Recently, someone found this blog by searching Google for:
If you can smell it you’re breathing it in
While I can’t really say why someone was doing that search, I felt that it was a very good point. For years, the fragrance industry has said that the only health issues that fragrances can possibly cause is contact dermatitis. They say it only touches the skin. It isn’t absorbed, it isn’t inhaled.
Logical thinking will tell you that this cannot be true. If you’re smelling something, then it at least got as far in as your nose, right? And even though it was claimed for years that something on the skin was not absorbed into the bloodstream, we now know that cannot be true. After all, that’s how the nicotine patch works. A patch treated with nicotine is applied to the skin and the nicotine is absorbed. Likewise the birth control patch. And the pain patches.
So, most definitely, if you can smell it you’re breathing it in. And it is getting into your bloodstream. Something to think about the next time you or someone else wants to use a fragrance.
I recent ran across this article: The Dirty Dozen Chemicals in Cosmetics.
In the article, Catherine Zandonella, lists 12 chemicals you should avoid in cosmetics:
- Coal Tar
- Diethanolamine (DEA)
- Lead and Mercury
- Petroleum Distillates
It’s scary to think that some of the items in the list are actually in our cosmetics. But, they are. And many of them will have a worse effect on growing babies and children. It pays to read your labels.
I just found this article online that should be helpful to many of us. I always see suggestions to use vinegar in cleaning, but this article – Good Housecleaning: Five Non-Toxic, Get-the-Dirt Out Basicsa by Annie Berthold-Bond includes her seven favorite recipes. I especially liked her recommendation:
My rule of thumb about nontoxic cleaning is this: use only ingredients that have been used without harm for so many years that they are “generally regarded as safe”; otherwise they would have long since been abandoned.
I think my favorite is her oven cleaning as I’ve been struggling with how to clean our oven lately.
Gotta run for now so I can print the article!
This is part 3 of a series on preparing for the MCS house guest:
This week is about loose ends. Just a few more things to consider if you’re expecting a house guest that has MCS or any other health issues exacerbated by fragrances.
I’ve been thinking about this topic as I go through my days lately and it’s reminded me of things I need to mention.
One thing has to do with soap. I have traveled with my own soap and shampoo since I was in high school. (Back then I traveled on a T.Rex’s back.) So I always have soap in the one bathroom that I occupy. But that isn’t always enough. There are a lot of soaps out that I refuse to use. Especially the liquid hand soaps that are so popular. They leave their perfume smell on your hands, and it stays for a very long time. I just cannot use them. They’re so penetrating that the smell is actually absorbed by the plastic container that you put them in. It can be awkward dealing with this issue. When I travel, I like to be a good house guest, but I also like to be migraine free. (And so does everyone around me b/c I’m not a lot of fun with a migraine!) This is likely the type of issue you might want to work out with your future house guest in advance.
Another problem area is the dishwasher. I’m still totally puzzled at the fact that when you go to buy detergent for your dishwasher, you have to choose a scent. Why? What in the world for? I really don’t want my dishes to smell like flowers, or lemons or anything else, thank you. Not to mention that I am then ingesting those fragrances when I eat off the plate! But it’s a fact of modern life that everything you find in your average grocery store has a fragrancce. Before I found fragrance free dishwasher detergent, we had rules. First, no lids to travel mugs were allowed in the dishwasher. They absorb the fragrance and then I have to smell it with each sip. Second, and most important, never run the dishwasher when I’m going to be near the kitchen. In our house, that means we only ran it when we went to bed or when we left the house. It may seem petty to you if you don’t have an issue with fragrances, but the entire time the dishwasher runs, it emits those fragrances into the air. Something to keep in mind with your house guest.
There is one topic that I haven’t covered yet, and that is Pest Control. If you live in Colorado, you can likely ignore this because you may not know what I’m talking about. But here in South Texas, insects are a problem. You cannot avoid having them come into your house. But pest control chemicals can be particularly nasty. We had one man doing our house for years and I had no problem with it. Sadly, he passed away. The next ones we brought in caused a three day migraine. I tried one more, recently. He said his products were “green”. Well, I didn’t have a migraine, but I was allergic to his products. So I sneezed and such for days. I still haven’t decided which is worse – allergy or migraine. Besides, five weeks later the ants are back in our kitchen.
I bring up pest control here because you may want to ensure that you don’t have pest control service very close to your house guest’s arrival.
On a side note – if anyone has suggestions on safe pest control, I could use them.
I have just a couple of points left to make here. First, some of us have diet problems that go along with the MCS. I know I do. I can’t eat msg, nitrates, most nuts, plus a few other things. So, you may want to ask your house guest about diet issues. After all, you wouldn’t want to plan a pizza night only to learn that your house guest can’t eat the pepperoni. (BUT, Whole Foods has nitrate free pepperoni!) And lastly, be considerate of your house guest. I’ve had people roll their eyes and act like I’m crazy. I may be, but I’m still super-sensitive to smells and am likely to notice things that others dont. So, if your house guest mentions a prolem, trust that it is a problem.
Well, I think I’m done with this series on the MCS House Guest. Unless someone has questions. Please leave your comments and questions on this post and I’ll try to address them.
This is a continuation of a post started last week on preparing for the MCS house guest. As I said last week, this information is based upon my experiences and my health issues. Mileage may vary for others. Please check with your future visitor for their specific needs, they’ll be glad you asked!
This week I’m going to cover house cleaning and laundry issues, plus a bit more.
House cleaning can be a real issue since most of the brand name products are full of fragrances, VOCs, and who knows what else. I generally buy all such products at Whole Foods or a local health food store. Although, I confess to using a brand name toilet cleaner because it does such a good job. Might not be a good idea b/c I can definitely smell it, but still – I like clean toilets, too!
If you’re like most of us, cleaning your house is on the list of things you’re likely to do before someone comes to visit. And that’s ok. If you can, choose some less toxic, less fragrant products. But if not, it works for me if you clean a few days in advance. (But I can’t stress enough that this approach won’t work for all.) That will give the chemicals some time to clear the air.
If you want more on cleaning products, see these 2 posts:
What about your linens – especially for the bed where your guest is staying? You can reference this post I wrote earlier on my laundry recipe. BUT, if you’ve been using scented fabric softeners or dryer sheets and scented laundry detergent then those smells may not come out. I’ve read that it can take 20 – 30 washings. And I believe it. What are your alternatives? It’s rather awkward these days to hang sheets outside. That may work for towels, which is good because any fragrance left in the towels will transfer to the person using it! Another alternative for sheets is to talk to your visitor. I have sheets in every size and I am not above traveling with them!
What about your car, though? Hopefully you don’t have any type of “air freshener” in your car. Or if you take it to a car wash they don’t use one in your car. If so, a few days of open windows in the sunshine are in order. And hope that it works.
That’s all for now, I do have a couple of other things I’ve thought of. Plus, I’ve found as I go about my daily routine I think of other things. So, tune in next week for part 3.
As always, your comments, suggestions and questions are welcome!
Last week Mama Grizzly had the following request:
I need some help! A family member with MCS may be coming to visit me and I want to do everything possible to make it a fun and pleasant visit for her (so that I may expect future visits)! I have a guest bedroom that is mostly closed off. I went in there the other day and it smells a little musty. The guest bathroom is the children’s bathroom but it’s also where I get ready every morning. I do use hairspray in there and unfortunately, there is no window. What things can I start doing now to help with the visit? Maybe you could write a series of blog posts on this?
So this is my start at answering her. I’m not sure just how many posts this will actually be. We’ll just see how it goes.
But first, a Disclaimer. (No, not about the fact that I’m not a doctor. Although I’m not.) This disclaimer is about the information I’ll provide and the fact that it is NOT One-Size-Fits-All. Every MCS case is different. There are people with MCS that are just not able to travel. And others that can, but they cannot tolerate many things at all. Indeed, it is a disease that has been known to destroy relationships. BUT, my limited travel experience tells me that if the other party is asking questions, it is likely to go well. My best experience was visiting my step-daughter. Of course, it helped immensely that her husband got migraines from (most) fragrances.
The best advice for anyone expecting a house guest is MCS is to ask them what they can and cannot tolerate. They’ll be delighted that you cared enough to ask.
So – on with the tips.
First, let’s talk about that musty odor. Believe me, there are a lot worse things than a musty odor. A room that’s been closed up will tend to be musty. How to cure that? Wash whatever is washable in a Fragrance Free Detergent. (All Free & Clear works well for many.) Don’t use any fabric softeners or dryer sheets. Baking soda in the wash, and vinegar for a rinse do well. Another thing that really helps is fresh air and sunshine. It’s amazing the odors a day in the sun will do for clothing, pillows, linens, etc.
If you’ve done any recent remodeling, let your house guest know in advance. Paint smells hang around for a long time. And if you have any planned, wait till after the visit.
Regarding the hairspray in the bathroom: Since it’s an aerosol, hairspray goes everywhere when it is sprayed. On the floors, any fabrics (rugs, curtains, towels), into the wood, even plastic will absorb those smells. So, if at all possible, find another place to spray it.
It’s funny how those odors are. You’re not likely to notice them, since you’re around them all the time. But they are there. I once had a not-so-thoughtful house guest who used something with a fragrance in it. Mind you, they were asked not to, but not everyone believes there’s a real health issue here. (Either it’s all in my head, or I just don’t like perfumes. You’ve no doubt met the type.) Whatever it was they sprayed, it hung around for a couple of weeks after they were gone.
The next thing I would address is the use of air “fresheners”. The rule there is – Don’t. Get rid of them now, as in ASAP. As in Yesterday. Your whole family will breathe better anyway as there really isn’t anything healthy in them.
I have to laugh at the managers of the copy franchises around town. They put all these plug-in air “fresheners” in their store because of the chemical smells from the copiers. One near me had 2 plug-in air “fresheners” within 6 feet of each other. What they don’t quite get is this. First, everyone is still breathing the nasty chemicals from the copy machines, even if they no longer smell them. Second, the VOCs in the plug-in air “fresheners” really are just as bad for you. So, they’ve only succeeded in making a bad problem worse.
Hopefully, you don’t use a lot of air fresheners throughout your house. If you do, and they’ve been there a while, then they have probably been absorbed by EVERYTHING. Warn your visitor, please.
An example of how pervasive the odors can be: My father’s house always had a particular odor to it. I suspect that it was some sort of fragrance, likely from a cleaning or laundry product used in the house. Everything that came out of that house had that smell. Clothing, furniture, papers. Literally everything. When I had to clean his house out last year, you could smell it. And realtors who showed his house commented on it. It did finally go away. By that time, the house was totally empty and the carpet had all been steam-cleaned. But it really did hang on to everything.
OK – next week I’ll have some more info. I’ll tackle cleaning and laundry issues.
Feel free to leave questions or comments here.
On our sister site, Fragrance Free World, we get a lot of people that find the site and send us an email. We’d like to encourage everyone to leave a comment here instead. You can leave a comment on any post.
OR, we’ve set up a couple of pages just for your Tips and Complaints:
Tell us about how Fragrances and other chemicals are impacting you. What issues are your biggest concern? Let’s make our voices heard, there is something to be said for sheer volume!
So, Go ahead and Join The Conversation!
But, should you ever find yourself having to resign because your employer fails to accommodate your MCS, here is an EXCELLENT example of a letter of resignation:
There’s a new cleaner in San Antonio. You can’t really call them a “dry cleaner” because their process isn’t dry. But, they do the job normally done by dry cleaners. But without using the typical perchloroethylene dry cleaning solvents.
I went in there recently with my husband and the smell was marvelous – mostly because there really wasn’t much of a smell to the place. No solvents. No perfumes used to cover the solvent smell. AND, their prices are comparable to dry cleaners, so you don’t have to pay extra to be healthier!
If you live in the San Antonio area, you might want to check them out here: Clothesline Cleaners. Tell them where you heard it because I want one of their t-shirts! Or check in your area because they seem to be popping up all over.