Chemical Sensitivity and Environmental Issues

This page is devoted to vital issues, both on a personal level and globally. This was originally posted as my blog, but I have transferred it to a page which I hope will enable readers to follow what interests them.

I want to share with you a number of things relevant to my work as an artist, photographer and musician, as well as my point of view as a person with particular health issues that are closely tied not only to my work, but to the important environmental issues facing the world today. Somehow this is all coming together for me in an exciting way. I hope I can inspire you. Maybe I can help you. Maybe, just possibly, I can also be one more drop in the ocean of environmental responsibility that could make some difference in the future of this beautiful planet. I hope so. I hope you will join me.

Who am I? I will tell you more, very soon. Meanwhile, perhaps you can begin to guess why this blog refers to "a canary of sorts". It has many meaningful implications!!

A Canary in Vermont??

Well, yes. Not caged, exactly, though sometimes. A pet? No. Sings? Kinda. Bird-lover? YES!

Haven't guessed yet?

Hint: "Coal Mine". 

What do Canaries have to do with piglets?


                                          ("Piglet"- watercolor by Cynthia Crawford)

Well, Piglets can't keep secrets for long. Piggles has decided to at least give you some bi-i-i-g hints.

You probably know about the tradition of keeping a Canary in a coal mine. Canaries are very sensitive to fumes and toxic gasses, etc. So if the Canary keeled over, the miners would know to get out of there, eve if they could not yet smell anything.

In modern times, there is a growing population of humans who feel they are the Canaries of the world. I'm one of them. Long before air pollution was a dirty word, we were already suffering from exposures to the myriad of toxins that are still being "discovered" today. It is time. I feel, to "come out" as a "Canary". Twenty years ago I remember trying to tell people about poor indoor air quality as a result of the great push for super-insulated "tight" houses. While this was and is a good idea, it also meant that no toxins escaped the house and little fresh air circulated. Such things as new carpets, synthetic fabrics on furniture and curtains, chemical cleansers, fresh paints , particle board construction, sprays, aerosols and scented cosmetics remained trapped in these houses, and all added to the chemical soup that made many people sick. But there was little solid proof at the time to back up an ailing Canary's claims. Some were ridiculed, some were thought to be mental basket cases...and a few were listened to with a modicum of respect. Today the same things are happening, but credibility has improved greatly. Light bulbs go off in people's heads when a Canary says something like "I get headaches every time I go in a carpet store." It has been proven that many carpets contain VOCs (volatile organic compounds) that make Canaries (and rats) keel over. Humans can't always see the light, and many still refuse to believe that a carpet can make a person ill. Until it happens to them. Then it is a matter of no choice. I still can't believe it happens to me. I don't want to. But the experience is overwhelming and direct.
Ah, if only it were so simple- remove carpets from house- get better. Avoid new carpets as much as possible. But once you become sensitized to chemicals in one product, everything snowballs into an avalanche of reactions, and it becomes extremely difficult to discern just which item or factors triggered a reaction.

Well, that's the tip of the (melting) iceberg. More to come...and it's not all gloom and doom, so bear with me.

I'll finish this rather long tirade with the words to a song- a round composed by... I'm sorry to say, I don't know. I will add composer if/when I find out:

"Be like a bird, who halting in her flight
On a limb too slight
Feels it giving way beneath her
Yet, sings, sings, knowing she has wings.
Yet sings, sings, knowing she has wings." 

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

A Canary's "Cage"

Well, I kinda dropped the ball, but here i am again. Wanted to tell you about my little home in the boonies. It was built around 25 years ago, out of a recycled barn frame, used windows and any materials that I could find that I wasn't allergic to, and that I could afford. That was a real challenge. But it paid off. Unlike some "canaries" I know, I was able to create a relatively safe haven where I could begin the long road to recovery from severe Environmental Illness (EI), or Multiple Chemical Sensitivities" (MCS).

The house contains no particle board, (which at that time contained formaldehyde glue). The walls are plaster, the framing is Hemlock boards- no plywood. No carpets- floors are birch. Cabinets are vintage Sears metal-heat was Intertherm baseboard electric- no "outgassing"...but very expensive! Now we have 2 gas direct vent heaters. They are very nice, but not perfect- some fumes are evident outdoors and occasionally seep in to the house. This can be a serious problem if it gets too bad. Solar, of course, would be perfect...but not affordable and not practical where I live.

I am very grateful for my little house and the beautiful woods I live in. However, they have been both my haven and my "cage" . When I was very ill, there was no other place I could go without getting reactions to something "out there". I could also not really go outdoors because of pollen/mold allergies. At present, I am able to be outdoors more, which I love, though there are still some limitations- those allergens, and in the winter, other people's woodsmoke.

Well, what is the answer for Canaries like me? I would love to see a special housing project that could accommodate people with MCS- it is very badly needed. People are living in their cars, travelling around in endless pursuit of a safe place to land. I know just the piece of land- down the road from me- a lovely hill with no other houses around, and room for cluster housing that would not be too intrusive in the woodlands here. A nice Solar location...

Ah, well, when I win the lottery...

So that is my blurb of the moment. I really think humans are rarely counting themselves among the endangered species, and some of us are most certainly already endangered with more, I fear, to follow. I AM very encouraged to see the level of awareness and concern in the community where I live- it is extraordinary.