Guest blog on MCS

Recently I’ve posted blogs on the harmful chemicals in perfumes & colognes, fabric softener & dryer sheets and in deodorants. In at least one of them I mentioned having some good friends with MCS (multiple chemical sensitivities). I asked one of those friends- Caity- to do a guest blog for me so that I could share it with all of you. I’m going to be posting her blog as is because she was toxed (suffering from chemical reactions) when she wrote it and she and I want everyone to see at least a little of what that is like for her and remember- she is an author, a very good one.  I’m also going to share a little story about her boyfriend who is also my friend (I met him before I met her) and who also has MCS. Before I met him I had never heard of MCS, but I had already been using natural (as chemical free as I could get) laundry detergents and personal body care products. 

So let me share my little story before you hear Caity’s. When I first went to visit Peter he had had MCS for at least a few years and had learned a lot about how to protect himself and deal with his reactions when he became toxed from exposure. He lived out in the country outside of a small town and spent a lot of time outside in the woods away from people and ‘things’. Normally when someone came to visit him in his apartment he had to ask them to have a shower with his natural soaps AND to put on clothes that he had de-toxed (as much as possible) from chemicals. When I visited him, because I was already using natural products I was the first person that he didn’t have to ask to have a shower and change clothes! I was pretty happy that I could come visit my friend and not make him sick!! 

Caity’s story:

Hi there. Val invited me to speak to you about Multiple Chemical Sensitivities (MCS) and that’s what I intend to do. She’s had some recent blogs about scents and how it affects your body. In her blog “It Hurts to Smell Nice” she talked about the sheer number of chemicals that go into your perfumes and colognes. I answered, saying it terrified me that people voluntarily applied these things to their bodies.

And in the following one about deodorants “Why store Deodorant Stinks” I said the same thing. In the one about fabric softener & dryer sheets “The Toxic Danger of Fabric Softener and Dryer Sheets“, she showed us how much crap goes into making your clothes smell nice and pointed out that when you put your clothes in the dryer, you are burning the chemicals into your clothes. Even if you stop using dryer sheets, right now, without scrubbing your dryer – tearing it apart and cleaning every single piece – it would take upwards of 75 loads of laundry to get the chemicals off the drum. Guess where they’d go. That’s right, rubbed off on to your clothes.

The truth is that I used to be guilty of it. I love perfume. I love the smell of the really good ones. Those ones layer the scents so that as it warms up on your body different notes come through. It’s lovely.

It’s also incredibly toxic, which is why I can’t wear it anymore.

So, what is MCS? Multiplechemicalsensitivities.org says “in broad terms it means an unusually severe sensitivity or allergy-like reaction to many different kinds of pollutants including solvents, VOC’s (Volatile Organic Compounds), perfumes, petrol, diesel, smoke, “chemicals” in general and often encompasses problems with regard to pollen, house dust mites, and pet fur & dander.

“Allergy-like.”

It’s not an allergy but that is the term most people understand. For instance, my daughter is a dancer. I’m a dance mom. That means I help her with her costume, makeup and hair. It means I go to recitals and, because she’s a competitive dancer, competitions. I can’t attend every meeting because other people are scented. I’ve had to tell the other moms that it’s because I have an intolerance for just about every airborne chemical out there.

They didn’t get it.

I said, “I am allergic to chemicals.”

Then they got it. “Intolerance” and “sensitivity” aren’t words that people equate with “serious reaction.” Allergy is. They think hives, anaphylaxis. Death.

While those competitions won’t kill me, they are extremely difficult on me. I am exposed to all the things that make me sick the moment I slip into my ex-husband’s truck to ride with them to the competition. His truck is toxic. He used to use air fresheners, he used to use scented fabric softeners. He wears cologne (though not around me anymore). His girlfriend wears hairspray, uses fabric softeners. He’s exposed to chemicals at work – air fresheners, smokers, other cologne and perfume wearers. The kids are exposed to the same things at their schools. And all of it wears off into the fabric of the truck.

Within minutes, I have a headache and a sore throat. After we’ve driven an hour or two, I’m starting to get groggy. I start to lose my ability to comprehend things. Sometimes, if we have time, I can take a walk around outside and get some fresh air. It helps to clear my head a little bit.

Then it’s time for the dressing room. The dressing rooms for these things are big. There are anywhere from a dozen to three dozen dancers in one room, depending on the venue. That’s a lot of perfume and scented soaps and laundry soap in one place. It’s also a lot of hairspray and the fine dust from powdered makeup.

I breathe the chemicals in and they coat my skin and hair. There’s no way to avoid it. I react differently to different chemicals. Some combinations make me loopy, like I’m drunk. Some make me very, very angry, (diesel does that mostly, we think). They make my skin itchy, I get pimples too! They make my joints hurt. The chemicals make my sinuses swell shut and the skin around my mouth burn.

It’s not just the immediate effects either. It can take me up to three days to recover from the impact of chemical exposure. We call it ‘being toxed’. For the following day at least, the expression “I can’t brain today, I have the dumb” is apt. I am sluggish in my thinking; often replace words I want with other orders – like that right there. The sentence was supposed to be “I am sluggish in my thinking, often replace words I want with other words.” There was supposed to be more to it too but I’ve forgotten now.

Oh yeah, being toxed can make me really forgetful. My short term memory is virtually toast.

On that following day, movement is painful and difficult. My digestion is often upset. I’m often easily upset.

I’m not complaining, mind you. I make the choice to go each time. The problem is the impact those choices make on me. The impacts aren’t limited to the dance events; I’m just using it as an example. These results happen every single time I go out into public. People who layer scents are the worst kind of people for me to come into contact with. Washrooms with automatic air fresheners are really bad. I’ve walked out of some punch drunk.

I walk away from situations like that feeling very bad. Because people don’t see the cause they don’t always understand it. They don’t seethe results either; they do know that I am moody and achy but it’s not like hives or other symptoms of anaphylactic shock, there’s nothing to view.

A sensitivity is nothing to sneeze at (yes, meant to be punny). I am gluten, corn and soy insensitive. You can see those reactions because I end up feverish, vomiting, pale and exhausted. If I reacted that way to my ex-husband’s cologne, maybe he’d start remember not to wear it when he’s coming into my house. The fact that I’m finishing this now totally stupid, and having to leave it to poor Val to double-check my grammar, is because of exposures to the scents worn by my ex and my son.

If you know someone with MCS and you have a measure of respect for them, or even the human condition, do your best to make sure you’re not doing anything to make them react. My birthday, my 40th, is coming up and I am having a party. We have to ask people to go out of their way to make sure that they are scent free.

If you want to know what that will involve, ask me (caitybowman@gmail.com). In the meantime, try to remember what you’re doing to yourself when you are throwing your clothes in the dryer with fabric softener in any form, or spraying the bathroom after a noxious visit, or using perfumes and deodorants.

Thanks for listening. 🙂

 

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5 thoughts on “Guest blog on MCS

  1. Hey there, my friend Peter, mentioned in the blog above wanted to post a comment but for some reason it wouldn’t let him, so I am copying & pasting his comment here.

    “Howdy. I’m Peter, the Friend of Val’s and The Boyfriend of Caity’s with MCS. Caity has expressed only a tiny part of what her life with MCS is like. Just touched lightly on the effects on her and on anyone with MCS.

    Just to be clear, chemical sensitivities are not allergies. Allergies can be detected by a blood test looking for an antibody, IgE. People with chemical sensitivities do not have that marker although they can also have allergies. Our bodies are not able to detox and process and dump the chemicals quickly enough like a healthy body can. All the chemicals that poison our bodies and cause the reactions also are poisoning everyone’s bodies, the difference is that a healthy body can react quick enough to get rid of it before it causes too much damage.

    When I got sick, from a pesticide poisoning that happened at work, I started learning more about MCS and in talking with people realized that many people have chemical sensitivities to some degree. Know anyone who gets a headache from walking by a perfume counter? Anyone who gets slightly sick being around a hairdressing salon? Anyone who’s nose gets itchy or painful around a display of scented candles? All examples of chemical sensitivities.

    The last figures I saw from Stats Canada were from 2006 and at that point 2.9% of the Canadian population had been diagnosed with chemical sensitivities. That year 0.9% of Canadians had been diagnosed with AIDS.

    Figures fro the United States vary from state to state, lowest I’ve seen was 3% and highest was 15%.

    These are people who are reacting severely enough to go to a doctor and seek help for it. It doesn’t cover the people who just stay away from perfume counters and scented candles and don’t bother seeking help for it.

    I chat with some people who have never heard of chemical sensitivities but I run into more and more who have and are aware of it. In 2007 the Canadian Human Rights Commission did a study of it and officially recognized it as a physical medical condition and published medical and legal papers on recognizing it.

    My brain is fried, about all I wanted to say anyway. Thanks.”

    Like

    • I too have MCS. I am now 100% disabled. I cannot even walk by someone’s house that is doing laundry. First I would like to thank you for the info. Second, I’m very concerned about Caity’s comment that she can’t die from going to the dance competitions. I AM NOT A DOCTOR. I am speaking from my own symptoms. Twenty years it was an annoyance. The last five years were mostly severe migraines, exhaustion, fuzzy headedness. As a high school teacher I endured many exposures to scented products. I detoxed every night, weekend and summer and fought through the pain — planning on taking early retirement is 3 years. I thought when I detoxed — ALL the chemicals were being flushed from my system. It took longer each time — but after seeing a specialist — it was explained to be like a barrel — the toxic drops go in with few coming back out. I was told my barrel was full. The last weeks at work — I broke out in hives, my throat closed off — my life was in danger. Up until Nov. 9 when I was driven home in the middle of the day — I still never acknowledged that I could die from this. I believe it is an innate thing with humans to suck it up and suffer in silence. Masks and purifiers can help. I hope she finds a safer way to the competitions. I have been out of work for eight months greatly restricting any exposures. Yet today, for the third day I have a migraine and hives because someone came to my house and had a air freshener in his car. I write this with love because I do not want someone else to get the point I am at. If I can help in any way please let me know.
      I’m glad as I read the posts that such great friends are supporting each other — this can be a very isolating and lonely “illness”.

      Like

      • I agree that it is very lonely and isolating. It’s a huge relief to have a boyfriend who not only understands it but deals with it too.

        My life is still fairly toxic because I can’t force my ex to give up all of his chemical crap, though he’s much better, and that makes it difficult on Peter. 😦

        As for the dance competitions… Thank you for your concern. I have nasal filters now (I can’t wear masks, I have panic attacks) that help me a great deal. http://www.modernalchemyair.com/products/protection-plus-nasal-filters/ The difference between the first competition this year and the next one when I used the filters was astounding. I am happy to use them!

        I am doing my best to live safely but some things are beyond my control. All I can do is change how I approach those things.

        Like

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