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Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Something Nasty In The Drains

Did you enjoy your nanoparticles for breakfast? Did the others in your toothpaste whiten your teeth to your satisfaction? Did those in your fabric conditioner transfer easily and permanently to everything you sat on? Are those in the clothes pegged out on the line now floating free at least 100 metres away as they are intended to? And are all those up your nose blocking all the smells of the world?

In the first case it could be the flavourings and the flavour enhancers such as MSG. In the second we are looking at titanium dioxide. The third could be benzene or cyanide based aromatics, the fourth fabric conditioners and the fifth anything that claims to “get rid of smells” or more accurately getting rid of your sense of smell.

An interested party who likes to check out the patent submissions submitted by various companies for their personal and household products tells me that recently it has been common to reduce the particle size of the ingredients to allow substantial increases in their surface areas.

This allows much bigger impact from smaller quantities and greater penetration. When AllergyUK endorse products on the grounds that allergens etc. have been reduced they are not aware that in fact they could be helping to market products that are hugely more powerful and for those vulnerable, a great deal more toxic.

As science in the UK is devoted now to “added value” there is nobody here to look at the issues independently. Elsewhere some are able to in the name of science. At Duke University, Durham, North Carolina, the School of Civil and Environmental Engineering have done some work on Titanium Dioxide which is widely used in a great variety of products. The research was funded by the National Science Foundation of the USA and CEINT.

Their estimate is that whilst in 2002 the use of nanoparticles of this product was negligible by 2009 the level was 2.5% and is expected to rise to 10% by 2012 and assuming rapid expansion then by 2025 could be 2.5 million metric tons. They go on to say:

"Knowing the amount of this material is important because the more of it we make, the more likely it is to enter the environment and come into contact with humans with unknown consequences," said Mark Wiesner, professor of civil and environmental engineering and senior member of the research team. He also directs the federally funded Center for the Environmental Implications of NanoTechnology (CEINT), which is based at Duke.

We do not have a good handle on how much is out there, and even less about what that might mean," he continued. "Finding an upper limit on the potential for exposure is the critical first step in assessing risk. Even if these nanoparticles are toxic, a low exposure to them may limit the risk.

We just don't know yet. I like to use the example of sharks. Everyone knows they're dangerous, but not if you spend your entire life in Nebraska.

Now that the researchers have a better idea how much of this nanomaterial could be produced in the coming years, they plan to focus on specific types of products.

We want to get a better idea of where in the process these nanoparticles might be released into the air, water or soil," Robichaud said. "It could be during mining, during the production of the nanoparticles, production of the specific product using the nanoparticles, the use of the product, or its ultimate disposal."

There is no doubt that nanotechnology has valuable and desirable attributes in many fields, notably particular areas of medicine and engineering and much to offer in the future. But stuffing an increasingly wide range of exceptionally powerful chemicals designed to have a major impact on body and brain into many food products, into routine household and personal cosmetic products, and into fragrances actually designed to impact on the general environment is taking huge risks.

No wonder the bees cannot find their way home and the fish are changing sex. But there is one certainty; that is the UK government will do everything in its power to defend the shareholder value of the companies concerned whatever the casualty rate might be.

Saturday, 27 March 2010

Shop Until You Drop

Consider this wild idea. I go into my garage, take the bucket I use for clearing the drains and put a variety of things into it. I put in a small amount of used engine oil, some petrol, a few liquids off the shelf in plastic bottles and some old detergent and fabric conditioner.

Then I remind myself it had better be classified as “natural” so I add what the cat left behind, some manure garnered from a passing horse rider, and a liquid bought from a door to door salesman who assured me that the bottled product of his goat would cure my skin problems.

This is then “let down” with a lot of ethanol, derived from corn, so again is “natural”, coloured with some potassium cyanide and put into the pesticide spray device that I used on the garden, the one that killed all those unwanted worms, the residue of which will allow me to claim that it has antibacterial properties.

Then I trot along to the local supermarket and rigorously spray all the products, especially the food aisles with open display, the fish counter, and the delicatessen. Just to make sure I give the Organic section a double helping. I claim to be doing this as a public service and to ensure shoppers all have the same quality.

What might then happen? Assume that I am then arrested and arraigned before a Jury. How do I defend myself? The obvious defence is that I am not doing anything that differs from what many supermarkets are now doing and other food and retail outlets.

They are using “air conditioning” and “air freshening” devices in their ventilation systems and very active in pushing scents and chemicals into the air of their stores to create an atmosphere which they intend to promote sales. The delicate aroma of goat’s product they hope will enhance the demand for the organic goat’s cheese. It might be a highly distilled version of it or it might be the laboratory product of a chemical factory staffed by forced labour somewhere up a large river in Asia.

Of course, their stuff will be a lot more cleverly made than mine. They will have had highly paid teams of chemical engineers using powerful synthesised chemicals to create the aromatics and air treatment substances tuned to an exact requirement. Not only will they wipe out your sense of smell they will be engineered to impact on your brain and behavioural responses.

My problem is that I will have to get the evidence. Because the supermarket and its suppliers of their substances will not be required to produce it, indeed they will be protected from revealing either the content or the processes of manufacture on the grounds of “commercial confidentiality”

Indeed, if the product is actually made in the UK on the basis of government funded research the raw data on which they make their claims for the product will have been routinely destroyed. Of course there is no government funded research into the long term or other effects or to seek causes of problems. This does not create added value.

How might I avoid the penalties of the law for interfering in the supermarket’s business? What I could do is put a sob story to a leading media player on a personal interest basis, the “small man” battling bureaucracy. If they could get me to a senior government minister for him to override his department and grant me clearance I could go ahead with it and might even interest a leading maker of this kind of product.

This, you might think is all absolute raving lunacy, but it has happened already. In 2005 during the election campaign, John Reid, then at Health, approved a garage made product without waiting for the usual procedures to be completed. This contained a strong whack of Triclosan.

This is a substance once used in Agent Orange,, which during the Vietnam War deforested a lot of territory and left a trail of human medical problems behind for those on the wrong end of it and those delivering it. Its makers gained clearance in the USA during the Nixon Presidency for use in commercial products. Does this inspire you with confidence?

John Reid cleared it for use in hospitals during the infection panic at the time. One claimed effect of Triclosan is that can negate the effect of antibiotics. In short during a panic on hospital infections, Reid approved a product that could prevent antibiotics from doing their job.

Enjoy your shopping this week.

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Exercising Body And Mind

A correspondent who has very severe reactions to fragrance products sent an item below referring to the death of a young man.

Quote: “I sometimes wonder if we are lucky to sense the toxins in our environment while others seem not to notice. I read in last week's local newspaper the heading 'Man, 20, Victim of Sudden Adult Death Syndrome'. Because I've heard of two similar unexpected and inexplicable deaths of sons of people I've known, in the last few months, and have this theory that chemicals are catching up with the frailties of the human body.

I read the article closely....He was found dead in his car, on the way to work around 8 am . "An inquest in Millom heard the syndrome has afflicted around 500 fit and healthy young men with normal hearts in this country."

I can't help but wonder if he'd sprayed in Lynx, used hair gel and hi-tec detergents, etc. It can be assumed that the coroner would not have looked into such matters!! Glancing back, I see the words: "There were no other medical reasons, no drugs, no alcohol.

In view of the fact that as many as one in 20 of these deaths cannot be explained, I wonder whether or not to contact the coroner's office and ask if they take air pollution into account." Unquote.

Also quote from the item: “The answer often given by Coroners and others is what the call Sudden Arrhythmic Death Syndrome (SADS) Quote: “In about 1 in every 20 cases of sudden cardiac death, no definite cause of death can be found, even after the heart has been examined by an expert cardiac pathologist.

This is then called Sudden Arrhythmic Death Syndrome. In the past it has also been called Sudden Adult Death Syndrome or Sudden Death Syndrome but, because it affects children too, the term Sudden Arrhythmic Death Syndrome is now used. It is thought that cot death (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, or SIDS) may be partly due to the same causes responsible for SADS.” Unquote.

In short they don’t really know but give it a scientific type bit of jargon. What is known is that people might suddenly feel unwell, become dizzy, and then collapse. The pulse may well be racing.

However, in the case of fit young men there is a well known condition, Exercise Induced Anaphylaxis, (just Google it) that can and does occur. In 2005 I appeared on a TV health programme alongside a young man prone to this, but who had survived. Very simply, if after exercise or some vigorous activity he consumed carbohydrate rich foods or drinks he would then “crash out” in a full blown anaphylactic shock.

From emedicine dot medscape dot com: “Exercise-induced anaphylaxis (EIA) is a syndrome in which patients experience the symptoms of anaphylaxis, which occur only after increased physical activity. The symptoms include pruritus and urticaria (typically with giant hives), and, without emergency intervention, the patient may develop hypotension and collapse. Now increasingly recognized as more children and teenagers participate in physical activities and sports, exercise-induced anaphylaxis may become more common in the future. Those affected by the syndrome are typically accomplished athletes and have a history of atopy, but anyone can be affected.”

So how is it that so many Coroners around the UK do not even consider this issue? How is it that unless the evidence is overwhelming they are almost all unwilling to consider the possibility of anaphylaxis in sudden deaths? Certainly, it is complex. There is now a test that can be used to identify this cause of death but it needs to be administered within hours of the event. Beyond that it can be more difficult and only if the casualty has a history of anaphylactic shocks will they admit that this can be involved.

The severe allergies arising from foods are bad, but with chemicals, as the contaminants in fragranced products, the situation is nastier in that the shocks can be significantly worse with a greater risk of one being terminal. It might be possible in these cases to find a cause but this would take thorough and careful immunological and forensic testing. This is expensive. Bluntly it is quicker, easier and a lot less problematical to stick a label saying SADS on it and hope that no questions will be asked.

If it became apparent that there was a class of substances that carried serious risks then this could lead to political and other issues that would be very inconvenient in a number of ways. We have been here before historically with Coroners. During the 19th Century there was a distinct reluctance by many to admit that substances in food and drink and in working situations were potentially lethal. During the 20th Century much the same applied. Coroners, with a small number of honourable exceptions have tended to go for the quick, cheap and easy answer.

So far as the latest ranges of perfume pollutants are concerned it is my view that their prevalence, power, and penetration could soon trigger something nasty in the health of many people. The developing numbers of those with severe asthma and possibly toxic reactions to these could soon generate more widespread chemical anaphylaxis with all the consequences.

Will the Coroners then wake up to what is happening, literally, under their noses?

Monday, 22 March 2010

Breath Tests And Fragrances

Is it possible that there is now a real problem relating to the use of breathalyser devices to measure motorists to test for alcohol in their system, assumed to be from drinking one beverage or another?

In one old film the sneaky villain boasted that the coppers would never catch him because he could smell them coming. In that age he could have been right if his senses were sharp enough. When policemen were on the beat they carried with them the distinctive aroma of well worn feet in well worn socks in well worn boots. In the days of shortages and high cost clothing men might only change their linen once a week, at the time of the bath or more likely wash down at the kitchen sink.

The trouble today is that many police officers smell a great deal stronger than they ever used to due to the extensive use of spray male deodorants and related cosmetic products. They might also work in premises with “air freshener” devices, some of which are very strong and are made to cover wide areas. Moreover their vehicles might also have such devices and also will be contaminated from use.

It goes further than that in that nearly all the products of this kind today are chemically engineered to have high impact on the sense of smell; that is an immediate effect on the brain function. Additionally, they are made to carry long distances and to adhere indefinitely, with many of them once contamination occurs it is virtually impossible to wash out.

Recently, simply walking around town or passing police cars parked I have caught a strong waft of one product or another. So as in the days of old you can smell them coming, only today it is not necessarily quite so distinctive.

But there is a problem. Many of these spray and freshener products contain ethanol. This is used as a bulking item, a carrier substance, an antibacterial, and an enhancer to the aromatics and adherence elements. Ethanol is a form of alcohol and a favoured biofuel. Also, despite the manufacturing processes involved as so much comes from corn crops it can be called “natural”.

In short many of our friendly neighbourhood police officers are personally heavily contaminated permanently with alcohol related substances. This will be on all their clothing, on their skins, possibly on their breath and necessarily on any of their items of equipment, notably the breathalysers.

To make it worse if a suspect is hauled off to the choky for blood samples he may well have to wait hours in a heavily polluted environment before the blood sample is taken, possibly by a medical officer who is just as contaminated.

When people claim not to have been drinking or drank many hours ago when their tests show a high level in the blood this is often put down to variations in the metabolic rates, the consumption of foods with alcohol content that the person was not aware of, or if it is some hours that they may have taken in more alcohol than they thought etc. etc.

It does not seem to have dawned on any defending solicitors or other legal authorities that if there are now high levels of ethanol pollution in the air and moreover not only police officers but their premises, gear and cars might now be impregnated with ethanol strong products there are issues arising.

Honest guv, the ten pints I had were all lemonade its me personal fragrance what done it.

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Lynx & Mephedrone - Power To The Pong

There has been a huge fuss in the media in the last few days over the substance Mephedrone that is alleged to be directly implicated in the deaths of two young men. According to web sources it can have a number of unpleasant and potentially dangerous side effects on users arising from its impact on the brain, the respiratory system and consequential behavioural effects.

Senior ministers of the Crown appear on TV and giving media releases to the effect that they are taking immediate action and will seek reviews of its use that may have the substance listed as a restricted drug with a range of controls, potential legal restraints and action against traders and others, and thorough control over its use and potential for addiction.

Lynx (or Axe abroad) is a product manufactured and sold by Unilever, a major chemical company whose shares are traded in the stock market and may be held in the blind trusts of senior politicians and in their general portfolios. Lynx has been implicated in the deaths of young persons.

These have been put down to user error because they were supposed to have read and acted on the instructions printed in micro lettering on the tin that suggest limited use in confined spaces, like bathrooms, as opposed to taking notice of the advertising on TV and elsewhere.

Lynx is a deodorant of complex chemistry designed to impact on the brain and to act as a major stimulant. Additionally, it is endowed with carrying and adherence powers to impact on others over a wide area. Once contaminated it may last on skin, clothing, and contact surfaces for a long time.

For those vulnerable and this numbers all those with asthma or long term breathing problems this can have a serious and in some cases a potentially catastrophic effect on respiratory systems. It is arguable that for many people it can lead to a range of medical issues, notably in skin and fatigue.

Lynx is advertised as having “pulling power” that is to reduce personal resistance and to encourage indiscriminate sexual encounters. This at a time when there is disquiet over the rapid increase of health problems arising from casual sex and of the rise in the numbers of child pregnancies.

Lynx suggests to user males that it increases their sexual capacity. Is there any substantial scientific research to support this claim? Such evidence on chemical reactions that is known suggests increased risks of damage to endocrine function and reduced sperm counts.

No senior minister or politician or celebrity etc. has yet to comment on the adverse properties of Lynx nor to suggest any of the following.

Firstly, that the full ingredients and sourcing should be specified.

Secondly, that the risk of side effects should be made evident.

Thirdly, that Unilever should be required to undertake an extensive programme of research monitored by an independent agencies to determine both the short and long term effects of sustained use.

Fourthly, that all the raw data and relevant scientific information should be made available for public scrutiny.

Fifthly, the argument that the information is “commercially sensitive” should be secondary to that of public health.

Why should Lynx be treated so differently from Mephedrone?

Declarations of interest:

The above is a purely personal opinion and is not intended to exercise any influence over any individual or body, public or private. Additionally, I accept entirely that no individual either in the employ of Unilever or connected to its operations has any personal blame of any kind in relation to anyone who has died or has been damaged.

My mother-in-law’s maiden name was Lever and her family were of Lancashire origin from the same district of Bolton and vicinity as that of William Hesketh Lever, the founder of the Unilever company. He was a firm believer in and campaigner for fresh air and its benefits for all.

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Pushing The Pong - Smelly Boys

The article below came from the New York Times:

NEW YORK TIMES – 29 January 2010

Masculinity in a Spray Can – By Jan Hoffman

ONE bathroom in Stefanie Mullen’s home in a suburb of San Diego is stocked with enough products to line an aisle in a drugstore:

Body wash. Face wash. Exfoliator. Exfoliating wash. Body hydrator. Body spray. Deodorant. Shaving cream. Shampoos and conditioner. Hair gel, of course.

All told, 18 different containers. They belong to her sons Noah Assaraf, 13, and Keenan Assaraf, 14. They have been dousing themselves for years. “Every day they walk out the door in a cloud of spray-on macho,” Mrs. Mullen said. When boys pile into her car, that’s her cue to roll down her window, no matter the weather. “The smell drives me nuts.”

In some respects, there’s nothing new about the allure that grooming products and colognes hold for young men, promising to heighten their sex appeal and overall confidence, giving them cover to preen. But in recent years, the products, ostensibly marketed to older teenagers, have reached into the turbulent, vulnerable world of their little brothers, ages 10 to 14.

Mike Dwyer, brand development director for
Axe, the bane of parental olfactory nerves, said, “We’re clear that the Axe target is 18-to-24-year-old guys, but we recognize that we have older and younger users.” Hard sales figures for tweens are difficult to come by. Marketers don’t have a consensus for what makes up the tween age bracket.

Purchases are often made by mothers, simply relieved that their sons are thinking about body odor. And nothing would make older teenager run from a product faster than for its manufacturers to acknowledge that it’s a must-have among the sixth-grade set. But many psychologists, parents, market researchers and middle-school principals (with drawers full of confiscated spray cans), report a sharp surge in the last few years of the use of grooming products by tween boys.

In a December 2007 report on teenage and tween grooming products, Packaged Facts, a market research firm, projected that worldwide retail sales for boys ages 8 to 19 would be almost $1.9 billion. Perhaps more telling: Axe and its ilk have even become essential props in the latest tween novels, like Rosalind Wiseman’s “Boys, Girls and Other Hazardous Materials.”

The surge is certainly due in large measure to new marketing strategies.
While the public’s attention will be on testosterone-infused commercials during the
Super Bowl next Sunday, these brands have long been attracting boys elsewhere, through muscular, below-the-radar tie-ins — on social networking and Web gaming sites, and through endorsements by hip-hop stars, pro athletes and extreme-sports daredevils.

Boys themselves, at a younger age, have also become increasingly self-conscious about their appearance and identity. They are trying to tame their twitching, maturing bodies, select from a growing smorgasbord of identities — goth, slacker, jock, emo — and position themselves with their texting, titillating, brand-savvy female peers, who are hitting puberty ever earlier.
And armies of researchers note that tween boys have modest disposable incomes, just fine for products that typically sell for less than $7. “More insecurity equals more product need, equals more opportunity for marketers,” said Kit Yarrow, a professor of psychology and marketing at Golden Gate University.

For “Gen Buy,” a new
book she co-authored about marketing to tweens and teenagers, Ms. Yarrow held focus groups with boys. “The 10-year-olds are copying the 14-year-olds, trying to be cool,” she said. “Everything is moving down the spectrum. It’s getting younger and more pronounced.”

So boys are turning to hypermasculine guideposts like Instinct from Axe, Swagger by Old Spice and Magnetic Attraction Enhancing Body Wash by Dial with results that are poignant, comic, confused — and stinky. “It’s not necessarily a hygiene thing,” said Paul Begley, a physical education teacher at Messalonskee Middle School in Oakland, Me. “If they’ve been sweating, they’ll use it as a mask instead of a shower.”

Like girls, boys criticize their own bodies at earlier ages. Ms. Wiseman, the writer, said, “As a teacher, I saw boys as young as 7 refusing to take off their shirts at swimming pools for fear of being teased about being fat.” During “the talk” about puberty in fifth grade health classes, many schools hand out sample cans of deodorant to boys.

Shortly after receiving one, Lori Swedelson’s son, Eric, now a sixth grader in Mahwah, N.J., began asking for products: “He said, ‘Can you get me Axe? I need deodorant,’ ” said Ms. Swedelson, who asked him why. “He said, ‘Ma, I got a hair under my arm!’ And I said, ‘Let me put my glasses on.’ ”

He too now steeps himself: colognes, shampoos and body washes. And he is very picky about his choices. “I got the wrong color can of Axe,” Ms. Swedelson said. “Holy cow.” Each bottle signifies something to tweens, who are excruciatingly aware of brand image. George Carey, head of Just Kid Inc., a market research firm, said, “More of the brands that market to kids are doing so by trying to own a human value or characteristic.”

Like the Sorting Hat from the
Harry Potter books, the bottles and cans telegraph how a boy can sort and identify himself. Old Spice advertisements for its Swagger line featured the rap star LL Cool J as a nerd in school, then being transformed into his fabulousness by you-know-what. Anthony’s Body Essentials are available in Energy, Strength, Spirit and Courage. Abercrombie & Fitch’s popular cologne: Fierce.

Why does Jake Guttenberg, a Manhattan seventh grader, use an Axe spray? “I feel confident when I wear it,” he said. Lyn Mikel Brown, a psychologist at
Colby College and an author of a new book, “Packaging Boyhood,” said the products gave boys the mere illusion of choice. In fact, she said, they often preach an extreme, singular definition of masculinity — at a time developmentally when boys are grappling uneasily with identity.

“These are just one of many products that cultivate anxiety in boys at younger and younger ages about what it means to man up,” Ms. Brown said, “to be the kind of boy they’re told girls will want and other boys will respect. They’re playing with the failure to be that kind of guy, to be heterosexual even.”

Even when advertisements are supposed to be crudely humorous or satiric about masculinity — approaches recommended by market researchers to reach high school boys — younger boys take them more literally, Ms. Brown said. To engage boys, marketers rely less on 30-second TV spots than on interactive Web sites, creating communities of young fans. Tag has a page on

Axe has an avatar in Pain, a PlayStation game. Swagger sponsors Xbox team competitions. Dial for Men offers advice from “sexperts.” Brands create downloadable apps, have lengthy “advergames” on their Web sites, and urge fans to text friends with coy messages about the products. They make commercials just for YouTube, which is, in turn, filled with commercials made by boys themselves — some of whom are self-anointed reviewers.

“Girl repellent!” said one boy, holding up a spray can in front of a camera.
Parents, generally, are clueless. “Axe has commercials?” Ms. Swedelson asked.
What further drives the boys’ rush to the products are girls themselves. Marshal Cohen, chief industry analyst for the market research firm NPD Group, said that in a recent survey, 41 percent of boys ages 8 to 18 said that one of their best friends was a girl.

“They shop with girls, and girls influence them,” Mr. Cohen said, much as the girls in the hit Nickelodeon tween show “iCarly” hold sway over Freddie, their hapless male buddy. “Boys are paying attention to personal brands more than ever because it’s too easy to be criticized virally by a girl,” said Pat Fiore, a market consultant for body image products in Morristown, N.J. “The peer pressure is starting from the girls, who are discussing how much someone smells or what they look like, and it’s being recorded in real time by e-mail and texting.”

These girls are also becoming sexualized at earlier ages, applying lip gloss and wearing racier clothes. Boys, a bewildered developmental step or three behind, feel additional pressure to catch up. Ms. Wiseman, who also wrote “Queen Bees & Wannabes,” a nonfiction book about the social pecking order of tween girls, speaks with students around the country. Even in rural North Dakota, she said, 12-year-old boys were highlighting their hair, a focus on appearance that was almost nonexistent five years ago.

“We consistently look at boys in a position of privilege and power,” she said. “But if you ask a 12-year-old boy if they’re in a position of power, they feel out of control of themselves, their bodies.” She added: “I defy anyone to tell me that an eighth-grade girl doesn’t look like she has more power and control than a boy.”

So while men’s colognes have been marketed since at least the last century for their irresistibility to women — even Joey Bishop was swarmed when he wore Hai Karate aftershave in a 1960s
commercial — Axe’s similar approach offers a jokey safe haven to a tween boy: you can have power over those frightening, provocative creatures, those girls. Small wonder that a boy would love to believe those magic powers promised by a pheromone-infused product are real.

Kristen Gilbert, an assistant principal at Waterville Junior High School, in Waterville, Me., who has impounded her share of spray cans, wrote in an e-mail message that when she asked a young student why he wore the product, he replied, “I have to have it, Ms. G., because I don’t have the money to dress the right way. This is all I can afford.”
The boy added that the body spray was his “best chance to get a girl.” With consumer researchers pumping out reports on strategies to attract tween boys — make them feel accepted by peers, yet make them feel like cool individuals — and the success, over all, of the expanding, multibillion dollar male grooming products industry, the market is hardly saturated.

A shopper browsing the aisles of a Perfumania, a discount fragrance chain, can find products that allow boys to start brand attachments and grooming habits even sooner than the tweens. SpongeBob SquarePants Eau de Toilette Spray for Boys, anyone?

Friday, 12 March 2010

Canaries Sometimes Stop Singing

This a moderate and reasonable post, some to come will be less so. It is an appeal and represents a real need by increasing numbers of people who react to the strong and pervasive perfume pollutants now so difficult to avoid. It is a direct quotation.

Professor of chemical engineering urges students to go fragrance-free.

Posted on the “Canary Report” web site of the Australian MCS/CFS site on Feb 03, 2010 by Susie Collins in her Blog.

Chemical engineering professor at the University of New Hampshire encourages students to “be considerate to human canaries and help them to enjoy life to the fullest.”

Ihab Farag, Professor of Chemical Engineering at the University of New Hampshire and member of our Canary Report community, wrote a letter to the editor at his school’s student paper to raise awareness about chemical sensitivity. And they published it! I’m a huge supporter of letters to the editor. Bravo, Ihab!

Many of us are familiar with canaries, the beautiful, colorful birds that tend to sing most of the time. Canaries also saved many human lives in coalmines. This is because canaries are much more sensitive to toxic gases than humans.

Miners would take canaries with them in the coalmine. If the canary stopped singing and fell (or died), the miners knew to leave the coal mine quickly to safety. There are individuals who have developed a very strong sensitivity to many common chemicals.

These people can be very negatively affected and irritated by fumes, chemical cleaners, disinfectants, cigarette/cigar smoke, engine exhaust, solvents, etc.
These people are often called “Human Canaries” of the modern world, because of the chemical sensitivity similarity to that of Canaries.

Human Canaries of the 21st century tend to be very strongly irritated by everyday chemicals like perfumes, hair products, shampoos, shower gels, after shave lotions, antiperspirants, deodorants, hand sanitizers, chap sticks, finger nail polish, etc.

Human canaries look the same as other people, and when you see one you probably will not recognize he or she is a human canary until an offensive toxic chemical triggers his or her sensitivity.

Please be considerate to human canaries and help them to enjoy life to the fullest. One way you can help the human canary and at the same time lower your exposure to undesirable chemicals, is to go fragrance-free: avoiding perfumes, and fragranced personal care products.

Ihab Faraq, Professor Chemical Engineering Department, University of New Hampshire, Durham, New Hampshire, USA.