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My Mask Isn't Your Mask
(NOT Another COVID Article)
There is an illness that 30% of us experience that 100% of the population has the power to control. Wow, that’s a pretty bold statement, isn’t it? But it’s true. When a person gets sick from the chemicals in fragranced products, everyone has a say in whether that person feels well or not. Many people who live with chemical fragrance sensitivity have been forced to wear a mask in public places long before COVID, and will continue requiring them until changes are made.
*Actually, that word sensitivity minimizes the reality of the impact these chemicals have. It is actually a chemical devastation.
I hope, as you read, you find yourself wondering, What can I do?
You can help by choosing fragrance-free laundry products. Choose NOT to use scented plug-ins, candles, air fresheners, and such. Choose fragrance-free lotions. Choose NOT to use cologne and perfume. Choose to look for products that are fragrance free. Start becoming aware of the number of products that contain fragrance and ask yourself if those chemicals are safe for you and your children.
As far as the dryer goes, we are conditioned to believe that we need fabric softener or dryer sheets. I’ve been using wool dryer balls for a few years now, along with white vinegar in the rinse cycle.
No polluting the air from my dryer vent.
(And I’m saving money.)
While this post includes some research links and study related information, this post’s purpose isn’t to provide you with data and stats. The purpose of this post is to let you hear the impact from real people who live it. The purpose is to show you the devastating reality of what these chemicals have on day-to-day lives.
30% Have a Fragrance Sensitivity? Really?!
The numbers are actually higher than 30%, as you’ll see from the stats listed below from a study conducted 4 years ago.
“But I love my fragrances,” a friend once told me. “Show me research that these chemicals are toxic.”
Anne Steinemann, an internationally recognized expert on pollutant exposures and associated health effects, provides research and resources on her website at www.drsteinemann.com. Click here for several resources.
IMPORTANT: Fragrance sensitivity is NOT a sensitive nose. It is not about disliking a smell. It is about the effect the chemicals that create that smell has on an individual. Big difference!
Check out Dr. Steinemann’s research study: “National Prevalence and Effects of Multiple Chemical Sensitivities.“
Important highlights from that study:
Among the population, 12.8% report medically diagnosed MCS and 25.9% report chemical sensitivity. Of those with MCS, 86.2% experience health problems, such as migraine headaches, when exposed to fragranced consumer products; 71.0% are asthmatic; 70.3% cannot access places that use fragranced products such as air fresheners; and 60.7% lost workdays or a job in the past year due to fragranced products in the workplace.
And THIS! LOOK at the substantial increase over just 10 years! With the overwhelming increase of disinfectants (of which MANY include extra chemicals to add fragrance) and due to the simple fact that fragrance in products continues to rise, this is terrifying!
Prevalence of diagnosed MCS has increased over 300%, and self-reported chemical sensitivity over 200%, in the past decade. Reducing exposure to fragranced products could help reduce adverse health and societal effects.
What Reactions are Being Experienced?
The reactions of participants in the study above included:
Health effects were categorized as follows: migraine headaches; asthma attacks; neurological problems; respiratory problems; skin problems; cognitive problems; mucosal symptoms; immune system problems.
My Reactions to Fragrances and My Advocacy
My personal reactions are neurological and cognitive for the most part. Dizzy, brain fog, headaches, sinus issues, muscle tightness in neck and back, chest tightness, and a desperate need to find fresh air to breathe.
I’ve been battling fragrance illness for over two decades. As long as it’s been, however, I have always felt the need to be hugely apologetic when expressing my needs. It’s hard to tell someone their product choices make me ill. This apologetic approach, however, results in minimizing my own health needs (and simply minimizing myself, period).
Practicing my advocacy muscle with celiac awareness (along with the confidence that simply comes with age) has meant that I speak up more now for what I know, for what I deserve, and for what is right. It takes ONE PERSON to make another feel utterly miserable. ONE PERSON’s product choice. If I was granted one wish, and could either take away my need to be gluten free or my fragrance sensitivity, it would be my fragrance sensitivity, no question.
It wasn’t until learning the vast number of people affected by fragrance chemicals, however, that I developed a much greater need to increase my personal volume. (I turned up the volume even more when I created a Facebook page, Fragrance Free Respect, in August, 2021.)
Fragrance is NOT Necessary
*Advertisers have done a great job at making people believe that they NEED to have fragrance in EVERYTHING! While fragrance SELLS and makes companies lots (and LOTS) of money, fragrance is NOT required to CLEAN. It is doing far more harm than good.
But Everyone Loves The Way I Smell!
Not everyone. You will only hear from those who love the products you use, the candles you light, the plug-ins that fill your home. Those who are negatively affected won’t say, “Oh M.G, you are making me sick with that stuff!” Instead, most will stay silent–and they stay away.
Those who are living with fragrance illness will avoid the house with scented products and they will avoid the person who uses them.
It generally isn’t until a situation causes an inability to avoid products that make a person sick before you hear of their needs. Scent devices and co-workers’ perfumes and scented laundry products will often require a person living with fragrance illness to speak up. And I can assure you, it is far from easy to say something–(and it doesn’t always end well).
Fragrance IS the new second-hand smoke!
It’s 2020. Everyone understands masks. We wear them to prevent the spread of a virus that is killing people. We get that. What many people don’t realize, however, is that by using those laundry products with chemical scent so powerful that it lasts for weeks and weeks (and doesn’t simply wash out), deodorants that literally fill a room with their smell, hand soaps that don’t come out of the skin even after several washings, room freshener chemicals that embed themselves into walls and furniture, and the endless products that are fragranced, are causing a growing number of people to have to isolate. And when they do go out, they require masks (because being around these chemicals is destroying their lives).
My mask is not your mask.
The Fragrance Impact
Comments below come from many others who are impacted by fragrance chemicals. Thank you to everyone who contributed!
While we are quickly affected, it doesn’t mean the health of those who don’t have these same reactions isn’t impacted. People living with fragrance sensitivities are the canaries. We can detect the toxic chemicals. Please listen to the canaries in your life.
Feel free to add more experiences and reactions through comments below. Let others know how these chemicals are impacting you.
Family and Social Life
Every time we get together, my sister says, “Oh, I forgot.” I have gotten migraines from fragrances for over 15 years, and yet she still “forgets?”
Rocking my granddaughter to sleep gives me headaches. My daughter-in-law uses fragrance free detergent for the baby’s clothes, but the air fresheners, perfumes and scented lotion she uses, stick to the baby’s skin, hair and clothes.
I have had to leave funerals of loved ones because the incense made me dizzy and sick to my stomach.
A weekend visit from my husband’s family leaves him with headaches and muscle aches for days after they leave. I think it affects his thinking as well because he seems to struggle to get a thought out the longer we are together with them. The scent from their clothes adheres to everything they sit on. I have to spend more time cleaning after they leave than before they arrive, airing out the bed for at least 5 days before I can put sheets back on it. But its his family and he doesn’t say anything. My heart breaks.
As far as businesses go, deodorizers in restrooms and fragrances used at hotels and stores make them inaccessible for me.
I wear my mask with multiple filters and so tight it is hurting my jaw and neck because toxic chemicals are being used excessively!
Due to my MCS and the chemicals used in public, I am very limited in where I can bring my son. I used to love taking him to museums, zoos, on road trips. I can’t do any of that now because one bad exposure can make me so sick I fear what will happen if I am incapacitated while alone in public with him.
I can’t go for walks in our neighborhood because of neighbors’ scented dryer sheets. (that are in the air from dryer vents).
I finally started going back into stores lately, with a mask of course. Why do disinfectants have to also have fragrance added? I couldn’t handle it! So sick.
I can’t open my windows on a nice day if my neighbor is doing laundry. My house is soon filled with the very chemicals I have to avoid. Can’t sit outside and enjoy fresh air either. Please don’t use those scent boosters or scented laundry soaps. You aren’t only making me sick, but you are breathing that in all day long.
The Work Place
I have had to call parents of my students and ask that they stop putting Cologne on a 7 year old. I have missed out on work carpools to trainings because of car fragrance. I have had to refuse a staff meeting held in a room with air freshener that caused me a severe migraine.
I was fired from a job I loved because management refused to implement one of their own fragrance free policies. It was easier to fire me than to have others change the products they used, or to accomodate me.
I had a new job that I loved. Received only praise for work well done through the first 4 months or more. A perfect initial evaluation. Just weeks after that first eval, however, I had to request help. I was struggling due to chemical reactions in my space. I carefully reminded a coworker of my sensitivity and asked my supervisor for an air purifier. Nothing more—just an air purifier. Just a few weeks later I received communication that there were “concerns,” (about my performance?)–and then a couple weeks later a second evaluation where I was diminished in every category (that I had been praised for superior efforts in just weeks earlier)– and I was told I would not be rehired. The impact was devastating beyond measure.
I have been fortunate to be able to work from home since covid-19. I am absolutely terrified about returning to my office with the onslaught of disinfectants. I need a paycheck but I get so horribly sick that I am terrified of the impact of the constant use of sprays and cleaners.
Personal Health Impact
Fragrant products (laundry products, air fresheners, disinfectants, perfumes/colognes/aftershaves, deodorants and body sprays, hairsprays, lotions…) cause my throat and airways to swell and burn. If I don’t remove myself from the offender immediately, my vocal cords swell, my voice becomes extremely hoarse and then I become unable to speak. If I try to force myself to “ignore” my symptoms and stay, I suffer asthma attacks.
I was fine this morning, in my own home. A repairman was in the house for 30 minutes. I have a headaches, muscle pain, and I feel disoriented.
I had a reaction to hair spray on a nurse that made my blood pressure go up, gave me a headache and the shakes.
My body hurts as it spasms with pain. My head feels like it wants to explode and at times my heart races. I live with constant anxiety if I am out in the public, worrying if I get exposed am I going to get so dizzy that I faint again. I can’t focus. I just want and need fresh clean air. The fragrances and many chemicals are slowly destroying my body, leaving me isolated and unsociable, which then affects my mind and my spirit. Can’t we just breathe clean pure fresh air?
Please stop wearing fragrances, as I can’t breathe, breathing is essential to live. I don’t personally dislike your fragrances, but my body does.
I want people to consider others with asthma and other health issues when they choose what products to purchase. I want them to choose people over fragrances!
Understanding. This is not about having a sensitive nose. A sensitive nose is having the ability to smell a gas leak or a dirty diaper before others can. The “smell” does not cause my illness; the toxic chemicals that creates the smell does.