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by Carolyn Cooper, MPH, RN
Multiple Chemical Sensitivity awareness is one of the health observances for the month of May. MCS is also variously known as Environmental Illness, Idiopathic Environmental Intolerance, and 20th Century Disease. Over the course of the last 8 years I have become acquainted with a number of individuals who are afflicted with this often misunderstood condition. MCS causes many of those who are severely affected to isolate themselves in order to take refuge from the synthetic fragrances and fumes that are ubiquitous in industrialized nations.
My interest in MCS resulted from experience caring for one of my hospital patients who is severely afflicted. (Read about my patient's experience with MCS in my blog post from May of 2009). Recognizing the lack of scholarly published literature to inform health care providers about the specific needs of the chemically sensitive in the health care setting, I eventually wrote a feature article published by the American Journal of Nursing (AJN) in 2007, Multiple_Chemical_Sensitivity_in_the_Clinical Setting. (At times this article can be read free of charge on the AJN website, but I've noticed sometimes they charge a fee to read it).
Another of my MCS acquaintances is Toni Temple, President of the Ohio Network for the Chemically Injured. As an severe MCS-sufferer, Toni has written widely about this condition. Her published work includes the book, Healthier Hospitals, a publication with a wealth of suggestions for accommodating the chemically sensitive in the hospital setting. Toni is president of the Ohio Network for the Chemically Injured and in this capacity she advocates and lobbies on behalf of the chemically sensitive.
In recognition of MCS month, I'm including the latest press release issued by Toni Temple on behalf of the Ohio Network for the Chemically Injured:
Ohio Network for the Chemically Injured (ONFCI) Urges Adoption of CDC Fragrance-Free Policy to Protect Health
"The U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) is on record affirming that some building conditions have the "potential to adversely impact the health of building occupants. Potential hazards include chemicals, biological agents, fragrant products, and physical conditions that may cause irritation, illness, or exacerbate existing health conditions."
"The CDC's June 2009 internal Indoor Environmental Quality Policy protects employees from many harmful health effects by: controlling VOC emissions that are found in many buildings and commercial products; using integrated pest management to ensure the least possible hazard to people, property, and the environment; utilizing a safety official with qualifications to assess indoor air quality; using biodegradable, low toxicity, fragrance-free cleaning products; and other preventive measures.
"In conjunction with Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS) Awareness and Education Month during May, the Ohio Network for the Chemically Injured (ONFCI), a not-for-profit corporation that educates about and advocates on behalf of those who have been harmed by toxic chemicals in our everyday environment, urges all employers, businesses, and homeowners to review and adopt the CDC policy in order to reduce illness, disease, and disability.
"Readily achievable policies include prohibiting the use of any air fresheners, air wicks, plug-ins, incense, candles, reed diffusers, fragrance-emitting devices of any kind, plug-in or spray air fresheners, and toilet blocks. Encourage fragrance-free personal care and laundry products and request employees to be as fragrance-free as possible. The CDC Policy prohibits applying personal care scented products on any CDC premises. The use of "green" cleaning chemicals and building materials along with monitoring for appropriate ventilation will not only reduce indoor air contamination, but will reduce employee absenteeism as well.
"In a letter to Governor Strickland, Senator Dale Miller asked for the Governor's "...consideration to develop and put forward an Indoor Environmental Quality Policy for use in all state facilities. The model proposed by the Centers for Disease Control would be an excellent starting place for development of this policy. We need to make every effort to provide work environments that are clean, comfortable, and safe. We also should pay particular attention to protecting those who are particularly sensitive to chemical irritants."
"Cuyahoga County Public Library's 28 branches and their administrative office building will participate in MCS Awareness Month. Some branches will display related books and provide other information. A copy of the CDC Policy will be available for copying. The Downtown branch of Cleveland Public Library will again have an MCS Awareness Month display in the Science and Technology Department.
"Many mayors including Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson, Berea Mayor Cyril Kleem, and Strongsville Mayor Thomas Perciak, will again issue Proclamations supporting MCS Awareness and Education Month in May.
"An MCS article appears in the 2010 Environmental Briefing Book on the Ohio Environmental Council's website. http://www.theoec.org/LobbyDay2010.htm . For further information about MCS and the ONFCI visit our website at http://www.ohionetwork.org/ or contact ONFCI at (440) 845-1888.
"For Further Information Contact: Toni Temple, ONFCI President (440) 845-1888."
Editors note: Many thanks to Carol for allowing me to publish her blog post here. Carol is a seasoned nurse and public health advocate with a passion to help individuals find and understand the health information they are seeking. Read more of her posts on her Promoting Health and Patient Education blog.
Today I was contacted by Vivien Pomfrey who has started a peition on the 10 Downing Street website (UK Government site) calling on the Prime Minister to protect UK citizens from artificial perfumes in all their forms.
I have just signed the petition and hope that if you are a UK citizen you will do the same. Vivien and myself also hope that those of you from other countries will petition your own governments through whatever means possible. This is an issue that has widespread implications for human health and the environment and deserves much more attention than it currently receives.
Here is the email from Vivien with the link to the petition and more information she has compiled:
There is now a petition to Downing Street demanding a ban on the uncontrolled public use and importation of artificially-perfumed products at http://petitions.number10.gov.uk/Scents/
You need to be a UK citizen or resident to sign this petition. If you are not a UK citizen, why not start a petition to your own government? You are welcome to use anything from mine.
Please sign the petition if you are entitled to do so, and pass on the information to all other individuals, email lists, forums, blogs, social networking sites, etc., where there may be interest and/or concern about the issue.
Background info about the human health hazards can be found here: http://vivienpomfrey.co.uk/parfum
There is also danger to wildlife, for example from the hormone-disrupting activity of some of the chemicals, and another scientist has agreed with me that artificial perfumes may be contributing to the decline in pollinating insects such as bees, which could be catastrophic for food production. Perfume production also involves the profligate use of petrochemicals and energy.
I attach a flyer which could be distributed as it is or modified to your requirements. I am going to distribute them via my local health food shop.
The petition will be live until 19th June 2010.
Let's take this opportunity to raise maximal awareness of the menace of artificial perfumes.
Thank you and best wishes.
Vivien Pomfrey MSc
Below is the text of the petition itself:
We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to protect the public from exposure to artificial perfumes.
Untested perfumes are released from an increasing range of products, including cosmetics, air ‘fresheners', laundry products and toys, and exposure is becoming unavoidable. Children are growing up in a perfumed chemical fog. The products are linked with:
- skin, eye and lung irritation
- impaired thinking
- urinary infection
- hormone disruption
- immune and nervous system damage
- genital deformity
- genetic mutation
Perfumes may be harming bees, which are vital for food production.
We request the government to prohibit the release of artificial perfumes; require labels on artificially-perfumed products stating that the chemicals are untested and may harm adults, children and foetuses; make manufacturers stop using artificial perfumes, including 'masking fragrances'; ban the importation of artificially-perfumed products; fund research ON HUMANS into health risks of artificial perfumes; and clarify existing legislation to define artificial perfume release as pollution, neighbour nuisance and anti-social behaviour.
PBS STATIONS JULY 2009
Discoveries in Alternative Medicine
An acclaimed television program shown on PBS stations across the U.S. will showcase LifeWave’s innovative products in a segment scheduled to air later this spring. Producers for Discoveries in Alternative Medicine interviewed several top distributors and medical team members at our La Jolla, CA on March 23-24, 2009.
The award-winning series, which reaches more than 30 million households nationwide, covers a diverse range of alternative and complementary health issues. David Schmidt, founder and CEO of LifeWave, expects the upcoming broadcast to give the company positive national exposure. “Not only will the program provide new opportunities for members to build their business, the in-depth investigation will be a credible resource for concise research that supports LifeWave’s technology,” he said.
David also shared that the program’s producer was enthusiastic about the interviews. “The producer said that he’s interviewed over 4000 health care practitioners for the program, but LifeWave’s medical doctors were the most passionate he’s ever seen. He was impressed with the quality of research they’ve conducted.”
Among the medical doctors appearing on the program is health and life coach and LifeWave member Sherry Blake-Greenberg, who holds doctorates in homeopathy, psychotherapy, and naturopathy. During her interview, she shared the results of her recent clinical study on the Y-Age Glutathione patch.
Using an Electro Interstitial Scanning (EIS) system, which measures and interprets resistance to the flow of electric current through fluid between the body’s cells, Dr. Sherry found that within 30 days of use, the Glutathione patch produced statistically significant beneficial activity in all seven major organs of the body.
Not only does Dr. Sherry use LifeWave patches herself, she also recommends them to her patients. In many cases, she relates, patients returning for a follow-up consultation affirm that their energy levels have dramatically improved, that they feel and look younger, and that they have an overall sense of well being.
Dr. Sherry was first introduced to LifeWave patches at a 2004 demonstration in Houston. She was asked to try the Energy Enhancer patch and immediately felt that she had more energy than prior to wearing it. As she put it, the Energy Enhancer patch “jumpstarts the system.”
The PBS program also features Dr. Steve Haltiwanger, LifeWave’s medical director and life coach. We first contacted Dr. Steve in 2003 to evaluate the patch technology, and he was immediately impressed with the results. “The technology worked exactly as LifeWave claimed it did,” he explained.
Dr. Steve hopes the upcoming program will spark viewers’ curiosity about the company and how they might benefit from its products. “This TV program will showcase LifeWave’s technology and make it simple for everyone to understand,” he explained. “As the medical director, my primary role is to be a communicator, to help people understand the value of LifeWave’s products.” Part of his communications role is to share clinical research with people interested in the patches. “I enjoy showing how effective the technology is. The research substantiates the claims that the patches improve energy and control pain,” he said.
Dr. Steve also coordinates scientific studies with clinicians and medical researchers. Through these studies, he learns more about how the patches work and how people can use them more effectively. “The patches are best demonstrated to show how beneficial the technology can be in addressing basic issues, such as maintaining energy, getting a restful sleep, or controlling pain.” IceWave, for example, “gives people an option for managing pain,” but only “when the patches are properly applied, which takes some degree of learning how to do.”
Also interviewed on the program were Drs. Tom Budzynski, Dean Clark, and Quila Rider. All three medical experts showed astonishing results after conducting separate studies on the patches. Dr. Tom, a prominent neurologist, found that positive bioelectrical changes occur only minutes after applying an Energy Enhancer patch. He published his findings in the Journal of Neurotherapy last year.
Dr. Dean, a U.S. Olympic team physician, talked about his clinical research using infrared imaging to show the immediate thermal changes after applying IceWave on painful areas of the body. (Read more about Dr. Dean’s research here.)
Dr. Quila, an acupuncturist, registered nurse, and certified nurse midwife, shared details on her clinical study of the Y-Age Glutathione patch. Using blood and urine tests, she found that the patch removed all toxins.
We’ll definitely let you know when PBS sets the airdate. After the 30-minute episode airs later this spring, we plan on using the investigative report as the basis for a new DVD that will help you showcase research on our products. We’ll also post a shorter version of the video on our Web site for you to watch and download. Check back for more details soon!
There was a time not so long ago when nobody had even heard of Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS). In fact, when I first developed the condition only 7 years ago I didn't meet anybody who had heard of it, apart from others who were suffering like I was.
This lack of awareness only adds to the considerable suffering and feelings of isolation that come with being affected by MCS. As any MCS sufferer will tell you it's one thing to have a disabling illness and quite another to have nobody believe you have a disabling illness!
Thankfully awareness of MCS now seems to be spreading thanks to a steady stream of coverage in the mainstream media. To stay on top of things I receive daily email updates from the Google News website (Google Alerts) on all topics relating to what we cover here at The Environmental Illness Resource. Not long ago there were rarely any stories published about the chemically sensitive but now I receive such stories at least once a week but usually more often.
Articles on multiple chemical sensitivity are now being published in newspapers around the world on a regular basis. In the news this week:
The Sydney Morning Herald
Down Under The Sydney Morning Herald carried a story entitled 'Trouble beneath the bubbles' by Nick Galvin which addressed the growing concerns over the safety of chemicals used in personal care products such as shampoos and deodorants. The article takes quite a detailed look at the cocktail of chemicals that these products contain as well as potential health risks they pose and the poor state of chemical industry regulation in Australia (which could apply to most countries - although the EU's REACH legislation is a step in the right direction). In addition, the author speaks to Dorothy Bowes, President of the Allergy, Sensitivity and Environmental Health Association, Queensland Inc (ASEHA). Dorothy, 61, spends most of her time in her own home due to the severity of her MCS symptoms. She says: "I have to try to avoid all fragrances. If they don't trip a migraine they will trip an allergic reaction. It's a nightmare - and it's been a problem all my life." She also explains how hard it is for MCS sufferers to find products which won't trigger symptoms due to poor labelling of chemical ingredients on many product packages.
To read the story click here
The Boston Herald this week ran an excellent article entitled 'Effects of controversial chemical sensitivity disorder all too real' by Renee Nadeau. The article gives a great account of MCS from the perspective of someone suffering from the condition. It is based on an interview with Mary Schaefer who in 2004 developed MCS after the buildings at the engineering publishing firm where she worked were renovated. She was eventually forced to leave her job after the symptoms became too severe. She now works as a PA for another MCS sufferer and also shares a home with someone else affected by the condition. Mary explains that she has lost many friends because of her illness as people simply don't understand. Ironically she admits that if roles were reversed she wouldn't believe everyday chemicals were making someone ill either. This is true for many people with MCS, including myself, and goes against a common view that MCS sufferers are just seeking attention or have a psychological aversion to odours.
To read the story click here
ASEHA is a voluntary community organisation giving support to people with allergy, food intolerance, multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS), attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS)/Fibromyalgia.
I highly recommend anybody affected by any of these conditions visit the ASEHA website as it has a wealth of useful information
American Chemistry Council
Of course not all reference to MCS in the media is drawing attention to the suffering of those affected by it. The American Chemistry Council website quotes the Boston Herald article but focuses on a paragraph stating that MCS is a controversial diagnosis. To their credit they do however link to the full article so the quote can be seen in context.
So awareness of MCS seems to be growing which can only be a good thing. It does seem that whether people have been affected by MCS in some way or not there is an increasing distrust of chemical products and the realisation that the safety of products we use every day as a society is in many cases unproven. The burdgeoning market in natural and organic products is further indication of this.
I came across an amazing story this week of an ex-fibromyalgia sufferer who is planning to hike 800 miles across the state of Arizona in the United States. The 'Arizona Trail' stretches from the state's borders with Mexico and Utah and includes terrain from lowland desert to pine forests.
The woman in question is 33 year old Sirena Dufault, who after a slow recovery from