An important message from Maureen
(co-founder of Organature®)
When we first learned about Peter’s MCS, (Multiple Chemical Sensitivity) back in the 1980’s, the prospect of trying to live with the necessary exclusions to improve his life was daunting, overwhelming and unimaginable. Back then there was so little commercially available and the only way to find our way through was by research, research and more research. This was very early days for the internet and our understanding of it, so it was mostly down to books and phone calls.
Apart from all of the healthy home building research and the organic fruit and vegetables (of limited availability at that time), we gradually worked our way to finding small, incremental relief from the debilitating symptoms MCS sufferers can experience. We grew our own organic vegetables and made our own bread. We replaced all the carpets and synthetic materials in our home. An overwhelming task, but one step at a time we began to improve the indoor air quality.
The very first essential step was to discontinue the use of any and all fragrances. This meant making our own soap in the early days because even the old fashioned Sunlight and Coal Tar soaps were problematic. Cleaning products became limited to bicarb soda and vinegar, laundry powder was a choice of one and for paint we reverted back to whitewash and calcamine paints. (Calcimine paints are a dried calcium carbonate product that, when mixed with water and sometimes pigments, form an opaque, easy to use and fast-drying coating for walls and ceilings).
Since those early days, life has become less restricted as so much ‘natural and organic’ is now available off-the-shelf. Peter now gets the necessary ‘healthy and chemical-free nights sleep’ in our own Organic Bedroom which was what inspired us to begin manufacturing Organic Mattresses and Bedlinen under the name Organature® in the first place, so others in Australia having similar challenges, might get some much needed ‘relief’ too.
These 7 Important Changes Helped Us Feel Better
- CLEAR THE THE AIR. Move to the country (we did) or get out in the fresh air, sunshine and nature as often as you can. Steer clear of main roads, built up areas, commercial/industrial districts and major power lines. Use an Air Purifier in home, (metal construction, no plastics, portable, plugs into regular power-point, easy to move from room to room). Use an Air Purifier in the car too, (metal construction, no plastics, plugs into cigarette lighter).
- CREATE A SANCTUARY. Clear the space of clutter. Remove all non essentials from the bedroom including clothing and especially say no to TV’s, mobile phones or other electronic gadgets. We created a safe and nurturing space by using only Organic Cotton bedding and bed linen because we found it to be the only fibre that didn’t flare up Peter’s sensitivities. We even had to make our own organic cotton mattress because no one else was manufacturing them in Australia at that time. Having previous experience in the textile industry made it easy for us to make our own organic mattress protectors, sheets, doonas, blankets etc. as well. We also found it important to choose an Australian Hardwood bed base, Made in Australia by a local craftsman, and most importantly, got rid of imported furniture and rugs which had all been fumigated.
- CHOOSE NATURAL METHODS & CHEMICAL-FREE CLEANING PRODUCTS. Vacuum thoroughly, including the mattress and bedding to reduce the amount of dust particles and dust mites. Always throw back the covers to let your bed cool down before making it – dust mites thrive in warm conditions. Clean away all mould and mildew, even a few spots of mould can make you feel sick. Read the instructions on The Top 7 Things To Remove From Your Home To Help You Feel Better. Wrap clean silver cutlery in foil to stop the silver from tarnishing, thus avoiding the need to use harsh chemicals to keep the silver bright and shiny. Mine only comes out on special big family occasions but stays sparkling clean and fresh stored like this for the intervening period. See the range of chemical-free cleaning products we recommend below.
- GET AN ELECTRICIAN IN. Check where your electrical cables are running in the walls and around and under your home. In the early days, Peter had reactions to power cables running underground in plastic conduit beneath the bedroom floor. Power is best turned on and off from the ceiling via a pull cord at the head of the bed as in older homes. It’s very important to sleep without power cords or cables behind the bed as they can cause huge problems that most people are not even aware of. Change bedrooms or re-position the bed in the room if necessary.
- USE ELECTRIC HEATING AND COOKING. No open fires – fumes and smoke contain formaldehyde. We use Atlantic convection heaters for clean healthy indoor heating. These are imported from France and a far better proposition than the cheaper ones imported from China. Ours are more than 20 years old and still going strong. No gas cooking in home as the fumes may silently be smothering you as they contain awful chemicals too. From Peter’s experience, when his blind testing was done, he reacted with dizziness and mood swings and headache and tight throat. There has been much said in the media lately about un-flued gas heaters causing carbon monoxide poisoning.
- CONSIDER THE GOOD OLD-FASHIONED WAYS. Lay down bicarb mixed with a little icing sugar for ants. Definitely no air fresheners and plug in spray fresheners. No insect spray – use a fly swat instead – kids find it great fun using them too. If you want your toilet to smell better, use the extractor fan, strike a match (a match masks the smells, it doesn’t get rid of it … The TV show ‘MythBusters’ covered this topic and concluded that a match did not eliminate the smell, but it did suggest that matches mask the methyl mercaptan found in flatulence and faeces), light a home-made beeswax candle or open a window and ventilate the area instead of just trying to cover it up.
- EAT DRINK AND BE MERRY – ORGANICALLY. What you eat and drink may be making you feel worse too. When it comes to food / alcohol this depends greatly on the individual. Start with purchasing organic fruit and vegetables, also organic meat where possible. Specialist stores are preferable because Supermarket stock can easily become contaminated by the in-store environment … don’t you just love the soap powder aisle in the Supermarket 🤔. Avoid all pre-prepared sauces and packed ready foods which inevitably contain preservatives. You may find after a process of elimination that there are certain products which you feel you are OK with, crackers and sweet biscuits for example, but always keep a watch because you may be fine one day, and affected the next time. Try drinking preservative-free wine. Even organic wine can contain preservatives, and if you know deep down that wine does affect you, it might be a good idea to give it up altogether 😣. Some of us take longer than others to admit this is a cause of the headache or the heart palpitations etc. but eventually have to give up so we can feel better more often (or partake only on very special occasions).
A WORD OF CAUTION: Just because anything is ‘certified organic’ does not necessarily mean it is totally pure. For example in textiles, elastane is allowed up to 5%. Just because a retailer claims their products are ‘certified organic’ doesn’t mean they actually are either. Ask for a copy of the relevant certification certificate to be provided along with your purchase if you are unsure, or if something smells fishy 😉. Once you find the brands or companies you can trust, it’s easier to relax a bit more and live a more normal life.
Natural Cleaning, Especially For People With Sensitivities
I could get away with cleaning AND laundry if necessary by using only bicarb soda and vinegar … and probably some lemon juice as well. Don’t expect a brilliant white wash in the laundry but it does the job. I currently prefer to use the Ecostore UNSCENTED products ie.
- Laundry Powder,
- Dish Washing Liquid,
- Hair Shampoo.
BEST SOAP: Biologika brand soap is my favourite. It’s a Fragrance Free Australian Organic Vegetable Soap. We use it all the time.
BEST TOOTHPASTE: Our go-to brand of toothpaste is Red Seal natural. It is SLS free and Paraben Free. This is not to say that all Chemically Sensitive people can use it. It really is a mine-field and what one person can tolerate, another may not be able to.
BEST FACE CREAM AND BODY LOTION: We have found QV cream good for for dry skin even though the ingredients list contains many un-pronouncables, which is always a concern.
BEST DEODORANT: After many brands of deodorant, again trial and error, I do seem to be OK (currently) with NO PONG … Australian Made. I had resorted to using simply Bi-carb but after a while found it to be excessively drying, even when mixed with Arrowroot. In the end I find No Pong (from the Health Food Store) is good but do not use on a daily basis either.
All these products are usually available through Health Food Stores and some Supermarkets, HOWEVER I have found Supermarkets tend to stock the so called ‘naturally fragranced’ products and for those among us who are super sensitive ANY fragrance, ‘natural’ or not, is to be avoided at all costs. Always look for ‘Fragrance Free’.
Most products labelled as using ‘natural fragrance’ are actually synthetic fragrances allowed to be labelled as natural when they are ‘identical’ even though synthetically manufactured. The same applies to ‘flavouring’ in food.
Better Options For Other Household Essentials
- Unscented recycled toilet paper. Why does it even need to be scented?
- Unscented tissues BUT … especially if you have a cold and a sore, sensitive nose you cannot go past the Organature Organic Hankies or Supersoft Versatile Wipes. Yes you need to wash them to be economical, but Grandma would soak them in a bucket of salty water before washing and save heaps in the long run 😁.
After many years of avoidance Peter is now able to tolerate so much more than he once did. However, tradesmen, visitors, even close family and friends (who are aware of the problems and try their very best to arrive fragrance free, which is so very much appreciated 😘) still bring into our home scents from the outside world, totally unaware of how strong these everyday fragrances are. Fragrance in soap, cosmetics, shampoo and conditioner, deodorants and after shave lotion, laundry powder and top of the list, fabric softener. Don’t talk to me about plug in air fresheners and those awful car deodorisers! It’s only once they’re removed from your life that you become aware of the totally (chemically) fragranced world we currently live in.
Want Your House To Smell Nicer
Fresh air is delicious!😊Increase the ventilation. Many modern buildings have nowhere near the amount of ventilation points as older homes, hence the extra buildup of condensation on the windows. For the non-chemically sensitive, fresh flowers are fine if not overpoweringly fragrant. For the chemically sensitive … keep it as simple as possible. Lavender is a major problem for Peter and most Potpourri is artificially fragranced unless you make your own. Even then Peter could not tolerate it.
As a matter of interest we regularly need to air-off the house after visitors. These are people who would be terribly upset if they thought they had caused a problem. The dining chair cushions where they sat and the sitting room throw rugs require outside airing. The air purifier going non stop, doors and windows opened wide and Peter retired to his safe place – his organic bedroom. These are visitors who do not wear scented product as such but the lingering fragrance from fabric softeners and laundry detergent is something most people are unaware of, but bring those odours where there are no other scented products, and it becomes overwhelming.
I personally am not sensitive but still feel nasally assaulted. This is what most people are blissfully unaware they are living with and cannot escape from everyday, and then wonder why they feel lethargic, or depressed, or unable to recover from illnesses quickly. It took MCS to bring us to this realisation – please don’t let your situation get that bad before you make the decision to take another step towards positive change, for your own health and the well-being of the people you care about too!
P.S. Here’s a short add-on from Elizabeth.
Natural Solutions Might Be Closer Than You Think
I went on a trip some time ago and forgot to pack my $400 jar of Face Cream (contains 24k gold – not joking). How would I survive? This stuff made my skin look gorgeous from the moment I applied it. But this time I had to find another solution as the nearest shops were over an hours drive away. I tried Olive Oil from the kitchen cupboard as a night cream – that was quite nice. The next morning as I was taking my Evening Primrose Oil (I think every woman should try it, especially those with period pain or any other hormonal issues), I decided to bite the tip of the capsule and spread it over my face and neck – oily yes – but after a few minutes it soaked in beautifully. I’ve been applying it morning and night ever since, using the $400 stuff only once or twice a week. For my mature skin it’s perfect – you’ll need to test to find out if a solution like this might be right for you – but it made me realise how we can get so hooked into thinking, that what we put on our skin needs to be made into a lotion or potion first. Give me Evening Primrose Oil any day. – Elizabeth
The Person Standing Next To You Might Be Chemically Sensitive
Spare a thought for others around you who are trying to live as normal a life as possible. I was recently in our apartment lift and apologized to the woman who had just walked in, for smelling a bit strong after doing some gardening. She told me that my body odour certainly wasn’t a worry, but if someone ever gets in the lift wearing perfume, she almost passes out … and suffers from severe headaches and lethargy for up to 3 days afterwards. – Elizabeth
New research by the University of Melbourne suggests that one in five (18.9%) Australians experience chemical sensitivity, with more than one-third of those (6.5%) medically diagnosed with multiple chemical sensitivities (MCS). Reducing chemical exposure to problematic sources, such as fragranced consumer products, is critical to reducing these awful effects that others around us might be experiencing, without us even knowing.