Chemical Sensitivity

  1. turbo

    turbo 7,063
    Gold Member

    True. I managed to drive myself to the hospital after being exposed to fragrances at work, and the triage nurse just waved me in based on my appearance. The intake nurse clocked my BP at 208/80 and shoved me into the ER. The ER nurse assigned to me was a classmate of my wife and contacted her at work so she could be at my side during this attack. It was NOT fun at all. Asthma, migraines, and arthritis flare-ups are routine with exposure to fragrances, but the BP thing was extreme. The intern at the ER wanted to keep me overnight, and I asked if he could personally guarantee that no nurse, orderly, or other staff members would stay out of my room if they were wearing colognes, after-shaves, or scented cosmetics, and he said "certainly not", so I insisted on going home with my wife even though my condition could get worse. It may get me eventually, but not today. (A BIG thanks to Astronuc and family for coming up here fragrance-free so my wife and I could enjoy their company! All of the Astronuc clan are sweet and entertaining!)
  2. jcsd
  3. Evo

    Staff: Mentor

    I had a BP reading of 172 over 70 when I had the flu once and it was explained to me that pain, fear, anxiety etc,, would cause the upper reading (systolic) to be high and that was to be expected, but as long as the lower reading (diastolic) was within normal ranges, there was nothing to be concerned about as long as it returned to normal.

    My brother suffers from panic attacks and had similar BP readings to yours when he went to the ER.

    Turbo, have you had scratch tests to confirm your allergies? The only ingredient in a fragrance that could be common is ethyl alcohol. What exactly could you be allergic to? Fragrance is not an ingredient, it can be anything. Maybe there is some other cause for your symptoms?

    As far as I know a person cannot be generically allergic to "fragrance" as it can be millions of things.
    Last edited: Nov 27, 2007
  4. turbo

    turbo 7,063
    Gold Member

    I have had a ton of scratch tests and none of them explain my sensitivities to fragrances. The fragrance industry is protected by antiquated "perfume laws" from ever having to reveal the chemicals that they use, even if those chemicals are carcinogen's. No other industry in this country has that freedom to poison our air.
    Last edited: Nov 28, 2007
  5. Evo

    Staff: Mentor

    But every fragrance has something different in it. Roses, sandalwood, musk, peonies, apple blossoms, cinnamon, the list is endless. You wouldn't be able to breathe the air around you.

    There has got to be another explantion, this one doesn't make sense.

    I am a severe allergy sufferer, so I understand. I spent 2 weeks in an allergy clinic in another state undergoing several hundred scratch tests on my back (they have to do them on your back due to the amount of skin required). They can only do 20 tests at a time. It's a horrible, painful ordeal, the huge swollen welts from the allergens, then shots to desensitize you afterwards, then more scratches...

    After the tests I was hospitalized for kidney trouble due to my body trying to get rid of all the toxins.
    Last edited: Nov 27, 2007
  6. turbo

    turbo 7,063
    Gold Member

    I love flowers, spices, and all other natural fragrances. The chemicals used to produce analogs to these fragrances make me deathly ill and can kill me. I don't know why this is so, and anybody who can figure it out can become an instant millionaire. There are a lot of people like me that have to isolate themselves from society, friends, and even non-compliant family members in order to stay alive. It's not fun.
  7. Astronuc

    Staff: Mentor

    Two offending classes of compounds are phthalate esters and synthetic musks.

    I find most perfumes and colognes irritating, and most middle-aged and elderly women use way too much perfume probably because they lose their sense of smell and so overdo it. I have no problem with ethanol.

    Anyway, Professor Thomas Kearns has published a book: Environmentally Induced Illnesses : Ethics, Risk Assessment and Human Rights, in which is discusses the problem of chemical sensitivity.

    "The fragrances in aftershaves, perfume, hair spray, cologne, detergents, shampoos, and many other products we encounter every day contain solvents and neurotoxic chemicals which cause severe physical reactions in those people who have become sensitized to them. These reactions can be mild, such as a slight headache or a sudden inability to think or concentrate, which might not even be recognized as the result of exposure to fragrance; or can sometimes be severe, such as a migraine or an asthma attack, and can interfere seriously not only with study but even with the ability to breathe. The National Academy of Sciences has estimated that approximately fifteen percent of the population suffers from some level of chemical sensitivity." T. Kerns, North Seattle Community College, Letter explaining the Policy on Indoor Air Quality & Chemical Sensitivity
  8. Evo

    Staff: Mentor

    But it can't be all. My favorite perfume is Joy by Jean Patou, a perfume made in France in 1935 with roses and ambergris. There is no such thing as a set of chemicals that all perfumers use.

    I think something set off your attacks, but I'm thinking the doctor's blew you off.
    Last edited: Nov 27, 2007
  9. turbo

    turbo 7,063
    Gold Member

    Thank you, Astronuc. I don't always have the energy or motivation to keep explaining why I have been so badly disabled by this environmental problem, nor why I have been at death's door in an ER. People who aren't directly affected by environmental contamination by fragrance chemicals do not have a clue how bad this can be. Why is ADD and asthma on the rise in little kids? Is it because their parents the the parents of their classmates insist on bathing them in fragrances, including detergents and fabric softeners, and room deodorizers so that the kids never breathe a clean breath?
  10. Astronuc

    Staff: Mentor

    Send me a sample because I'd be interested how it compares to other fragranced perfurmes.

    This is true. High end products which use natural compounds maybe OK, but most colognes and perfumes use less expensive 'artificial' or synthetic compounds, and therein lies the problem.

    There is a condition recognized as Multiple Chemical Sensitivity, which is likely what turbo is describing.

    p.s. One might want to split this discussion off into a separate thread since we've drifted from respected/respectable job to Chemical Sensitivity.
    Last edited: Nov 27, 2007
  11. Evo

    Staff: Mentor

    I'm not doubting that turbo's reactions aren't real, I think they may have been mis-diagnosed.
  12. Evo

    Staff: Mentor

    In your dreams, it's one of the world's most expensive perfumes.

    My allergist explained to me that they were testing for common ingredients found in cheap colognes, perfumes, etc.. Believe me, a competant allergy specialist will know chemical coumpounds found in over the counter perfumes.

    It also one thing to have an allergic reaction to something that you come into direct contact with and something you sniff in the air around you.

    That no doctor isolated what turbo was allergic to makes me angry. You can get a chemical analysis of a fragrance for not too much. Worse case you could scratch open your skin and put some in and see if an allergic reaction occurs. This is not like a reaction caused by an irritant.

    If they do not really know what has caused turbo's problems, then he's still at risk, and I like turbo, and I don't feel confident that he's been diagnosed correctly.
  13. turbo

    turbo 7,063
    Gold Member

    I have no idea of how such reactions can be diagnosed, but when I am exposed to some perfume or cologne and end up in the emergency room, I've got to pay attention, especially since a bout of atrial fibrillation about 8 years ago left me with a brain-stem stroke, resulting in poor motor control in my left leg and no real temperature sensation in my right leg. My right foot burns constantly, and my neurologist says that if my right leg was cut off, I would still feel that constant burn because the damage is in my brain-stem and not in my leg. I put up with it. Not fun, but it's not going to ruin my life.
  14. Astronuc

    Staff: Mentor

    I don't have those kinds of dreams. :rofl: I didn't know that it was one of the world's most expensive perfumes. I thought since it was one of your favorites, that you had some.

    If I sniff one flower of a certain plant, my face will swell and I will have an unpleasant reaction.

    Thomas Kerns has indicated that Multiple Chemical Sensitivity is not well understood or studied.

    My internal physiology is a little different and most doctors have no experience with it. I have noticed that when it comes to unusual medical conditions, there are few doctors/speicalists who know how to diagnose or treat them. I suspect that where turbo lives, that is the situation.

    While turbo and I were on our hike, some lady passed us on the trail. She reeked of some fragrance such that even I held my breath as she passed. It was more unpleasant for turbo.
  15. Evo

    Staff: Mentor

    :uhh: Alien?
  16. turbo

    turbo 7,063
    Gold Member

    I have been seen by prominent allergists, and perhaps the most prominent doctor specializing in chemical injuries in the northeast, and they have tried me on dozens of medications, to no avail. I have been scratch-tested and have undergone over a year's worth of desensitization shots in the hopes that minimizing sensitivity to common allergens would get my immune system settled down - no help. It's an all-day drive to get to Dartmouth-Hitchcock from here and my wife has to take a day off from work to come with me in case I get exposed to perfumes in the hospital and can't drive home.

    One of the scariest things to encounter is "masking fragrances" that are often put into "unscented" cosmetics to hide the smells of the other ingredients. Unscented Oil of Olay moisturizing lotion can put me down for the count and I can't get any warning from an odor because the masking fragrances are designed to shut down your olfactory nerves. I only know I'm around this stuff when it's too late.

    Here is a list of the stuff that the EPA found in common cleaning products, cosmetics, shampoos, etc in 1991. Still the industries retain the right to bundle all these compounds together and list "fragrances" on the label, so you don't know what you're exposing yourself and others to.
  17. Astronuc

    Staff: Mentor

    Yes, but I'm legal. :biggrin:

    Most doctors, who are more than likely non-specialists, find my X-rays a bit confusing. Some parts are not in the usual place or orientation.
    Last edited: Nov 28, 2007
  18. Evo

    Staff: Mentor

    Are you one of those people that have their internal organs reversed?

    BTW, we just had our annual wellness day at work, I got my flu shot (hope it works), also got my body fat, BMI, cholesterol and blood sugar checked. I'm the healthiest person in the office!

    Body fat/BMI in ideal range
    Glucose was 105 (under 110 is ideal)
    total cholesterol 187 (under 200 is ideal)
    HDL 68 (higher than 40 is objective)
    TC/HDL ratio 2.7 (less than 4.5 is objective)

    And I eat anything I want, if I crave a big bucket of grease (aka Kentucky Fried chicken) I splurge. 15,000 calorie 2/3 lb angus beef burgers with bacon, cheese, mayonaise and curly fries. No problem. And I eat all the runny eggs I want. :devil:

  19. Astronuc

    Staff: Mentor

    That would be total or complete visceral situs inversus. Fortunately I don't have that. I'm not inverted - just a different orientation, plus a slightly different circulatory system.

    Probably the cutest one too! :biggrin:

    Congratulations! My numbers are similar. Just don't overdo it on KFC. That burger sounds really good. :tongue2:

    My body fat is in the low range, but my BMI is in the upper range - which means I volumetrically bigger than normal for my height, but that is mostly bone, viscera and muscle for years of weight training or heavy work.
  20. Moonbear

    Moonbear 11,955
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    It may not even be all fragrances, but just the ones that have common chemicals that turbo notices because you can't really help but notice if you're having that sort of reaction. Who knows, it could be so many due to some common ingredient used as a carrier, even if the actual fragrance is different.

    I was getting headaches pretty much every day last week and couldn't figure out why. I'd feel better if I went out, and it would return while I was home. I finally traced it to a scented candle I had put out with the holiday's a pretty candle, but even without noticing the scent right away, it was giving me headaches. I've wrapped it in plastic wrap now, so I can still see the ornament but not smell the candle, and that same day, the headaches stopped. I've had that same problem with air fresheners. Not every scented candle does that to me though, so that's why I don't notice right away. There is a certain "perfumy" smell that regularly gives me headaches though.
  21. Evo

    Staff: Mentor

    I can't stand musk or cloves. Not allergic to them, but the smell makes me :yuck:
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