Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Crappy places list

If you have internet, go to the Mother Nature Network's site and check out the photos of the 15 most toxic places on Earth. The pictures are mind-boggling even though the word "toxic" is not always the right word to use.

The photos of rivers are the worst, in my opinion, because I can compare them to how the rivers here in Montana look.

Some of the photos don't really tell the story. You get that from the brief descriptions.

The last photo, which I believe might be a composite or artist's rendition of the Earth from space, is just creepy. The things we do without looking ahead.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Where to (not) live.

Forbes magazine came out a short time ago with its list of the 40 most contaminated metropolitan areas in the U.S. I found few surprises. Atlanta came out worst, followed by Detroit, Houston, Chicago, Philadelphia, Cleveland, Los Angeles.

Of the few surprises, Portland, OR, being high on the list caught me off guard. It is just a couple steps less worse than LA. Austin, TX, being on the list also was a surprise to me. Otherwise, I see the list as being mostly the usual suspects.

Forbes' list considers more than just air quality. It includes in its ranking the number of superfund sites, the pounds of toxins released, and the number of sites releasing toxic chemicals. In fact, there are some interesting comparisons of air quality ranking and overall toxic ranking.

You can read the article and see the full list of their most toxic cities here.

I haven't done this, but it might be interesting to compare the Forbes list with the toxicity map on our web site at

Also, Forbes has maps of other rankings than most toxic. There's Worst Cities For Short-Term Particle Pollution, Worst Cities For Year-Round Particle Pollution, and Worst Cities For Ozone Pollution.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Another site to help when relocating

I've just looked at the government's Air Quality Index web site There appears to be a ton of info/data covering the continental U.S.

For anyone planning a move or traveling, this site should be helpful, especially when combined with the info from and from the map at the bottom of our housing page at

For those with MCS, relocating or traveling can be really difficult. Having places to find reliable information about different places can help, but no one resource will be perfect. Combining data from these 3 sources will help develop a clearer picture of the places on anyone's list of possibilities.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Are people reacting to hand sanitizers?

I got a message the other day from someone who reacts very badly to some of the hand sanitizers we are seeing everywhere these days. I have not heard much in the way of bad reactions, but those things are so common now that even a tiny percent of people being hurt by them will add up to a lot. Here is the gist of her message:

I would like to hear from anyone who has suffered anaphylaxis or any other adverse health effects from exposures to hand sanitizers now widely used in medical clinics and hospitals to fight swine flu and other bacteria and viruses. Contact me at "mcscherie at"

If you contact her about this, please post to this blog too, and maybe I will put something in our magazine Our Toxic Times. Thanks.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The WayBack Machine

They say that anything that gets onto the internet never really goes away. It is stored or archived somewhere. One of those somewheres is "the Wayback Machine" at where you can find past web pages for almost any web site.

I used it for our own site,, looking for an item from several years ago. And after a couple clicks, there it was -- the CIIN site from 2006.

If you are doing research on the internet, and it looks as if a page or site you know used to be there, give The Wayback Machine a try. But be careful; it can be a lot of fun and can pull you in for long stretches.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Exposures and emotions

Just a short note about something we at Chemical Injury Information Network already know. When a person inhales a chemical, it goes up the nose, hits the olfactory bulb, and goes straight to the brain. No messing around with the blood-brain barrier.

In the brain, the chemical reaches the hippocampus, very important to logic and emotion. As a practical matter, this means that exposures can leave a person with volatile emotions and impaired logic ability – just about the worst combination at the worst time.

Chemical sensitivity, or MCS, comes with a lot of emotional pain. It can help if people understand that the heightened emotions they feel under exposure are not really theirs – they are artificially produced and will ease off as the exposure wears off.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Stop saying "chemical free"

We in the chemical injury community need to stop saying "chemical free" when we mean toxin free. The whole world is made up of chemicals -- including our own bodies -- so to say we are trying to live "chemical free" makes no sense to the normal community. It makes us look as if we are simply afraid of the modern world, or worse, just plain nuts.

Within the MCS community saying "chemical free" is understood; it is usable short-hand because we know what it is supposed to mean. When dealing with the normal world, say "toxin free" or possibly "toxicant free" and sound more science-based rather than phobia-based.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The dose does not always make the poison

There is an old saying in toxicology: the dose makes the poison. What that means is that things can be harmful at higher amounts and not harmful at lower amounts. Unfortunately, that is very old school. Newer research shows that some things have not safe level, and many substances can have stronger or different effects as the dose goes down. See the article in Science News, January 20, 2007, as reported on in the October 2007 issue of Our Toxic Times.

As a practical matter, this adds another layer of complication for those who are hypersensitive to chemicals. You cannot make the assumption that items will out-gas to the point where they will no longer cause reactions.

And always remember — trying to live through an out-gassing may make you hypersensitive to whatever is out-gassing. If that happens — a real hypersensitivity — you will likely never be able to tolerate the item. That is why out-gassing something must be done away from your living space. You cannot just "tough it out" and expect something good to come of it.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Be cautious, please

People with MCS or chemical injury always seem to be looking for a product or treatment that will make them better. Perfectly understandable. However, they need to approach all such things with a super large amount of caution. One of the hallmarks of MCS is overreacting or strangely reacting to most anything that comes into their lives.

That means that when a doctor or health-care practitioner or sales person says a certain dose or product will be appropriate, the MCSer's first reaction must be to step back and ask a few questions. Such as, does this person actually understand MCS? Can I start with a very low, partial dose to measure my reaction? Is there any actual evidence to suggest this will help me?

Be cautious, please. Very few people have an in-depth understanding of Multiple Chemical Sensitivities. There is too much uncertainty in the field of environmental illness and medicine to make broad assumptions about the illness, its dynamics, and possible treatments. People with the best of intentions can too often cause things to get much worse. And, of course, some people are simply peddling crap to make money.

That being said, there are a few things out there that have helped people — sometimes substantially. In pursuing treatments and the like, take two large suitcases along, one filled with caution and the other filled with common sense. And if need be, contact the Chemical Injury Information Network to see if they have any information that might help.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Time Can Move So Slowly

The new case definition created out of Chemical Injury Information Network's San Francisco workshop is in the process of being peer reviewed. After that, it will be put in line to be published. I know it seems to be taking a long time, but that is because it is taking soooooo loooong.

The only good thing I can say about the pace of the process is that by the time it is finished, it will be a pleasant surprise because we will have all forgotten about it. Keep a good thought.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The “car wreck” dynamic of MCS

Co-morbidity in MCS, or the “car wreck” dynamic, as an explanation of why so many illnesses or problems seem to run with MCS.

When someone gets chemically injured and ends up with Multiple Chemical Sensitivity, the MCS rarely comes alone. It usually comes with other health conditions that need to be dealt with too, such as: Porphyria, Multiple Sclerosis, various autoimmune diseases, Fibromyalgia, peripheral neuropathy, arthritis, and so on. What is super confusing, for doctors as well as patients, is that these co-morbid illnesses can occur on their own as well as in conjunction with MCS.

The “car wreck” explanation is very simple; if you are in a car crash and end up with a broken leg and a concussion, even though the two injuries were caused by the same accident, they are not tied together and are not treated as a single injury.

In Multiple Chemical Sensitivity, you can have two or more unrelated conditions or illnesses caused by the same exposure. And, in fact, that is the more common experience. My wife, for example, ended up with 7 distinct health problems from her prolonged formaldehyde exposure.

This also explains why many MCS sufferers can find treatments that help somewhat — relieving some symptoms without actually making their MCS better. And, to look on the bright side, it points out the benefits of being able to treat what is treatable even if it isn’t a cure for MCS.

Some chemical injury is manageable, some is treatable, some is possibly curable, but unfortunately some is irreversible.

However, I will say it again, avoidance is beneficial in all cases. It helps treatments be more effective. It is what makes management possible. It makes life for those with chemically induced illnesses more comfortable.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Software resource for the cash-strapped

Just found a web site that is both "cool" and valuable. Those who suffer MCS usually are cash-strapped. Their computers, if they have one, can be out of date. So finding software that goes with past operating systems can be frustrating. Also, free software is to be preferred if financial resources are lacking. This site covers both problems.
Last Freeware version
There are 30 pages of programs, a couple that I use still, and it was fun for me to browse thru them. This is like the program version of The Wayback Machine.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Barcodes don't tell the story, sorry

There is a story making the rounds about how the first three digits of a product's bar code tells where the product was made – its country of origin. With all the worry brought on by reports of lead and mercury contaminated toys, knowing a product's country of origin looms large in our minds these days.

Unfortunately, this bar code idea doesn't work. You'll learn at that there are basically two things wrong with it:

First, the first three digits do give the country of origin, but not of the product – of the bar code itself. Those digits tell you what country assigned that code to the company. It's possible that that country is also where the product was made, but that would be just by chance. For example, a Philippine company would have numbers beginning with 480 assigned to it, but its products could be made anywhere, in the Philippines, China, Canada, anywhere, and still have a code beginning with 480.

Second, those first three digits do not appear in the Universal Product Code (UPC) that we see on all of the stuff we buy in the U.S. Instead, those tell-tail digits appear at the beginning of the European Article Number (EAN) bar code, a code rarely seen in the U.S.

Go to the Snopes rumor-busting web site ( to check out any rumor you hear and follow your nose. You'll most likely find information on what you're looking for. It's good to have a place you can trust pretty much when it comes to the weird and scary stuff you hear these days.