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The Burden of Chemical Sensitivities

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The Burden of Chemical Sensitivities

I am a chemically hypersensitive lawyer in Ontario, at the six-year mark with the condition: three years going down, with only a vague idea of what was happening and three years coming up, once I got the information from a 20-year chemically-sensitive "veteran" who made it her business to try to save my life through educating.

I am a chemically hypersensitive lawyer in Ontario, at the six-year mark with the condition: three years going down, with only a vague idea of what was happening and three years coming up, once I got the information from a 20-year chemically-sensitive "veteran" who made it her business to try to save my life through educating me.

At the outset, she was not at all sure that I would make it. I had no medical assistance, which, considering the state of the art as it applies to multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS), was probably the greatest mercy of all. No one got the opportunity to misdiagnose and mistreat me. I am sure that would have killed me very quickly, due to the dangerous point that I was at. I had almost no background in health matters, science, the environment or in the politics of these.

It took me a long time to figure out why, when I fell ill in response to poisoning by insecticide in my workplace, I didn’t receive help from the traditional sources. Rather, I had entered some sort of mysterious "nether world" where something that I could not determine seemed to be going on in the mind of every doctor I consulted. Although I did not fully understand what was up, it was clear to me that I would be getting no help in any respect from the medical profession.

Medical Skepticism

One doctor suggested antihistamines (to counter what must have been apparent as serious and ongoing pesticide poisoning since I provided details)! Another suggested that I refrain from telling anyone about it. (In retrospect, I believe he was trying to help me avoid the struggle ahead.) Another looked sorrowfully at me and insisted I be tested for AIDS! Had I not looked distinctly unlike a drug addict in physical terms–skin, hair, eye condition–I would have been accused of being a cocaine addict.

I have recently been investigated for welfare fraud since I have regained health and vigor in my appearance. No one suggested I had gone insane. I think, in retrospect, they were afraid to use that tactic with a lawyer who did not know much about the health problem she had fallen into but certainly knew that the insecticide/ workplace air had caused it.

I did not fully understand the entirety of what had occurred. Nor did I understand that I would not get better, or what I would have to do to get back normal daily "wellness". And I certainly did not understand that these topics were off limits for discussion–or why.

Cloak of Silence

Persons in positions of authority on matters of health have a vested interest in maintaining chemical sensitivities in a cloak of mystery. It is one thing to leave someone on the sidelines of life (which many of those with MCS can survive if they have independent means or private support). It is quite another to leave a victim to die from starvation. That is what happens when medicine generally denies that a physical condition exists. Organizations and governments providing services take their cues from doctors on the provision of assistance and services. In the case of this particular illness, the medical establishment’s lack of honest action translates into a total lack of support.

For instance, I am unable to work in my profession as I cannot enter the regular office workspace. I live in virtual isolation in a small village for the purpose of having clean outdoor air and I continue to painstakingly avoid chemicals in all things. I cannot get volunteer transportation assistance to a water pipe in the side of a nearby hill in order to access the only water I am able to drink.

This lack of support is why many good people, through no fault of their own, spend their lives demeaned, humiliated, insulted and belittled on the sidelines of existence, struggling to maintain air clean enough to breathe, water clean enough to drink, food clean enough to eat. It is part of a carefully-crafted (unspoken perhaps), implicit plan to undermine victims of chemical sensitivity and the fact that toxic chemicals can cause such injury.

Protecting the Bottom Line

Doctors fear MCS becoming a legitimate physical health condition known to the public, since it cuts to the heart of their own legitimacy as "health" practitioners. Their profession depends heavily upon a public perception of chemicals as purveyors of health over the "mysterious causes" of illness. The longer the causes remain mysterious, the better, in their view. The association of the word "chemical" with the causes of ill health is to be avoided at all cost.

The chemical/pharmaceutical corporations also have a vested interest in ensuring that their products do not become sullied in the public mind by word association. Since these companies initiate research for their own profit, it’s not surprising that so little MCS research is being done.

Government doesn’t want to annoy its patrons (big business) by looking into their products and discovering them to be major causes of human illness. Governments also don’t want to find themselves in the blatantly complicit position of being a party to the causing of serious illness by not acting on what they find. Better to do no research at all.

In the interests of keeping the cat in the bag, all government-funded organizations (and many of the charitable ones as well) are being misinformed or not informed at all as to the existence, nature and cause of multiple chemical sensitivity and what it takes to accommodate it as a serious disability. Why would the average worker in such organizations so readily accept pronouncements that do not jibe with the regular evening news and what it says about injury by chemicals?

I came to realize that where one set of information conflicts with another, the decision-making party will always choose the path of least resistance and of greatest benefit. So employees will always go with what their superiors set down as the truth. In addition, particularly where MCS is concerned, the real truth is too horrifying to handle.

All of this is to keep the eyes of the public shut, lest they put two and two together and come up with the stunning conclusion that environments are us, the poisoned animals are us, the oily waterfowl are us, the habitat lost is ours, the species in decline is us. Multiple chemical sensitivity is the clearest proof there is.

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