Since I have healed enough to be considered an moderate reactor, I feel like I now live with my feet in two worlds. One is a largely online community; we have in common something that happened to us. They understand my struggles, my fears, and my negotiations as a fellow spoonie .
My second world is made up of local friends and acquaintances. Mind you, they know I have MCS and a lot of them know me well enough to understand the implications and be proactive on my part. But most of our interactions have to do with the things we have in common like parenting, small town politics, or how bad the tourist traffic is. My health problems do not initiate each conversation because it is not the first thought in both parties’ heads, just mine and I am thankful for that.
In those relationships, I try to be honest and open, hoping that little glimpses into my life will give people enough reason to pause and consider the consequences of some of their daily choices. I would rather not scare them with statistics and details of this illness, even though they are my reality to deal with. I have found that I can live with the fear and fatalism that comes with chemical injury and still get on with the work, and sometimes joy, of living. However, it is hard to put that dichotomy into conversational words without preaching or lecturing so instead, I usually hope that transparency works.
When transparency fails, it’s time for the written word and so I am writing a letter…
To my healthy friends,
The majority of us can now freely acknowledge that we have damaged our environment, on local and global scales, beyond the point that allows for rebalancing. The waters are rising, the weather is more extreme, and species are going extinct because of what we the human species have done, knowingly or not, to our home. Some of it mismanagement of resources but a large portion of the blame comes from the sheer quantity of man made chemicals that have been poured into the environment in a short time, since the industrial revolution and then even more so after WWII. I am not going to debate any of that here, I think any one with open eyes can see that. Instead let’s follow that to the next logical step. The same phenomenon we see happening outside us is happening within us.
Some ecosystems have fewer options for equilibrium correction like ice caps and we see these fail first. Some places have been hit hardest by repeated insults like wetlands and we see the permanence of that damage. Every environment has myriad intricate systems of interconnection that can trigger domino effects wherein the visible result is miles from the original pollution. Ditto the human body y’all.
Some of us with genetic predispostions are going down first, small chronic injuries leading to permanent damage, with changeable symptoms in various systems. Sound familiar? Climate change and Environmental Illness are both real effects of our ignorance and carelessness with chemicals. We see its prevalence spreading with each generation. If open eyes aren’t enough for you to see that, then peruse some of articles I have referenced at the end of the post which link various every day chemicals to illness. None of the articles are about Multiple Chemical Sensitivity, I’m talking about the whole gamut of health effects here, though Toxicant Induced Loss of Tolerance is indeed one of the possible conditions that can develop from a physical system overloaded with toxic substances it cannot safely process fast enough.
Given that perspective, maybe a little selfishness isn’t a bad thing. It’s appropriate that we are worried about the environment and we tend to think of prioritizing certain global needs over our own as selfless. While I believe that our re-usable shopping bags and hybrid cars are important better choices for our world, I also think there is another way to consider this issue. I firmly believe a selfish intent can be equally motivating and true. For every act you take based on environmental “green” reasons, take five based on your own needs. Saving yourself, even better saving your children, will also save the planet. You can do both most of the time. Because the less you put in or on your body, the longer and healthier it will function, and the less chemical pollutants the planet will have to deal with. Let’s face it, selfish decisions are easier to make day after day. The more often you can make healthy product choices, the more your kids will learn to make these same informed choices in what will be an even more toxic world for them.
If that all still feels hypothetical and vague, let me assure you the problem is immediate and your actions should be too. What beauty body products are you putting on today? What containers will your child’s lunch be packed in? How are you going to deal with those termites in your home? The choices don’t have to be complicated. You don’t have to buy expensive organically sourced skin care. Just use fewer of them, hopefully without added fragrance, and make sure the remaining ones don’t contain the Hazardous 100 or even better, that they score well with Skin Deep. The problem is personal and urgent. Act locally – on your body. Do it now, with intention and commitment. Find some consumer resources you trust, read the labels, make small changes. But do it now, because prevention is easier than the alternative.
The alternative is a health crisis of such depths that you assume the sudden change in your mental capacities can only mean that you are going full on madhouse insane. It progresses until you start preparing to die, even though you are only 25 and you look fine. You are very sick but cannot find a doctor that can help you. You lose everything that you thought defined you and are not able to work because you can’t control the environment or trust your health to be stable for long enough. A doctor tells you that you will probably have early and quick onset of senility problems thanks to the toxic injury. You live with chronic pain and the constant anger of feeling marginalized. There are repeated trips to the ER because your food allergies keep changing and when you finally feel stable enough to travel, it’s with an oxygen tank and the knowledge that you will come home very sick. You miss your children’s performances and awards. You negotiate every step outside your safe home (if you are one of the very few lucky enough to have a safe home) because you have to portion out your tolerance like its always the end of the month, bills are due, and your health is your only currency. You hate your body because it’s your worst traitor and you live with the terror that the pattern will be repeated in your children.
Do it the easier way, make some changes before you are changed.
Can you believe I ended with that dark stuff?! Where’s my usual silver lining? It’s here in a list of consumer resources.
Safer Chemicals Healthy Families’s Hazardous 100
Environmental Working Group’s
Shoppers Guide to Pesticides in Produce
Sunscreen Guide 2015
Guide to Healthy Cleaning
Dirty Dozen Endocrine Disruptors
Skin Deep Guide to Cosmetics
Personal Care Products Skin Deep which has a mobile app
There are more than 3,000 high-production-volume chemicals out there and fewer than half of them have been tested for their potential human toxicity, much less their combined effects. If this alarms you, you might want to follow the progress of the TSCA Modernization Act. If you are interested in some studies linking chemicals to human health effects, here is some light reading. Most of these are gleaned from The Collaborative on Health and the Environment CHE’s Top 10 Lists.
A Sampling of Recent Research and Studies
WHO & UN panel State of the Science of Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals