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!!
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.
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 (firstname.lastname@example.org). 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. 🙂