Friday, May 6, 2011

Canary In The Coal Mine

Another slow, grey day. I am so ready for consistent Spring weather! Still, in the grey the blooming flowers were almost electric, and the air was not cold, so the day was pleasant.
After a quiet morning, spent reading (Blondina had a friend over), we went to our homeschool group, which was at a friend's house. After spending a few minutes in the house, I noted a new scent. A petrochemical air "freshener" (oy, that's a misnomer!) type of scent. I pondered for a bit. We were to be there for three hours, a problem for me with that perfumy odor coming from a diffuser I spied in a corner. I decided that the only way for me to stay there would be if that thing were shut off, but I didn't want to offend my friend.

When I worked up the courage to ask if we could turn the diffuser off, she was actually very gracious, shutting it off while explaining it had just been sent to her as a gift. The scent lingered for quite a while, so I made an effort to spend time in other rooms of the house until it dissipated some. This was pretty effective, as I did not end up with a migraine, as I might normally expect. I have been known to develop migraines from being in stores with electronic diffusers. Once I almost fainted in the dressing room of our local Goodwill, because of the scent wafting throughout the store (there is a diffuser on the wall above the dressing rooms).

When a local store has these chemical perfumes in the air I always make it a point to speak with the manager. I try to explain that some people are terribly sensitive to these chemicals, that they are neurotoxins, that my husband has even suggested that I wear a re-breather whenever I shop there. Amazingly, none of the stores will acknowledge that these products are troubling, despite the fact that every time I have one of these conversations, other customers will join in, nodding their heads and sharing their own sensitivities. One employee even told me that she has regular headaches from the scents.

Several places have told me that the products they use are "green certified." What is that supposed to mean? They've somehow "green washed" the petrochemicals??  Some other organization was willing to sign off on them, to look the other way? What I think they are implying is that I should not be sensitive to the poisons they are pumping into the air to cover the dusty or musty smells. They are implying that it is my problem. They have even said that people come to them complimenting the smell!

Obviously, my opinion is quite different.  Long ago, when trying to explain my reactions to such things to The Captain, I told him that I am the proverbial "canary in the coal mine." I am the "indicator species" that shows everyone else where the danger lurks. Yes, it's possible that my history of gut dysbiosis and adrenal insufficiency make me more acutely sensitive, but the deeper reality is that toxins are toxic to everyone. The difference between us is only in how quickly they take effect and how large of a dose will case damage. The question is not whether certain things are poison, it's how much will it take to make you or me sick. To paraphrase Paracelsus, "the dose makes the poison."

One store manager, did, however, offer the use of a re-breather that they keep on hand for sensitive customers. Um, really? You keep a heavy-duty commercial chemical filtering mask around for our use, but the chemicals are not toxic? Somehow it is accepted now to use fake everything--scents, lights (oh, don't get me started on fluorescent lights!), you name it. Our culture is so divorced from what is real that we don't recognize the difference between sweet-smelling poisons and the real scent of flowers.

It often takes the development of major illness before we change our ways. Like the story I read some time ago of a celebrity family that wanted a clean environment for their precious baby, so they spared no expense, cleaned the carpets monthly, used all sorts of products and services. The baby developed life-threatening neurological problems, traced eventually to the carpet-cleaning. As devastating as that must have been for them, I just have to ask, did nobody think about all of the chemicals being put on those carpets? How is that actually cleaner? I am totally baffled by the logic, or lack of it, in modern society.

I do know that some (rare) stores and offices are more enlightened, like our local UPS store that asks all customers to refrain from wearing scents into the store, to protect both their employees and their customers. This is more common in places like yoga studios, and alternative practitioners' offices. It is something I would love to see all over. Couldn't we just agree that putting poisons into our personal environments is a generally unhealthy thing to do? I need to figure out a way to talk to these people, because it's an education that will have to take place one person at a time, eat least until there is mass sensitivity and illness. As in the Romans developing lead poisoning from their aquaducts being lined with lead (they liked the sweet taste! Does that sound familiar?) When a whole community keels over, maybe then we will get it....

So, what to do until then? Well, even rural communities are riddled with toxins (from chemical farming, from polluted air drifting in, from manure pools), so running away isn't really an option. I eat as cleanly as I can, we don't live in a huge city, I try to find joy wherever I can (that's an important healing tool). We avoid plastic, chemical cleaners and personal care products, and any other optional toxic exposure. Some things we can't avoid, like the poisons in our water, so we try to manage that exposure as well as we can (filter the water, for example).

Although I didn't develop a migraine, I did end up feeling woozy and exhausted after my afternoon sojourn. I didn't do anything but sit and chat, so it was clearly caused by the scent. We had dinner plans, so as I prepared for the evening, I really had to figure out what might change the situation, so I could go out and enjoy myself. For a split second I thought about various treats--as a "pick-me-up". Yesterday's post loomed in my head, warning me to be aware, be circumspect. Taking a deep breath, centering, I thought about what mediates these reactions: the adrenal glands. I thought about what feeds the adrenals, and works as a rescue in such situations: sea salt.  I mixed a cup of salt water as I gathered my food for the evening, and sipped it slowly, letting it ground my agitated self.

Yes, it worked. I had a lovely evening, with friends and family, and no one noticed that I was "off" in any way. The Captain had commented on my state after the play group, it was that obvious, but as we headed home he remarked on my miraculous recovery. Amazing what bringing awareness, and a bit of knowledge, to a situation will do!

While this little tool worked for me this time, I still can't support the notion of widespread chemical exposure for the unwilling (and everyone else, too, but please--can't I opt out?) Eventually, my adrenals won't be able to bounce back, or it might be your baby who gets sick or my friend or... People act as it is were normal to spew toxins around wantonly, but it's a recent development.  And the way I see it, is that we are all like frogs in the pot with the heat being turned up. You know, it happens so slowly that the frog doesn't sense the impending doom. If you put a frog into already hot water, it would immediately jump in reaction.

I say we jump out--how about you?


I have not added new food in a couple of days, as I work out the various cravings and sensitivities. I did add my seaweed supplement (a mixture of ground fresh Pacific sea vegetables) sometime last week, but have been erratic about taking it daily. It is a very advanced food, but I use it in helping to support my thyroid, and 3 weeks without it was starting to have effects I wanted to reverse (mild signs of hypothyroidism). In the last two days I have been consistent and committed in taking it, because I really need it, and get good results when I get it in regularly.  

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