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First Steps to improve or maintain your health

Environmental Sensitivities is a painful, chronic condition and can develop in people of all ages, often following either a single high exposure or repeated low level exposures to chemicals commonly released into the environment.

The symptoms: involve many body systems; can be reproduced with repeated exposure; improve when the triggers are removed; occur with chemically dissimilar triggers; and occur at low levels of exposure. The condition is chronic. Some people may be genetically more susceptible to adverse effects from exposure to relatively low levels of environmental chemicals because of altered ability to metabolize commonly encountered chemicals and medications *i.

If you have a diagnosis of Environmental Sensitivities then what do you do?

Environmental Sensitivities is the umbrella term for sensitivities to many factors, medical such as chemicals, food, electromagnetic radiation and fields, noise, light, etc. The term ‘Sensitivities’ does not come close to describing the effects of this medical condition such as: pain and suffering, loss of employment, the ensuing poverty, loss of enjoyment of life, disability and exclusion from society.

With the right information, it is possible to break the downward spiral. What does one have to do to bring about and maintain a decent level of health? To start with, it is very important to find a practitioner who knows about this condition or a doctor who has been trained in Environmental Medicine. To find a doctor in your area, contact EHAQ.

The most basic step towards wellness is avoidance of those factors that made you ill or which trigger symptoms. It is important to drink clean water, eat organic tolerated food and breathe clean air. It is equally important to live in a healthy environment, by eliminating toxic chemicals for cleaning and personal use, for renovations and in workplaces, and to use ecological strategies and solutions for insect infestations on lawns, gardens and inside homes and buildings

To create a healthy environment, one must examine all the products that are used within the home or working environment.

Use only fragrance-free products for all your needs. If you cannot find a suitable product, it is better to go without, than to substitute with ‘just one scented or known toxic product’.

Here are some suggestions.

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Personal products:

Avoid all perfumes and scented personal care products such as creams, shampoos and other hair products, deodorant, make up, etc.

Clothes and laundry:

Use only fragrance-free laundry detergents. Use alternatives to clothes softeners, or reputed brands such as Nature Clean. Chlorine-free bleach alternatives are available. Never use new clothes without washing them well.


It is important to avoid all scented cleaning products. Use only reputed brands from health stores.


Ventilate well and remove garbage often instead of using air fresheners. If you have carpets or animals, vacuum frequently. Do not use scented carpet cleaners. Clean up leaks carefully within 48 hours and maintain humidity levels (between 30 and 55 percent – closer to 30 percent in winter) to avoid mould. Install a fan in bathrooms and make sure that the tub and shower are sealed properly. Dust frequently with a damp cloth. Do not allow chemicals to be put into your ducts during and after duct cleaning. Never allow smoking inside or around your home. Do not burn incense or scented candles.

Beds and bedding:

Standard mattresses contain foam and other synthetic materials as well as flame retardants. Choose to organic cotton or natural latex mattresses or organic cotton futons. Organic cotton silk and wool bedding and pillows are now available to replace synthetic materials.


Ask for a separate working area free of carpets, an air purifier, a scent-free policy, well-ventilated areas next to printers and photocopiers, advance notice of renovations (that should be with least-toxic products), and to be able to work from home during this time.


Never renovate when you cannot ventilate the area adequately by opening the windows (choose smog-free seasons). Use only zero to low Volatile Organic Compound (VOC) paints and other materials. There are quite a few least-toxic materials on the market – choose hard materials that do not off gas. Always personally check out the material before you have it installed in your home.

Remember to always read labels even if you consistently the same brand. If any of the ‘natural’ or ‘eco’ products make you ill, stop using them right away. Repeated use of an offending product does not make you better able to tolerate it. This will, in fact, worsen your condition.

What do you do with your scented products when you have made the change to healthier products? You certainly don’t store them in your living space as the products will off gas from the container (which explains how you get the smell of different products in the cleaning and laundry isle in the store). Do not throw products you don’t use anymore down the drain. Call your municipality for collection and disposal.

Be aware that some large companies advertise ‘scent-free’, ‘perfume-free’ labels for fabric softener sheets or liquids. This does not mean that they are not loaded with chemicals which will emanate for long periods of time. Also, such claims for detergents by these companies may not always be true as they are sometimes contaminated by fragrances.

*Green washing: using words such as ‘Organic,’ ‘Clean,’ ‘Green,’ ‘Eco’, ‘Natural,’ etc, or packaging that gives the appearance of being ‘green’ – such as using plants, the colour green, etc., BUT either does not list the contents of the product, or if the product content is listed it contains chemicals that are known or suspected to cause adverse health effects.

Use products that have ECOCERT certification
Please note that this certification does not include scent-free. It is always important to read labels.

*i McKeown-Eyssen Gail, Baines Cornelia, Cole David EC, Riley Nicole, Tyndale Rachel, Marshall Lynn, Jazmaji Vartouhi. Case-control study of genotypes in multiple chemical sensitivity: CYP2D6, NAT1, NAT2, PON1, PON2 and MTHFR, International Journal of Epidemiology 2004; 33:1-8