Even when people try to be fragrance (and other chemical) free, they can have 2nd and 3rd hand residues from personal care, cleaning, and laundry products all over them. Air “fresheners” and scented candles are other items that leave residues on everything. It can take weeks to get it out of skin and pores, and longer to get it out of clothing and bedding, all the while re-contaminating the body and anything else that has contact with the fragranced surfaces or air.
Fragrance (and other toxic) chemicals are just all-pervasive now. Unless people are completely fragrance-free and stay out of fragrance filled places, they will have some degree of fragrance saturation in their clothes, skin, and hair. Some of the residues are also impossible to remove no matter how hard one tries, because of chemicals that are designed to penetrate and remain active for long periods of time (think of the laundry commercials where they boast you can smell the fresh scent days later – except some of us can be affected years later, because that’s how permanent those chemicals are).
If people who use those products come to visit, not only can they leave us gasping for air (or worse) during their visit, they can leave chemical residues that will keep off-gassing from the couch and anyplace else they touched for days or weeks to come.
Depending on how severe one’s MCS/ES is,there are different things that can be done.
WE are the ones who have to decide what risks we can handle, and let others know what we expect of them if and when they come over.
The simpler detox efforts people need to make when visiting (being fragrance-free that day) might not be enough and one thing we may do is provide them with coveralls to enclose the fumes emanating from their clothing and bodies. This doesn’t mean they get to avoid making an effort, because the suits aren’t 100% effective barriers. It just means that despite their best efforts, more may be required.
Here’s where tyvek suits come in very handy.
I hate that we have to rely on a chemical company for not even 100% effective solutions to problems that they and their associates are responsible for creating in the 1st place, but for now, there often aren’t other alternatives available when we have to allow someone into our “safe” home and not suffer serious consequences for doing so..
I like the ones with elastic cuffs and hoods because the ones that don’t have them can allow waves of fumes to be released when people move around. My suggestion is to buy them as large as possible because they are made on the small side, and they can always be rolled up if too long, but are useless if too small.
We can (maybe) even have a party (if we’re not too sick)!
I have to air mine out before bringing them inside. Also, be aware that some vendors use air “fresheners” in their premises. Find one that doesn’t, or you will have defeated the purpose, as they are too hard to air out then. Most safety supply stores and some paint or hardware shops carry them. They are usually around $10 each, give or take.
They can be aired out enough to reuse quite a few times, so don’t throw them out after one use unless they were ripped or soiled somehow. I ask people to turn them inside out and hang them on the line outside as they leave so I don’t get exposed to the worst of it.
It helps to have enough on hand for everyone to wear, including yourself. Not only can we don one ourself when company comes so they don’t feel singled out, they are also useful to protect ourselves with when we have to go out somewhere that has fragrances in the air and we don’t want our clothing, skin, and hair saturated.
Looks like they even come in different colours now!
They don’t work well in hot weather though, unless you’re looking for a cheap sauna.
It’s good to have people wash their hands upon arriving with your safe soap mixed with some baking soda to get the top layer of fragrance residues off their hands before they touch anything and leave residues all over your home. Have a spare towel for this use.
It’s also good to cover furniture with towels or other textiles you can wash and keep aside for this purpose. Hard chairs can be covered with foil. Some residues do get through the tyvek.
If the tyvek level of protection isn’t required, or if it isn’t enough, you may need to leave windows open and have a fan blowing the air out the window closest to them while using another fan to bring fresh air in from another window.
Also, more than a few people with MCS/ES also have EHS and will need people to turn off all wireless devices before coming in.
Other resources to help people go fragrance free and visit people with MCS/ES:
How to be fragrance-free, by Peggy Munson, is currently available from:
Section 4. Guideline Checklists for a visit to a MCS person
MCS Visitors Guidelines for visiting people with more severe MCS/ES
If you are a person with MCS/ES and have any specific things you need them to do or avoid doing, then let people know. If you are a person with a friend, family member, aquaintance, or customer with MCS/ES, then ask them if there’s anything in particular you can do or avoid doing.
If the world wasn’t so full of toxic pollutants now, none of this rigmarole would be necessary, but since it is, we have to make the best of it, until things can be changed.