed her shampoo, conditioner, chapsticks, lotions and soaps and went shopping.  Her safe list is pretty short and some household products, like dish soap, have no options for her to use.  No dish soap means I'm searching for DIY recipes and until I find a good one, she'll have to wear gloves every time she puts her hand in dishwater, which is probably a good habit to get into anyway.

Among her list of allergies were fragrances and botanicals.  This isn't uncommon given different reactions to bees and various plants and flowers that people have. That means no essential oils (what? they don't cure everything?!), no fragrance, no natural soaps like Dr. Bronners, no beeswax. My girl  has one single safe option for lip balm: Vaseline Original Lip Therapy, which is petroleum jelly.

I wanted my daughter to have the convenience of having a tube of Chapstick in her pocket like everyone else, and I happened to buy a bunch of lip balm tubes on Amazon a few months ago to make my own coconut/beeswax lip balm which turned out to be pretty terrible (it had a cheap thin lip gloss consistency and then there was coconut...barf).  I searched for hours to find a recipe that had no beeswax, plant oils, flavorings, etc.  The majority of my searches came up with things like "get rid of your paraffin and petrolatum based products."  I really don't understand why people think minerals are the devil and plants are gods (as long as they're non-GMO organic gluten free plants). <insert snarky eye roll>

I set to work and came up with the simplest of lip balm recipes with 2 cheap ingredients. This is  without smell, taste or anything botanical.  And it worked!  I amaze myself sometimes.  Scroll back up for the recipe.