Debra Air BlogIn my Welcome blog post, I mentioned that I’m a canary – sensitive to foods and odors around me.

When I was a little girl, I used to get up in the morning feeling well. I’d get dressed and go into the kitchen for breakfast of hot cereal with milk and sugar, while my mom sat at the table with me, sipping her coffee and reading the morning newspaper. In no time at all, I’d have mega heartburn and be seriously nauseated, complained that I felt sick and couldn’t go to school. The pediatrician said I had school phobia. He wasn’t aware about dairy intolerance and especially not about chemical sensitivity. The dairy gave me heartburn, especially with the sugar in it. The newspaper made me feel nauseated. And it still does. No one was thinking about the possible combined effect of air pollution from the planes landing at the nearby Dorval airport and the chemicals in our homes.

I am not sensitive to everything, but when I do react, especially to some chemical products, my nauseameter let’s me know immediately!

Part of our lifestyle change was going through the house and getting rid of ALL scented products, from dish and clothing detergents to lotions and cosmetics, candles and personal care products. I learned that reading labels wasn’t only for packaged foods! John and I took a bucket and started clearing out scented products in the basement then moved into the kitchen and powder room and upstairs in the bathrooms, medicine cabinets, under the sinks – it was amazing how much we got rid of. A friend had just started selling products that were organic but it didn’t occur to me, until I ordered some, that even organic products can contain chemical scents that are proprietary – companies are not obligated to inform their consumers what the ingredients are. Often, you only see ‘fragrance’ on the list. Those chemicals, even if they come from natural sources, mix with the pollution from outdoors, making new chemicals which add to our toxic exposures.

I found recipes online for cleaning with vinegar, baking soda and water. At the Prevent Cancer Now Fair in Ottawa a couple of years ago, I picked up a brochure for skin products that are organic and botanical without any man made chemicals. There’s all kinds of natural products available online to use instead of the chemicals we buy. Many brands that claim to be ‘natural’ but you have to read the labels carefully.

Changing your purchasing choices accomplishes two things. It reduces the amount of chemicals you inhale with every breath you take, and drives the market to produce safer products. If you’re a canary you can feel your body’s reaction to the chemicals, if you aren’t you can’t. But not being aware doesn’t mean that you aren’t being negatively affected by them anyway!

Are you already using unscented and chemical free products? Do you have any favorite recipes or websites for making your own?