I was a creative Canadian, and mother of two now adult children, who became disabled and housebound from exposures to toxic chemicals allowed in everyday products and materials. In my case, the “straw that broke” my back was cheap carpeting installed on the floor below me in 1994, years after the hazards of toxic carpets had been known.
I developed Multiple Chemical Sensitivities, Environmental Sensitivities (MCS/ES), Fibromyalgia, and eventually a side of Electromagnetic HyperSensitivity to wireless technologies (EHS or otherwise included in ES), tossed in just to make things more interesting (as the old Chinese curse goes). Adult onset, intermittent relapsing autism and MS have also made appearances, along with toxic brain injury symptoms caused by gas leaks and a series of other unavoidable exposures. I’m sure I am forgetting a few other relevant diagnosies, but that’s to be expected from the cognitive issues experienced as a result of all of the above. Also, due to a lack of accessible health care environments (and money to pay for tests and treatments that aren’t covered by provincial health care), I have been unable to receive proper testing and dx for many of the symptoms I’ve suffered, or any of the new ones I develop as a result of not having access to care (etc) for the others.
The continued exposures were unavoidable because I didn’t have the resources to access a medically required, almost non-existent, non-toxic environment where I could recover, and had to instead stay (along with my two young children) in an increasingly toxic and unhealthy environment. Since I didn’t have access to the safe, non-toxic, medically required healthy environment, the MCS/ES became much more severe, and I became increasingly disabled, yet was left pretty much to my own devices to cope, with no access to the kind of housing and health care that would have helped me avoid such severely disabling effects.
Despite awareness of the need, health care environments have still not been made accessible to those of us with environmental injuries, and whatever care is available is expensive and hard to find.
Sadly this is the case for hundreds of thousands, indeed millions of people around the world now, because, aside from ignoring us, the official response has been to keep the polluting economy growing and to look for treatments to deal with symptom management instead of taking steps to prevent more people from becoming chemically injured. However, since pharmaceuticals are usually derived from the same oil and petrochemicals that injured us in the first place, no successful pharmaceutical treatment for MCS/ES has been developed, and as is the historical case with most emerging illnesses and diseases, they don’t officially begin to exist until there’s a pharmaceutical that “treats” at least a few of the symptoms in some percentage of the population, without causing too many “side” effects.
I had been slightly “sensitive” to many perfumes and personal care products since the 1970s, likely as a result of my mother’s use of Chanel No. 5, the first perfume to use synthetic chemicals. I often got migraines from fluorescent lights, and had adverse reactions to many personal care and cleaning products, only I didn’t know what all that meant at the time.
The carpet installation in 1994 changed my life, scrambled my brain, and the physical symptoms became increasingly worse as I was unable to leave the newly toxic environment that was my home, because I could not afford to move and did not understand how serious the consequences of staying would become. I was also subjected to a long term gas leak, a dryer vent that was (probably illegally) installed by a neighbor, pumping vast amounts of toxic laundry chemicals day in day out directly into our old home, as well as other “ordinary” (but significant from an MCS/ES perspective) exposures that put my body over the edge.
Somehow I’ve survived (although many of you would not call what is left of my life a life worth living), and am now totally house-bound with severe MCS/ES.
The experiences I’ve had have led me to research building and construction materials, indoor and outdoor air quality, household products, environmental health issues, and the political landscape surrounding MCS/ES and environmental health.
After many years of increasing disability and almost losing my life (related to my housing situation in Toronto and what followed), I am now slowly regaining some abilities as a result of finally having safer and affordable housing, housing which was built and maintained as non-toxic as possible specifically for people with MCS/ES. I am not subjected to constant indoor exposures from other people’s product use here, although what gets used in the neighborhood (laundry products, wood smoke, pesticides, etc) can still have profoundly disabling effects (cognitive and physical) at times, because the air purification devices I have available are not sufficient to replace a human being’s need for fresh, clean, unpolluted air.
I spend a good deal of my minimal functional times researching and sharing to help educate others about the unnecessary toxic nature of so many everyday products, the dangers of wireless technologies, and how these affect both people and other beings, as well as the environment we all depend upon for life.
It seems like almost every week there is new scientific evidence that shows how products and materials (that have been harming people with MCS/ES for years) contain harmful chemicals that also cause slower, long term health damage to “normal” people. The mountains of evidence are piling up yet are still mostly being ignored by medical associations, governments, and major media, who continue to relentlessly advertise these unsafe products in spite of so much evidence of harm. One has to wonder why…
So, it’s up to us.
We have to learn to choose safe and non-toxic products, and thankfully there are more and more of them available everyday too.
The easiest first step for people to take is to go fragrance free.
It probably won’t be long before public health departments the world over ban fragrance chemicals from indoor environments just like smoking has been banned, because the health risks and costs are so great to everyone, human and otherwise.
The next step is to reduce your exposure to wireless technology. Wire up wherever possible, and turn things off when not in use.
It is my sincere hope that somehow, a way is found to ban the use of toxic chemicals in everyday products and materials, and that wireless technologies become regulated in health protective ways, before it’s too late for life as we know it on this planet. We are all facing threats to our well-being from so many directions, that we must act, we must take precautions, we must not give up in despair.
In the meantime, the lack of medically required, safe housing for people with MCS/ES and EHS is a serious issue in and of itself, as this is the most important determinant of health and the most difficult component to achieve for many people with MCS/ES/EHS without assistance and support from the wider community.
I hope to be able to contribute more in this area as my own health improves from finally having safer housing myself, and would love to connect with people who have experience, expertise, and a serious commitment to make safe housing a reality for all who need it.
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May all beings have safe air, safe water, safe food, safe shelter, safe clothing, love, and freedom from suffering.
I owe a huge debt of gratitude to Susie Collins, who used to run the amazing Canary Report where I was a researcher and contributor. Susie started this blog for me when I was too sick to do for myself, and she provided all the admin until I put up my first post about “Healing”.
Thanks so much Susie, and I wish you all the best in your new life!