Saturday, January 31, 2009

Well, Duh

"BYU-Harvard Study Finds Cleaner Air Extends Lifespan" This is the title of the lead article in the most recent BYU online newsletter. Researchers at Brigham Young University and the Harvard School of Public Health have come to this conclusion after an extensive long-range study of 51 U.S. cities. Specifically, the study cites that on average, the life expectancy of people in these cities has increased by five months in recent decades. In the (previously) most polluted of these cities, cleaner air added about ten months to the average lifespan.

Now I'm not a scientist, and I don't need extensive scientific studies to convince me that air pollution is bad for all forms of life. So all I can say to a study like this is "well, duh." However, I do understand that backing up our claims with sound scientific research only furthers our cause, and for some people, this is the only way they will be convinced.

Yesterday I spent the afternoon at our state capitol listening to legislators debate various bills and resolutions, some of which directly apply to this argument for clean air. There is currently a bill being reviewed by a Montana State Senate committee, which would set the same emission standards for automobiles sold in Montana as those in California and about 14 other states. [These laws are not in force in these states because the EPA, under the direction of the Bush administration, stopped them, but they are currently under review by the EPA under the new administration and will likely go into effect soon.] This legislation is seen as the most cost-efficient way for the state to clean up its air. As an added bonus, the vehicles sold under this law would be more fuel-efficient and thus less expensive to use, saving the consumer money in the long run. And for those who just have to have their big rigs, there are exemptions for trucks and some SUVs.

The prospect of cleaner air is reason enough for me to support these types of laws. And, as science has now proven, cleaner air is good for us. Who wouldn't want to add five more months to her/his life?

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Amputated Lives

Alison Johnson graduated summa cum laude from Carleton College and went on to receive a master's degree in mathematics at the University of Wisconsin. She also studied at the Sorbonne in Paris on a National Science Foundation Fellowship. Alison was thirty-five years old when she developed chemical sensitivities. When her three daughters began showing signs of chemical sensitivity in their early teens, she became an outspoken advocate for the chemically sensitive through documentary films, books and articles and lobbying members of Congress.

In her most recent book, Amputated Lives: Coping with Chemical Sensitivity, Alison Johnson discusses the causes and consequences of chemical sensitivity in the twenty-first century. In the preface to the book, Ms Johnson states, "All my books and documentaries have had a central goal in mind--to convince readers and viewers that chemical sensitivity is real and is devastating far too many lives."

About the first third of Amputated Lives describes the causes and symptoms of chemical sensitivity, with whole chapters devoted to veterans of the Gulf War, survivors of the World Trade Center disaster and "Katrina's Toxic Aftermath." The rest of the book is a compilation of individual stories of people with chemical sensitivity.

Warning: this book will make you angry and it will break your heart. I would not call Johnson an emotional writer, but she is obviously passionate about her subject, and she doesn't pull any punches. Particularly in the personal story section, she lets the stories speak for themselves, and that they do very well.

Order information, along with more information about the author and her other works, can be found at The book can be ordered for $15.00 plus $3.00 s/h. If you want a single copy, you can send a check for $18.00 to MCS Information Exchange, 4 Wren Drive, Topsham, ME 04086. The order information also includes, "If you are facing severe financial difficulties, you may inquire about a discount." Clearly, Alison Johnson's only motive in writing and publishing this book is to educate people. As a publisher myself, I can tell you that she isn't even covering her expenses with what she is charging.

I am hoping in the near future to purchase an entire box of these books and distribute them to family and friends. In the meantime, I just have to tell people about this valuable contribution to the MCS community and the voice of warning it presents to people who are not yet chemically sensitive.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Sewing and Crafts

I've been buried in a sewing project this week (piles of red satin for a Valentine wedding). Just as I was wondering if there were more chemically and environmentally friendly sewing products, I received my daily email from The Canary Report ( ), which contained a post with links to online sources for organic sewing and craft products.

After this Christmas shopping season, I am more determined than ever to put my money where my mouth is and restrict my shopping (as much as possible) to organic/chemical-free products. So I want to pass on some information to the rest of you who don't want to give up your sewing and craft projects to stay chemical-free.

NearSea Naturals
Surf on over to and shop to your heart's content. This is a great retail site with lots to offer. If you're like me, you already have a closet full of sewing and craft notions, but probably not like the things you'll find on this site. And they're reasonably priced too. From batting to thread to fabric, you'll find it here.

I have to confess to a love for lace that borders on obsession. It started with the tatted lace my mother gave me after my Danish grandmother died and has been encouraged by hours spent at flea markets and estate sales. When I went onto the site at I was almost frothing at the mouth at the sight of beautiful handmade European laces which, according to the company are "...100% certified organic...made from start to finish chemically free, and without toxins in the production." This site doesn't provide online ordering. You have to call or email (they prefer email so they have your order in writing). So I called. Their lace prices range from $.90 to $3.85 per yard--extremely inexpensive for quality lace.

I know I sound like a sales rep for these companies, but I'm really just a sucker for all things textile in nature. I've had to give up a lot of things because of chemical sensitivity, including many craft activities, but I can still sew. And it's good to know that there are products out there that are safe for me to use. Now I just have to come up with a good project.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009


Yesterday, as part of the Presidential Inauguration, a cello/violin/clarinet/piano quartet played a piece composed by John Williams and based on the old Shaker hymn, "Simple Gifts." NPR replayed the performance on their morning radio program today. The Marine Corp Band also played an arrangement of this hymn in their prelude to the Inauguration yesterday. Is there a theme here?

A couple of years ago, on a trip to New England, we stopped at the Canterbury Shaker Village, and I was so enthralled with the simple life style of these quiet people. The words of the hymn are as follows:

'Tis the gift to be simple, 'tis the gift to be free,
'Tis the gift to come down where we ought to be,
And when we find ourselves in the place just right,
'Twill be in the valley of love and delight.
When true simplicity is gained,
To bow and to bend we shan't be ashamed,
To turn, turn will be our delight,
'Til by turning, turning we come'round right.

I think the "turning" metaphor is in reference to the woodworker shaping the legs of a chair (for which the Shakers are famous). It brings to mind a vision of the simple Shaker furniture, beautiful in its absolute balance.

Whenever I come home from being away (as I was for two weeks of this month), I always have a desire to clear away the clutter of my home and my life, to get back to simple basics in eating, dressing and just everyday living. It seems to me that the chemical poisoning of our world is a result of our complicated lives. And in turn, our lives are complicated by the chemicals. If we were to simplify our eating (natural foods, grown locally as much as possible), if we were to simplify our clothing (wearing less, using natural fibers and dyes), if we were to simply our homes (less adornment, less space to heat and cool, less pretension), if we were to simply our activities (less running from place to place), would we not use less chemicals? Would we not all be healthier?

Something to think about.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Of Babies and Birthing

I returned home last night after an eventful week with one of our two "adopted" families, as they experienced the birth of their eighth child. Though I didn't give birth to the mother of all these children, she is much like a daughter to me. I was with her for the home birth of numbers 6 and 7 (twin boys born two-and-a-half years ago), and it was a pleasure to be with her again for number 8, a beautiful baby girl weighing in at 9 lb. 14 oz. All of these children call me Grandma, and they are a joy. With five boys and three girls, ranging in age from almost sixteen to newborn, they are also exhausting.

Like many people with MCS, I have other residual ailments as well, and maintaining stamina is always a challenge. However, I am happy to report that despite the mountains of laundry done, the countless peanut butter sandwiches made, the many potty assists (with barely trained twins) and several days of sleep deprivation, I had only one small incident of a chemical reaction, and that was my own fault. (I used some "scent-free" deodorant that contained a masking fragrance.) Even with all those people in one house (including a teen-age daughter), this family manages to stay mostly chemical-free. And what few fragranced things they do use, they went without while I was there.

It was a long trip home, as I had to stop often to stretch my legs, which were stiff from sleeping on a sofa bed with a four-year-old snuggled up next to me. And my right foot is still a little swollen from when a two-year-old ran over it with a monster truck. It will take me a few days to recover, that's for sure, but I wouldn't trade the experience for the best night's sleep in the softest bed anywhere. Ahhhh...birthing is such a joy, at least when you're the grandma.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

New Year Resolutions

I have never been a big fan of New Year resolutions. Though I'm very good at coming up with them, I'm not very good at following through with them. However, there are some things I really want to work on this year. So here are my New Year resolutions for 2009:

Love more.

Laugh more.


Take a fragrance offense as an opportunity to educate, not to offend in return.

Use less plastic.

Throw away less.

I know. These sound vague and unmeasurable. But my life is unpredictable from day to day, so I have to be flexible. I promise I will expound a little more on these in the next few weeks, but for now, I feel a great sense of accomplishment in just writing them down and putting them out them in cyberspace for the whole world to see.

Happy New Year All!