What’s The Sense Worrying About Scents?
Last month, one of our residents wrote in about the fact that scent from dryer vents can be found everywhere and that this was affecting the quality of the air he, and others, are breathing. A number of residents responded positively but more weighed in that they are tired of hearing people complain, especially about something as ridiculously inane as bounce sheets.
People who know me know that I tend to be pretty levelheaded. I don’t like jumping to conclusions, being reactionary or alarmist (not that I don’t slip up, sometimes!). But this issue of scents and untested chemicals being introduced into our environment scares me; really scares. It scares me because I’ve been woken up to an invisible threat by an “environmental barometer” in my life; my mother.
After decades of not “feeling well” with various symptoms of chronic pain, colitis, fatigue, muscle and nerve pain, migraines, persistent cold-like symptoms, memory loss and mood alterations, my mother suffered an almost total collapse of her immune system and was fully diagnosed with environmental sensitivity disorder. In short, her body goes into acute distress when she is exposed to some chemicals, especially those that are petroleum-based. She’s not alone. She is one of a growing trend of people that are being seen in many industries (healthcare being one of them and the industry she’d worked in since she was 16) and this illness is one of the many triggers behind the growth in environmental medicine. These people are the frogs of the human ecosystem – our environmental barometers – and are probably serving as a warning to everyone around us, if we’re ready to hear the message. In my mother’s case, she is now at the stage where she’s stable with treatment and with keeping her exposure to the majority of synthetic chemicals to a minimum but, when she comes to visit me, she usually can’t go out for a walk or garden with me in my yard because, if anyone is doing something as normal as drying their laundry, she is likely to go into anaphylactic shock. I know it sounds crazy but this is her life.
Before you stop reading because the extremeness of my mother’s illness indicates it has nothing to do with us and what we are choosing to put into our day-to-day environment, I’d like to share some of what I’ve learned that’s made it easy to change what I bring into my home and, in particular, why I am careful about what my two children are exposed to.
The chemical industry is producing approximately 1000 new chemicals per year and few ever get tested. Concern is arising not necessarily due to exposure to one chemical but due to the combinations of chemicals that we are mixing (synergistic effects) and to the long-term affects of low exposure (cumulative). When I started to investigate these facts and looked at what I had in my home, I found that I was buying products that contained known (not maybe) carcinogens, respiratory irritants, reproductive disruptors and neurotoxins, to name just a few. On the heels of starting my research, The Nature of Things aired the “Toxic House” documentary and one part in particular has always stayed with me. An industrial air quality monitoring system was installed in a number of “normal” households. This system is used in industry to monitor air quality and, if it becomes hazardous to humans, the alarm rings and evacuation of the site ensues. In each of the houses, this system began to sound on every cleaning day due to the levels and combinations of chemicals that were entering the household environment. It was a huge illustrator to me that the very products I was using to keep things smelling fresh, make my home 99.9% germ free and spotless and, most of all, safe for me and my family were products that were quite possibly doing my family the most harm.
Here’s a list of a few of the toxins that can be found in any home on any day:
o Aspartame (artificial sweetener) – neurotoxin
o Styrene (found in all Styrofoam) – carcinogen
o Phthalates (found in most plastic, including most toys) – carcinogen, neurotoxin, reproductive system effects
o Benzene (perfumes, hairspray, shampoo, air fresheners, etc) – carcinogen
o Toluene (artificial vanilla scent) – carcinogen, respiratory irritant
o Silica (cleaners, powdered drinks) – carcinogen, respiratory irritant
o BHT (plastic, food) – carcinogen, immune disruptor
o Carbon disulfide (dry cleaning) – neurotoxin, carcinogen
Some Facts That Worry Me:
o 1 in 2 males will develop cancer
o 1 in 3 females will develop cancer
o Respiratory illness is the #1 reason for children being admitted to hospitals; rates of childhood asthma have increased 400%
o Outside of injury, cancer is the leading cause of death in children between the ages of 5 and 9
o Unprecedented numbers of fatal allergies are being diagnosed – dairy, bees, peanuts, strawberries, fish, etc.
o Cancer specialists are now suggesting the leading causes for many forms of cancer may be environmental contamination.
What I Choose To Do
I choose to limit my exposure to these products, with scents being only one area my family and I have targeted. Based on my family’s experience with increased health and well-being by eliminating these products from our lives and replacing them with naturally-based and safe products (which are so much more available than even 5 years ago), I am a firm believer that the more heavily marketed products being used in most households are a root cause of either our health or , rather, our lack of it.
In our not too distant past, parents sent their children running after DDT trucks so the powder would protect them from harmful mosquitoes. Doctors and patients didn’t fully understand how harmful it would be to use antibiotics for everything and anything. Smoking was seen as a cool past time and something that would keep you slim. People happily swam in the rivers and streams that industry was dumping its toxic waste into. Seems crazy, but that was life. But, in the not too distant future, I know (I hope) that we will all have become aware of what mass marketing and mass consumer acceptance of products that are dangerous to our health do to us all and we will think it’s crazy that products containing carcinogens and neurotoxins were ever on our shelves, let alone in our homes. It’s not just about bounce sheets, at least not to me. It’s about educating ourselves and then making informed choices that help us to breathe easy. A never-ending process, it seems.
Editor, Tuscany Sun
A Few Resources: