Photo by luigi manga on Unsplash

Some think that persons who claim they have adverse reactions to chemical products and fragrances have worked themselves into this tizzy, so to speak. Which one are you, the sufferer or the skeptic?

It takes a lot of compassion to understand that some people can react with migraines, asthma and a host of other symptoms to the tiniest waft of scent in the room, while others seem to be immune, much less notice it. I get that. This is weird stuff. But as one who has suffered from chemicals that I encounter in stores, salons, assisted living facilities, churches, schools and in the homes of friends and family, I also understand what’s its like to experience reactions in my body that don’t seem to make sense.

According to Dr. Anne Steinemann, the “prevalence of diagnosed MCS [Multiple Chemical Sensitivities] has increased over 300%, and self-reported chemical sensitivity over 200%, in the past decade.”

Steinemann’s recent study reports that “MCS can cause a range of acute, chronic, multiorgan, and disabling health effects, such as headaches, dizziness, cognitive impairment, breathing difficulties, heart palpitations, nausea, mucous membrane irritation, and asthma attacks.”

“As a consequence, individuals with MCS are prevented from accessing restrooms, businesses, workplaces, and public places due to risk of adverse health effects—some potentially disabling—from fragranced consumer products.”

Physical reaction to low levels of chemical in the environment is real. It’s documented. It’s on the rise. And it’s also hard to understand.  That is, until you’ve come out on the other side.

“But the bottom line is that we need to reduce exposure to toxins. Pronto.”

I’ve come to understand that the types of reactions that I’ve experienced with exposure to fragrances and other environmental chemicals is a symptom of what can be considered chronic toxicity.  Some people, like me, don’t detoxify well. And when unmetabolized toxins stack up in the body over time the body starts to let you know that something is wrong, terribly wrong.

It’s helpful to understand that our body’s ability to detoxify depends on several factors. 

Thankfully, I found a doctor who who understands this very well.  And with her help, I’ve largely overcome chemical sensitivities. Dr. Keesha Ewers teaches that everyone detoxifies uniquely. It depends on genetics, exposure to toxins and one’s ability to detoxify.

One big contribution to chemical sensitivities, for me, was also leaky gut syndrome.  You can read about it here.

But the bottom line is that we need to reduce exposure to toxins. Pronto.

Steinemann’s study reports, “While researchers continue to investigate which chemicals or mixtures of chemicals in fragranced consumer products could be associated with adverse effects,18 a practical step in the meantime would be to reduce exposure to the products. For instance, 71.0% of those with MCS would support fragrance-free policies in the workplace, and 82.1% would prefer fragrance-free health care facilities and professionals, as would a majority of the US general population.6  

Beyond creating public places and workplaces that are fragrance-free, we can do ourselves and others a favor by reducing the number of chemicals we expose ourselves to in our homes by changing up our cleaning and personal care routines. My daughters are fortunate to attend a school with a fragrance-free policy.  Unfortunately, the people who work and attend here don’t really know how their habits at home are affecting the people around them. It sounds like Fragrance really could be the new secondhand smoke.

“I’d rather leave hungry than feeling like the Incredible Hulk.”

I’m certain that the woman at the front desk at my daughters’ school has been trained in how to honor the fragrance-free policy, yet I detect a strong scent coming from her most every time I pass through the office.  And one day after helping a child in my daughter’s kindergarten class, I went home with a heavy fog over my brain because of the strongly scented laundry products emitting from this child. Fortunately, he no longer sits next to my child.

It’s apparent to me that this is not unique to these 2 examples.  While putting papers in each child’s cubby (which required searching for their folders) one day, I noticed heavy scent coming from every backpack, but my own child’s (because we don’t use scented laundry products).  So while we have a fragrance-free policy at our school, the choices of others at home contribute to a violation of this policy.

Yes, I have come out on the other side.  Yesterday I attended a “lunch and learn” at a highly fragranced facility.  The woman next to me seemed to be wearing perfume (though she likes to clean with vinegar in her home).  Normally, I would leave an event like this feeling achy, foggy brained and very cranky because of the chemicals I encountered. However, yesterday, I left just left feeling ravenously hungry (yet cheerful) because someone had taken the last of the gluten-free lunches before I got there. For this I’m thankful; I’d rather leave hungry than feeling like the Incredible Hulk.

And while I have come out on the other side, not accutely sensitive to the chemicals around me, I have learned in the process how deeply damaging these are to me and choose on as many occassions as possible to not put myself in situations that expose me or my children unnecessarily. 

I consider myself truly lucky, to have figured out, no, this was Divine Intervention, with Dr. Keesha’s help, what my body needs to detoxify.  Unfortunately, there is a sea of ever increasing people who are just beginning their journey with chemical sensitivities.   I have the benefit of experience giving me compassion for those who suffer in this way.  I don’t wish this on anyone, not even for compassion’s sake. But if you are not a sufferer, are you willing to lay aside your skepticism and nurture yourself by reducing your use of chemically based household products?

By doing so, you’ll be doing yourself a favor and showing compassion to those who silently suffer around you.




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