MCS - The Poisoned Web of Life

By Don Richard Paladin


What connection does this diverse group have? A primary student who was home schooled because he could not tolerate the fresh paint and cleaning chemicals in his school; the university student who had to stop attending college because her peers' scented products triggered her asthma; the logger who became and remained ill from the spraying of herbicides in the forest in which he worked; the university professor at Western Washington University  who had to take an early retirement from teaching because the newly installed carpets made her ill; the Lt. Colonel in the Army Reserve and Gulf War vet who had to live away from urban areas with high auto traffic because the emissions from vehicles made him ill; the Whatcom County Courthouse employees who became so ill from the chemicals used in the remodel that they could no longer work; the public school teacher who had to take a disability retirement from teaching because he had become so intolerant of and ill from the use of pesticides in the schools; the insurance agent whose exposure to cleaning solvents not only damaged her home but has permanently damaged her health; and, the family physician who had to sell his practice that had been in a modular unit because he had developed formaldehyde sensitivity? These are just of few of the people who live or have lived in my  community who report that many chemicals in our environment make them ill. They have become environmentally ill.

People with Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS) often refer to themselves as canaries, or biological sentinels, who signal impending danger from toxic exposures. Recent epidemiological research revealed that as many as 16% of the population considers themselves sensitive to some chemicals. MCS has become like a half-ton canary that no one can any longer ignore. Many  people with MCS are intolerant of pesticides, solvents, and many other synthetic products that never existed until humans created them.

Some would have you believe that there is nothing wrong with these synthetic products that never existed before humans created them, but that there is something emotionally wrong with those who report reacting to these products. Can thousands and thousands of people who report intolerance to toxic chemicals be suffering from mass psychogenic illness? The opponents of MCS would like you to believe that. If designer poisons interfere with the life processes and kill life forms lower on the food chain, why is it a stretch of logic to understand that these same chemicals interfere with the life engendering metabolism of humans and make them ill?

Most people with MCS do not have antibody mediated allergies. Most toxic chemicals are not allergens. They are chemicals that interfere with the natural metabolic processes. Immune suppressive toxins have been found in the fats of dead whales in Puget Sound and in the fat biopsies of humans with MCS, cancers and other toxic induced disorders. Unlike the highly impacted wildlife, those of us with chemical sensitivity can verbalize the emotional and physiological distress triggered by the many synthetic toxins. These supposedly "safe" synthetic chemicals created by man have reached the top of the food chain and are now creating a health crisis. Although many people appear to tolerate many of these synthetic products, there are many of us who are made ill by them.

Although we don't completely understand the mechanism of MCS, we are getting closer. We would like those who do not experience chemical sensitivity but who understand that the fragile web of our common environment has now been diminished to advocate for research to shed greater understanding of this issue. There can be no resolution of any problem without first acknowledging and understanding the problem. Please become informed about the impact of toxins on the quality of your life. The most important thing we can do is to find understanding through research and explain the mechanism of the disorder so that the problems can be resolved

My chemical sensitivity this past 19 years has been like a bad dream in which the Emperors have all their clothes on but they cannot see, hear or think clearly. In this nightmare, a small canary is yelling wake up Bellingham, dioxins are dangerous!. Wake up Washington State, pesticides are poisons . Wake up America, your canaries are ill! Wake up Earth, toxic chemicals impair life! Are those of us with MCS the only ones who can see, hear, and understand the canary?

[Note: Portions of this page were published as an Op Ed piece for The Bellingham Herald in the May 8, 2000 edition.]


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