Allergic to environment, Goodwin finds way to adjust
Sunday, Jan 04, 2009
EDITOR'S NOTE: Audrey Goodwin is among a growing number of people who are allergic to the environment in which they live. This is the second in a two-part story.
Audrey Goodwin's world continues to close in on her as the list of environmental sensitivities grows, she is saddened that it also shrinks around her husband of 18 years and their 8-year-old daughter.
The wife and mother described dealing with Multiple Chemical Sensitivities Syndrome has been an interesting ride. She knows it looks freaky and brings undeserved attention to her family when they are out in public.
Some people ask about her wearing a mask while others quickly turn away in avoidance.
"I would rather they just ask," because the more people who talk to her, she said the more she hears about others who can't leave their homes without being sick.
"Some people tell me I can take my mask off because they aren't wearing perfume, but they are wearing body wash, perfume, face cream, makeup and then they have their fabric softeners and detergents that smell so good and fresh," she said. "It's not a bottle of perfume. It's the word 'fragrance' on the label."
Goodwin carries fragrance-free moist towelettes with her and wipes everything she touches when she goes shopping because she doesn't know who touched it before her "and I know I look like Mr. Monk" the compulsive and phobic television detective.
One side effect of being allergic to the environment is the expense of available cleaning products. Goodwin uses laundry detergent, a fragrance-free fabric softener and dish drops made by Amway. To reduce the cost, she became a distributor and is her on best customer.
"If anybody wanted to buy it, I'd sell it to them, but I just sell it to myself," she said. "But, I'm afraid that someday that might not work."
There are a few other cleaning products she purchases online. "I use extremely hot water and vinyl gloves to clean just about everything. I have a steamer to clean floors."
The worst effect of her illness is not being able to have visitors without risking her well-being. She called on the telephone the day after the interview for this story. Her raspy voice was enough to show something entered her private and diminishing world that made her sick.
Goodwin, who is in her mid-50s, is an out-going, sociable person who loves to laugh and interact with others. Her isolation seems more of a punishment than a prescription, especially when it comes to 8-year-old Sadie, who has to explain to her classmates why her mother wears a mask.
"It's tough on her, I know it is. She can't bring her friends home to visit and I just hate that. We've discussed what to do about that. We don't have a lot of company. In fact, we don't every have any company," she said. "I wear my mask to church and most of the time I have to undress with my mask on and throw my clothes in the dryer or hang them up outside because of the residual fragrances. It's the same way in the mall.
"It has been tough on my husband, Paul, and I miss the smell of his Polo cologne."
It was only about six months ago when they all got in the car to go shopping. After only a few blocks, she began getting sick from the deodorant he had been using for years.
"We had to come home and he had to change clothes, shower to take that deodorant off and put mine on, which is fragrance-free, before we could go back out," she said. "Paul and Sadie used to go out to eat once a week until I lost my job. Now he takes her to the zoo. We don't do a lot and we don't go much anymore and that's really hard on Sadie. I feel like I'm depriving her. I don't want her to grow up ashamed of me and I want her to know there are people out there that you don't make fun of their disabilities."
"People tease me all the time. I don't let it annoy me. I just don't have a good comeback. I need to practice my comebacks."
While Goodwin is alone at home, she said something witty should pop into her head, but it doesn't.
"I've never been the queen of comebacks. I've been the queen of just being quiet and taking it. Just go ahead and have your will with me and make fun of me, I don't care."
Her pastor at Northside Presbyterian Church, David Tullock doesn't give her any leeway and makes her participate in church service, she said.
"He doesn't care. I have to get up and sing in the choir, mask and all.
He doesn't care. He wants me to participate. On a good day I sing alto and on a bad day I sing bass. I can't imagine what it sounds like to the people in the audience. They're probably thinking, hmm, I haven't heard that before. It isn't baritone, bass or tenor. What is that?"
Science has not pinpointed the cause of Multiple Chemical Sensitivity Syndrome, but Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Rheumatoid arthritis, lupus and fibromyalgia seem to be accompanying illnesses. A few other names creeping into the mix are Sick Building Syndrome, Gulf War Syndrome, dental amalgam-induced mercury toxicity and electromagnetic fields sensitivity.
"One can trigger a lot," Goodwin said, who has also been diagnosed with fibromyalgia. "When you start out with one, mine just happens to be MCS."
She has recently developed an allergic reaction to latex and wears a medical alert bracelet informing medical personnel to use latex-free gloves. Her under garments must be lined in cotton to keep elastic from touching her skin and she uses silicone rubbers bands in Sadie's hair.
"The first mask I wore was not latex-free and I had big blisters on my face," she said. "Now I have to get latex-free ones. Because I'm allergic to latex, I can't eat avocadoes or tomatoes anymore. "
She said tomatoes, avocadoes and green peas have the same lineage as rubber which is used to make latex.
"Strawberries didn't use to bother me," she said. "Peaches, now they are starting to bother me. Apples and pears, I used to eat all that stuff until just the past six months."
A November 2008 report published by the Australian government titled "A Scientific Review of Multiple Chemical Sensitivity: Identifying Key Research Needs" stated, "A strong message from this report is that although MCS has been studied and subject to review over the past 25 years, there is need for further focused fundamental research on MCS."
The report suggested MCS is the most common term for the disorder among others such as Idiopathic Environmental Intolerance, Environmental Illness, Chemical Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (Chemical AIDS), 20th Century Disease, Cerebral Allergy, Chemical Sensitivity or Intolerance, Environmental Hypersensitivity, Toxic Encephalopathy and Toxicant-Induced Loss of Tolerance (TILT).
According to the report, since the cause is unknown and the symptoms vary between individuals, the term Idiopathic Environmental Intolerance or IEI is favored by the World Health Organization "because it does not make inferences with regards to causative agents. This reflects the lack of an agreed biological basis for MCS symptoms."
The report showed 55 percent of people suffering from environmental illness experience headaches and 51 percent feel fatigued. Other lesser reported sensations include confusion, depression, shortness of breath, nausea and dizziness. Memory problems, gastrointestinal and respiratory symptom were each reported by 14 percent of sufferers.
Goodwin said because so little is known and there is no agreement among researchers, most people are told, "it's all in your head. You're imagining this. There's nothing wrong with you."
The Australian report described the range of agents linked to MCS is "remarkably extensive and diverse." The list includes such synthetic chemical groups including: Coal, oil, gas and combustion products; mineral oil, Vaseline, waxes; asphalts, tars, resins, dyes and adhesives; disinfectants, deodorants and detergents; rubber, plastics, synthetic textiles and finishes; alcohols, glycols, aldehydes, esters and derivatives.
Electromagnetic radiation emitted from computers, televisions, mobile and landline phones, appliances with motors, photocopiers and microwave transmitters and high tension power lines is also among the list of triggers. Currently there is no linkage between people with Multiple Chemical Sensitivities and it is not classified as a disease anywhere in the world.
So far, Goodwin said neither electromagnetic radiation nor organic substances bother her. She loves working in the yard. It is one of the few outdoor activities she can still enjoy, "but I take about five different antihistamines to keep some of the pain down in my mouth and swelling down because my tongue swells up so easy, but I've never had a problem with animals or grass."
She can only drive the Ford Explorer instead of the Jeep Wrangler, which 60-year-old Paul now uses in his commute to and from work.
"I can't drive around without the doors of anymore and I miss that," she said. "That hurts my feelings, tremendously. "We are putting tile down in all the rooms because the carpet is making me sick," she said. "I picked this furniture out at a furniture rental because it was older and used and aired out. It didn't have anymore residual from glues in it. We have to be very careful about anything we buy like that. If we paint, I have to leave because I got pneumonia the last time."
However, they did find paint that was formulated for people with chemical sensitivities. Unfortunately, it is very expensive and "that's why you don't see it on any of these walls. It's on one room in the house."
Other hurtful things are sure to come because list of materials in and around the house Goodwin is allergic to continues to grow.
"I'm glad I have my church and I'm glad I have an understanding husband," she said.
I have just read your story about Audrey Goodwin and I request that you put her in touch with me or my organization WEEP - The Canadian Initiative against Wireless Electrical and Electromagnetic Pollution. I communicate with several persons who suffer similar allergies and I myself am electro hypersensitive. There is a good reason to believe that Audrey's allergies may have been caused by exposure to electro magnetic radiation and by avoiding it, she may improve her health. A similar situation occurred a few years ago and was documented in a book - The Sick House Survival Guide by Angela Hobbs (New Society Publishers).
I have attached a document, Joining the Dots, that you should find interesting.
Co Director WEEP
What is Neurotoxicity?
Neurotoxicity NIH NINDS
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, National
Institutes of Health
Neurotoxicity occurs when the exposure to natural or manmade toxic substances eurotoxicants) alters the normal activity of the nervous system. This can eventually disrupt or even kill neurons, key cells that transmit and process signals in the brain and other parts of the nervous system.
Neurotoxicity can result from exposure to substances used in chemotherapy, radiation treatment, drug therapies, and organ transplants, as well as exposure to heavy metals such as lead and mercury, certain foods and food additives, pesticides, industrial and/or cleaning solvents, cosmetics, and some naturally occurring substances.
Symptoms may appear immediately after exposure or be delayed. They may include limb weakness or numbness; loss of memory, vision, and/or intellect; headache; cognitive and behavioral problems; and sexual dysfunction. Individuals with certain disorders may be especially vulnerable to neurotoxicants.
Is there any treatment?
Treatment involves eliminating or reducing exposure to the toxic substance, followed by symptomatic and supportive therapy.
What is the prognosis?
The prognosis depends upon the length and degree of exposure and the severity of neurological injury. In some instances, exposure to neurotoxicants can be fatal. In others, patients may survive but not fully recover. In other situations, many individuals recover completely after treatment.
What research is being done?
The NINDS supports research on disorders of the brain and nervous system such as neurotoxicity, aimed at learning more about these disorders and finding ways to prevent and treat them. Scientists are investigating the role occupational or environmental toxicants have on progressive neurodegenerative disorders such as Parkinson's disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, multiple sclerosis, and dementia. Also being studied are the mechanisms that trigger neuroimmune responses in the central nervous system and the possibility that some brain disorders in children may occur when environmental triggers interact with genes.
The health effects of energy efficient compact fluorescent light bulbs.
We have a new TV program in Canada called "16:9 - The Bigger Picture" on Global TV. Their most recent show aired on Sunday Jan 4th and it featured the health effects of energy efficient compact fluorescent light bulbs. -Week 6 Epis 106. Show is 15 minutes and you can view it on line at:
Please forward this to those who man be affected, to policy makers, and especially to doctors who may be able to help their patients suffering from electrical sensitivity caused by these bulbs.
NASA-Funded Study Reveals Hazards of Severe Space Weather
NASA Logo. (PRNewsFoto/NASA)
WASHINGTON, DC UNITED STATES
WASHINGTON, Jan. 5 /PRNewswire-USNewswire
A NASA-funded study describes how extreme solar eruptions could have severe consequences for communications, power grids and other technology on Earth.
The National Academy of Sciences in Washington conducted the study. The resulting report provides some of the first clear economic data that effectively quantifies today's risk of extreme conditions in space driven by magnetic activity on the sun and disturbances in the near-Earth environment. Instances of extreme space weather are rare and are categorized with other natural hazards that have a low frequency but high consequences.
"Obviously, the sun is Earth's life blood," said Richard Fisher, director of the Heliophysics division at NASA Headquarters in Washington. "To mitigate possible public safety issues, it is vital that we better understand extreme space weather events caused by the sun's activity."
Besides emitting a continuous stream of plasma called the solar wind, the sun periodically releases billions of tons of matter called coronal mass ejections. These immense clouds of material, when directed toward Earth, can cause large magnetic storms in the magnetosphere and upper atmosphere. Such space weather can affect the performance and reliability of space-borne and ground-based technological systems.
Space weather can produce solar storm electromagnetic fields that induce extreme currents in wires, disrupting power lines, causing wide-spread blackouts and affecting communication cables that support the Internet. Severe space weather also produces solar energetic particles and the dislocation of the Earth's radiation belts, which can damage satellites used for commercial communications, global positioning and weather forecasting. Space weather has been recognized as causing problems with new technology since the invention of the telegraph in the 19th century.
A catastrophic failure of commercial and government infrastructure in space and on the ground can be mitigated through raising public awareness, improving vulnerable infrastructure and developing advanced forecasting capabilities. Without preventive actions or plans, the trend of increased dependency on modern space-weather sensitive assets could make society more vulnerable in the future.
NASA requested the study to assess the potential damage from significant space weather during the next 20 years. National and international experts from industry, government and academia participated in the study. The report documents the possibility of a space weather event that has societal effects and causes damage similar to natural disasters on Earth.
"From a public policy perspective, it is quite significant that we have begun the extremely challenging task of assessing space weather impacts in a quantitative way," said Daniel Baker, professor and director of the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics at the University of Colorado in Boulder. Baker chaired the panel that prepared the report.
"Whether it is terrestrial catastrophes or extreme space weather incidents, the results can be devastating to modern societies that depend in a myriad of ways on advanced technological systems," said Baker. "We were delighted that NASA helped support bringing together dozens of world experts from industry and government to share their experiences and begin planning of improved public policy strategies."
The sun is currently near the minimum of its 11-year activity cycle. It is expected that solar storms will increase in frequency and intensity toward the next solar maximum, expected to occur around 2012.
The Heliophysics Division of NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington provided funding for the study. The division seeks to understand the sun, its solar processes and the interaction of solar plasma and radiation with Earth, other planets and the universe. Understanding the connections between the sun and its planets will allow better predictions on the impacts of solar activity on humans, technological systems and even the presence of life itself in the universe.
The National Academies are chartered by Congress to provide independent technical and scientific advice to the federal government.
For images related to the study and more information about the Heliophysics Division, visit:
To view the National Academy of Sciences' complete report, visit: