Jo Later

My M.C.S. began immediately after surgery at age 47 for hysterectomy, having been a hospital med. tech. for 25 years, mostly working in a high stress stat lab. After that surgery done by the best, since I worked there, I returned to work to discover to my horror that perfume from the patients and everyone else made me so sick, also with severe sweating-all blamed on surgical menopause.

Gradually over the months all petrochemicals, newsprint, cleaning compounds etc were added to the list, with added aggravation of nightly headaches-a wake up call at 3am. -usually-   Having done the gamut of top specialists in all categories, I found an environmental allergist-Board Certified, who, with food tests, and other tests-pointed me in the right direction, which included AVOIDANCE if possible. 

Now I live in the wilderness-my house my oasis-as no perfume or tobacco coated people allowed. No I am not lonely, as the tremendous relief of symptoms afforded by a super clean environment is worth the isolation. Also I may add that birds don't wear perfume!!!! 


The Hawkins Family

Our nightmare still continues! In 1997 we called for pest control treatment for scorpions. We made the biggest mistake of our lives, without knowing. We got sick and our two year old little girl had the skin eat off her hands and feet. The problems continued to happen, from skin, to lung, kidneys, gallbladder and so on. The doctors brought up pesticides after about two months and two sprayings had already taken place. We called Otis Pest Control, they would not call us back. We called the poison control and they said get back to the doctors. We did, and it took about 4 months to get to feeling somewhat better and leaving our home. We also found out we were going to have another child in the middle of all this. The pregnancy was so unreal and very scary. We were told by the state (TDA) that our home was ok to move back into and that the pest control man did nothing wrong. Problems started all over again for us when we moved back in, and our little girl begin to run into things, fall down all the time and cry with leg pain, stay sick all the time, pop fevers, and complain with her stomach hurting as did we have our own problems. We called in a expert May of 1999 to test and home and found out high levels of one of the pesticides was still in our home. We took our children and left the house and everything in it. We lived out of our home for 7 months, and the cost to clean it up was over $21,000.00. We now have went to the EPA for help in all this mess and hope to see some form of justice. We hope they get the guy off the streets from spraying, before he poisons someone else. We know that our little girl that is now 4 has lost reflexes in her upper and lower body and that her immune system took a big hit, as for the little one I was pregnant with she is now almost 2 as of May 1999., and we don't now what all could be wrong with her we are still going through test on both children. We will continue this fight for justice, and hope that we can help out others along the way not have to go through what we have. My e-mail will be down at the bottom should anyone want to contact us. 

Thank You and God Bless All, 
Shane and Sandy Hawkins 



My name is Sylvia. My story begins 17 years ago. I began working in the office of a lithography plant. The office was attached to the plant, and we smelled the chemicals used to etch lithography plates all day long. I thought nothing of it. The chemicals were only dangerous when they got on your skin, right? The men in the shop had no protective gear except gloves. After working there for 2 years, I woke up numb on one side of my body. I saw a neurologist, was admitted to the hospital for tests, and a week later I got a diagnosis of multiple sclerosis. I spent weeks in the hospital, getting rehabilitation treatments and steroids. 

When I came home, I went back to work. My MS was invisible; only I knew I had it. 

I continued to work in the same place. A year later, a new tenant moved into the space below my workplace. Suddenly, even though it was June, everyone in the office felt flu symptoms. We were dizzy, nauseated, and very tired.  Over the weekend, the "flu:" went away. On Monday morning, we all felt sick again. 

We complained to one of our bosses. He went down to the new company. This company was painting and varnishing metals. The boss discovered that the exhaust pipe from their workspace vented right under the air conditioner intake for my workspace. 

This problem was corrected, but the old wooden floors of the building continued to leak fumes. On days when that company did a lot of work, I felt very ill with MS symptoms. 

I realized this was not going to stop, so I quit that job. However, life had changed for me. I could no longer tolerate nail polish, fresh paint, diesel exhaust, or pesticides. When exposed to these chemicals, my MS symptoms, such as dizziness and numbness, acted up. 

I continued using regular personal care products, perfume, regular cleaning products, and I didn't modify my lifestyle. 

Seven years ago, my MS got worse, and I had to quit work. As time went on, I became sensitive to more and more chemicals. Now I can no longer tolerate any "regular" products; I use chemical free personal care products, I clean with baking soda and white vinegar, and no one can enter my home wearing perfume, hair spray, or anything that "smells." When I leave my house, I take along a charcoal mask. I do not go many places anymore; I encounter too many chemicals in the outside world. 

I often wonder about the puzzle of my illnesses. Did chemical exposure cause my MS? Are MS and MCS related? I am still waiting for answers. 


I. Jones, R.N.

In December 1998 at my part-time job as an RN in Labor & Delivery, I was exposed to Benzoin Spray by an anesthesiologist who used it heavily on the back of a patient who was sitting facing me.  I became instantly hoarse and began to feel mucous form in my throat, causing me to have problems breathing and swallowing.  I was treated on the unit with Epinephrine and felt fine after about 45 minutes.

I was exposed again the following week when I walked past the door where the spray had been used.  I had the same, but more severe, symptoms and was hospitalized for 3 days (the spray was then banned from my unit). Subsequently, I have become sensitive to some cigarette smoke, moth balls, the chemicals that are used to clean the rooms in the hospital and paint fumes.  Prior to this, I  had no allergies/sensitivities.

My last exposure to the cleaning fumes occurred in November 1999.  The allergist whom I saw after the Benzoin exposure said that the Benzoin Spray could not have caused my reaction.  After the November exposure, I saw an allergist who specializes in chemicals/pollutants.  At least he listened and appeared to validate my symptoms, but wrote a letter to my hospital that was vague and useless to my attempt to get worker's comp.

I have not worked since November, but my union tells me that the hospital has to provide a job for me, so we'll see how things work.

How am I coping?  I am naturally a very positive person and I try to use avoidance to control exposure.  I was told by the first allergist that my problem must be psychological in nature.  I believe that very few
occurrences in life have no psychological component, but I also know that I have a great life and was not looking for an ailment.  Because I know that doctors are human and often have a need to be right, I shook off her assessment and continue to live each day looking forward to the next.  I eat right, exercise and have wonderful plans for my future, with or without medical validation.

I Jones, RN



My problems are thankfully not as severe as others on the Wall, but I thought my experience (below) might be of interest. 

I want to point out that some of my exposures were due to my own ignorance and carelessness, such as overuse and misuse of pesticides. 

People need to understand that pesticides are very dangerous and should NOT be used casually. I wish they weren't used at all. 

Thanks for all the work you're doing. 

Headaches/Possible Exposures 

Age 4: First migraine, with vomiting - Gramma's basement, near furnace. 

Age 5-8: More migraines - Gramma's house. Used frozen butter knife on forehead for relief. Gramma said children didn't have headaches. (I now realize most of my childhood headaches were at Gramma's house, which leads me to wonder about the furnace.) 

Age 6-7: Later reports revealed that the U.S. government conducted radiation experiments at a school in my neighborhood. (I attended another school.) Newspaper reports said that people living in the area blame the experiments for their health problems. 

Age 8 or 9: City started mosquito spraying every summer. I played outside all day, every day. Also swam frequently in local lakes where spraying may have been concentrated. Began disliking smell of some perfumes. 

Age 11: Developed migraine in newly rented house. Large blind spot in center of vision. 

1964, age 17: Migraine w/vomiting at Senior Prom - headache started at Gramma's house, where I mowed the lawn after getting my hair done at a downtown beauty salon. (I was not drinking.) 

1967, after move to new apartment: Constant headaches. Doctor prescribed iron, and said headaches were a common problem for bored/frustrated young housewives like me. Couldn't argue there. Can't remember if iron helped headaches, because I moved out of apartment (and left my husband) shortly afterward. Headaches went away. 

1969: Hospitalized overnight with carbon monoxide poisoning resulting from a leaky exhaust on a long drive. Oxygen provided immediate relief from excruciating pain. 

1972: Throw pillow fell on floor heater while I was sleeping and smoked for some time before bursting into flames. I carried it outside and threw water on it, but the thick artificial fibers that filled the pillow continued to smolder for about 12 hours in spite of repeated dowsings. Had a hard time waking step-brother, who was also exposed to smoke. 

1972-75: Frequently used No-Pest Strips (later banned for toxicity) in kitchen and dining area to control flies. 

1975: Had asthma attack while painting living room. 

1975: Developed sudden blinding headache while driving home from job interview -- blamed it on exhaust, but could've been caused by something (perfume?) at the interview. Barely got home in time to throw up in the toilet. 

1976: Fogged apartment for fleas at least twice in one summer. Followed directions to leave for 3 hours, then came back and opened windows, choking and coughing. Came back three hours later. Insecticide smell still caused respiratory irritation. 

1980: Used an entire can of Raid to spray mother's apartment for bad fly infestation, trying unsuccessfully to hold my breath. Aired the place out after three hours and took her back. 

1991: Working in basement job, had several migraines. Began seeing large blind spots. Opthamologist said it was probably caused by food allergy. 

1992: Developed sudden migraine while attending a class at U of M. Noticed strong perfume in classroom. Barely able to drive 20 miles home, where I threw up in driveway. 

1992: Began experiencing extreme drowsiness driving to work at 4 a.m. -- unable to control/focus eyes while driving, constant low-level headaches. 

1993: Moved into apt. w/gas fireplace in same bldg. w/roommate who used plug-in air fresheners in her bathroom. I tried them in mine and immediately began having migraines. Son had two emergency room visits for asthma. Tried Skin-So-Soft as mosquito repellant--immediate migraines. Stopped using it, but still had headaches. Finally traced them to leaky gas fireplace. Headaches ended when fireplace was fixed. 

1993: Bought a house, and began having immediate respiratory problems and headaches/vomiting episodes, which were traced to several gas leaks in the house. 

1994: Decided to try eliminating fragranced detergent, personal products and felt much better. Daily headaches stopped. Asked coworkers to stop wearing fragrance, with varying success. 

1994: Borrowed roommate's Tide to do laundry - migraines returned. Also noticed immediate return to extreme drowsiness driving to work at 4 a.m. -- unable to control/focus eyes while driving. Rewashed clothes in fragrance-free detergent and symptoms disappeared. Was finally convinced that fragrance is cause of headaches. 

1995: Attended business meeting and sat between two scented women for four hours. Developed migraine, drove home and vomited on side of road. 

1995: Attended seminar and had to wait in line in strongly "air-freshened" restroom for10-15 minutes. Developed immediate migraine. Went home and vomited. 

1996: Developed migraine after coworker shared 'natural' hand lotion with me. Asked new employer to enforce company ban on fragrance in work area. Coworkers ignored him. Suffered frequent headaches as a result. 

1997: After several headaches, asked new supervisor (same company) to ask employees to stop wearing fragrance, without much success. 

1997: Tried to clean mildew from shower with chlorine bleach (straight). Fumes caused sore throat, some respiratory distress. Stopped using chemical cleaning products. 

1999: Asked employer to ban fragrance again, with more success this time, but one employee continued to wear strong, sickening fragrance. Asked her privately to stop wearing perfume, which she insisted she wasn't wearing. We finally figured out it was her lotion. She graciously stopped wearing it, but soon left the company. Her replacement wore fragrance that caused headaches/nausea. I quit. 

Present:  Now working at home, part-time. Sensitivity is increasing. Fragrances on buses and in supermarket give me headaches after only brief exposure (5-10 minutes). One fragrance on a bus caused an asthma attack, though I don't have asthma. 

Began showering and washing hair after being out in public--otherwise, residual fragrance *on me* rubs off on sheets, pillows, blankets, and I spend days doing laundry over and over to root out the cause of my headaches. Can no longer sit or lie down on couch because of lingering detergent/fragrance from the clothes of visitors. 

Asked son's friends to shower and change into his clothes when they come to visit. Asked close friend to change detergent and personal products so she and her family can visit. Asked son's class not to wear fragrance on the days that I read to them. 

Decided to stay home as much as possible to avoid exposure, bought a mask to wear on the bus. Trying to learn more about eliminating toxins from my system, organic foods, cleansing programs, saunas, Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT). Trying to find an EI (Environmental Illness) doctor who can help me now that I no longer have health insurance



I was employed for a total of 15 years in a printing company and exposed to numerous chemicals at a very high level. In March of 1996 I suffered an acute full blown manic episode from toxic encephalopathy. Because my father was treated for depression 23 years earlier I was diagnosed as having Bipolar Disorder and told it was a hereditary condition that had nothing to do with the chemicals I worked around. I was 33 years old at the time, in excellent physical condition, had no history of a mental health problem, had never had a learning disability, was a non-smoker, non-alcoholic and never done illegal drugs. The symptoms I suffered were chronic insomnia, visual hallucinations, delusional thoughts, confusion and cognitive difficulties. After taking 2 months to stabilize on medications I returned to the same job.

By August of 1996 the symptoms began to occur again and by November I had another manic episode requiring hospitalization. Again it took 2 months to stabilize on medication and return to the same job. I began taking evening college courses but had difficulty retaining information and taking tests. By July of 1997 symptoms began to occur again. The medications I was on were oversedating and I gained 50 pounds while working around the same chemicals. I became physically unable to do the activities I used to enjoy. 

 I was at my wits end by November of 1997, unable to deal with continued manic highs and hospitalizations. I sought help from a medical doctor who practices complementary medicine. He ran a number of state of the art tests that took a period of 3 weeks to get back. In the mean time he recommended a number of supplements to try and correct the problem of chronic insomnia. I could not deal with the symptoms of mania for the period of 3 weeks until the results came back and chose to be hospitalized. Because of insurance changes I had to be under the care of a new hospital and doctor. The psychiatrist who treated me told me not to go back to see the results of the tests and to discontinue seeing the alternative practicing doctor. She also made me promise to throw away hundreds of dollars of nutrient supplements recommended by the other doctor. 

The results of the tests indicated numerous abnormalities including past exposure to lead. I began a series of intravenous chelation treatments as well as a multimodal use of numerous other complementary treatments. On my own I began looking into the factor of the chemicals at work. At this point in time the therapies I used successfully reduced the level of toxins and subsequently all symptoms of manic highs/insomnia/visual hallucinations have subsided for over one year. The medication Neurontin also helped a great deal in treating the encephalopathy. My worker's compensation claim has been highly disputed thus far, my attorney told me at the last hearing the board throws cases like this out everyday. I have at least four doctors willing to support my claim, I have had neuropsychological testing that also confirms a cognitive deficit as a result of chemical exposure. 

I truly feel that situations like this open Pandora's Box. There are numerous medical studies that reveal the toxic effects of chemicals used in industries and also products used for household purposes relating them to many illnesses. There is also strong conclusive evidence in the use of alternative therapies in successfully treating illnesses. Because of the already high costs of compensation related illnesses, jobs lost to foreign competition where labor is cheaper and industry does not have pressure to comply with environmental concerns, support of the medical model's use of drug therapy, costs to companies in installing proper ventilation systems, updating to safer equipment and numerous other issues cases of chemical exposure are "thrown out everyday". 

I am fortunate that my health has been improved greatly but I am dishearted with the fact that there has been so much dishonesty on the part of so many professionals who have taken the side of corporate greed, neglecting the health of so many individuals. How sad it is that so much money is invested into searching for cures to illnesses when the cause, prevention and natural cures are at hand but go overlooked because of the almighty dollar. 

I would be happy to pass along information to anyone else if it could help 



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