Copyright © 2011 Sherri Connell
In addition to living every day with Progressive Multiple Sclerosis and Chronic-Late Lyme Disease, I also have an Environmental Illness, Chemical Injury (CI). CI is also known as Multiple Chemical Sensitivities (MCS) in which a person has adverse health effects when exposed to chemicals, Chemical Intolerance and Toxic Encephalopathy (swelling of the brain and spinal cord).
Most of us know that chemicals can come from commonly known products such as paint, stain, exhaust and cigarette smoke. Nevertheless, we often do not think twice about cleaning products, pesticides, new carpet, cars and furniture, let alone all the chemicals we often expose ourselves to daily such as perfumes, colognes and synthetic fragrances in personal care products such as soap, deodorant, shampoo, lotion, laundry detergents and fabric softeners.
When exposed to harsh chemicals, as well as chemicals in every day, personal products, I experience severe neurological reactions such as migraines, swelling of the brain, chest pains, heart arrhythmia, increased heart rate and blood pressure, vertigo, blurred vision, seizure like activity in my brain, memory loss, spinal spasms, paralysis and cognitive dysfunction.
These are not the result of having “allergies” to fragrances. Allergies are the development of histamines in response to a substance in which the person is allergic. It is true that these chemicals can mimic allergies by creating swelling of the nasal and lung tissues. However, the symptoms people with MCS report occur with exposure to chemicals that are considered neuro-toxic. In other words, we do not have an illness that causes us to react, but instead have developed CI due to exposure. Thus, this can happen to anyone.
In fact, contrary to common belief, I am not alone! 38% of the population reports some sort of adverse health effect from fragranced products (Steinemann). More than 15% react to them like I do and know they have MCS (Kreutzer). People can develop CI with a sudden exposure to large amounts of chemicals or subtle every day use of common household and personal care products.
In addition to those living with CI , there are many other people who report mild to serious reactions to perfumes and synthetic fragrances, such as those with allergies (50 million) (AAAI), asthma (26 million) (ALA), Autism, PTSD, people living with chronic illness, cancer and pregnant women.
Moreover, it is likely there are many more people who do not make the connection between their symptoms and the fragrances or may develop a health issue later as a result of these exposures.
According to a 2010 study:
We investigated volatile organic compounds (VOCs) emitted from 25 common fragranced consumer products—laundry products, personal care products, cleaning supplies, and air fresheners—using headspace analysis with gas chromatography/mass spectrometry (GC/MS). Our analysis found 133 different VOCs emitted from the 25 products, with an average of 17 VOCs per product. Of these 133 VOCs, 24 are classified as toxic or hazardous under U.S. federal laws, and each product emitted at least one of these compounds (2010 Study, Steinemann).
Let’s take laundry products as just one example. Here are some of the chemicals found by the University of Washington:
The following are “regulated as toxic/hazardous chemical” under 1-7 laws (except Benzyl Acetate). They are also listed as either a recognized or suspected as a Carcinogen, Neurotoxicant, Immunotoxicant, Kidney Toxicant, Liver Toxicant, Blood Toxicant, Developmental Toxicant, Respiratory Toxicant, Gastrointestinal Toxicant, Reproductive Toxicant, Endocrine Toxicant, Skin and/or Sense Organ Toxicant. Acetaldehyde (recognized carcinogen), 1,4-DIOXANE (recognized carcinogen), CHLOROMETHANE (recognized developmental toxicant, 2-BUTANONE, a-Pinene, Benzyl Acetate, Ethanol, Ethyl Acetate, Limonene, Linalool (Steinemann, Laundry).
I have struggled with very serious reactions to these chemicals for many years, but it has continued to worsen. I have tried countless diets, detoxes, supplements, IV’s and more (and continue to try new things). I have been unable to attend church since 2005 and cannot even be in the same room in a home with people having used every day shampoo, soap, deodorant, lotion or laundry detergents.
The presence of these chemicals has caused great isolation from friends, family and the public. They create a barrier around grocery stores, public buildings, churches and even family gatherings for myself and millions of others like me.
Here is my plea: Please stop using toxic chemicals in your home, on your lawn and on your body! There are many wonderful alternatives for cleaning and personal care products. Please do it for those who react to these products and are isolated from you if you use them. Please do this your family and for those around you. Please do this for you!
When looking for Fragrance Free products, please remember to look at the labels to make sure they do not have “fragrance” in them, especially when they are marked, “Unscented.” See details here.
For more information go to: www.CleanerIndoorAir.org
MCS Can Be Lonely
Choose Friendships Over Fragrances
Visiting with a Loved One with Chemical Injury
Chemical Sensitivities with Pluto and Minnie
Toxins in Everyday Household Products with Anne Steinemann PhD
(2010 Study, Steineman) Steinemann, Anne C., MacGregor, Ian C., Gordon, Sydney M., Gallagher, Lisa G., Davis, Amy L., Ribeiro, Daniel S., Wallace, Lance A. (2010). Fragranced consumer products: Chemicals emitted, ingredients unlisted. University of Washington, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, and Evans School of Public Affairs, WA. Environmental Impact Assessment Review. Elsevier. xxx (2010) xxx-xxx. EIR-056-86; No of Pages 6.
(AAAI) American Academy of Allergy & Immunity (Spring 2002). “The Impact of Allergies.” Spring Allergies & Asthma Survival Guide. www.aaaai.org
(ALA) American Lung Association of Texas (July 2005). “Asthma in Adults Fact Sheet.” Asthma & Allergy. www.lungusa.org
(Kreutzer) Kreutzer R, Neutra RR, Lashuay N. Prevalence of people reporting sensitivities to chemicals in a population-based survey. American Journal of Epidemiology. 1999 Jul 1;150(1):1-12. PubMed.gov.
(Steinemann, Laundry) Steinemann, Ann C. Professor, Civil and Environmental Engineering and Public Affair, University of Washington. Toxic Chemicals in Fragranced Laundry Products and Health Effects. 2011.