Sunday, July 19, 2009

Multiple Chemical Sensitivity: An Inconvenient Reality

As my wife and I shop for a recreational vehicle in which to spend the next year or two as we live, work and play, our Multiple Chemical Sensitivity has become even more of an inconvenient reality. 

We all know that new car smell, and many people equate that smell with freshness and newness. We also know the particular smell of a new shower curtain which is now widely understood to be the off-gassing of pthalates and other very unhealthy chemicals. These are modern realities, and they're making us sick. 

Recreational vehicles (RVs) are manufactured just like homes and cars----they are filled with particle board, formaldehyde-based materials and nasty chemical-laden furnishings that off-gas for years. In our meanderings, we have entered several newish RVs and the chemical aura has hit us both like a brick wall, driving us out the door in seconds. One wonders about all of the retirees out there who buy brand new RVs and then hit the road. Do they develop cancers, memory loss or early-onset dementia more quickly than others? After all, they are living in a small area which is often sealed tight---a literal chemical soup.

Many people with Multiple Chemical Sensitivity end up homeless because they can't find safe housing. Small homespun businesses (like Taylor Designs) have indeed sprung up in an effort to fill a niche, creating "safe rooms", MCS trailers, and other spaces designed to make living and sleeping healthy for those with environmental illnesses. Publications like "Our Toxic Times" and "The Canary Report" offer resources, advertisements and classifieds for those seeking safety and healthy alternatives, and many do-it-yourselfers take a shot at retrofitting trailers, homes and other structures to suit their needs. 

For us, our only alternative may be a refurbished Airstream trailer, gutted and professionally retrofitted by Taylor Designs several years ago and now available through a private seller. However, what we really want is an all-in-one RV in which we can live, work, sleep, eat and drive, but every vehicle we look at or consider has been treated with, or is constructed with, materials that can put our health at risk. 

Yesterday, after combing through Craig's List, Mary found an RV that sounded great, and she called the owner. After a long and detailed discussion during which she patiently explained our MCS, the owner finally acknowledged that he has put Bounce dryer sheets in all of the storage compartments of the rig in order to ward off mice and "freshen" the air. That potential sale is going nowhere, of course. 

So, we continue in our search, narrowing it down, looking under every rock, and may end up spending more than we care to on the retrofitted Airstream and a diesel pickup truck with which to tow it. This is another consequence of MCS----we can often end up spending more to get what we need because so much of the world is stacked against us. It's a chemical soup out there, and we simply want to remove ourselves from the broth. 

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