Thursday, February 18, 2010

Church Update

As many of you know, our local church leaders decided some time ago to establish a "fragrance-free goal" for all of the LDS (Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints) buildings in the Helena, Montana area (including Townsend, Boulder, Lincoln and White Sulphur Springs). In this area the Church owns four buildings and rents two smaller ones. I blogged about this as it was happening but several people have asked me for an update. So here's where we are now.

Each building now has permanent signs on every entrance door asking people who enter to please be fragrance-free. These signs were made with the plastic lettering that adheres directly to the glass and sit right at eye-level, so they are easy to read and quite obvious to any adult entering the buildings.

LDS buildings typically have what is referred to as an overflow area at the back of the chapel which is a buffer zone between the chapel and the cultural hall (gym) behind. Large folding (accordion style) doors separate this area from the chapel and can be opened when seating in the chapel is full. This area has separate entrance doors from the foyers on either side of the chapel. It was decided that though the goal is for the entire building to be fragrance-free, the overflow area would be particularly designated as fragrance-free. It was assumed that there would always be some people who either forget or don't know to come fragrance-free, so these people would be asked to sit well away from the overflow area. We now have permanent signs (made and sent to us by the Church building department in Salt Lake City) on the walls next to the doors to the overflow areas in all of our buildings. These signs ask that no one who is wearing any type of fragrance sit in the overflow areas.

"So how is all this working out?" some have asked. Actually, it is working pretty well. One thing that has helped is to have the large accordion doors to the overflow areas stay closed until just a minute before the meeting is to start. For the most part, that keeps people out of the overflow area unless they want to sit in the fragrance-free area. Of course, there are always stragglers (latecomers) who end up sitting in the back, but I have been able to sit in the overflow area (albeit in a chair off to the side in the very back corner) without any difficulty since the beginning of this year. It is SO much nicer than last year, when I was sitting alone in a classroom listening to the audio transmission of the service. There was one Sunday when the meeting started and no one had opened the big door, so I had to get up and opened it myself. It was very noisy and everyone stared at me as I did it, but I haven't had to do it myself since then.

We certainly have made progress, and I am appreciative of all the people who have worked to make it possible for those of us with chemical sensitivities to attend church meetings (we have identified at least 30 LDS Church members in this area). After our Sacrament service, we have auxiliary meetings for children and adults. I have not been able to attend these meetings safely, though I have tried a couple of times. The classrooms are just too small and there are still a few people who don't seem to really understand what fragrance-free means. However, I am not complaining. I may try to attend these other meetings again during the summer, when I can sit by an open window, but for now, I am very happy to be able to sit in Sacrament Meeting with the rest of the congregation. Education is an ongoing process. Leaders continue to remind people to come fragrance-free, and I take every opportunity to define that term in discussions I have with people. So we're getting there, and that's a good thing.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Chemicals in Fragrances

Lisa Frank at Enviroblog reported last week that the International Fragrance Association (IFRA) has published a list of ingredients that its members use to make consumer products. Of the 3,163 chemicals listed, 1 in 21 earned a "high" hazard score in the EWG's (Environmental Working Group) cosmetics database, 1 in 6 rated at least a "moderate" hazard score and 26 of them scored a perfect 10 (the highest score). Here's a list of those 26:

Dibutyl phthalate
Diethylhexyl phthalate
Musk ambrette
Nano titanium dioxide
Nano zinc oxide (20-60nm)
PEG-3 Sorbitan oleate
PEG-6 Sorbitan oleate

Now, these names mean nothing to me, but I do trust the EWG. Lisa Frank pointed out in her blog post that phthalates are "potent hormone distruptors linked to reproductive system birth defects in baby boys," and octoxynols and nonoxynols also "break down into persistent hormone disruptors." Musk ambrette, which is toxic to the skin, brain and testes, has been banned from body care products by the European Union, but is apparently still in use in some fragranced products.

These chemicals may be present in any personal care and household products that contain added fragrance, and manufacturers don't have to list them as ingredients in these products. Usually, if ingredients are listed at all, these chemicals are grouped under the general heading of "fragrance." Scary, very scary.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010


I will apologize in advance for this rant, but there are just some things that need to be called out. The first is my ongoing battle with manufacturers who change the ingredients in their products, products I've been using (or eating) for a long time, but which I can no longer use with the new ingredients. This happens often with foods, which is why I read ingredient lists even on the products I have been using for years. It seems to happen less often with personal care items, but that's where I'm having issues this week.

Soon after I was diagnosed with celiac disease and MCS in 1998, I discovered the line of personal care products produced by Aubrey Organics. I have always had very sensitive skin and I need a good moisturizing lotion, no easy task to find when it has to be free of petro-chemicals, fragrance, almonds, sesame, wheat and lavender (all things to which I have been know to react). So I was thrilled to find Aubrey's Unscented Ultimate Moisturizing hand and body lotion. Not only was this lotion free of all the above-mentioned ingredients, but it actually kept me from looking like a dried up old prune. For the past couple of years I have been ordering this lotion by the case through my local natural foods store. When I went to reorder last month, I found that that the packaging had changed so I thought I'd better look at the ingredients. Sure enough, the ingredient list was very different.

When I called the customer service number at Aubrey Organics a couple of weeks ago, I was told that that the labeling had changed to meet new European labeling standards and that there was actually only one change to the ingredients, the addition of soy oil. To make this long story a little shorter, I ordered a couple of bottles to try and was REALLY disappointed. Not only is the lotion much less effective, but I seemed to be having a slight reaction to it. So I emailed the company to complain. The reply I received was very patronizing, but gave me the added information that they are now using lavender in the product, though it is listed as something else. So I grit my teeth (grrrrrr) and go on the search for another lotion. Meanwhile I'll just have to be a prune face.

My other rant topic is the mail. I came home from an afternoon with my grandsons yesterday to a pile of mail which my husband had picked up at the post office. (We have a PO box for our business.) As soon as I picked it up my head started to swoon (in not a good way). It smelled like someone had sprayed cheap cologne all over it. YUCK! I can only guess that either someone who handled the mail was wearing heavy scent or there was a piece of scented mail to which my mail was exposed in transit. Needless to say, it all got taken out to the garbage, except for the check from a customer which will have to go to the bank in a scent-proof bag.

So those are my rants for the week. Anyone else have a similar rant you want to add?