Sunday, September 28, 2008


Yesterday morning my daughter-in-law hosted a "jewelry party" at her house. The jewelry was nice (and of course I ordered a few pieces), but even more important to me was the opportunity to just sit and talk with other women. It was a small group, but they all knew I would be there so had come fragrance free. It felt good just to relax and enjoy the company of others.

Then last night I watched a broadcast from Salt Lake City of the general Relief Society (the women's organization) of the LDS Church. This program is held twice each year and is broadcast to LDS church buildings throughout the world, as well as over BYU-TV (which we get via Directv). The first speaker was Julie Beck, worldwide president of the organization. She spoke about the history of the Relief Society, which originated in 1842 in Nauvoo, Illinois, and she encouraged the sisters (as R.S. members call themselves) to renew their commitment to each other and the organization, caring for each other and watching over each other.

Up until a few months ago, I had been an active member of the Relief Society for close to forty years, serving twice as president of a local group and numerous other times as a counselor or teacher. I have stood in front of other women on so many occasions to praise the goodness of Relief Society and encourage participation in acts of service and compassion to each other. And I have witnessed true charity in the interactions of women who truly see and treat each other as beloved sisters.

The combination yesterday of being with a small group of women in the morning and then hearing the words of Julie Beck concerning Relief Society last night brought home to me how much I really miss sisterhood. We all suffer losses in our lives for which we must grieve and then move on, hopefully filling the gap with something else of value. But I am not sure how to fill this gap in my life. In moments of selfishness and self-pity, I rail at the women in my own local group who refuse to change their behavior so that I can participate. Yet, such wallowing is so unproductive. I can't change the behavior of other women, and railing on them to myself only makes me more angry. And I don't want to become just an angry old woman.

One place I still feel sisterhood is through online blogs. There are some wonderful LDS group blogs that reach out to women, such as , and (my favorite). Blogs cannot replace the intimacy we get associating in person with other women, but they do offer a free exchange of feelings and ideas that helps to fill the gap.

Perhaps my greatest resource for sisterhood is with my own daughters and daughter-in-law, four truly amazing women who reach out to me on an almost daily basis. I love them and really appreciate them, but it is unfair and unrealistic to expect them to fulfill the bulk of my social and emotional needs.

So I continue to seek new ways to conpensate for the loss of sisterhood I feel in the isolation of chemical sensitivity. Even introverts need a little socializing once in a while.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Important Research into Chemical Injury

Okay. I just typed a whole new post and then lost it. But it's REALLY important. Following are links to two articles about new research into the effects of chemicals in our environment on children and adults.

The first one offers evidence to substantiate the claim that chemicals cause damage to children, resulting in behavior and other health problems. Not that this is any news to any mother who has ever given her two-year-old a bowl of Fruit Loops, but it's nice to have some validation from the experts.

The second link is to an article summarizing new research reported in medical journals this week about the link between the chemical found in plastic containers with heart disease, diabetes and liver illnesses in adults. The FDA is still considering whether to ban this chemical (the chemical companies are very powerful), but some manufacturers have already voluntarily stopped using it. With this new information, we can hope that more will follow suit.

These would be good articles to forward to anyone who has doubted the validity of chemical injury. The information is more than a little scary.

Thursday, September 11, 2008


My family knows that I am no fan of WalMart, for many reasons, not the least of which being that it just isn't a safe place for me to go (too many people, too many chemicals). However, one of my grandsons saw a toy there that he really wants for his birthday next week, so yesterday morning I ventured into their aisles.

Also, I thought it might be a good idea to look at the personal care products at WalMart to back up the claim I made in a document I sent to local church leaders last week, stating that unscented products are readily available locally. I made the claim based on what is available at Safeway and the Real Food Market, but knowing that many church members shop at WalMart, I thought it wise to check out their offerings as well.

I am happy to report that WalMart carries a wide array of unscented personal care products. One of the particular questions I get from people is what hand lotions to use. After all, no one could realistically expect a woman to go sans lotion after washing her hands in a public (or church) rest room. What I found at WalMart was that Lubriderm, Eucerin, Aveeno and Equate (WalMart's house brand) all have unscented versions of their hand and body lotions. And both Suave (the cheap brand) and Salon Grafix (a more expensive brand) produce unscented versions of their hair sprays.

By the time I wrote down all the names of all these products, I realized I was going to be late for a lunch date with one of my grandsons, so I didn't get to look at shampoo, rinse and hair gel, but I am hopeful that unscented versions of these products are also on the shelves at WalMart. And I know they are on the shelves at Safeway, so I don't think I'm guilty of making any false claims.

Of course, just because these products are unscented doesn't mean they are void of any toxic chemicals or safe for me to use myself, and I would still like to steer people in the direction of the more natural products found at the Real Food Market (a shameless plug for my favorite place to shop). However, I see a switch to any unscented products by church members as a huge concession to the needs of the chemically sensitive, and I will gladly accept such an offering with the grace it is given.

(My husband suggested that we just place bottles of unscented lotion in all the church restrooms. Would it be sexist to only put it in the women's? Do men, other than my husband, use hand lotion?)

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

One Step Closer to a Fragrance-free Building

Well, I had quite the experience this past Sunday evening. Our local church leadership (LDS stake presidency, bishops and branch presidents) met to discuss the proposed goal of designating our local church buildings as fragrance-free. Since I cannot safely go into the building, I was asked to give a 15-minute presentation via speaker phone. That isn't very much time, so I had to plan ahead and choose my words wisely. I focused on the stages of chemical sensitivity (from tolerance to permanent tissue damage), common symptoms of these different stages and then my own experience with stage 3 MCS and the physical reactions I have had in our church buildings. I also gave a brief overview of the symptoms other people in our congregations have reported having in our buildings. (We have a list of 15 people who have complained about some degree of chemical sensitivity they have had at church.)

There was an overwhelming vote of support among these leaders for pushing ahead with the fragrance-free goal in the four church-owned buildings and also in the two small rented facilities. This same group will meet again in about two weeks to finalize plans for implementation, i.e. educating members, putting signs on doors, deciding where to seat people who come fragranced unknowingly (visitors), etc.

This is a huge step for this area. As many of you know, I quit attending church meetings here entirely over six months ago. Since then, my husband (who is a member of the stake presidency) has made a great effort to educate people and enlist support for creating a safer environment (i.e. fragrance-free) in our buildings. I do not like bringing attention to myself, and would willingly have just faded away into inactivity indefinitely, but he was not willing to let it slide by.

I am realistic enough to know that this won't happen overnight. People don't willingly change their behavior without some struggle. But getting the leaders on board is a huge step. My sincere hope is that church members will realize the importance of reaching out in compassion to fellow members with special needs and will also come to understand that this creates a safer environment for everyone.