Why am I begging for clean air and water?

Chemical injury can happen to anyone.

(Note: Don’t miss the resources list at the end of the post.)

By Linda Sepp

It’s really hard to allow myself to think about the implications of my current situation. I’m forced to beg for un-petro-chemically-polluted air, water, food, clothing and housing.

Seems most people would rather not change their habits, both belief and practical, that they’d rather stubbornly maintain the belief that the government is protecting them, that this could never happen to them, that there must have been something bad I did to be in this position, that otherwise the safety net would be providing the help I need.

Chemical injury can happen to anyone. Some of us get cancer, or asthma, or alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s or MS, autism, ADD, or ADHD. Others develop Multiple Chemical Sensitivities (sensitivities is a misnomer–multiple chemical hells would be more apt) or Environmental Sensitivities, as it is more commonly called in Canada (MCS/ES).

What this means is that our bodies are negatively affected by minute quantities of chemicals. Sometimes it’s more of an annoyance on par with seasonal allergies, but often, when the body cannot escape exposures, the symptoms become completely debilitating and life threatening. Think being drugged and unable to think or function, in pain for weeks, and the only things that help are clean air, food and water. Things that are in short supply now, things we have no control over unless we are wealthy enough to buy 100 acres in the middle of no-where, so that someone’s dryer vent or pesticides don’t blow toxic chemicals our way, a place to have our own safe home with air and water filtration systems… things most people don’t notice because they are themselves covered in so many chemicals, living and working in neuro-toxic environments, finding it harder and harder to get by themselves, even begrudging our need for those things as frivolous.

So we become the hidden and often homeless. Invisibly disabled, abandoned, ignored and ridiculed. How is it possible that inhaling anyone’s laundry product or body spray could disable someone for over a week? That there are no clothes that are chemical free? That all housing has been allowed to be completely contaminated by useless chemical residues allowed into fragranced personal care or cleaning products, or worse yet, those so called air-fresheners? How could a few inches of some simple caulk render someone semi-comatose for 4 months? How are neuro-toxic, carcinogenic, endocrine disrupting chemicals allowed into things we slather onto our bodies, wash our clothes with, rinse into our water supplies, in our foods, and in building materials? Synthetic petro-chemicals that will injure people’s brains and central nervous systems? How indeed.

Protecting Industry is more important than protecting public health. It is that simple. The same chemical industry that creates all the toxins that cause so many chronic or otherwise debilitating illnesses, also supplies the pharmaceutical companies with synthetic petro-chemical ingredients to make drugs that will hopefully alleviate some of the symptoms of our damaged bodies without killing us completely in the process. This is called making a killing financially and keeping the economy growing.

Any of us who cannot be “treated” with these toxic substances are abandoned and left to fend for ourselves, rarely for better, usually for much worse, because by the time we discover we need fresh air, clean water, unpolluted food, chemical free clothing and housing, we are too broke to take care of ourselves. Our health care requires chemical free housing, air, water, food and clothing. We are more “sensitive” than the canaries miners used to take with them to warn of bad air. Yet no-one wants to listen to us. People don’t want to believe they’ve been duped by governments who were supposed to be looking out for our best interests instead of allowing industries to pollute our brains and bodies, so much so that babies are being born pre-contaminated with a slew of chemicals known to be toxic to human and environmental health. How indeed.

The government still shows no interest in providing a safety net for anyone obviously injured by everyday chemicals. Industries get bailouts, not the children who develop autism and need help, not the people who develop MCS/ES. If you develop MCS/ES and can no longer work, don’t expect workplace accommodations or your disability pension to kick in. Don’t expect OHIP to cover any of your health-care needs. Don’t expect to find a doctor’s office or hospital with air quality good enough to not leave you suffering for weeks to come if you make it out alive. Don’t expect to find a place to live where the house itself or the neighbours won’t further poison you on a daily basis. Expecting any of these would mean someone has to admit they aren’t looking after our best interests in the first place. That they have allowed our air, water, food, and consumer products to become so toxic that few if any will be left unscathed. That industry would have to pay more tax.

That is the current reality, and it IS bleak. But, it isn’t too late yet.

Our governance bodies could have been listening since the 80’s when it was clear things were going downhill, that regulation was required to keep our air, water, food and products safe to use, and that people were already suffering devastating consequences.

They could start listening now, by banning the substances that are disabling so many of us, by creating healthy zones where people who need to avoid chemical exposures can do so safely. They could learn from us what is safe and what is not. Many of us do know.

By acting now, children would have a chance of being born and growing up without neurological disorders, asthma, and cancer. You would be able to buy safe food and effective products and not have to worry they’ll shorten your life or leave you in pain or unable to absorb nutrients properly. You wouldn’t have to worry about becoming homeless in Canada. You wouldn’t be begging for clean air to breathe, for water that doesn’t taste like laundry products, for clothing that didn’t make you want to die.

If you believe I’m crazy, that I deserve to be abandoned, then you are in fact giving up on your own future and the future of any kind of well-being for anyone on this little planet of ours. We are running out of time. But we can turn things around if we act now. We just have to remember how to care. To care about life again. Not just money. But each other. And then demand that our elected representatives act to protect and care for us all.


Pollution & air quality – Indoor air quality – Scents

Health Care Without Harm: Pesticides and Cleaners, and Fragrances.

“Fragranced consumer products and undisclosed ingredients” Toxic chemicals found in common scented laundry products, air fresheners

Anne Steinemann’s research

Anne Steinemann’s Faculty webpage

The Canadian Human Rights Commission Policy on MCS/ES

The Medical Perspective on Environmental Sensitivities by Margaret E. Sears, M.Eng., Ph.D.

What’s So Tough About Home Repairs, Maintenance And Construction? It’s not easy when you’re living with a family member who has chemical injury.

Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) in Your Home Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) are chemicals that evaporate easily at room temperature. The term “organic” indicates that the compounds contain carbon. VOC exposures are often associated with an odor while other times there is no odor. Both can be harmful. There are thousands of different VOCs produced and used in our daily lives.

IEQ Indoor Environmental Quality A project of the National Institute of Building Sciences (NIBS) with funding support from The Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board (Access Board)

Reduction of autistic traits following dietary intervention and elimination of exposure to environmental substances

Indoor air pollution, North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services

Indoor Air Quality Fact Sheets

Mould Toxins More Prevalent And Hazardous Than Thought

Household Products Database What’s under your kitchen sink, in your garage, in your bathroom, and on the shelves in your laundry room? Learn more about what’s in these products, about potential health effects, and about safety and handling.

The Fossil Fuel Connection Fuel for Thought and Motivation. In 1991, an international group of experts stated, with confidence, that “Unless the environmental load of synthetic hormone disruptors is abated and controlled, large scale dysfunction at the population level is possible.”

Synthetic chemicals on tap A new USGS study finds low levels of pesticides and fragrances in drinking water. If we dump contaminants into the rivers and lakes we use for drinking water, there is a good chance that those chemicals will make it into the public water supply. That’s the conclusion of a new report from the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) that is meant to help government agencies protect source water supplies.

What’s in your water?: Disinfectants create toxic by-products Although perhaps the greatest public health achievement of the 20th century was the disinfection of water, a recent study now shows that the chemicals used to purify the water we drink and use in swimming pools react with organic material in the water yielding toxic consequences.

FMA Air Freshener Fragrance Ingredient Survey Results (PDF File)

AAOHN: Synthetic Fragrances Pose Health Risk to 20 Percent of Workers

Fragrance chemical allergy: a major environmental and consumer health problem Scent Marketing is an emerging threat to public health, used in retail, hospitality, even health care environments and some supermarkets, where it is absorbed into our food. We’ve cleaned up indoor environments from tobacco smoke, only to allow the addition of more toxic and harmful chemicals from an unregulated fragrance industry.

Aroma-Chology® Aroma-Chology is dedicated to the study of the inter-relationship of psychology and the latest in fragrance technology to transmit through odor a variety of specific feelings (such as relaxation, exhilaration, sensuality, happiness and achievement) directly to the brain. How is this different from someone slipping black market drugs into our drinks? Scent Marketers are deliberately designing and releasing substances into the air that target and affect our brains, without our express permission, without a medical license, and without proving the safety of their products with independent testing and regulation.

Chemical Families and Routes of Exposure Related to Brain and Nervous System

  • Air: air pollution, industrial air pollution
  • Consumer products: adhesives, carpets, clothing, detergents, electronics, furniture, homes, paints and coatings, plastics, thermometers
  • Environment: agriculture, houehold dust, industrial water pollution, pollution, rain
  • Food: baby food, fatty foods, fish, food packaging, food residue, fruits, pesticide metabolite, pesticide residue, popcorn, vegetables
  • Found in people: dental fillings, electrical insulators, electrical transformers, manufacturing, medical, medical tubing, occupational, vaccines
  • Personal care products
  • Water: bottled water, disinfection by-product, sewage sludge, tap water, tap water additive, water treatment

Air pollution, cognitive deficits and brain abnormalities: A pilot study with children and dogs.

Neurobehavioral effects of ambient air pollution on cognitive performance in US adults. Conclusions: Our study provides the first epidemiological data supporting the adverse neurobehavioral effects of ambient air pollutants in adults.

Behavioral Measures of Neurotoxicity

Developmental neurotoxicity of industrial chemicals.

Estrogen mimics at low doses change how brain cells manage dopamine. “If the observations found in this study using brain cells also occur in the brains of animals and people, the implications are alarming. Specifically, chemicals common in the products, air, water and food are potentially capable of profoundly altering brain chemistry at extremely low levels; levels that most humans and many animals are exposed to on a daily basis.”

Industrial chemicals linked to ADHD, autism Exposure to toxic chemicals during fetal development can be linked to autism, attention deficit disorder, cerebral palsy and developmental delays, say the study’s authors. The largest groups of chemicals that cause such problems are metals, solvents and pesticides. The team identifies 201 chemcials with toxic effects.

Are some chemicals more dangerous at low doses?

Epigenetic Toxicology Environmental toxins modify our genes and affect our children and grandchildren; enormous implications for risk assessment of synthetic chemical and other xenobiotics

Environmental Oncology 101 – University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute

Environmental Threats to Healthy Aging with a Closer Look at Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s Disease

Child Obesity Is Linked to Chemicals in Plastics (and fragrances) The chemicals in question are called phthalates, which are used to to make plastics pliable and in personal care products (and to make fragrances last longer). Phthalates, which are absorbed into the body, are a type of endocrine disruptor — chemicals that affect glands and hormones that regulate many bodily functions. …

The Disappearing Male The Disappearing Male is about one of the most important, and least publicized, issues facing the human species: the toxic threat to the male reproductive system. … Found in everything from shampoo, sunglasses, meat and dairy products, carpet, cosmetics and baby bottles, they are called “hormone mimicking” or “endocrine disrupting” chemicals and they may be starting to damage the most basic building blocks of human development.

Poisoned Profits: the Toxic Assault on Our Children In this shocking and sobering book, journalists Alice Shabecoff and Philip Shabecoff directly and definitively link industrial toxins to the current rise in childhood disease and death. In the tradition of Silent Spring, POISONED PROFITS: the Toxic Assault on Our Children is a landmark investigation, an eye-opening account of a country that prizes money over children’s health.
With indisputable data, the Shabecoffs reveal that the children of baby boomers—the first to be raised in a truly “toxified world”—have higher rates of birth defects, asthma, cancer, autism and a frightening range of other neurological illnesses from ADHD to mental retardation, and other serious chronic illnesses compared to previous generations.

Poisoned for Pennies The Economics of Toxics and Precaution Poisoned for Pennies shows how the misuse of cost-benefit analysis is impeding efforts to clean up and protect our environment, especially in the case of toxic chemicals. According to Ackerman, conservatives—in elected office, in state and federal regulatory agencies, and in businesses of every size—have argued repeatedly that environmental clean-up and protection are simply too expensive. But as he proves, that is untrue in case after case. The book ranges from psychological research to risk analysis to the benefits of aggressive pesticide regulation, and from mad cow disease to vinyl siding. You can’t afford not to read it.

Doubt is Their Product – How Industry’s Assault on Science Threatens Your Health and here. In Doubt Is Their Product, author David Michaels explains how many of the scientists who spun science for tobacco have become practitioners in the lucrative world of product defense. Whatever the story- global warming, toxic chemicals, sugar and obesity, secondhand smoke- these scientists generate studies designed to make dangerous exposures appear harmless.

Amputated Lives: Coping with Chemical Sensitivity The condition of multiple chemical sensitivity has been rapidly growing with the proliferation of new, untested chemicals in our environment. In recent decades, people from many walks of life have developed a new intolerance for the chemicals found in perfume, air fresheners, cleaning products, fabric softeners, diesel and auto exhaust, new carpet, paint, and other products. Their ranks include large numbers of Exxon Valdez cleanup workers, Gulf War veterans, 9/11 First Responders, and FEMA trailer residents.

Medical practice and community health care in the 21st century: a time of change.
1: Public Health. 2008 Jul;122(7):671-80. Epub 2008 Jun 4. Genuis SJ University of Alberta,
PMID: 18534645 [PubMed – indexed for MEDLINE]
Management of chronic illness now dominates the practice of clinical medicine. Despite unprecedented funds committed to health care and research, contemporary medicine is witnessing the juxtaposition of reduced mortality from acute illness alongside unprecedented rates of chronic degenerative disorders and disability in both the young and the old. A recent paper in the Journal of the American Medical Association discussing childhood illness highlighted ‘sobering information on major increases in chronic health conditions’ and concluded that ‘health and social welfare systems are unprepared for the rapid growth in demands that will arise from these epidemics.’

Photo credit

2 responses to “Why am I begging for clean air and water?

  1. Linda,
    I’m not sure whether this group would be a source of support, they may be too far from you. I include it any way as a possibility. Their model of savings circles has inspired us as a form of support … maybe there’s someone their who could help you. They are closer than we are to you than we are and who knows what might come of it!



  2. Thanks Mokihana. I’m not sure I can take on a loan at this time, not knowing if I could ever pay it back. With some stability and health, this is a great thing to explore.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.