What could be causing this new allergic response? I was already using the simplest products, with the fewest components. My skin seemed to flare up over nearly anything, and there did not appear to be some safe alternatives to my current products.
So I went to my dermatologist to get some patch tests. But after some research, I knew that the formaldehyde resin was an ingredient in plastic. This supported the feeling I had my toothbrush was causing my allergic response. Luckily, switching to a wooden toothbrush immediately relieved me of my ruddy splotches.
With that issue addressed, I wanted to learn more about another allergen: the mercapto mix. When I discovered it and the formaldehyde resin were parts in the production of rubber and glue, I picked up the telephone to call my father.
My dad was a chemist. Early in his career, he developed an adhesive, which he manufactured and marketed through his own firm. The phrase, a version of a DuPont slogan, promoted the notion that chemistry can improve nearly all facets of our lives. This self-serving catchphrase was instrumental in getting consumers to turn away from a nature-based way of life and toward purchasing newfangled products made with artificial ingredients.
“Sure! I used it in creating my paste,” he cheerily responded, happy to have a prepared response.
As I told him about my new allergies, I was struck by the link between Dad’s usage of particular chemicals and my following allergy to them a few decades afterwards. I suspected this was not a mere coincidence.
I was hesitant to explore this speculation with Dad since I did not think he would share my perspective.
About a year following this conversation, my dad started to experience breathing issues and a persistent cough. A trip to the doctor revealed he had lung cancer.
My mind began to flash back to all of the compounds my dad was exposed to if he made his adhesive. Could his everyday exposure to those noxious chemicals, together with the smoking, have set the stage for his lung cancer? And could my allergies to the formaldehyde resin and the mercapto mix have been initiated from contact with his laden clothes when he arrived home from work?
Along with being horribly grief stricken about my father’s impending death (he had stage 4 cancer), I was outraged by our civilization’s shrugging acceptance of substances as well as the implicit trust we put in their safety. Unlike my dad, however I was never under the delusion that synthetic chemicals were our friends. Maybe this was because I grew up in the’70s, a period of burgeoning interest in returning to a healthier way of life. Early on, I began exercising regularly, eating foods that are natural, and consuming a range of beneficial supplements.
However, despite my healthy practices, I started to suffer with myriad allergies and sensitivities to environmental elements, like plants, smoke, mold, chemicals, and foods. Apparently my health-promoting activities were not sufficient to stave off these issues. I knew something was interfering with my body’s natural mechanics and derailing my attempts. I believed that one big factor may be my early exposure to the compounds my dad used, which was further exacerbated by the overabundance of toxic chemicals in our air, soil, water, and foods.
While I believe that both my dad and I have been hurt by harmful chemicals, I do not think we’re the only ones damaged this way. I believe that the overload of toxic chemicals in our world has a negative effect on all people. We pay the purchase price of vulnerability in our own unique ways: one person finally gets cancer, another becomes asthmatic, and somebody suffers from chronic rashes.
Recent studies have provided validation for my certainty that chemical toxins negatively impact our health. Asbestos was shown to play a role in respiratory disorders; arsenic is known to lead to many different ailments, including diabetes and heart disease; mercury has a deleterious effect on the brain and nervous system; and bisphenol A (BPA) disrupts the endocrine system.
Because chemicals are loosely controlled and only banned after recorded evidence of serious harm, we’re subject to untold dangers from our everyday experiences with these substances. Lots of people might not think they’re being diminished by this exposure. Yet repercussions can occur many years after, when it’s almost impossible to determine if regular chemical exposure was the cause.
Despite not having much control over the chemical element of our planet, I refuse to be a helpless victim of harmful substances. I’ve found ways to substantially reduce my exposure to noxious substances. This has diminished the injury I experience from living in our less-than-healthy world.
One way I have found to mitigate the toxins in my life is to shop carefully and select safer choices for my family and personal care needs. I look at labels and do a little research before I buy. Environmental Working Group’s website has a detailed database of personal and household care products, rated for their security.
When remodeling or buying new household furnishings, I’ve discovered healthier options. Eco-friendly materials are usually safer, but we need to pierce beneath the surface of the marketing claims. By way of instance,”green” does not necessarily mean a product is natural or nontoxic. The item may contain recycled materials, which could be off-gassing substances like plastic.
Because I respond horribly to perfumes (with symptoms that include nausea, cognitive impairment, and headaches), I avoid buying any botanical products. After learning that the words”odor,” or”parfum,” on a product label usually conceals the existence of numerous hidden toxic compounds, I finally realized why I have such adverse reactions to these compounds.
Driving less, refraining from burning wood or light up barbeques, and using biodegradable unscented laundry products are all ways help to reduce unhealthy particulate matter within our shared air. This makes the air safer to breathe for everybody, especially asthmatics and individuals with chemical sensitivities.
Another way I get some degree of control over our shared environment is by way of making my voice heard. I write to my legislators and sign petitions, like those that prohibit particularly harmful chemicals or ask stricter regulations for the chemical sector. I also support organizations which are doing critical work.
I still must stay alert to possible chemical hazards in each new environment I enter. I also should refrain from lingering in any location that’s starting to make my head my stomach feel helpless, despite wanting to store in a specific shop or needing to attend an event in a public hallway.
Clearly, much work remains to be done to clean up our planet. My hope is that through action and education, fewer individuals will get harmed by the chemicals they encounter in our shared environment.