A few years ago I learned about a great resource, The Chemical Injury Information Network, which puts out a monthly newsletter called Our Toxic Times, from an incredible doctor, now retired, who successfully treated thousands of people, many of whom were suffering from Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS).
Multiple Chemical Sensitivity is a chronic illness whereby an individual is sensitive to extraordinarily low levels of chemicals. Symptoms of MCS are often non-specific and multiple organs are often affected which is why it can be so difficult for someone to realize that they are suffering from it. Symptoms can change daily or persist for days, months, weeks or years depending on the environment the individual is in, what they breathe in or put on their skin, what they eat, etc., or whether they have had permanent cellular damage as a result of different chemical or infectious exposures. Here is just a short list of some of the symptoms one with MCS may experience: fatigue, migraine, vertigo, brain fog, irritability, depression, noise and/or light sensitivity, asthma, rashes, nausea. Notice the symptoms are very similar to Lyme disease symptoms. I am very sensitive to chemicals, florescent lights, etc. and from speaking with others in the Lyme disease community, it is a very common thing.
I will explain more in the coming weeks about some of the different causes for why people become sensitive to chemicals they had been tolerating (or only thought they were tolerating) before, but here are a few of the causes:
*Carbon monoxide poisoning (leak in gas heating unit that is not detected or from cooking with a gas stove, etc.) – carbon monoxide can cause permanent DNA damage.
*Being poisoned by “silver” amalgam fillings which are about 50% mercury and/or eating a lot of fish, thus consuming much mercury – mercury is highly toxic and can cause a permanent change in your DNA; mercury also depletes your body of selenium which is the precursor to glutathione which is what’s needed by your body to be able to detoxify toxins/heavy metals.
*You have a root canal(s) – often causes a low grade bacterial infection that will not be picked up on X-rays; dentists typically put very toxic substances in the root canal in order to “treat” it, such as formaldehyde, which is constantly seeping into your body through the root canal.
*You have Celiac Disease (which you may or may not be aware of) and you still eat gluten which damages and flattens the villi on your intestines (villi are small finger-like protrusions in the lining of the small intestine that enable your body to absorb nutrients from food).
*You have an infection, e.g., Giardia lamblia (a protozoan parasite that infects the small intestine and/or gallbladder), Lyme disease, Hepatitis C, etc.
*You use or have used the Birth Control Pill/shots which can alter your immune system whereby you become sensitive to the normal yeast in your gut (can cause autoimmune reactions).
*You are a genetically poor (slow) detoxifier.
*You have been exposed to a chemical(s) like pesticides for example – both an acute or chronic exposure can do it.
Many people are sensitive to chemicals but often don’t realize it and are actually just coping, some better than others, with the onslaught of the thousands of chemicals they are often exposed to every day. People typically would not connect their migraine headaches to, let’s say, the formaldehyde (a carcinogen) used on the clothing in the store they work at, or the fragrance in the cleaning products they use to clean their home (caution: the word “fragrance” or “perfume” on a label is code for what is often a mixture of hundreds to thousands of chemicals, many of which do not have to be disclosed).
One of the big things you can do, and one of the easiest, to help prevent the negative effects of exposure to chemicals is to switch to environmentally-friendly household and personal care items. Throw out your perfume and your fabric softener; there are many safe alternatives out there that work just as well as the toxic chemicals.
So, with that introduction to Multiple Chemical Sensitivity, I want to tell you about my friend Sue Howard who I met through a list the monthly newsletter Our Toxic Times keeps of readers who are willing to speak with others in their area who also have MCS. Sue, who has being suffering with MCS for a few decades now, and who I can’t say enough good things about – she is an all-around incredible woman – wrote this beautiful letter to bring awareness to the month of May being Toxic Injury Awareness, and Education Month (Sue has given you some great resources, like this New York Times article, to learn more about MCS and some sites and books that show you some easy ways to lessen your exposure to chemicals, especially in your own home):
I wanted to share with you that May is being celebrated as Toxic Injury Awareness and Education Month. More than seven million Americans have been diagnosed with Multiple Chemical Sensitivity, and some estimate that as many as 15% of us all are being adversely effected by chronic low level exposures to everyday chemical products in our homes and work places.
As some of you may be aware, this is a particularly personal topic for me. For the past two decades, I have struggled to maintain as conventional a life as possible, while attempting to understand why I experienced profound symptoms such as chronic dizziness, loss of energy, muscle pain, impaired concentration, and periods of disorientation, among others. After numerous medical consultations, I finally learned that I have two chemically induced illnesses: Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS) and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS).
Unfortunately, I’ve learned the price of ignorance firsthand. I didn’t realize that of the 80,000 chemicals we encounter in our daily lives–chemicals in our personal care products, laundry detergents and fabric softeners, household cleaners, new building materials and carpeting, even in the fragrances we wear–only 200 hundred have been adequately tested. And because of patent and trade secret laws, we may never know about the potential harmful effects of thousands more chemicals.
The following websites (short videos) may help to raise public awareness of Multiple Chemical Sensitivity and other equally debilitating medical conditions.
http://www.ewg.org/files/SafeCosmetics_FragranceRpt.pdf (What’s really in your perfume?)
For those of you who struggle with chemical injuries and for those hoping to prevent them, I would recommend obtaining a copy of the following books that I have found helpful.
1. Home Safe Home: Creating a Healthy Home Environment by Reducing Exposure to Toxic Household Products, by Debra Lynn Dadd
2. Better Basics for the Home: Simple Solutions for Less Toxic Living (868 Practical Formulas), by Annie Berthold-Bond
My wish is for those who are healthy to stay healthy and safe, and for those who suffer from MCS to keep the faith while trying to do the near impossible — LIVE in this rapidly growing, and often dangerous, chemical world.
All the best,