Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS) – Refuting the Skeptics

Even though millions of people are sensitive to certain chemicals, some members of the medical establishment have long viewed multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS) with skepticism.

At a physicians’ conference last year, one immunologist told me that MCS is “all in their heads.” At the same conference, another physician told me that he has suffered from MCS ever since medical school, when he was exposed to high levels of formaldehyde during dissections.

I know that MCS exists because I have suffered from it. When I was a child with severe allergies, my mom picked up one of my friends on the way to school every morning. My friend wore perfume (quite a bit of it), and every time she got in the car, I got a headache and started sneezing. I often had to roll down my window to avoid the chemical odor.

Even though some doctors still think it’s “all in your head,” several years ago Martin Pall, professor of biochemistry at Washington State University wrote a paper that describes mechanims of MCS. Continue reading…

Olympic Athletes with Asthma Faced Special Challenges in Beijing

As the Olympics draw to a close today, many asthmatic athletes head home after facing special challenges because of the poor air quality in Beijing.

Up to 20 percent of elite athletes have some type of asthma, depending on the sport, according to the The Sacramento Bee.

With their lungs already prone spasm and irritation, asthmatic athletes had to perform at their peak in air pollution well outside international health guidelines. Haile Gebrselassie, a well-known runner from Ethiopia, decided not to compete in the marathon because the pollution could hurt his health. Continue reading…

Allergies and Depression – Beyond Sneezes and Runny Noses

If you suffer from allergies, then you know that allergy symptoms go beyond the sneezes and sniffles. Allergies zap your energy and make you feel bad. They can even lead to clinical depression.

HEPA vacuumIn the past, I’ve had to move because of my cat allergies. I had an air purifier, allergy bedding, and HEPA vacuum – all the essentials of environmental control. But my roommate refused to keep her long-haired cats confined to one area of the apartment, so cat dander was everywhere – on the furniture, on my clothing, etc. I finally had to move, not necessarily because of the standard allergy symptoms like runny nose and itchy eyes, but because I simply felt so run-down all the time. My allergies were affecting my energy and my mood. After I moved, I felt much better in a matter of days.

People who don’t have allergies often don’t seem to understand their devastating effects on day-to-day life. In the past couple of years, however, researchers have found evidence that allergies do indeed affect brain chemistry. Continue reading…

Deep Carpet Cleaning for a Healthy Indoor Environment

Bissell deep cleanerI’ve always recommended against the use of carpet cleaning with hot water extractors (also known as steam cleaners or carpet shampooers) because most of them leave the carpet damp, setting the stage for mold growth. They can also leave a sticky film on the carpet that just attracts more dirt.

Then I saw the Bissell ProHeat CleanShot deep cleaner. This system works much better than any steam cleaner that you can buy or rent. And, for about the same price as renting one, you can have your own to use whenever you want. (If you have light-colored carpets like I do, a deep cleaner will come in handy quite often!) Continue reading…

Rachel Carson’s Legacy – The Silent Spring Institute

Rachel CarsonI first learned of Rachel Carson’s work when I read her book Silent Spring in my high school biology class. The book, published in 1962, shed light on the toxic effects of pesticides on nature, especially birds. Silent Spring inspired many people to join the modern environmental movement. Rachel Carson died of breast cancer less than two years after the publication of Silent Spring.

The Silent Spring Institute was founded in 1993 to investigate links between environmental toxins and women’s health issues – breast cancer in particular.

The Richmond Times Dispatch recently published advice from the Silent Spring Institute about dealing with indoor air contamination.

“It ends up being part of your environment,” says Julia Brody, executive director of the Silent Spring Institute. “You end up breathing it, and it gets on your hands.” Continue reading…