The school year is readily approaching and with it comes a string of problems for parents who suffer from chemical intolerances aka MCS and TILT . Below is an outline of important facts that may help teachers, parents, and others better understand those who are suffering from these disabling conditions.So just what are we talking about here? What is TILT, what is MCS? For extensive information please click here and also read through our F&Q section here.
In a short summary as explained by Lisa Lavine Nagy M.D. who graduated Magna Cum Laude from The University of Pennsylvania and then from Cornell Medical College; “MCS is a multi-system disorder, usually polysymptomatic, caused by an adverse reaction to environmental incitants present in air, food, water, and habitats. Often caused by significant exposure to mold or chemicals then causing intolerance to small amounts of the same. It is not a psychiatric condition” Source

This means that a person with MCS cannot tolerate the chemical components in perfumes, laundry detergents, fabric softeners and other chemical toxins as outlined below:

  • “Formaldehyde which can be found in foam insulation, plywood, particleboard, and press cabinets, fabric finishes, new carpet, polyurethane foam rubber (used in pillows, cushions, mattresses and rug padding), mobile homes, adhesives, synthetic clothes that crease-resistant, wrinkle resistant.
  • Oil vapors: from oil furnaces, motor-oil air-conditioning filters, electric kitchen appliances such as food processors, blenders, can openers.
  • Polyethylene plastics: fake leather, artificial flowers, shower curtains.
  • Household chemicals such as dry cleaning chemicals in clothes, mothballs, rug-cleaning products, paints, solvents, stain removers, air fresheners, window washing compounds.
  • Polyesters in clothing, upholstery, drapery, furniture, and stuffing for pillows and quilts.
  • Pesticides residue on cotton and woolens; residues from exterminators.
  • Epoxy adhesives on plastics, electronic equipment (TVs, microwaves,) which release gases when heated up.
  • Common school paraphernalia such as carbon paper, ink, mimeographic and duplicating chemicals, glue.” Source 

So how does all this affect the new school year for a parent with MCS? Below are just a few facts to consider:

1. Back to school shopping cannot be done due to chemicals, molds, and VOCs present in stores. Parents with MCS are forced to purchase supplies online at a higher price.

2. Reviewing teaching curriculum books and other textbooks for the upcoming school year without wearing a respirator, using a glass reading box or setting books outdoors to air out for several weeks is impossible due to sensitivity to the ink, glue and other chemicals used in bookmaking.

3. Conferences and events with other students, teachers, and parents are out of the question as most use fragranced products.

4. Library visits and checking out library books is not an option due to the musty smells and fragrances both inside many libraries and impregnated on books.

5. New clothing for the school year has to be soaked in vinegar and water for days then washed several times in baking soda and fragrance-free soap to remove Formaldehyde and other chemicals used in the manufacturing process.

6. Even though you’d love to volunteer in school events, field trips, lunchroom activities, classrooms and PTA meetings you just can’t. There are too many chemicals in the air including fresheners and perfume which can render a person with severe MCS incapable of driving, walking or breathing.

7. Those who have been diagnosed with swelling in between tissues of the brain (Interstitial Edema), cognitive impairment caused by chemical injury or autonomic nervous system damage cannot follow through with new concepts as quickly as they did before getting sick. Their brain function can be drastically affected and in many cases, they can have severe lapses in both short and long-term memory.
In order to teach, tutor and guide their children they must spend double or triple the amount of time learning and relearning in order to help their children effectively. This is especially difficult for homeschooling parents.

If you can manage back to school week and the school year without any of the restrictions above, be thankful, between 15% and 35% of the population can’t. I share this information to raise awareness and because I struggled with back to school season for a long time and no one cared or understood why I couldn’t be a “normal” mom.

Fun Fact:
The World Health Organization says that as much as 24% of global disease is caused by environmental exposures.
Interestingly the WHO has a lot to say about some diseases caused by indoor air pollution. Did you know that there are 37 million cases per year; 41% of all cases globally of Lower respiratory infections, largely from air pollution, both indoor and outdoor?
Also, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) — a slowly progressing disease characterized by a gradual loss of lung function has approximately 12 million cases per year; 42% of all cases globally, largely as a result of exposures to workplace dusts and fumes and other forms of indoor and outdoor air pollution. Source

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