Jul 4, 2010

Navigating Multiple Chemical Sensitivities

Although it is a colossal challenge, most people living with chemical sensitivities can lead relatively normal lives as long as they live them carefully. The first step is controlling the home environment. Keeping living spaces as clean and dust-free as possible is the healthiest option for everyone, and especially people with multiple chemical sensitivities. And keeping them clean without the use of noxious chemical cleansers is even better. Some natural options include vinegar and baking soda as a mild abrasive cleanser, and hydrogen peroxide is an odor-free germ killing alternative to bleach. Hydrogen peroxide mixed with water is also a safe alternative to windex and to disinfect countertops and surfaces.

Outdoors, practice natural lawn care without chemical pesticides or fertilizers. Surprisingly, old fashioned table salt or vinegar will kill weeds and make them easier to pull. Opt for pressure washing the exterior of your home and outdoor furniture instead of using chemical cleaners. If you must paint, inside or outside, the new line of low VOC paints from Rodda called Horizon are surprisingly odorless. There is a still a very faint paint scent, so proper ventilation and airflow is necessary as always.

As far as personal care products like shampoos, deodorants and cosmetics are concerned, many are available in unscented, hypoallergenic and natural options. Try unscented shampoo, natural crystal deodorant and the Physician's Formula or Jane Iredale cosmetics lines. I have also had good luck with Aveeno and Alba products. It is always best to select products with the least amount of ingredients possible, as it is less likely that you will be sensitive to one of them. For facials and deep conditioning treatments, use foods like avocados, olive oil, bananas, or oatmeal. Chances are, if you can eat something safely, you won't have an adverse reaction to it when used on your skin or hair. Be sure to notify your hair stylist about chemical sensitivities. He or she may be able to schedule your appointment at a time when there are no chemical services scheduled for other clients in order to minimize your exposure.

When venturing out into public spaces where it is difficult to control your own environment, make sure to stay clear of smokers, pesticides, or even heavy traffic, as the air pollution often triggers symptoms in chemically sensitive individuals. Be aware that most public parks and spaces are treated with chemical fertilizers or weedkillers, so be cautious about sitting on the lawns. Whenever you can, make sure to inform others that you are extremely sensitive to chemicals whether it is in the workplace or at the mechanic's. My mom purchased a new Jeep last year, and the dealership used a special chemical treatment to protect the interior as an extra surprise for her, but it ended up being an unwelcome surprise for me on the ride home. It never occurred to either one of us that they would treat the interior with such strong smelling chemicals. They had good intentions and only meant it as a nice gesture, a freebie they threw in with the purchase of the car. It was quite possibly the worst car ride of my life, even with all the windows open and I could not ride in the vehicle until months after it had aired out completely.

I learned a valuable lesson that day: don't be afraid to speak up about chemical sensitivities. Most people will be glad you let them know and more than happy to accommodate you.

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