Minimalizing Chemical Clutter
Guest Post by Betty Jo Martin – joy with less
Over twenty years ago I was diagnosed with Multiple Chemical Sensitivities (MCS). In broad terms MCS means an unusually severe sensitivity or allergy-like reaction to many different kinds of pollutants including solvents, VOC’s (Volatile Organic Compounds), perfumes, petroleum, diesel, smoke, mercury, lead, “chemicals” in general. The list of toxic chemicals used today in our homes, yards, and offices/studios are too numerous for me to list.
My physical decline began in my thirties when the first ever fillings were placed in five of my teeth. The dentist used dental amalgam fillings, sometimes called “silver amalgams,” which are actually half mercury. Within two days of having the dental work, I experienced severe pain in my limbs and along my spine. It was so painful I couldn’t hold a teacup, or climb the stairs to our bedroom. I sat up at night due to the excruciating pain in my back. I spent many days and weeks bedridden. Periodically, and for several days at a time, the pain would lessen somewhat and I could actually make it up and down stairs without crawling or being carried.
We were living in England at the time, serving with a benevolent organization as hospitality couple to families passing through the UK from around the world. We maintained a huge, rented, centuries old stone house in the country. It was similar to running a bed and breakfast. My husband also traveled five days into London working with book, and humanitarian aid distribution. I took care of school activities with our boys, the daily running of the house, and handled many of the hundreds of inquiry letters received by the organization. We also traveled many weekends with the ministries outreach programs.
After hospital tests I was diagnosed with a viral infection in my spinal column and told there was no treatment except bed rest. We never accepted that diagnoses and decided to continue our search for answers and hopefully a cure. Of course it was basically impossible to handle the vigorous work schedule, which took the two of us working together as a team, so we decided to take a less strenuous position in the US. My husband would continue his work with the organization in one of their book distribution warehouses, traveling often. I would stay home, coping with my disabilities, and starting a very long trek through the maze of doctors and further medical tests. It was extremely difficult, and some days it took all I could do simply to get from my bed to our living room couch due to the horrific pain in joints, back, and head, much less face specialists and tests. At the time, we, nor any of the doctors I consulted, connected the amalgam fillings to my becoming basically an invalid within a couple of days of having them. That knowledge came years later.
Once back in the US the viral infection in my spinal column was ruled out as being nonexistent, as I suspected it would be. I was tested for MS, which one doctor was totally convinced I had. There were also tests for other immune mediated diseases. But, to everyone’s amazement, all of my diagnostic tests proved negative to any disease!
To make a long story shorter, I’ll now jump ahead three or four years.
My husband decided to take another “job” with less traveling, giving him more time to help me. We relocated to Chicago, IL where my husband was employed by a book company. A board member of the company rented a house to us only minutes from where my husband worked. This gave him opportunity to check in with me several times a day. It was an older home and my husband painted rooms, put up wallpaper, and made many repairs. We were only there for a short time when my health took a nose dive, the pain grew worse than ever, and again I was bedridden for long periods of time. I experienced relentless “brain fog”. Fighting depression was a daily affair.
When a new friend I met at church heard of my plight she began to educate me about chemical toxins and how they can affect our health, especially the immune system. My hubby and I began to read everything we could get our hands on about the subject. We read incredible information by Theron Randolf, Debra Lynn Dadd, Lynn Lawson, Doris J. Rapp. Light bulbs came on! It didn’t take us long to piece together that the toxic mercury in the dental fillings I received in England was the beginning of the damage to my immune system. I was later tested for mercury and I registered extremely high with mercury toxicity. We then realized that other toxins in our environment continued to add to the load, affecting my immune system even further.
We began to hunt down the toxins in our environment and rid our lives of the chemical clutter. We were forced to leave the home we occupied, due to new paint and repairs, a gas heat system and cook stove, as well as the volatile gasoline toxins from the myriad of cars passing our home daily in the congested Chicago area where we lived. We relocated to rural North Carolina, my hubby taking a job managing a pizza parlor, and to continue our cleansing process surrounded by cleaner air and natural beauty.
We learned that as consumers we were spending a lot of money on products containing toxic materials that were adding to my physical digression, and possibly harming our children in ways that might not be detected until they were older. We also began to realize the impact toxic products have on the environment at large.
I saw immediate relief from a lot of the physical problems as we began to replace household toxins with natural products. Although to this day I still have severe sensitivities to many, many chemicals I am now able to live a limited, but somewhat normal life, without daily pain. It is basically impossible to live in a chemical free environment, but I can and will, continue to minimize my exposure as much as possible.
Since reading much in the minimalist online community I’ve come to realize that clearing the chemical clutter from my home was the actual beginning steps to a more simple lifestyle and minimalism. Another reason I chose joy with less as the name of my blog.
Here are a few of the products we purged years ago, and perhaps something on the list will inspire you to clear away chemical clutter in your environment. For more in-depth information do a computer search of individual chemical names found on a product’s packaging. One of the best online sources for further info I’ve found is ATSDR (http://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/toxfaqs/index.asp).
- Gas heat, cook stove, and hot water heater (Switched to electric. Solar power is even better.)
- Chemically filled household cleansers
- Oven cleaner
- Synthetic materials in clothing
- New furniture
- New cars
- New carpet
- Pesticides: I use an electric (ultrasonic) device, and haven’t had any household pests in years.
- Deodorizers, air fresheners
- Nail polish and nail polish remover
- Shoe polish
- Paint, paint strippers
- Dry cleaning
- Perfume/cologne or perfumed personal grooming products
- Chemically laced: shampoo, deodorant, toothpaste, and lotions
- Prepackaged products sold as food with long chemical lists of ingredients
- Canned foods
- Most plastics: food containers, plastic wrap, bottles, cups, place mats, shower curtains, toys, just to name a few
- Dryer sheets
- Newspapers and magazines
Symptoms of exposure to the chemicals found in these items can include headache, backache, stiff and painful joints, nausea, diarrhea, asthma or allergy attacks, dizziness, memory loss, stuttering, premature puberty, low sperm count, reduced motor skills, sudden mood swings, dyslexia, ADHD, anti-social behavior/autism and birth defects, depression, among others. Pound for pound, children’s exposure levels are higher than adults because, although the amount of chemicals in an exposure remains equal, children’s bodies are smaller so the concentration is stronger. Also, their immune systems are still developing. Children are probably the highest risk population for chemical exposures. For many of these same reasons, pets may also be at risk. Other populations with a pronounced risk are breast cancer victims, the elderly, asthma and allergy sufferers and those with compromised immune systems.
Thank you Colleen for the invitation to share my story on your wonderful blog.
ITEM 253 OF 365 LESS THINGS
I hope some one will find these bits and pieces useful they are remnants from days when I used to sew more.