Category Archives: health

Asthma On The Rise

This shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone who is truly “aware” , but last month our local newspaper reported on the increase in asthma in children. That was something I’ve noticed over the past few years just from personal observation and reading. But it seems the media isn’t really paid to think so they just found out.

The report citedreally information from the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America and said that San Antonio ranked No. 11 this year (2007) on its list of “asthma capitals”.

The article was written from the standpoint of what it is costing the schools. As in, they get their state funding based upon attendance. Plus the schools now have a supply of nebulizers in their nurse’s office.

It did mention some of the things that the school districts are doing to try to help the children with asthma. Mostly removing these asthma triggers and agents that can harbor asthma triggers: stuffed animals, pillows, pets, deodorizing sprays, aerosols, candles, carpeting. But it likely isn’t near far enough.

I actually graduated from one of the schools mentioned in the article. I was back there for an alumni event a few years back. There was a strong scent of fragrance that I believe came from the cleaners used in the building. I left there with a migraine. It’s no wonder there are more kids with asthma.

I suspect that the school districts may not realize that fragrances are in all those cleaners. I actually encountered such thinking when I still worked in the “real” world. This was after I began having migraines 24/7. I somewhat got the attention of management although their primary goal seemed to prove me wrong. I actually had one person tell me that the cleaners that were used did not contain fragrance. She showed me the label which did not list fragrance as an ingredient. Of course it didn’t. It wasn’t required by law to list fragrance. But, what exactly did she think “Fresh Clean Scent” on the label meant?

How is your children’s school? You may want to inquire about the chemical cleaners they use.

A Fresh Broom?

Just when you think there’s nothing else they can add fragrance to:

This story was in our local paper the other day. In the “Life” section under the heading of Consumer’s Edge. (Consumer’s Edge seems to be where they advertise products by publishing info. from company press releases.)

It seems that two companies (who shall remain nameless so that I don’t give them any publicity) have gotten together and come up with a broom that has an air freshener attached. Their claiming it has a “fresh scent”. One of the company representatives was quoted as saying, “The (aforementioned, unnamed broom) brings true innovation to the broom category, with a clear understandable and detectable benefit to the consumer.” Oh, and it only costs $11.99!

True innovation? I don’t think so. It may be detectable, but it is neither understandable nor a benefit. Just another way to pollute your home environment.

A Cry For Help

I received the following email last night – actually @ 2:11AM South Texas time. The author, who shall remain nameless, found my other site – Fragrance Free World – by searching on the phrase “fragrance and adhd” at Yahoo! It is most definitely a cry for help:

I’m a special education teacher with Seattle Public School District. One of my students wears hairspray and baby gel. I have had a strong reaction to both products. The ADHD kids in my classroom can’t stand the smell that this students gives off. The school district told me to submit a 504 because of my asthmatic reaction to this child. The Human Resources told me that I would have to take a medical leave of absent. They also told me that the child had a perfect right to wear the strong smelling products – no questions asked. The hell with the rest of us. I refuse to take a medical leave of absent. I need the name of a really good lawyer. Can you help me out here???? Thanks.

First, I have to say that I’ve had a theory for a long time that ADHD is caused by fragrances and other VOCs in our modern environment.

But this letter makes a good point. The right of a person to wear fragranced products should end where the breathing space of other people begins. It’s the same issue as smoking, when you get right down to it. Sadly, until the American Public really wakes up to this fact, there will be problems. It doesn’t help that the FDA doesn’t do anything about it. Probably too many contributions from the fragrance industry.

But, I digress. Let’s get back to the emailer’s problem. I don’t know from the email whether anyone has talked w/ the student wearing strongly fragranced products. It might be an idea. Although I know how defensive people can get.

But the author is correct. They shouldn’t have to take a leave of absence because of the inconsiderate behavior of a student. Sadly, the lawsuit option, or even the threat of one backed by a lawyer, might be an option.

Finding said lawyer could be difficult. The reaction of most people to this type of issue is often a roadblock. People don’t want to believe that someone could be allergic to fragrances or have health issues because of them. Probably b/c they don’t want to give up their own fragrances?

So, I know that in the past I’ve had readers who went the lawyer route. Is there anyone out there who can provide information on how you found a lawyer? If you have website links, or even searches you’ve done. Please leave a comment. Or if you have other information that could help this person – leave a comment.


New Symptom?

Well, not precisely new. It’s just that I only recently realized this problem was related to my fragrance sensitivity. Here’s what happened:

Last weekend, I had a lot of problems. First, during the day, my legs were very restless. I couldn’t sit still, couldn’t really do much of anything. I’ve had this problem before, except usually it was because I was very tired. As soon as I would lay down, it would go away. But this time it wasn’t happening. Finally, I decided that if my legs wanted to move, I would take them for a walk. And it helped, for a while.

Sunday evening, we went out to eat. Nothing fancy, except once again everybody, everywhere is wearing their perfume in order to dress up for the holidays. (UGH!) By the time I got home, it was all in my clothes. So I changed into a t-shirt that had come from my father’s house. Then I decided I would sleep in that shirt.

But, I couldn’t sleep. I was exhausted, but couldn’t sleep. I was restless and tossed and turned. I finally went into the guest bedroom so as not to disturb by DH. That bed wasn’t made up, so I fished a blanket out of chest of drawers that came from my father’s house. After a while, I realized that I was smelling lots of perfume. It was in the shirt and the blanket. So I changed out of the t-shirt and ditched the blanket. Poof – problem solved. I was asleep in minutes.

As I think about this incident, I realize that there have been other times that I couldn’t sleep. Even without the migraine itself, the fragrances have been interfering with my health.

Some days it is very hard to cope with these issues. Becoming a hermit sounds attractive. Or maybe Thoreau was right. But I could never get through his book. And I tried many, many times.

A Chicken and Egg Question

Because of my allergies and chemical sensitivity, I have totally given up on makeup. I wear lipstick and that is all.

This was a gradual process. I used to wear foundation, powder, blush, eyeshadow, mascara, the whole thing. The problems started with foundation. First, I never found it comfortable. It felt like my skin couldn’t breathe. The same as the feeling I get when I wear polyester. As my allergies got worse, most of them caused me to itch, and created red splotches. That was if I could find fragrance free makeup. Mascara was next, then eyeshadow. There’s nothing worse than when your eyes are itching. Eventually, I decided not to buy anymore more makeup, period. Lipstick is all I buy. It’s amazing how much faster I can get dressed now!

And it really fits in with my over all nature. I’ve always gone for natural in most things – If I wore makeup, I went for a more natural look, I rarely do much to my hair, I love natural fabrics, etc.

More than once in recent years, I’ve had people say to me “You have such a nice complexion. You’re lucky, you don’t need makeup.” And I’ve wondered, “Which came first? Do I not need makeup b/c I have a nice complexion? Or do I have a nice complexion b/c I don’t wear makeup?” I’ve thought about this quite a bit and I suspect that the cosmetics industry may have women believing that they need makeup when they really don’t.

My cleansing routine is very simple. I was my face while in the shower. I use the same soap that I use for the rest of my body – Kiss My Face Olive Oil Soap. That’s all. No special cleansers. No astringents. No special creams. Maybe a little moisturizer during the winter.

I had someone tell me this past week about my nice complexion. I mentioned that my allergies sort of forced the no makeup thing. She proceeded to tell me that she had allergies too. And that she had real problems with her eyes. She even admitted that her makeup was probably part of the problem. But she was too vain to give it up. (Her words, not mine.)

The cosmetic industry really has a hook in women, doesn’t it? They play on our vanity. And the fact that we all have to look young. Which means no wrinkles, no gray hair, etc. So they sell us more and more creams and lotions and makeup. They convince us we need to dye our hair to cover our gray. They even convince some of us to have Botox injections.

All for what? Who are we fooling anyway? It’s pretty easy to tell most of the time that a person (even a man) has dyed their hair. For one thing, people don’t always keep it up as often as they should. Plus, the colors never look natural and often look harsh.

So many Americans spend far too much effort trying to change how they look. Too much time, energy and money goes into trying to look younger. Yet you can’t really fight your age, and you look less natural when you try. But the biggest thing to me is that we believe all the hype from the cosmetics industry. So we wind up with a not-so-nice complexion that is probably caused by all the stuff we put on our face to begin with.

If you dare, try going without all that makeup for a while. Take some time off from it. It will probably take a while for your skin to recover. But you just might find that you have a nice complexion too!

Benefits of Magnesium

We were all taught growing up that, if we ate a balanced, healthy diet then we would not really need vitamins and other nutritional supplements. The reality of it is that this is not true at all. In fact, in the US it hasn’t been true at least as far back as 1936. The reasons – chiefly soil depletion caused by not rotating crops and dead soil caused by weed killers. The problem is made worse because most of us don’t eat a balanced, healthy diet. Processed foods are lacking in magnesium, fluoride added to water binds with magnesium making it unavailable, inefficient digestion and absorption which results from America’s addiction to antacids, plus blocked absorption caused by some foods and drugs all help to deplete magnesium. From Carolyn Dean, M.D., N.D., in her book The Magnesium Miracle.

the typical American diet, which is rich in fat, sugar, salt, synthetic vitamin D, phosphates, protein, and supplemented calcium, not only is deficient in magnesium but actually increases the need for magnesium in the body.

Magnesium is involved in hundreds of activities in the human body, especially in these areas: enzyme catalysis, energy production and transport, protein synthesis, nerve signal transmission and muscle relaxation. Hence, magnesium deficiency has a huge impact on how your body functions. In her book, Dr. Dean has a long list of conditions that are likely to result in magnesium deficiency. Magnesium deficiency has been implicated as contributing to symptoms for MCS, Fibromyalgia, CFS, Migraines, to name a few. I’ve also read that it functions as an anti-oxidant and can be important in detoxification.

I first learned about the importance of Magnesium from this book: What Your Doctor May Not Tell You About Premenopause. I began having severe PMS symptoms. I would just break down in tears for absolutely no reason. Sometimes it was as simple as trying to decide what to eat for lunch. It was very frustrating, for myself and those close to me. I happened upon this book and read about the role that magnesium played in PMS. So, I gave it a try. After all, if I went to a doctor, they were likely to prescribe Prozac or some such. And I was pretty sure my problems were not a result of a Prozac deficiency. 😉

That was about 10 years ago, and I’ve taken Magnesium daily ever since. My experience has also made my husband a believer in the magic of magnesium. I can’t say just how much the magnesium has helped with my migraines and chemical sensitivity. But, I do know that I am healthier and feel better because of the magnesium supplements.

If you have symptoms of MCS, you may want to investigate supplemental magnesium. We’re all deficient without supplements and it can’t hurt you if you take recommended dosages.

The Cost Of Fragrances

No, I’m not talking about the price of your favorite perfume and cologne. I have absolutely no information on that subject.

What I’m talking about is the hidden costs that you may not have thought about.

Let’s look Susan McBride’s Lawsuit. One of the suggestions that senseless, ignorant, anonymous people on the web had for her was for her to quit her job. Suggesting she had no business in the workplace with her problems. So what happens to those who just quit working?

There are a couple of options. First, one that I’m even considering for myself, is to go on disability. As in through the SSA. Sure, sounds like an okay option, right? But guess what? The taxes that you and I pay are what funds this type of program.

Another option, out of desperation, would be Welfare. Another government program. And even though the government pays Welfare recipients; we, as taxpayers, provide the money that the government uses.

Other costs can include time off for illness. You help pay for that if the person out sick is a government employee. And likewise for their medical appointments, prescriptions, etc.

And even if the person is not a government employee, you’ll wind up paying in higher insurance premiums.

Another area where you help pay are those who get a military disability discharge because of their health problems caused by fragrances. Yep, the taxpayers pay that too.

So, when someone insists that they have a right to wear fragrances and use “air fresheners” and then complains about the taxes they pay; you may want to inform them that there’s a relation between these two.

It’s also about what you eat

All my life I have been a mostly natural person. Growing up, my mom cooked from scratch rather than buying packaged mixes – such as for cakes and cookies. We did have store-bought bread and cookies. But if Mom baked a cake, she started with eggs and flour and baked a cake. One of my sisters was vegetarian for a while. During that time I spent a lot of time at her place. She was always baking bread or cooking something yummy. All from scratch. She also knew more about nutrition than most people. I learned a lot about cooking from her.

In the last six years, all that knowledge has come in handy. Due to health issues, I’m on a strict low-sodium diet – no more than 2,000 mg/day. Plus, I now have migraines triggered by a lot of things that never were a problem – msg, most nuts, nitrates, nitrites, all of the artificial sweeteners, and more. It has forced me to read labels very carefully and also to make more things from scratch.

I highly recommend reading labels. It can be frustrating, but it also is revealing. Things to watch out for:

  • How big is a serving? It’s a good question. A cookie from a well known coffee bar says it has only 115 calories per serving. But if you read carefully, you’ll find that the 6 inch cookie has 6 (six!) servings. Doing the math, if you eat the whole cookie, you’ve just consumed 690 calories. So, that’s why they don’t call a serving 1 cookie!
  • How much salt? Salt is a very common ingredient. It’s inexpensive. It works as a flavor enhancer. If you add enough salt, then you don’t have to add as much of spices. But how much do you need? The reality is that you can actually get by with less than 2,000 mg/day. You would do just fine without ever adding salt to anything you eat. Salt is in every living plan and animal. It’s vital to life, to an extent. It’s the addition of salt that becomes a problem. Do the math some day and try to determine how much salt you consume. A slice of bacon? 1,000 mg! Many of your prepared packaged foods are very high in salt.
  • What is that ingredient? Some labels are like reading the recipe for a chemistry experiment. They include lots of chemicals – some are preservatives, some prevent caking, some add artificial flavor. I always read to the end because I have to. And products with too many ingredients never make it into my grocery cart.

The most disturbing thing that I have found while reading labels is the addition of carrageenan to foods. I first found that it is in many ice creams. What is carrageenan? (You’ll also see carageenan, but carrageenan is the correct spelling.) According to the dictionary:

a substance extracted from red and purple seaweeds, consisting of a mixture of polysaccharides. It is used as a thickening or emulsifying agent in food products.

It disturbed me because I once worked in medical research. The group I worked with was studying tumors. They would inject animals with a known carcinogen. But the concoction they used also contained carrageenan. Why carrageenan? Because it acted as a tumor promoter. It didn’t really cause the tumor, but it helped with its development. I don’t think I want to eat much of that!

I have read, too, that the seaweed from which carrageenan is extracted can be beneficial. I believe it is a matter of quantity. I looked up carrageenan online and found that it is in many food products: desserts, ice cream, milk shakes, sauces, beer, processed meats, skim milk, soy milks, diet sodas, yogurt, and many more.

Want more information? Read the following links, or do an internet search on carrageenan.

Wikipedia on Carrageenan
Stomach aches caused by Carrageenan
Carrageenan and Colon Cancer

Treating the symptoms, but not the disease

An article in the papers says that “federal guidelines due this summer are expected to urge doctors to more closely monitor whether treatment is truly controlling eeryday symptoms and improving patients’ quality of life – and to adjust therapy until it does.” It goes on to suggest a campaign to teach patients they need better help, but does it go far enough? Why do we only want to treat the symptoms? We should be looking at the environment of the asthma sufferer as well. But what else is contributing his asthma attacks?

I was 47 years old when I went from and having occasional migraines caused by exposure too much perfume to having daily migraines. In fact, it was at this time that I learned that they were even migraines. I went through a lot of doctors and neurologists at first. Each time I saw a new one, they gave me a different drug to “prevent” the migraines. None of them helped. And I kept asking, “Why am I having these problems now? What happened to suddenly make me have this head pain all the time?” And I got no answers. No one seemed to care about Why, they only wanted to make them go away. But I felt that Why was an important part of how we would make them go away.

I knew that fragrances played a role, but it seemed there had to be more. Even working from home didn’t help 100%. Finally, one doctor’s office gave me a five page list of foods that are known to be migraine triggers – nuts, nitrates, msg, aspartame, chocolate, and on and on. As I began eliminating those items from my diet, I found some relief. I have since been able to pare down that list to those items that I know are a problem for me. And no, the migraines aren’t gone, but they are less frequent. They now seem to be only triggered by fragrance products.

The bottom line is that we had to go beyond the symptoms to determine what was triggering the migraines in order to gain any kind of control. And curiously, I am now on one of the drugs that was tried five years ago. And it is helping.

Rather than just treating the symptoms of your child’s asthma, perhaps you should first try to determine what triggers attacks and try to eliminate them from their environment (as much as possible). My husband has had asthma since he was a child. But since we’ve been together, it is much better controlled because our home is Fragrance Free.

Are fragrances a health issue for you and your family?

Most people are likely to say, “No.”

The prevalence of fragranced products makes it hard to isolate them as a cause. I first determined I had a problem with fragrances in 1970. There were not near as many fragrance products in our envinonment back then!

Before you answer “No”, answer these questions:

Do you or a family member have:

  • Frequent headaches or migraines?
  • Frequent “sinus” headaches?
  • Asthma?
  • Unexplained “allergies”?
  • Frequent colds or respiratory infections?
  • COPD or other breathing disorders?
  • Emphysema?
  • Fibromyalgia?
  • Chronic Fatigue Syndrome?
  • Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS)?
  • Autoimmune Disorders (MS,Lupus, and others)?
  • ADHD?

If you answered “Yes” to any of these questions, then you may want to look at fragranced products as a culprit. At the very least, fragrances can often make any of the above conditions worse. Many of these health issues are on the rise in our country. The chemicals in the modern fragrance play a bigger role in these than most of us think.