A sign on the office wall at Armidale Radiology says “If you are wearing perfume please notify reception. Avoid wearing perfume on the day of your appointment” The sign has been there for years and no-one questions it. Obviously, some poor staff member at the clinic suffers from chemical sensitivity. I always think how lucky the other staff members are to work in that environment and wonder if the sign would get removed even if the sensitive person no longer worked there. My guess is NOT.

I wouldn’t consider myself as overly chemical sensitive. From a health perspective I have tried to eradicate our home of excessive petro-chemicals and perfumes by using sunlight soap, natural cleaning agents (read bi-carb soda and vinegar) and alternatives to normal dishwasher powder, washing powder and plastic food wraps. The mission seems harder now than when my children were younger.

But some things I’ve noticed (for me) changing over time are:

– that it is becoming more difficult to walk up the washing powder aisle at Coles (how many people associate their vague, not-being-able-to-concentrate-in-the-supermarket feeling with chemical poisoning?).

– when I smell strong perfumes (men’s deodorants are the worst), I have a variety of reactions from agitation to outright crying.

– visiting friends and family can be nauseating; if the towels and sheets are washed in perfumed powder. (They won’t believe me if I tell them because their own sense of smell has been numbed). Another reaction is that it makes me grumpy.

– recently I was bombed 3 days in a row; Michael had a visit to the hair salon and the ‘product’ in his hair was revolting. The next day Alan and the boys decided to shoot deodorant cans with David’s hunting bow…I actually had to go bed, and I was in tears. The third day we went on bushwalk and one of our friends had his smelly boy’s deo on* and the cumulative effect was that I was much slower than the others getting up that climb.

To top it off though, last week on the way home from Sydney, we stopped at a roadside pit toilet, very conveniently put there by the Roads Dept. but an unsuspecting disaster site for me. There had been some kind of (deodorising?) powder put down the pit which was released when urine hit it from above. Great image I know, but I could see it vapourising! To tell the short story though, Alan realised that I wasn’t getting hysterical about it because I was angry…I was trying to explain what happened and that I was having problems breathing and getting the smell out of my hair and the hysterics WAS THE REACTION to the poison. This shocked us both and when I got home I had to ring my friend and tell her about it; not to gossip but as warning – if the same thing happened to her she would likely have collapsed in there!

It is often difficult to get sympathetic responses to these issues because much of the research is anecdotal (and is often documented badly). But personal experience can’t be denied so I am sharing all of this kind of hoping I’m not the only one (I know I’m not) but also to hopefully get you to realise what it can be like for other people.

For your interest I want to link to this article which I read recently. To get past the personal dribble if you like and so to the point, scroll down to “What sweet poison are you using?”. If you are still sceptical you could google the examples he cites.

*Like a good friend, (now he’s realised) at each subsequent visit to our house he’s told me, “I didn’t put deoderant on (for you) Janelle :)”