As someone who suffers from multiple chemical sensitivities (in recovery), I’m starting off the year addressing this important topic. Thirty-three percent of the population experiences some kind of sensitivity to their environment and since 7 billion+ people reside on Planet Earth, I recommend to all of us, cleaning up our act.
For those of you not familiar with multiple chemical sensitivities, also known as MCS, it is a controversial medical condition that has a physical basis. No one is making this up or crazy if they suffer from MCS. It is as real as the nose on your face and for people with this condition, life feels like living in Hades. Avoidance is what enlightened medical professionals recommend for people with MCS, but how can we avoid the thousands of chemicals released in the air, water, and land every day. And some medical experts warn that if we don’t clean up the environment and adopt healthier lifestyles than washing our clothing with Tide and other commercial detergents (just one example), everyone will develop sensitivities to chemicals.
While it’s hard to diagnose this condition, also known as a syndrome because of its array of symptoms which differ from person to person with MCS, symptoms include the following:
When exposed to synthetic chemicals, usually derived from petrochemicals, a person with chemical sensitivity experiences:
- Dizziness, feels light-headed, or spaces out
- Nausea and or vomiting
- Migraines or some other type of headache
- Tight muscles, and painful joints
- Urinary problems
- Menstrual problems
- Neurological disorders
- Digestive disorders
- Respiratory disorders
- Organ failure
- Overload of toxins (usually heavy metals)
- Emotional distress such as anxiety
- Exasperates symptoms of autism
- Usually candida and parasites are involved
The symptoms occur when a person is exposed to low levels of petrochemicals, mold and other substances that off-gas. The symptoms lessen or disappear when the chemical(s) are removed from the environment or the person removes him or herself from the environment.
Even if you don’t have this medical condition, someone you know or even a stranger you encounter most likely does. And when you choose to be kind to your own body and the environment by choosing natural alternatives to synthetic conventional products, you lighten the toxicity load for the person with MCS.
Refrain from wearing synthetic fragrances (also included in commercial brand hygiene products, household cleaners, laundry detergents, fabric softener sheets (those are horrid), low voc and high voc paints, solvents, inks, perfume, colognes, after shave, powders, and the list goes on). I recommend reading Debra Lynn Dadd’s “Home, Safe Home” or visiting the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep data base to check toxicity on everyday products.
Also if you donate clothing to thrift stores or sell to consignment stores, wash out all perfume and fragrances out of your clothing. Or better yet, don’t spray perfume directly on clothing in the first place. Many people with sensitivities are low-income and buy their clothing used when possible. Don’t combine cashmere or any type of wool or silk with perfume period. It’s next to impossible to rid of the scent from the clothing. Refrain from using commercial detergents and fabric softeners when washing clothing you plan on donating to thrift stores.
Also wash out musty and second hand smoke odors from clothing before making any donations. Some of the volunteers that work in thrift stores suffer from allergies and MCS. They shouldn’t have to suffer from head aches and respiratory problems when they sort through donations.
Also consider that when you use commercial laundry detergents and softeners, you pump out chemicals into the air through the exhaust fans from your homes. So it’s not just a matter of sitting next to a fragrance-sensitive person on public transportation or encountering someone with MCS in public.
Other things to consider not smoking at bus stops or directly in front of public buildings, not smoking pot on the street or in public places or even apartment buildings where you share a ventilation system. Don’t run the engine on your car or motorcycle since the exhaust travels into people’s homes and harms people and animals nearby. Just start your vehicle and go. Switch to electric mowers and leaf blowers or use a rake and push mower. Refrain from using pesticides or herbicides on your property and advocate for your local parks department to use alternatives as well. Buy organic food, not just because it’s healthier for your body, but this mindful practice benefits the planet as a whole. I could go on, but I’ve decided to just get you started with the practices I list here.
I guess the key here is to educate yourself about MCS. You might even suffer from this condition and now would be the time to address it since the condition grows worse without intervention. I know, I have had the condition since the age of 28 and it’s not something to ignore or deny. Once you educate yourself, become more mindful of what pollution you contribute to an already burdened environment. Support the manufacturers of natural products. You can buy these products in bulk often or on sale if cost is a concern. And at some point, we’re all going to have to pay in one way or another to clean up the environment.
I’m leaving you with some important resources:
Debra Lynn Dadd radio interview (forward the video so you can avoid the loud intro music)
Environmental doctor website
This is enough to get you started.