Posts Tagged ‘fragrance allergy’

Fragrance ingredients to be disclosed

A reader brought this article to my attention: http://www.icis.com/blogs/green-chemicals/2009/08/ It says that the International Fragrance Association plans to begin voluntarily disclosing the ingredients used in the industry. Since it’s voluntary, I doubt they’ll disclose anything that may harm their bottom line, but we’ll see.

On a personal note, my recovery time is way shorter after exposure, especially since I figured out the best thing to do is rest, no matter what. I think with rest and continued avoidance, I may heal enough to re-enter society within the next year. Realistically, I know I’ll probably have symptoms for a long while, if not the rest of my life. But I hope if I listen to my body and give her the support she needs to heal, it will eventually be a problem I used to have.

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My favorite fragrance-free products

I’ve been in a lot of public places lately, which means a lot of fragrance exposure. I’d relaxed my defensive efforts–nose filters, mask, short excursions–because it seemed fragrance’s hold was lifting. I have tight, burning eyes and sinus pressure regardless of whether I go out now, and my short trips to the store and the longer outing to my friend’s place…Well, it seemed like those things weren’t making the symptoms worse like it used to. I thought my body was recovering.

I still think it is, but I’m finding out that repeated exposure can still build up. I’ve left only a day between each exposure over the past week or two–library, casino, grocery store, school enrollment, pizza place–and it has sure been taking a toll. I need longer rest time in a neutral environment between each outing to allow my body to metabolize the toxin. It’s such a relief to get back to my home, the most neutral environment I’ve found.

I’ve avoided making a list of fragrance-free products I use, because of laziness, yes, but also because until now I hadn’t tried enough of them to settle on a list of favorites. These products work as well as the ones they replaced, and in some cases better.

Cleaners

  • Clorox Green Works Natural dishwashing liquid, Free & Clear. I love this stuff. I also put it diluted in pump bottles for hand washing.
  • Soapopular hand sanitizer is completely inoffensive
  • Simplicity Hypoallergenic Non-toxic automatic dishwasher sachets
  • Borax is an excellent grease cutter. Nothing better for getting grease off appliances.
  • Ammonia
  • Vinegar
  • Water. Seriously, do you need to use a chemical everytime you wipe the crumbs off the counter?

I have yet to find a suitable replacement for toilet bowl cleaner, so I just use ammonia or vinegar, whatever I’m in the mood for, but they don’t really get rid of the water stains. I’m still looking. Be wary of trash bags, because they often have fragrance added.

Body-care products

  • Earth Science Fragrance Free Shampoo and Conditioner
  • Aveeno Active Naturals Skin Relief Body Wash, Fragrance Free (I prefer the store brand version of this, because it doesn’t seem to have as much of an odor and it’s cheaper, but this will be more easily found.)
  • Dove Sensitive Skin bar soap. Make sure it says “Fragrance Free” on the package and not “unscented.”
  • Dove Sensitive Skin antiperspirant. Again, make sure it says “Fragrance Free” on the package. “Hypoallergenic” doesn’t always encompass it.
  • Almay makeup contains no fragrance ever, as far as I can tell.
  • Lubriderm Daily Moisture for me, and Suave Natural Oatmeal Moisturizer for DH
  • Olay Complete All-day Moisture Lotion, Sensitive Skin.

Be wary of any feminine hygiene products, because they do not have to list any added fragrance. I once bought a package of Carefree panty liners and was surprised with fragrance, so I avoid all their products, just in case.

Along my journey through the house listing all my products, I found a couple of scented products that sneaked past me. One was the Dove “unscented” soap, the other was my husband’s hairspray, both of which don’t list fragrance in the ingredients. I assume they list the actual chemical name of the fragrance, but the research to find out which one would be a couple of hours. And it doesn’t matter, anyway, because they have to go. These could be the reason for my constant eye and sinus irritation, and also the reason for the decreased stamina outside of the house. I’ve put that soap on my face every single day for a couple of weeks.

Anyway, that’s my list. Here’s an interesting interview I tweeted yesterday about toxins in personal care products if you’re interested in such things.

Update: So guess what? I didn’t use the soap or antiperspirant, and I feel tons better. It’s like night and day. I’m so happy I could scream. 🙂

Reader question: How do I handle a co-worker’s perfume?

Lori told her story in the comments. She writes:

It happens the moment the receptionist walks in –it feels like I have been hit and the nausea and blurred vision starts I feel weak.. Shortly after I feel like vomiting and end up with a headache/migraine tighten up the smell is so overpowering and then have to sit here for 8 hours at work –What can one do ??

And my reply:

Wow, Lori, that sounds so much like what I go through. I say you have no choice but to ask her nicely to stop wearing perfume. Luckily, I don’t work around other people, but I have had to ask the teachers at my kids’ schools not to let them use the scented soap. I felt like a jerk asking, but they were very kind about it, even if they were also a bit confused.

You can tell the receptionist that you feel bad having to ask her, but perfume gives you a migraine. Make sure she knows it’s ALL perfume, so she won’t be defensive. And then if she complies and it works out, give her a little gift of appreciation. And if she refuses, talk to your boss about it. Refer him to this website, if you like, or one of the sites I link to. You could also print out some of the information to hand them to read at their leisure.

It’s your health and livelihood at stake here. Yeah, the way someone smells is a very personal thing, and asking them to change that is a huge imposition, but gosh, would YOU want to make someone feel the way her perfume makes you feel? It’s only perfume. It’s not like you’re asking her to get a buzz cut or wear uncomfortable shoes.

And you never know…She may be feeling bad and not know why. Other people in your office could have the same problem as you, but be too afraid to say anything. Put some feelers out there. You never know until you ask!

Next post will be another reader question. Send your questions to sherri@sherricornelius.com, or leave them in the comment section.

Today: Wal-Mart. Tomorrow: the world!

From the comment section

I just saved a comment from the spam pile. Daniel writes, “Flame retardants do outgas from electronic devices and they are toxic in many ways. they are neurotoxic, immunotoxic, hormone disrupting and endocrine disrupting.” I’d like to direct you to his website, Outgas Report, which links to a ton of information about the problem of outgassing. Much more than I could ever list here. Thanks for visiting, Daniel!

Another commenter, Julie, said, “I researched this problem because I have severe allergies to scents and chemicals, like bleach and other normal household cleaners. All I could find was to see an allergist.” Julie, what cleaners do you use? How about your family’s body products? Have you been able to find any you can tolerate?

~~~

I’m sorry I’m not more organized on here, y’all. It’s mostly due to laziness. Well, laziness plus my other blog seems to suck my blogging time. I’ve thought about doing some in-depth posts on, for example, the FF products I use. But that requires concentration, organization, multiple links…ugh! I’m more of a community organizer than a drill sergeant. It may have something to do with my sleepy chemical-laden synapses. 😉

One interesting development to report: At my local Wal-Mart I requested they carry a certain free and clear dish detergent which I have been buying at Wal-Mart in another town. I talked to a lovely associate named Cara, who listened patiently as I lamented my difficulty in finding FF products as well as the symptoms of fragrance sensitivity. She took my name and number and said she would speak with her manager and let me know what she found out.

The days went by, and I didn’t hear back. I expected that Cara had handed off my number to management and went about her business, and that management either didn’t order the product I wanted or they didn’t think about calling to let me know.

Well, Cara herself called me yesterday, just to let me know what was going on. It touched me that she had taken a personal interest in my plight. She said that they were still waiting to hear back from the buyers, who were not only ordering the single product I’d requested, but also looking into what other fragrance-free products they could find. Hallelujah! Hopefully they’ll come up with some shampoo, which I also mentioned, and lots of things I didn’t expect.

The moral of the story: It never hurts to ask. And sometimes you get an answer which goes beyond the query. Now I’m thinking of writing up a letter to the editors of my local newspapers. I have dreams of being a paid FF consultant for Wal-Mart, relocating to Bentonville, AR, and making sweeping changes in the world of retail.

But those things would require concentration, organization…well, you know.

You don’t know how I feel

On Good Morning America I saw a report about a lady with MCS who built a shed on her property as a trigger-free zone. It’s made of metal and contains only metal and glass objects and blankets made of organic material. A judge ordered the woman to remove the shed because they didn’t get building permits or inspections.

I’m not arguing about the legal aspect of the story. What upset me were some of the comments calling this woman, and by association all MCS sufferers, insane. To me, it smacks of the medieval folks’ belief that disease was caused by evil spirits, simply because they didn’t know about germs yet.

It’s simple. We are surrounded by synthetic chemicals; thousands of new ones are manufactured every year. MOST of these chemicals are not studied on the human body before they are introduced into products meant for mass-consumption. In fact, a lot of the chemicals we are exposed to in everyday products such as perfume and air fresheners are known carcinogens. It boggles my mind that more people are not at least considering the connection between rising chemical exposure and rising rates of autism, asthma, ADHD, depression, and cancer.

Some naysayers point to lack of research in the area of MCS as proof that it doesn’t exist. A flawed argument. A couple of people said that in a study they read (but didn’t provide the link) that certain MCS sufferers were exposed without their knowledge to substances to which they claimed sensitivity, but incurred no reaction.

First of all, if the study was real, I concur that their symptoms may have been psychosomatic. That changes the nature of their illness, but not of mine, and not of all MCS sufferers. When the symptoms come first, all other treatments have failed, and removal of certain substances relieves the symptoms, that’s about as empirical as a person can get outside the laboratory.

When I’m having a bad sinus day, I might suffer for several hours wondering why, then go outside and realize it’s my neighbor’s laundry day. Her dryer vents right between our houses, and the smell of the dryer sheets she uses hangs in the air. After this happened several times, it became clear to me that the fragrance chemicals seep into my house in low enough concentrations where my nose can’t detect it but my sinus tissue is still irritated by it.

Something that non-MCS sufferers might not know is that the effect can be very subtle. So subtle that even the sufferer herself may not attribute her slight headache or reduced cognitive ability to the trigger. It’s extremely difficult to measure the reactions, because it’s more of a quality of life thing than a yes/no thing. And the triggers can be widely varied, as can the reactions, plus we’re normally exposed to many substances at once so it can be hard to separate them. I could easily see where a person with MCS might attribute her symptoms to a red herring trigger.

Formerly doubted illnesses like chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, and depression are now recognized by the mainstream medical community, and I’m certain that as more and more people come forward, MCS will be widely accepted as a legitimate illness. Still, as with the aforementioned diseases, there will always be those who believe other people don’t know how they feel.

More resources for MCS

My fellow fragrance sufferer, Mason, left a comment on the previous post with some resources that he found helpful, so I’m pulling the comment up here into a post. It would be a shame if someone overlooked some vital info that was buried in the comments. (Hope you don’t mind, Mason!)

Mason said:

I have found several sources of information. I’ve been finding similar themes in what I am experiencing and what other people call multiple chemical sensitivity or environmental illness.

So I started looking for groups focused on those things and I came up with lots of good results.

planetthrive.com
communityzero.com/mcsurvivors
And several groups on yahoo.com

All of these websites contain lots of valuable information. I would encourage you to read through some of these pages. From what I can tell, my experiences are not nearly as bad as others, and they have some good advice based on experience. For example, I was recommended Alka Seltzer Gold, and so far it seems to relieve some of these symptoms.

Also,

http://www.epa.gov/iaq/voc.html

That will explain some things about toxic off gassing.

It is a rollercoaster of a ride. Just take it easy, and enjoy the moments of relief when they do come.

I agree, there’s an obvious correlation between my fragrance sensitivity and Multiple Chemical Sensitivity. In fact, I have a couple of links over there in the sidebar that leads to even more resources.

Thanks, Mason!

A veritable barrage of chemicals

In my research across the interwebs, it has become clear that most people who have developed a sensitivity to one chemical are probably sensitive to others as well. Here is a report by PBS on how chemicals pervade our lives. (Link found at the Refreshingly Free website.)

It would be impossible to take all the synthetic chemicals out of modern life, so for now we have to live with them, but my suspicion of all things chemical has been piqued by this fragrance sensitivity. We’re exposed to so many chemicals in products that we assume have been tested for safety, but as the PBS report states, “In fact, until they are proven harmful, most chemicals are presumed safe.” That means that we are performing experiments on ourselves on behalf of large corporations every day! Do they have our best interests at heart? I think not.

So I’ve been unable to completely get rid of my symptoms, though they are much improved with the efforts I’ve made to ensure that at least my home is fragrance-free. I’ve noticed that my eyes lose focus when I’ve been on the computer for only a half hour. Closing them while I type doesn’t help, as I would expect in the case of eye strain.

Well, today I found out that outgassing of chemical components used in lots of products, like computers and other electronic circuitry, carpets, office furniture, etc, can give off chemicals which can cause reactions similar to my symptoms. And this corresponds with my situation, as well. I used to sit on the couch in the living room with my laptop, and while my eyes did get tired looking at the screen, a short rest of 10-15 minutes helped immensely. Since my laptop broke I’ve been using the desktop computer, which is in a room filled with electronics: new washer and dryer, electronic piano, wireless router, cable router, printer, monitor, CPU, speakers, cordless phone base. I spend many hours a day in this room, within arm’s reach of all these things.

I’ll be able to put my theory to the test soon. Not only am I ordering the part to fix my laptop, but I’m going back to dial-up Internet, so I won’t be sitting for hours in this back room. I’ll let you know what I find out.