Posts Tagged ‘fragrance’

Being completely open-minded is something I truly strive for, yet I struggle to keep an open mind towards the extreme authoritarian governments in power in my country and my province. In Nick Fillmore’s latest BLOG post,

Is Stephen Harper displaying
fascist-like tendencies?

he makes the case that although he doesn’t accuse Mr. Harper of being a fascist, one can easily identify elements of fascism from Harper’s actions when applying Dr. Lawrence Britt’s fourteen defining characteristics of fascism. It is compelling reading. I worry about the changes happening in a country once known for its collective social conscience.

Our province could be similarly analyzed. In a province where a campaign has been launched AGAINST opposition leader, Adrian Dix, before an election has been called; in a province where teachers enter an eleventh year with bargaining rights suppressed;  in a province where cuts to arts funding were increased (AGAIN!) and the Bible is raised in discussion by the Minister of Culture and the Arts, I begin to see fascist-like tendencies very close to home.

One can despair, shut them out or take action. Of course taking action is the obvious solution, yet that, too, can be difficult. What to do? What obstacles? What politics within the politics?

Which brings me to social conscience…

When you find someone with true social conscience with whom you can work, volunteer, collaborate…it all becomes so much easier. I found Dave McPherson. He is smart, funny, caring, dedicated, a great navigator but above all he has a true social conscience. And, he’s handling Joe Trasolini’s by-election campaign. Officially he’s the Campaign Manager, but that title seems minimal for what he does. Somehow I knew this was where I could make a difference, stop the creeping fascism, restore some balance and join a team of like-minded people. I am very impressed with the candidate and the myriad of volunteers who have arrived to make a difference.

Joe Trasolini has a public persona that one begins to identify through discussion, through the press, through living in a neighbouring municipality, but every day I like and respect Joe more and more. His values are the right values. He cares about people. He cares about getting things done.  This hard-working man has earned the respect of many, many people in the City of Port Moody. He makes himself available to anyone in the public for meetings through his open-door policy carried over from his 12 years as Mayor. He IS open-minded. He has the mindset of a person who comes to politics to make the world a better place for the many, not for the few. The environment is always in the forefront of his thinking. Scent-free office – OF COURSE. In fact, time to stop BLOGGING and get down to the office. Volunteers are welcome. The office including the phone rooms are wheelchair accessible. Come and join me. We can make a difference.

I very much enjoyed the experience of presenting. I realize, after the fact, just how much my left brain dominates.  Although I have a good understanding of how the artistic, right-brained individuals function, I am less tolerant of their function than I would like to be when it comes to what I perceive to be  “professional” events and functions. I am not sure if that is something I learned or if it is innate.

I wanted to (and was) on time for the meeting for the presenters. Part of me knew it would be foolish to worry about being on time for an “artsy event”  but that’s who I am (remember the left-brain dominance). The meeting did not occur and the person who called it did not arrive until forty-five minutes later. In fact the level of organization was just not the tight, structured,  Japanese, haiku-like form that is PechaKucha. So as I waited and watched for the show to begin, safely inhaling oxygen at 4 litres per minute (one of the presenters wore a LOT of fragrance), I experienced some cognitive dissonance. I so firmly believe that the production should be organized, should start on time, should be coordinated  professionally – after all people are paying to see the show. On the other hand the audience is happy, largely unaware that the media is not present, the photographer and film crew are absent, the meeting did not take place – they are more than happy.

Dissonance…tells more about me than the situation… “dissonance is reduced by justifying, blaming, and denying”.  I realize I have done all three. So while other people turn inward with nervousness, do I look outward…settling upon justification for the situation by noting that all went well despite the disorganization which I perceived?  The arts community pitched in and did what was needed. The audience was inspired. The focus was on the positive. The networking was amazing….and the feedback I received was great.

It seems that people were, on the whole,  inspired and motivated.

And when I reread “What makes a good PechaKucha” (it means chitchat in Japanese…) from the originator’s website, I know this whole thought process is something I need to continually work through…

“Good PechaKucha presentation are the ones that uncover the unexpected, unexpected talent, unexpected ideas. Some PechaKuchas tell great stories about a project or a trip. Some are incredibly personal, some are incredibly funny, but all are very different making each PechaKucha Night like ‘a box of chocolates’.”

It was a box of chocolates – there was something for everyone at PKN Coquitlam.

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

Inspired by Chris and dedicated to Wendy…

I often find a soak in the tub a good place for meditation…I can think a bit and then dissolve my thoughts and just concentrate on sensory input. I listen (the delightful quiet of my home, water as I move), I feel (warm, soothing water), I smell (luckily in my own home just the hot wellwater, unscented soap, salty skin), I see (the familiar), I taste (must remember to taste even when my mouth is empty and associate smell and taste – note the saltiness, the hot water can be tasted in my mouth if I make the conscious effort). I relax without thought so easily because I have practiced.

Often, after, I have delicious thoughts. Today I was musing about a brief conversation with Chris (’twas by email) about truly listening and thinking. It blended well with an audiobook I am listening to,  The Virus of the Mindmemes spread…people have ideas, non-sensory bits in their minds, often meaningless, often untrue – that spread from person to person without consicousness or evaluation. My bathtub epiphany is that if the mind should be filled with 100% sensory input, and those of us lucky enough to have five intact senses are clever enough to use them, we can achieve happiness. Missing a sense, no problem, the other four senses are able and willing to fill the 100%, performing at a higher level. Nice!

A child, not yet overinfected with memes experiences happiness, lives in the present, enjoying sensory input. Perhaps, says my relaxed mind as it floats in the peaceful water, memes start to take over a greater and greater percentage of the available mind as we age, squeezing out the space where sensory input, the real stuff of mind lives.

Those suffering the greatest misery are most infected by the virus of the mind. The cure has been known for eons. It is not a pill. We don’t need to  find God or suffer a stroke like Jill Bolte Taylor. To be alive is to utilize our senses. Sometimes we are so removed from them that we feel lost. We can be caught up in culture, in judgment, in  yesterday, in tomorrow. The now, the loving kindness we show to others and that we are shown; our humanity is our five senses. Happiness, when it seems elusive, is within us.  To use our senses, to love and give, to be loved and accept our gifts… we have only 23,000 protein-coding genes- about the same number as an ear of corn or a roundworm. We are not so complex.

Life is simple and I am grateful.

The final day of my arbitration was held on Thursday, December 10th, 2009 in Coquitlam, British Columbia. I was very impressed with the lawyer for the union (for ME!) as he presented the closing arguments for our case. It was clear that he had developed personal respect for me, a deep and persoanl respect for the environmental issues surrounding the case and ultimately a fine argument in law.

The experience, although harrowing over the years of waiting ,  was indeed INTERESTING and  if nothing else, good or bad,  SCHOOL DISTRICT 36  vs BC TEACHERS’ FEDERATION  ELAINE WILLIS -DUTY TO ACCOMMODATE will ultimately set a precedent in arbitration law.

And my lawyer truly did such a fine job in the end. The professionalism I couldn’t see at all in the beginning shone through in spades.  The beginning of the journey was extremely  rough – he didn’t, I feel, see me as a person – didn’t see past my disabilities. In the end he saw more than that. In the end there was, I believe, mutual respect. He recognized that I am a teacher and quoted me several times. I was touched. His words were sincere, eloquent and heartfelt – and if I taught one person about the environmental impact of chemicals as opposed to my need for a fragrance free workplace, then I did a good thing! So I have to be happy in the end, whatever the outcome.

The battles for those of us with disabilities, and especially for those of us with Multiple Chemical Sensitivity, are huge. There are many false beliefs about our abilities and the nature of our disabilities. The truth remains that we are people, to be treated as all people, with dignity, equality and respect. We are not to be shut away in our homes as society continues to demand of us.

Education is enlightenment. I WILL CONTINUE TO BE A TEACHER!  This process may enable me to do so for a living as well!

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.

I had the good fortune to spend my past weekend with an environmentally conscious group of people. It is delightful to be amongst people with such an awareness. On the whole they also have an openness to new information as well so that when provided with information about chemical sensitivity they are much less defensive than the average citizen of the EARTH.

One of the days was a sunny one and since we were headed outdoors, someone took note of my fair skin and offered me some sunscreen. I always try to be careful when I get on my soapbox so I prefaced the speech with, “I understand your concern, and my husband died of melanoma cancer so i know the potential dangers of UV exposure…but…” and then I proceeded to read the list of chemicals on his sunscreen. I hadn’t even got to the word fragrance when he told me he hadn’t thought about the contents at all and that he was rather convinced that this was an issue he should think about.

We have been told we need to protect ourselves from the sun. We have been sold packets of chemicals in plastic tubes and bottles which have only recently begun to undergo testing as to their safety for our use. Just reading a label can tell us, gut instinct alone, that we don’t want or need these products. The next step is, of course, learning about them.

Here are some facts from http://www.care2.com:

In products such as perfume, shampoo, fabric softener, bleach, air fresheners, dishwashing liquid, laundry detergent, soap, hairspray, shaving cream, aftershave, deodorants, nail polish remover, and more, synthetic ingredients are used to create fragrance. Many of these ingredients are toxic and can cause adverse reactions. Look for these ingredients in products containing fragrance and avoid them if you can:

Acetic acid, benzyl ester: Targets nerves and kidneys; possible carcinogen.

Benzyl alcohol: Central nervous system (CNS) depressant.

Diethyl phthalate: Possible risk of congenital malformation in the fetus; targets nerves.

Musk ketone: Increases carcinogenic effects of other materials. Remains stored in blood, fat tissue, and breast milk; crosses placental barrier.

Musk xylene: Carcinogenic in animal studies. Stored in blood, fat tissue, and breast milk; crosses placental barrier.

6-Octen-1-ol, 3,7-dimethyl: Extremely destructive to mucous membranes and upper respiratory tract tissues.

Toluene: Carcinogenic, Targets liver, kidneys, brain, or bladder. One of nine major starting materials for synthesis of fragrance chemicals. Addictive.

4-Vinylphenol: Toxic. May impair fertility. Toxic by inhalation. Respiratory and skin sensitizer.

2,6-Xylenol: Toxic. Harmful by inhalation. Material is extremely destructive to upper respiratory system, eyes, and skin. Corrosive.

Acetone: Inhalation causes dryness of the mouth and throat, dizziness, nausea, incoordination, slurred speech, drowsiness, coma in extreme cases. CNS depressant.

Benzaldehyde: Narcotic. Sensitizer. CNS depressant. May cause kidney damage and irritation to the mouth, throat, eyes, skin, lungs, and GI tract, leading to nausea and abdominal pain. Do not use with contact lenses.

Benzyl Acetate: Carcinogenic. Irritating to eyes and respiratory passages. Causes systemic effects through skin. Do not flush to sewer.

Camphor: Irritant and CNS stimulant. Readily absorbed through body tissues. Irritation of eyes, nose and throat, dizziness, confusion, nausea, twitching muscles, and convulsions.

Ethanol: EPA hazardous waste. May cause fatigue and irritating to eyes and upper respiratory tract even in low concentrations. Initial stimulatory effect followed by drowsiness, impaired vision, ataxia, stupor. Causes CNS disorder.

Ethyl Acetate: Narcotic. EPA hazardous waste. Irritating to eyes and respiratory tract; headache and narcosis (stupor); skin drying and cracking; anemia with leukocytosis; and damage to liver and kidneys.

Limolene: Carcinogenic. Irritant and sensitizer. Wash thoroughly after using and before eating, drinking, and applying cosmetics. Do not inhale.

Linalool: This narcotic causes respiratory disturbances and CNS disorder and attracts bees. In animal tests, it was found to cause ataxic gait; reduced spontaneous motor activity and depression; respiratory disturbances leading to death; and depressed frog-heart activity.

Methylene Chloride: On hazardous waste lists. Carcinogenic. Stored in body fat; metabolizes to carbon monoxide, reducing blood�s oxygen-carrying capacity. Headache, giddiness, stupor, irritability, fatigue, and tingling in the limbs. Causes CNS disorder.

a-Pinene: Sensitizer. Damaging to the immune system, irritant to skin, eyes, and mucous membranes.

g-Terpinene: Causes asthma and CNS disorders.

a-Terpineol: Highly irritating to mucous membranes. Aspiration into the lungs can produce pneumonitis or even fatal edema. Excitement, ataxia (loss of muscular coordination), hypothermia, CNS and respiratory depression, and headache.

My posted comment:

A lot of these products are invented needs. For centuries our ancestors got along fine without any of them. TRY IT! Eliminating most chemical products from your life (almost anything your great-grandmother wouldn’t have recognized) is a safe bet. Then you are not buying these plastic bottles, either. You can save yourself and the planet!

As we work to make people in British Columbia a little more conscious of the pollution of airspace with fragrance and other harmful associated chemicals, the anti-smoking lobby continues with its fight. Many people think the smoking crackdown has been a complete success and it is a battle won. NOT SO!

In what perhaps should be a provincial responsibility, municipalities are left to determine smoking standards such as buffer zones, or how far away one must be from public doorways, windows and air intakes while smoking. Our provincial health authority is urging municipalities to increase the standard from 3 metres to 7.5 metres. So far only Anmore, Belcarra and Port Moody have done so in the Tri-Cities. Port Coquitlam turned down the request citing it as a provincial responsibility.

I follow this news closely. Anmore now has a scent-free municipal hall. Recognizing harmful chemicals in indoor air is progressive and I don’t see leadership on this issue from our provincial government…YET!