What are Environmental Sensitivities (ES)?
Environmental Sensitivities (ES) is when one experiences health impacts after exposure to foods, chemicals, pesticides, moulds, electromagnetic fields and radio frequencies from wireless technologies. May also be referred to as Environmental Illness (EI).
Some of these are considered aspects of ES and some are related conditions. Others are connected to a toxic event such as those with Gulf War Syndrome.
- Multiple Chemical Sensitivities (MCS or CS)
- Multiple Chemical Sensitivity — The End of Controversy
- Gulf War Syndrome
- Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME)
- Lyme Disease — ES may be part of it
- Electromagnetic Hypersensitivity and Radio Wave Sickness
Symptoms may occur in any of the body systems and vary in severity from one case to another.
- Skin: rashes, inflammation, itching, burning
- Lungs: asthma, burning, twitchy, coughs, COPD
- Cardiac: palpitations, chest pains
- Immune system: over or under active, unstable
- Muscles & joints: pain, aching, swelling, cramping
- Gastro-intestinal: pain, boating, diarrhea, and constipation
- Central Nervous System: Tingling, numbness, skin crawl, twitches and agitation. Depression is common as a residual effect of a reaction.
- Brain: Brain fog, loss of words, poor memory and impaired thought processes are very common.
Causes of ES
Sensitization may occur due to multiple exposures or from one large exposure.
ES may occur due to an exposure at home, school, the workplace or in a public place.
May be due to:
- Solvent or chemical exposures
- Drug (such as antibiotics)
- Physical injury (car accident, head injury)
- Viral infection
- Mental or emotional trauma (death of loved one)
Some of the most common triggers are: paints, solvents, fragrances, perfumes, aromatherapy, fragranced personal care, air fresheners, laundry products, fabric softeners, cleaning products, pesticides, herbicides, fuels, exhausts, noise, electrical fields, radio frequencies, wireless equipment, fluorescent lights and moulds.
Injury Scenarios — Risk & Prevention
No one plans to be ill with ES.
All of the scenarios briefly show how easy it is to acquire Environmental Sensitivity (ES) and how little it takes to prevent it.
Take action and prevent yourself or someone you know from being disabled by this condition.
Renovation in Home or Workplace
Workers, homeowners and their families are exposed to construction fumes during a build or renovation and the off-gassing of materials after.
There are many sources of pollutants including solvents in paints, glues and sealants. Toxins are also released from the carpets, cabinets, new furniture and building materials affecting multiple body systems.
The body's detoxification pathways can become overwhelmed, particularly if the one is already ill or has health challenges.
Select the least-toxic building materials for the situation and your personal health.
Renovate or build during summer months when the windows can be open the most.
Fragrance Exposure in Workplace
Personal use of and co-workers use of scented personal care products such as soap, hair products, deodorant, aftershaves, colognes and fragrances.
Worker may be slightly sensitive to start with or become sensitive as a result.
If there is no fragrance-free policy in place and an employee communicates their fragrance sensitivity problem to the offending party it is often not taken seriously.
The person sensitized frequently tries to put up with the chemical assault to keep their job. The end result is that the employee frequently acquires ES and goes on disability. Recovery to pre-exposure is rare.
Create an indoor air quality and fragrance-free policy and a protocol to process complaints. Make workers health a priority.
- Policy for Developing a Scent-Free Workplace (PDF 165 KB) from the BC Lung Association.
- A sample policy (PDF 217 KB) from the American Lung Association.
Cleaners & Air Fresheners
Air freshener exposure includes plug-in fragrances, car fresheners, as well as solid and spray fresheners. Cleaners include chemical commercial cleaner products, scented cleaners and products marketed as natural with aromatherapy.
Many ES persons become sensitive to almost all fragrance sources. Exposure can occur at home, in public or the workplace.
Natural does not mean a fragrance is not a sensitizer, allergen or toxic to the person.
Air freshener chemicals mask odors or fool the nose. They can access body systems by being absorbed through the skin and inhaled through the lungs.
Only use unscented, least-toxic cleaning products and introduce fresh air by ventilating.
If using an air purifying machine do not use one that produces ozone as it harmful to the lungs and can combine with some toxins to compose new ones.
Scented Laundry Products and Fabric Softeners
Products used are absorbed through the skin by being in contact with the fabric or clothes and allergic or neurotoxic reactions occur.
Laundry products can also impact others when they are exhausted through the dryer vent.
Neurotoxic chemicals can affect the balance and thought processes of ES persons.
When the chemicals or fragrance in products are inhaled they can bring on asthma attacks in sensitive people and sensitize the lungs in others.
- Use least-toxic, unscented laundry soaps.
- Replace fabric softeners with use of the Static Eliminator in the dryer or non-PCV dryer balls.
Used in homes, apartments and workplaces.
Integrated pesticide management should be used. Each pest has what it prefers for a habitat. By removing the ideal conditions most will not thrive and move on. Use least toxic alternatives if needed.
Lawn Herbicides and Fertilizers
Can also be tracked into homes where children and pets frequent and ingestion can occur easily.
Theses are cancer-causing, hormone-disrupting neurotoxins that can be easily transferred from lawn to pet and then to child. Children and pets can lick objects and ingest.
Remove your shoes at the door.
Learn how to care for your lawn without chemicals. Have more tolerance for weeds in order to keep you and your neighbors safe.
- Beyond Pesticides Factsheet
- Organic Lawn Care 101 (PDF 159 KB).
- Sierra Club 10 Steps to Non-Toxic Lawn Care
- Debra Lynn Dadd &mash; Live Toxic Free
WiFi networks and Wireless Technologies
Wireless technologies of all kinds including cordless phones, cell phones, cell towers, radio towers, wireless routers in homes. CFL light bulbs also emit radio frequencies.
Wireless networks broadcasts through walls of your home and can enter into others living spaces especially when living in apartment buildings. The frequencies have health impacts on the nervous system, which can affect other systems of the body.
Use technology prudently and practice prevention where possible and especially if symptoms occur.
- Install a hard-wired router not a wireless one for your computer.
- Avoid living in WiFi areas, near cell or radio towers.
- If using a cell phone — do not wear it on your body.
- Incandescent lights and some, not all, LED and halogen lights do not emit radio frequencies.
Moulds and Black Mould
A problem so common that many do not take it seriously until they are ill.
Note: mould and mold refer to the same problem: mould is a Canadian spelling and mold is an American spelling.
Black mould can be found around windows, bathtubs, unfixed leaks or in walls due to leaks building or roof.
Moulds give off VOCs (gases) and impact both the body systems and the brain function.
Fix any wet or rotted wood and any leaks in the house or on the roof.
Open windows and use fans in bathroom and over stove on a regular basis to prevent moisture build up.
- Use a dehumidifiers if needed.
- Install humidistat switch on bathroom fan.
- Dr. Grace Ziem and Chemical Injury/Chemical Sensitivity
- Multiple Chemical Sensitivity Research at James Madison University
Updated: September 26, 2016