Multiple Chemical Sensitivity: A Survival Guide
by Pamela Reed Gibson PhD
This chapter is a crash course in cleaning up your home so that you can minimize symptoms while you further educate yourself and make more major decisions.
Excerpt from p. 52-55:
Can This House Be Saved?
The following questions may help you to sort out what works from what doesn’t:
Outside Your Home
Is your home located near polluting traffic or industry fumes that will make it impossible to go outside or to open your windows, even if the inside of the house is made safer?
If you are gas-sensitive, are you subject to neighbors’ heating fuel exhaust, gas from propane cookers or dryers, or fumes from neighbors who do their own auto work?
Do close neighbors use lawn treatments that will expose you to dangerous herbicides and pesticides?
Does the local county do aerial spraying for mosquitoes, gypsy moths, or other insects?
Is your home downwind or downstream from any large polluting agencies most of the time? (Wind directions vary, but they have common patterns.)
- Is your house near large sources of EMFs? That is, are there high-tension electrical wires or power stations close by? Where is the closest cell phone tower? You can acquire a meter to measure magnetic fields for both outside and inside sources. (See Appendix B for product sources.) Although there are products such as special paints and other materials that are said to screen or filter EMFs, it is easier not to enter into a situation where you will have to attempt these difficult measures.Even ifyou do not think that you are personally “sensitive” to EMFs, the health effects from these exposures appear to be harmful to everyone. Problematic can be cell phone towers, radio wave towers, and other sources of EMFs. You may need to find where the closest of these facilities is located and decide whether or not it is a “safe” distance. However, more and more of these facilities are being located in residential areas with minimal input from the community. So, even if your home is presently not affected, it could be in the future. The towers are being disguised as trees and cacti, making it difficult to know their locations. People very knowledgeable about electromagnetic sensitivities believe that you should never live within a mile of a radio or cell phone tower. Farther is better. It may be that four miles is about as safe of a distance as you will be able to find. R. Bruce McCreary believes that all people with MCS or ES should own a meter with which to measure their environment in order to lower their daily exposures and prevent the development of or worsening of EMS. He does not endorse denial as a preventative for EMS, as a number of people have ignored this issue and developed severe EMS as a result. He also claims “EMS makes MCS seem like a walk in the park.” (See Appendix B for Bruce’s suggested EMF meters.)
Inside Your Home
Is your home heated with gas or oil? If so, is the cost of a changeover to electric heating worth it as the house is otherwise safe?
Is your house so full of formaldehyde-offgassing materials, such as particleboard, that you could never adequately reduce the emissions? Both plywood and particleboard have formaldehyde in their contents. Particleboard is a bigger concern because it contains both a larger percentage of formaldehyde-containing glue, and a more toxic form of formaldehyde (i.e., urea formaldehyde). The highest levels of offgas occur in the first year after construction; but offgassing may continue for a number of years. If you live in a prefabricated or mobile home, chances are that particleboard makes up much of your flooring, external walls, and roof panels. However, you can seal cabinets, paneling, and other particleboard with sealants made to prevent offgassing from porous surfaces, such as mortar, plywood, concrete and others. If you can tolerate the product, it may be worth sealing some of the surfaces that are offgassing (See Appendix B for product sources.)
- Does your house have a stubborn mold problem that cannot be remedied? For example, an old house with a lot of shade or a wet basement will expose you to more molds. Not all molds are toxic, but some molds produce mycotoxins, which are mold metabolites toxic to humans. Penicillium, Aspergillus, and Stachybotrys are the most common fungi that can grow indoors and make toxic metabolites. In addition, Cladosporium, Alternaria, Aureobasidium, and Fusarium are outdoor fungi that can also grow indoors and may trigger hay fever or asthma (Dalton, 2004). Black mold and its metabolites are serious health threats that have caused life-threatening respiratory problems in both children and adults. In infants it can cause lung bleeding. The deaths of nine infants in Cleveland Ohio were traced to the black mold Stachybotrys chartarum/atra that grew in recently flooded homes (Meredith, l997). This particular mold grows in areas that have had standing water and grows readily on wood, cardboard, and clothing. The mold problem is so potentially lethal that there are now mold attorneys in the U.S. Two congressional amendments (HR 5040 and HR 1268) have also been proposed and, if passed, would provide research, education, and guidelines in relation to indoor mold, as well as assistance for victims (“Mold legislation,” 2003). Of course. you can still find Abba Terr and Ronald Gotts stating that molds are not demonstrated to be dangerous. If you have a small area of mold you can clean it with bleach (if tolerable, although chlorine is not good for the environment), vinegar, or grapefruit seed extract (although some now question whether the antimicrobial effect of GSE is actually due to additives). EPA suggests using gloves and goggles even for small clean-ups. Be careful not to disturb spores in the process if possible. For larger problems, you may need a mold remediator, but be careful that chemical cleaners used in the process do not endanger you further. You can search your home for moldy areas, but because mold can grow almost anywhere, such as in drywall or insulation, under floors, or in carpet, it may be difficult to pinpoint problem locations. Some companies have begun to train dogs to sniff out mold in homes. A mold test kit may help you. However, in discussing various ways to measure indoor mold, mold expert J. David Miller says that it is not possible to leave the samplers out long enough to accommodate the large fluctuations in particles. The plates therefore may not provide a true measure of the mold concentration (Miller, 2003). You may be able to prevent further mold build up in particular areas by taking steps such as venting any moisture sources to the outside (cooking, dryers, bathrooms) and other actions. (Sources for mold test kits are in Appendix B.)
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