Chemical Injury

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Chemical Injury
Bonita Poulin
Canadian Coordinator
Multiple Chemical Sensitivity
and other Chemically Induced Illnesses,
Diseases & Injury
affecting civilians and military personnel
Studies show many illnesses could have
an environmental/chemical connection
Brain & Central Nervous System Damage
Guillain-Barre Syndrome
Gulf War Syndrome (GWS)
Multiple Chemical Sensitivity
Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/ Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
Heart disease
Arterial Sclerosis
many forms of Arthritis
Macular Degeneration
Multiple Sclerosis
ALS (Lou Gehrigs)
How to know when you’ve had an
Whenever you can:
a chemical
you have already been exposed!
*Some chemicals/fumes cannot be seen or smelled
How do chemical injuries happen?
one or more large
exposures or multiple
smaller exposures over
time via
skin contact
absorption through eyes
How I Got Sick
• worked 10+ years at a laundry detergent factory
• responsible for making sure chemicals were being added
things were flowing through the various pipes, pumps etc.
• developed first case of Bronchitis during first week
working in dept & 5 more times during first 2 & ½ years
• in 1991 the company’s enzyme hygiene program found
several employees were sensitized to enzymes
How I got sick
• investigation revealed defective respirators
• better respirators purchased for the entire plant with strict
training & maintenance program
• were told to wear PPE and no health problems
• 1994 I developed asthma – using inhaler
• 1995 department safety, enzyme and hazardous system
coordinator - moved me into the office area – still did
tours, inspections
How I Got Sick
• 1997 developed bilateral carpal tunnel and tennis elbows,
- I did not do any repetitive work
• carpal release surgeries on both hands
• more carpal tunnel & arthritic symptoms
• diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis
• 1998 back to regular technician job in department
• after 3 days of working with chemicals I started having
some serious problems - left hand & arm was swollen to
twice the size of my right hand
How I got Sick
• ordered by plant doctor to take 3 days off to rest
• rheumatologist - only office work indefinitely
• carpal tunnel symptoms continued & Rheumatoid
Arthritis spread & worsened
• short term disability for several months and my carpal
tunnel healed by itself
• back at work - trouble thinking clearly & concentrating,
severe fatigue & spontaneous crying for no reason
How I Got Sick
• carpal tunnel symptoms started up again & Rheumatoid
Arthritis got worse
• discovered Brown Antibiotic Protocol for Mycoplasma as
a cure to Rheumatoid Arthritis & talked family doctor into
trying it in fall 1989
• worsening of symptoms from die-off so was referred to
an Environmental doctor on Ottawa
• provocation & neutralization testing discovered many
food & environmental allergies & chemical sensitivities
that contributed to symptoms
How I Got Sick
• list of things to avoid, strict diet, nutritional supplements &
serums to neutralize reactions and build up immunity
• dr. advised me to stop working at factory but I refused –
pay & benefits too good
• avoidance & serums worked well for while - asthma,
carpal tunnel and Rheumatoid Arthritis got better
• new symptoms - slurring speech, staggered gait,
constant nausea, dizziness, reduced sensation on the left
side of body & occasional jerking of my right hand couldn’t read what I had written
How I Got Sick
• environmental doctor discovered I was on verge of a
stroke with thick sticky blood
• dr. insisted I take a couple of weeks off work
• advised us to remove all chemicals from home & wash
everything in Borax & baking soda to eliminate residual
• the more of this we did, the better I felt - no longer sick
while at home
• now I got nauseous & dizzy from a whiff of perfume,
woodsmoke or other exposures & was constantly
Living With MCS
• no longer able to tolerate any environment other than my
house – totally disabled by MCS
• for over a year I had to wear disposable mask
everywhere to reduce exposures
• we owned a hobby farm 5 miles east of Brockville
• whenever wind blew from the town the factory’s perfume
would make me nauseous & dizzy, even inside my
• installed electronic air filtration - helped while inside but
still sick when I went outdoors.
Living With MCS
• started having more and more left sided weakness
(partial paralysis) –unable to look after my horses
• 2005 decided we had to move away from area
• used map to find area with few roads, very little farming
and no industry
• used website that tells all the
polluters in area when postal code punched in
• searched “For Sale By Owner” websites until we found
our safe house in Quadeville
Living With MCS
• house was 10 years old, built of century logs, sits
high on hill surrounded by forest, no neighbours
for ½ a mile
• inside is all natural wood with hardwood and
ceramic floors, no drywall and no basement
• equipped with energy conserving Heat Recovery
Ventilator with charcoal filter and humidity control
People I Know Have Developed
Multiple Chemical Sensitivities
pesticide application
carpet installation
construction and renovations
inhabiting a sick building (pesticides, moulds)
handling strong chemicals
burning CCA pressure treated wood and
• breathing polluted air
What is MCS?
Multiple Chemical Sensitivity
• a chronic condition
• affecting multiple organ systems
• symptoms recur reproducibly
• in response to low levels exposures to unrelated
• symptoms improve when incidents are removed
• reactions may be immediate or delayed
Is MCS An Allergic Condition?
MCS is not an allergic condition although it is
sometimes described that way in order to make it
easier to understand.
Many of the immediate MCS reactions occur via the
central nervous system rather than the immune
system. i.e. migraine, numbness, nausea
Principals of MCS
Because the body is constantly exposed,
the reactions become the normal state and
so reactions to specific things go unnoticed.
However, the person never feels well and
complains of various symptoms never
relating them to exposures.
After several days of avoidance symptoms
clear and then can be noticed when they
reoccur after a new exposure.
Reactions to environmental stimulus can be
emotional and often varies from depression
to mania and can change from one to
another very quickly. Patients are often
misdiagnosed as bipolar.
Biochemical Individuality:
The total body burden from current and past
illnesses and exposures and the immune
system status of the patient as well as their
Studies have shown that chemical exposures
can cause changes for several
Spreading or Kindling:
One sensitivity leads to many more and to
unrelated items.
MCSers usually also develop intolerances to
foods eaten regularly and hypersensitivities
to molds, pollen, algae, insect bites, and
medications, all of which can be
With repeated exposures symptoms
become more severe and can become
life threatening i.e.
anaphylactic shock instead of nausea
Why is it so important for an
MCSers to avoid exposures?
Each exposure causes the MCSer to:
. become less tolerant to exposures
. develop sensitivities to new things
. reactions can become more serious and
even life threatening!
What causes MCS?
MCSers have defective detoxification
pathways meaning their bodies accumulate
toxins instead of removing them. These
defects are caused by exposures to certain
Many MCSers can pinpoint the exact time of
their sensitization and most often it is linked
to exposures to pesticides or solvents.
MCSers can develop symptoms from
exposure to:
• Scented products
• Solvents
• Body care products
• Construction materials
• Furniture / Appliances
• Cigarette Smoke
• And more…
Symptoms of
Multiple Chemical Sensitivity
. can affect any part of the body
Severity and duration of the reaction depends on:
· type of chemical involved
· frequency, intensity and duration of the exposure
· history of past exposures, especially recent
· biochemical makeup of the person i.e. immune
system status, health and exposures of parents
Common MCS Symptoms
respiratory illnesses
neurological problems
mental /cognitive capacity
severe muscle and joint pain
mood swings
extreme fatigue
Regardless of the form in which the symptoms of MCS
manifest themselves, it is a reaction to the toxic
chemicals in our environment not to smells.
How prevalent is MCS?
. An alarmingly increasing public health problem
worldwide especially in industrialized areas
. Millions of people of all ages, including young
children, have become sensitized following
exposure to toxic chemicals in the environment.
. Toxic pesticides that are used in schools, housing,
offices, malls, lawns, public parks and facilities,
contribute greatly to the incidence of MCS.
Canadian MCS Statistics
Socio-economic impact of MCS study of Canadians
in 2001 by the
Environmental Illness Society of Canada
•4 million Canadians (approximately 15%) are affected by
chemical sensitivity, half a million of whom are severe
cases, with 5,000 being disabled by this condition.
• $10 billion are lost in productivity,
• $1 billion is lost in taxes,
• $1 billion is used in avoidable health care costs,
• $1 billion in (avoidable disabilities) paid
MCS Causes Many Life-changing
• health
• ability to work and support self/family
• financial security and ability to buy
• self-confidence and self worth
• hobbies and enjoyment
• social interaction (family, friends)
• entertainment (movies, concerts, shopping, dining)
• marriage and relationships
• ability to complete activities of daily living
• home (live year round in cars, tents etc.)
What is it like to live with MCS?
Imagine a life in which you have to stay away from
anyone using regular laundry and personal care
products and places that use chemicals lest you
become ill?
• A teacher who can’t be near books or
photocopies or work in a portable classroom
• A soldier that can’t tolerate cleaning their gun or
polishing their boots
Who Acknowledges MCS?
Canada Pension Plan
Nova Scotia Worker’s Compensation
Health Canada
Ontario Ministry of Health
Ontario Medical Association
Nova Scotia Medical Association
Nova Scotia Department of Health
Public Works Canada
Public Service Alliance of Canada
Ontario Human Rights Commission
Canadian Human Rights Commission
The Ontario & Canadian Human
Rights Acts state:
Employers, schools, offices,
hotels, stores, Doctors and Dentists,
Health Care Facilities, other
public places and transportation
must make their premises accessible
and provide reasonable
MCS & Disability
. Most disabled MCS patients are denied disability
pensions because “there are no tests to prove It”
because medical science cannot agree on test
. The chemical manufacturing industry has launched an
anti-MCS campaign designed to create the illusion of
controversy about MCS and cast doubt on its existence.
. “The only diversity of opinion comes from the authors
with industry affiliations.”
Responsible Industry For A Sound Environment
. RISE is made up of executives from companies
like Monsanto, Sandoz Agro, DowElanco,
Dupont Agricultural Products, The Scotts
Company, Procter and Gamble and other
pesticide manufacturers, formulators, and
. Keeping MCS controversial is a key task of the
cigarette-science activities of RISE.
Is There A Cure For MCS?
. There is no cure for MCS using allopathic medicine.
. Drugs administered to treat symptoms are usually not well
tolerated and often end up making the patient worse.
. Until recently, General Practitioners had no training in
toxicology or environmental health.
. The Ontario College of Family Physicians developed and is
now conducting training on Environmental Health for new
family doctors.
Things That Do Help
· avoidance to prevent severe reactions and
worsening including eating only whole organic
· supplementing with the required nutrients
· detoxing to lower total body burden
· keeping a positive attitude with activities that
promote self-esteem
Great strides have been made with alternative
health care approaches i.e. Environmental
Medicine, Holistic Medicine, Orthomolecular
Medicine, Naturopathy, Homeopathy,
Acupuncture & Chiropractic.
Can Avoidance Cure MCS?
Total avoidance is impossible. A person with MCS can
only decrease exposures, not eliminate them completely.
It is important to avoid toxic chemicals whenever possible
to prevent worsening.
MCSers Fall Through The Cracks
Most of the treatments that help are not covered
by OHIP or the Health Insurance Industry and
are expensive.
Since many MCSers have no health insurance and
have only small or no disability pensions, it is
impossible for them to afford the help they need.
Hazardous Of Fragrances
• up to 4,000 ingredients, mostly synthetic
• many are human toxins and suspected or proven
• in 1989, the US National Institute of Occupational Safety
and Health evaluated 2,983 fragrance chemicals for
health effects
• they identified 884 of them as toxic substances
Why A Scent Free Policy
• fragrances are everywhere & in everything
• known to trigger asthma attacks
• US Environmental Protection Agency found that
100% of perfumes contain toluene, which can
cause liver, kidney and brain damage as well as
damage to a developing fetus.
• is a common skin irritant.
Hazardous Of Fragrances
• Symptoms reported to FDA from fragrance
exposure include headaches, dizziness, rashes,
skin discoloration, violent coughing and vomiting,
and allergic skin irritation.
•Clinical observations show that fragrances can
affect the central nervous system,
causing depression, hyperactivity,
irritability, inability to cope & other
behavioural changes.
Analysis Of “Eternity” Perfume By 2
Independent Laboratories
41 chemical ingredients
5 are skin irritants
3 are skin sensitizers (cause contact dermatitis)
6 are respiratory tract irritants
2 are respiratory sensitizers (cause asthma)
5 are nervous system irritants
1 is toxic to central nervous system
2 affect reproductive systems
2 affect fetus
3 are suspected carcinogens (cause cancer)
27 have not been thoroughly investigated for health or
toxicological properties
• 11 have little or no data
Essential Oils - Tips & Cautions
• MCSers are often sensitive to even small
quantities of essential oils, especially the
stronger smelling ones like tea tree, lemon and
• Strong smelling scents, even natural ones,
are not appropriate for scent-free
Where To Buy Scent-Free
• Many products labeled as perfume-free actually
use a masking fragrance to hide smells of other
• Truly scent-free personal care products
cannot be found in drug stores, grocery
stores or department stores!
Air Freshener, Deodorizer
Freshen air by removing or diluting the
offending odour (cleaning, ventilation
absorption) not covering with other chemicals.
Natural Air Freshening Tips
• baking soda will absorb odours
• zeolite will absorb odours & heavy metals
• simmer water and spices on stove
• bowls of fragrant dried herbs & flowers (not
commercial potpourri)
• open a window & run central vacuum or use fan
in another window to exchange air
Anti-bacterial soaps and cleaners
are not necessary!
• exposes us to harmful chemicals
• high levels found in human breast milk
• kill both beneficial and harmful bacteria leaves us more
vulnerable to harmful ones
• widespread use contributes to the development of
resistant bacteria
• children need exposure to some germs to develop their
immune systems.
Pest Control
Free e-book on safe alternative pest control
methods written by an ex pesticide
applicator who developed MCS
Learn to Read Labels
• In Canada, ingredients are listed in order of
quantity. The first ingredient makes up the
greatest amount of the product
• Ingredient lists may not contain all ingredients
i.e. inert ingredients are not listed
• Inert ingredients can be just as hazardous
• Manufacturer’s Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) are
not required to list ingredients which make up
less than 1% of a product.
• Manufacturers can cite “trade secrets” as an
excuse not to list ingredients anywhere.
• In Canada, manufacturers are not required to list
ingredients at all on labels of personal care
products or household cleaning products. This is
Things To Think About
. The Center for Disease Control’s Body Burden
report documents that everyone’s body contains
many toxic chemicals that should not be there.
. Everybody is only one exposure away from
developing Multiple Chemical Sensitivities,
Cancer or other Chemically Induced Illnesses.
. If you already react to one chemical, take heed
because your body is warning you to be careful
about exposures.
Rules For Your Protection
• Do not rely only on Personal Protective
Equipment to protect you. PPE can fail!
• Educate yourself about MCS & other chemical
• Use less harmful chemicals/products where
ever possible
• Pay attention to what your body is telling you
Clean and Safe Environment
• An environment which is free of smoke,
pesticides, fabric softeners, air fresheners,
commercial disinfectants and anti-bacterial
cleaners will decrease exposures to many
chemicals which have been linked to human
health problems.
• Choosing less toxic products is an important part
of providing a healthy environment that benefits
Don’t be a stinker!
Chemicals in perfumes cause health problems!
The End
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