Melva Smith

I was born in late fall in the early 60’s in Rural Jefferson County, KY. Grew up on a farm filled with pesticides, and attended school in newly built facilities.

I began to have flu like symptoms after moving into a newly built home in 1976. Everything was outgassing, the carpet, counter tops, floor. The house had that “new” smell that everyone likes so well. At the time we thought nothing of it.

Our house was often filled with smokers, and I would become spacey, and sometimes moody when they smoked. This was passed off as allergy.

1979-1980 I attended college.

Spencerian College was filled with smoke from the break room, and I couldn’t concentrate on what I was studying. I often became very dizzy and faintish while there.

1980-1984 I attended the University of Louisville where they determined I could not comprehend what I read. I took a reading class and had to repeat it!!!! Many of the buildings were of new construction, and in those, especially the newly build Extrom Library, I would feel spacey, faintish, and my limbs would grow cold. In the Fall of 1983, I was so chronically fatigued that I could hardly drag myself to class. I my already low grades began to tumble, and I began to cut class because I felt so bad.

In the Winter of 1983 I took a job in a local Art Museum and worked in the newly built wing. I was then moved to a position over a woodworking shop. Each time an exhibit would come in I would become severely dizzy, and confused. My limbs would turn cold and I felt faintish. I was told I was over reacting. The museum’s guests often wore heavy perfume, and cologne, which I reacted to by becoming spacey. This was a wake up call that I could not heed as I was unaware of what was happening to my body. My body was screaming, but I didn’t know exactly why.

The building was under constant rennovation during my employment there. By this time I was sensitive to perfume, foods, cleaners, and pollens. Allergies, I was told. In the Fall of 1984 I eventually fainted, and they couldn’t get a blood pressure on me. This wen’t on for 5 ½ years until I often could not make it up the steps to work even if someone drove me.

Several years ,and many toxic work exposures later, I was told I had Multiple Chemical Sensitivity. It was after I eliminated as many chemical products from my life as possible that I found I had been reacting to them.

By the 90’s I began reacting to pesticides, and lawn sprays to the point of having to totally avoid them.

I am currently disabled, and wish that someone had gotten me out of the toxic environments before additional damage was done to my body. Looking back, I had all the warning signs to avoid chemical exposure. No one bothered to take my reactions seriously, nor to inform me about Multiple Chemical Sensitivity.

Doctor’s need to recogonize the warning signs and get patients out of environments that are making them ill rather than wait until they become disabled for life.

Melva Gail Smith

Patricia F., 

Exposed 9/97 University Las Vegas Nevada. Students using Acetone outside by the intake system.

Allergic now to formaldehyde, Phenol, Benzene, Synthetic alcohol, Chlorine, Glycerin, Ink, Pine trees, other trees, grasses, pollens, dusts, foods, horses, cats, dogs. Basically allergic to everything that the allergist had that she could test for.

Reactions: Numbness in the face, paralysis, severe pain in the head, swelling of tongue, skin crawling, lose of voice, blurred vision, disoriented, asthmatic attacks, weakness - legs will go out from under me, joint pain, memory loss and so on and so on.

Paule H.

I have been diagnosed with Fibromyalgia.

When I first became sick, 12 years ago in 1986, I was in terrible pain all over, as well as seeing double, not focusing properly, having to get up 10 times a night to go pee, always stuffy and constantly going from 1 cold to another with maybe 1 day break in between and the colds (or flus or allergies?) lasting 2-4 weeks each and many more problems. I felt I was going down the drain!

After learning about the effect of sick building materials on health, we moved to an older home with real wood subfloors and harwood floors throughout. This helped quite a bit.

Then I managed to improve many symptoms like stuffiness, bladder problems, and much pain like arthritis by testing my foods one at a time and going back to my 2 safe foods when I had a bad reaction. Corn was causing me a lot of muscle and joint pains, which in turn caused a lot of tiredness and a very heavy feeling .

In 1991, I had my mouthfull of dental amalgams removed after a severe relapse in my condition (from having felt well enough to try to train as a Montessori teacher and having visited toxic schools out of town for 2 days).

Where I live is kind of a backwater for new technology, so I had to find a dentist at quite a distance. I had to fly in, and it was expensive, so the dentist removed everything except the root canal in one day.

When he was done, I felt like I was floating on the chair and I started to cry. He asked if he had been rude with me. I said no, it's just that I felt like 500 lbs were lifted off my shoulders and it felt so good.

Even before going back for the root canal, which he had to take out the day he put the permanent fillings in, and which was very painful for months, my condition restabilized and I started gaining weight again. I was in much less pain.

Another step came when I did my clinical training as a herbalist and we realized I was very deficient in Vit A.

I apparently needed 80,000iu/day but, having been raised by an M.D., I was scared of the high amounts and only used 50,000/day. After 2 weeks, I was feeling much better, with more energy, and I had not realized I was still carrying so much pain.

Now the pain rarely curtails my activities. When it does, it is usually related to a chemical or food exposure of some kind , mostly chemical: going shopping, to a day-long meeting or conference, exposure to paint or pesticide.

Sometimes I need a shiatsu or massage treatment after a few days to get rid of the "gravel" and re-establish energy and circulation flow, but the pain, heaviness, and tiredness are usually helped by changing clothes immediately upon coming home, soaking in a bath, usually with Epsom salts, and dressing up after in clean non-toxic clothes washed with my acceptable soaps, etc.

I would like to say that if I did not have an environmentally clean house to live in and only used environmentally acceptable cleaning and maintenance products I have tested for my tolerance, I would not be able to see the link between my exposures and the pain they cause.

For instance, I went to Calgary and slept in the car for 3 nights in the City. I had a number of errands and visiting to do, so I stayed in the City, and it was too polluted to open the windows at night.

By the second night, I hardly slept, woke up repeatedly to pee, and when I got home, I felt I did not have muscles but steel bands everywhere!

By comparison, when we go camping in Banff and I do not get anywhere near civilization for 1 week, I feel much better, especially if it does not rain and I have the car window open with a screen in. We choose a section of a campground without fires, my sense of humour comes back, I have enough energy to do 18 mile hikes to high passes and I sleep better. Of course, my muscles ache after the first hike but that at least is a normal aching after unusual exercise.

In spite of my safe house with air filtration, I usually feel better outside, except this year with all the forest fire smoke and pesticides. I usually get somewhat worse in winter which I attribute to cooking smells in the house. I dream of building an addition and move the stove totally outside of my living area so I can decrease the winter indoor pollution and don't have to smell cooking smells!


Nova Scotia, Canada; teacher

I became ill 9+ years ago from exposure to chemicals released after a fire which smoldered over a weekend, saturating the building with smoke. Air system was cleaned outside , but not inside (and not replaced), placing over 150 children and over 12 adults at great risk when put back in the school after 2 weeks. My own children ages 10 and 7 were very sick for more than 2 years.

Sherry, R.N.

I was diagnosed in August 1993 with chronic fatigue immune dysfunction syndrome.

I left my job at a local hospital as a RN in June of 1992 when I just could not function anymore.

I spent the next year trying to find out what was wrong, seeing many Dr. and being told several times I was depressed and trying the magic pill only to find out, the pill almost killed me.

The next Dr. treated the headaches with medication that I could not tolerate either. Before this time in my life, I had been able to take any kind of medication without a problem, now it seemed I could not tolerate even the most benign medication.

As time went on, I was finally diagnosed and I thought things would get better. Wrong again.

The chemical sensitivities began increasing and to date, even the faintest exposure to any chemical, any scent, send me into multi system attacks as I call them. The exposure causes problems with my respiratory system (asthma), GI system (nausea along with acid reflux), central nervous system (including headache, increased heart rate usually to 130’s, blood pressure increase, shaking, lightheadedness, etc.), skin (neck, upper chest turn bright red and burn), etc., the list could go on.

I am pretty sure my sensitivity is from long term low level exposure to chemicals both in my home and at work.

There are many opportunities for exposure in the hospital setting but I cannot remember any major exposure.  I always sprayed my yard with pesticides, herbicides, fertilizers and never can I remember really taking any precautions to protect myself. I guess it’s the old everyone else is doing it this way, why should I be different? Well, now I know why.

I have been begging my family, my friends, my neighbors, anyone that will listen to me to please stop the random spraying of chemicals, to please use organic products, and to stop buying all the scented products on the market.

I am hoping my story will cause someone to stop and think today, do I really need to spray this, will my lawn really suffer if there are weeds present? Do I really need to poison my body with all the perfumes and scented products we as a nation value more than our health?
I wish I could go back

20 years and start again, I promise you things would be different.

Suzanne F.

In 1996, the homeowners association for our 82-townhome community hired an unlicensed, uncertified lawn maintenance contractor. He sprayed wide swaths of RoundUp by Monsanto instead of edging around flower beds, hedges, etc.

I chewed on some of the grass that had been sprayed, and worked in and around it, not knowing it had been poisoned. Our eldest cat ate some of the poisoned grass. Our precious long-haired white cat friend, Puffin, died of renal failure as a direct result of eating the grass.

I almost died twice from this first exposure and four other major ones.

Two burned the insides of my lungs, one took a divot out of the cornea of my left eye, and the last one caused severe abdominal swelling that is still with me.

I became bed bound and could not walk without assistance.

I now have seizure disorder, damaged red blood cells, peripheral and central nervous system disorder, liver damage, toxic encephalopathy, and extreme chemical sensitivity.

E-mail Suzanne


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Last updated 3/3/00