Posts Tagged ‘anaphylaxis’

Do you see a disconnect?


The Metro Waste Draft Plan includes the building of new Waste-to-Energy facilities inside and/or outside our region.

Here is my speech to them last night in a building filled with VOLATILE ORGANIC COMPOUNDS forcing me to speak while attached to an oxygen tank inhaling O2 at 5 litres per minute:

First I want to thank you for adding this additional Public Consultation evening to your agenda.

My name is Elaine Willis and I have had the privilege of being a teacher for most of my adult life.  Because of what has been labelled Multiple Chemical Sensitivity, the privilege of continuing my chosen profession, for pay, has been suspended.

People with an exquisite sensitivity to toxic chemicals are often called “canaries.” The name comes from the old practice of miners who took canaries with them into the mines; if the canary died from toxic air in the shaft, the miners had time to escape with their lives. People with chemical sensitivities are the canaries of the modern world.

In 1999, a consensus was reached among a large group of specialists in defining Multiple Chemical Sensitivity as

[1] a chronic condition

[2] with symptoms that recur reproducibly

[3] in response to low levels of exposure

[4] to multiple unrelated chemicals and

[5] improve or resolve when incitants are removed

THE BC LUNG ASSOCIATION website tells us that some 30% of Canadians already report adverse reactions to some chemical products.

In layman’s terms, people with MCS react unfavorably when exposed to any amount, from minute to gross, of toxic chemicals too numerous to list. Symptoms vary from fleeting to severe and might include rapid heart rate, shortness of breath, fatigue, flushing, dizziness, nausea, coughing, difficulty concentrating, problems with memory, migraine, or even life threatening seizures, anaphylaxis or respiratory distress. This chemical sensitivity condition is not rare and the numbers of people who have it are growing. I, myself, had a stroke caused by chemical exposure.

But the truth is, it’s not just chemically sensitive people who are being affected by a toxic environment. The general public is being exposed to tens of thousands of chemicals that didn’t even exist until a few decades ago. Many of these chemicals, some found in everyday household products like cleansers and cosmetics are known to be or are suspected of causing cancer, reproductive problems, developmental disabilities, and heart disease.

What has this to do with the Metro Solid Waste Management Plan?  These products will be disposed of – they are mostly unregulated, untested and uncontrolled. A look at Metro Vancouver’s Vision Statement which includes social justice and compassion, a beautiful and healthy natural environment and a commitment to the well-being of current and future generations shows a disconnect. How can the creation or even the consideration of the creation of mass incineration be on the table? How can any emissions into the air be considered acceptable?

Let’s go back to my teaching career – my 1990’s classroom. I hope you can try to visualize this… I did some early research projects with robotics using LEGO bricks and Apple computers for programming. Students as young as six years old worked in groups to create and program moving objects, many of which were vehicles. Of course, given their limited experience, either with machines, or with LEGO, the creations needed to be changed in order to function. I noted two distinct types of engineering strategies. There were those who saw the flaw, took the whole thing apart and started again with the new insights – and those who kept adding parts to compensate for the flaws, creating a bulkier machine, which may or may not function – flaws addressed, but in the end when the motors were attached, usually parts would go flying off in all directions. The analogy here is Metro’s DRAFT PLAN…many helpful citizens have pointed out the glaring flaw. Please don’t attach the motor!

When I was attending university, I had a professor, Milt McClaren, who was already taking the bus when most of us didn’t know what Environmental Studies were…the most important thing he taught me…There is no such place as away! We can’t incinerate the waste and think it is gone. The nanoparticles will go into my body. The ash will still go into the landfill. The filters and scrubbers, they have to go somewhere too.

Thank you.

And my subsequent comments left on the website where responses are welcomed:

http://www.metrovancouver.org/services/solidwaste/planning/Pages/Comments.aspx

and posted to the Tri-City Green Council website and Facebook:

DRAFT METRO WASTE PLAN: many people feel that the draft plan is a sham.. I am hopeful that I did not waste many evenings and much sober thought trying to convince the committee that the science that led to the draft plan contained some flaws and needs some revision…the hard work of the committee is appreciated – but …changes MUST occur. I had to leave due to air quality. I have now saved the taxpayers much money in medical expenditures. By preserving the airshed, we preserve the health of our citizens – I am not alone – I am your canary – with a system sensitive enough to detect that our modern world, industries, building materials, and endless pollution has reached a critical moment in time. Let’s turn this plan around now! The decisions made by METRO VANCOUVER can demonstrate leadership to the world – let’s do so!


NOTE: information about MCS copied from www.thecanaryreport.com – if you are interested in MCS or already show symptoms, this is a great resource for you.

My family doctor (primary care physician) has asked that I prepare the letter that will go to specialists prior to my first arrival. It needs to elucidate in few words what to do to make my visit safe. It must also explain MCS (Multiple Chemical Sensitivity) to a physician who may have had no education about or exposure to a patient with the kind of symptoms I experience. My symptoms can be mild (for me) which may include coughing, asthma, brain fog and increased ataxia (you see I already I have ataxia – the hereditary kind). Or, they can be medium, slurred speech, severe ataxia, altered blood pressure, complete inability to focus or answer questions, stuttering, poor word-finding skills and dizziness. And of course, the biggie…anaphylaxis…and it happens too often.

So, my desire with this post is to engage the assistance of others with MCS. What should be included in a letter to a physician that arrives before WE do? First appointment of the day? No waiting? This is a brainstorm – so all ideas are accepted. I will choose the ones I want for my letter and post it. Maybe it will be useful for others, too!!

I appreciate your willingness to see me as a patient at your eye care centre. I note that the first time I had a reaction to the eyedrop the resident (I assume) put in  my eye after I assured him I would react was called “fainting” by you. I may not have corrected you.  The combination of the reaction itself, the epinepherine, your freshly fragranced colleague and the long wait in the chemically-laden carpeted office did not aid in my being  my most cognitively competent self. Sir, I did not faint. My reaction to the eye drop, as predicted, was anaphylaxis. Thankfully, my attendant was quick with the epipen.  The staff present was a little surprised by the reaction and apparently was relieved that Geoff took action.

With regards to yesterday’s appointment, no, I am not epileptic. What you observed firsthand and up close is a rather classic reaction to the presence of chemical fragrance. I am pleased that you were open-minded enough to follow the instructions of my attendant and get some oxygen before I deteriorated to the point where I needed the epipen as the drug is very hard on my body. I understand you also agreed to move the patient who was very fragrant away from the immediate proximity of your examining room to help ameliorate the situation. I am so sorry that your coffee spilled all over your papers and desk area. I am pleased that someone arrived to help you clean it up so quickly. It is clear by the two hour wait I had in order to to see you that you are a very, very busy specialist. Your kindness during the crisis is truly appreciated, as well as your apparent new insight into chemical sensitivity. When both Geoff (my attendant) and I assured you that the reaction you observed was not as severe as I experience, and that I am not the most highly chemically sensitive person in the world at large, we were being most sincere. When my speech recovered enough to explain that rather than an allergy, it is a toxicity – and that the reaction is similar to what you might observe if I was intentionally huffng gasoline, I noted a glimmer of comprehension in your eyes. Similar products, you see! Toxic petrochemicals! Your office is a paper bag for me. And it can’t be good for you, either. Did you note that the oxygen cleared up the problem in due course… so, definitely not a seizure. If you really are able to learn from a patient, this may be it. Chemical sensitivity is real. You have observed it and those signs in your office and adjacent areas may be worth enforcing as I explained. Yes, a simple explanation to patients when appointments are booked telling them the office is scent-free AND WHAT THAT MEANS would be a good first step. If you had NO SMOKING signs and didn’t enforce them, would it really be a NO SMOKING office?

I hope that observing my anaphylaxis, and near anaphylaxis were educational events for you…enough to influence your practice in the eye clinic.

Respectfully yours,

Elaine Willis

I was allowed to present this “STATEMENT” at the second day of my arbitration proceedings. I suppose it is wise not to comment publicly until the proceedings are over. We meet again in December, 3 1/2 years after the back to work process began.

BCTFlogo@125I sit before you today to be judged. I placed myself here long ago when I initiated the back to work process in discussion with my doctor in 2006. My life, my health, my vulnerabilities have been shown to you and I welcomed it for one reason…I felt it was my obligation to return to the workplace as my ability to do so had returned.

What is required for a teacher to work? I learned from a brave, young ventilator-dependent quadriplegic hired by a progressive school district (Vancouver) that a strong will and a functional mind were the only requirements. A functional body was not required. If young Johanna Johnson

Johanna

Johanna

can do it, I had every obligation to return to my career.

As a visibly disabled person in a school, I give a message to disabled students. They can aspire. They, too, can have careers in what they perceive to be important jobs dominated by the able-bodied. But more importantly, I educate the able-bodied, because they need to know that I am not a mere curiosity. I am not what they see. I am a human being; a teacher…a more than capable teacher, who, given a few environmental adaptations, can more than function in my chosen career.

Most of the people who wrote letters back and forth, made decisions against my presence had never met me or met me only once. With all we know about brain science and the function of “the interpreter” in filling in details missing in actual interaction, I am in awe of this entire process.

There are many things to applaud in the stacks of paperwork I have studied. Some have learned about the use of green chemicals for cleaning. There have been reports from other schools and institutions on scent-free policies, the new policy for Anaphylactic Safety in Surrey School District. … But according to the BC Lung Association 3 out of 10 people are chemically sensitive and the numbers are growing. I maintain that every living organism is “chemically sensitive” given large enough doses in small enough enclosures. The reactions may just differ. Some people break out in cancer after accumulating the chemicals in body organs. I have the GOOD LUCK of being able to detect small quantities and having the need to escape quickly. There are many indicators in our environment that human beings as a species are succumbing to chemical pollution. Sperm counts in humans are at 50% of what they were a few decades ago. Knowledgeable parents would welcome a chemical free school and soon it will be the norm. This year, already, parents are grappling with the need to buy PVC free school supplies and worrying about all the previous years when they did purchase these products.

(Paragraph that originally appeared here has now been removed at the request of my employer.  It was not meant to upset anyone and was, as far as I know, only a statement of facts. I apologize if anyone found it offensive. removed January 30, 2010)

I sit before you, a human being, flawed, as are we all. My desire…to do what’s right and return to being a contributing member of society despite my disability. I am a teacher.

I am a big fan of Cesar Millan, the Dog Whisperer. He talks about Red Zone dogs as those that can turn on you in an instant. “A red zone is when a dog is in attack mode against another animal or human. The intention is to assault its target until he exhausts it. Until there is no life left, ” says Cesar.
OSredzone

Old Spice makes a product line called Red Zone. It is purportedly aimed at the higher end consumer with its greatest assault product, a time-release deodorant – the chemical that keeps on giving. An aggressive chemical that will attack the chemically sensitive until they are exhausted or the anaphylactic (me) until they have ceased breathing; it must be especially pthalate laden as it seems that frequent wearers have this product enlaced heavily in their clothing with the impossibility of easy removal. Brilliant marketing!

Since 2002 researchers have known that Beluga Whales are endangered and most deaths are due to cancer (including juveniles). The cancer has been linked to industrial chemical pollution. My point with the whales, you ask…

Despite the growing research that shows that humans are experiencing increased toxicity related illnesses, we continue to allow such products in and near our bodies. We seem to forget that the skin is an absorptive organ.

OLD SPICE RED ZONE – knocks me out in seconds… This product will hopefully be thought of in the future like DDT, an embarrassing chemical…we will think “How did we let people use it.. ?” Likely it will be too late. Human sperm counts will be at an all-time low ( fragrances contain endocrine disrupting chemicals ) and Beluga Whales will be long extinct.

See policy on Multiple Chemical Sensitivity  here.