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Thursday, 29 April 2010

Tale Of A Shirt

One of the most dreadful playground insults was to say to someone “You’re frit!” which means more or less that you accuse them of cowardice in the face of the teacher or that big girl whose father is a professional wrestler.

This is about one of my old shirts. On previous posts you will know that when we go out we take extra-ordinary precautions and allied to this have to monitor everything all the time. If you have anaphylaxis it comes with the package. At present we have plastic bags containing our “going out gear”, clothing that is already contaminated albeit washed, used when we go to a place knowing that there are risks.

Over the winter I have been using an old rugby shirt but with the warmer weather needed something lighter. So I pick out a well used cheap shirt that I think will wash easily and be less trouble. At start this is totally free of fragrance having gone to the back of the wardrobe a little time ago.

After outing one when I arrive home it smells of fragrance which has to come from airborne haze as it has not been in contact directly with any surface (as I say we take precautions). It is washed but still smells. Outing two also with airborne haze only and again it smells and into the wash. Outing three and same again and into the wash.

When it has dried not only do I notice that it still smells but the waft is getting stronger and more penetrating. Yet the detergent is fragrance free, no fabric conditioner or other substance has been used and it has not been in contact directly with anything and on arriving home always goes straight into the dedicated washing bag. However, this bag is not the same but is changed at times to prevent the bag itself adding to the problem.

Is this an accident or is there now in the fragrance haze so common elements from say fabric conditioners particularly and such that are chemically engineered to have the effect of intensifying the aromatics after successive washes? So that washing makes the level of contamination actually worse and for those affected more dangerous?

I repeat that this contamination comes only from the airborne haze that arises from the substances and particulates in the detergents, fabric conditioners, perfumes and air fresheners that cover so many people. We know that they can travel many yards, are designed to adhere and are able to transfer from one substance to another.

If a simple cotton shirt cannot be cleansed of this stuff and in fact made worse by washing and careful treatment what is happening in the air I breathe? More to the point what is happening inside me? What is happening to others? This is not a scare story it is a simple account of a simple experience.

Honest, I’m frit, really really frit, and I’m not frit to admit it.

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Queuing Theory

You have a choice. You could spend an hour either in the waiting room of your doctor’s surgery reading National Geographic magazines from the early 1990’s or you could sit in a traffic jam on the nearest motorway listening to Latvia’s pop song hit parade from the truck beside you.

For us it is what they call a “no brainer”. It has to be the motorway every time and for very good reasons. It is healthier, more pleasant and you will feel a lot better when the hour is up than you would at the doctor’s.

At our doctor’s the waiting room at one time had windows that could be opened and fan ventilators, a little noisy, to keep the air clear if the weather was bad. Now this is no longer the case. The windows are sealed and the fans to outside have been disconnected.

What we do have is “air fresheners”. They are from the “Ideal” product range and the muck they spew out is filthier that that from any volcano. I did try to extract from “Ideal” what the contents were but did not get a reply. I did suggest to the doctor and staff that they might try but apparently this is beyond their powers. It seems that there are no targets to be met.

Just how bad are they? Today, the waiting room was near empty and the couple of other patients had no evident fragrances. Even so after ten minutes the reactions began. The sense of smell began to go. Then there was the taste in the mouth and the tingling on the lips. Then the tightness in the chest and the lift in the head. When I got home yet again it was strip off, put the lot into a double wash and have the shower, fast.

Rather worse was that I was there because of a nasty skin reaction to previous medication. Having gone off this, all other medication and been on a rigorous chemical free routine the problems had abated a little. But anywhere that has stuff in the air then the inflammation returns. Fifteen minutes at the surgery and up it came again. So seeing the doctor can make you sick, very sick if you react to fragrances etc.

I am old enough to recall all the debate and difficulty over the business of lead in petrol. This was at a time when the dangerous properties of lead were well known and accepted. The argument was over whether fine particles of lead in traffic emissions could be coped with by the body or not.

After enough mice, rats and dogs had been sacrificed in the cause and enough post mortems done it was accepted that lead, even in small doses and fine particles, did constitute a major health danger if in fuel and the consequential traffic emissions.

Does anyone I wonder know a doctor who operates out of a motorised caravan on motorway services who is not obliged by the local Primary Care Trust to seal the windows and use air fresheners determined by PCT contracts? I really wouldn’t mind joining the queue to see him or her and for us it could be a lot safer.

Friday, 16 April 2010

How To Knit A Lily

Should you think that at times I or others exaggerate about the powers of chemists to make things that hit the sense of smell then read on. This was picked up a little time ago and I regret I have forgotten the source, but I believe one of the online science sites.


Lily Of The Valley Fragrance - Electronic surface structure determines interactions with scent receptors.

The scent of lily of the valley hangs in the air for readers of the journal Angewandte Chemie: just rub the journal's cover and enjoy a lily-of-the-valley scent. Lily-of-the-valley scent components can also be found within the pages of the journal: an interdisciplinary team headed by Reinhold Tacke (Inorganic Chemistry, University of W├╝rzburg), Philip Kraft (Scent Research, Givaudan Schweiz Inc.), and Hanns Hatt (Cell Biology, University of Bochum) have attempted a "scent prediction" to test their computer model of lily-of-the-valley fragrance receptor hOR17-4.

This molecule was characterized in detail as the first human scent receptor by Hatt and his co-workers, who also discovered it in sperm. A fragrance is usually composed of a mixture of many different scented substances. Each of these individual substances can react with several of the approximately 347 scent receptors in our nose and show a complex scent. "When developing new fragrances, we have to rely on correlations between structure and effect derived from model substances as well as intuition," says Kraft.

With the help of sperm, however, it is possible to study the lily-of-the-valley receptor in virtual isolation and simulate the primary process of scent sensing by computer.
An olfactory receptor responds to a scent molecule when it fits into the receptor's binding cavity. If the structure of the cavity is known, it should be possible to use computer models to predict whether a scent activates the receptor in question and to what degree.

To prove this theory, the scientists investigated how the replacement of one carbon atom with a silicon atom affects the scent of lily-of-the-valley fragrance components lilial and bourgeonal, and whether this subtle alteration, which has minimal influence on the molecular shape, can also be predicted quantitatively.

The human nose was indeed fooled. Tacke says, "All four of the synthesized compounds had the typical floral aldehydic lily-of-the-valley fragrance, but didn't smell completely identical." However, near their threshold levels, it was no longer possible to tell these scents apart. "Only the most sensitive lily-of-the-valley receptor is activated at these concentrations," explains Hatt.

On the basis of calculated binding energies, the team had made a prediction of the scent intensities as well as the sensitivity of sperm to the test molecules. These predictions corresponded very closely to the experimentally observed results. As expected, the odor thresholds were significantly higher for the silicon analogues than for lilial and bourgeonal.

"Our computer calculations are exclusively based on the surface shape of the scent molecules, which is defined by their electrons," explain the researchers. "These results thus unambiguously prove that it is this electronic surface structure of a molecule that determines the interaction between a scent molecule and its olfactory receptors—and thus defines its fragrance."


The wonders of science, but did anyone consider that powering up these substances might have effects on people that were either unintended or damaging?

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

AllergyUK - Whose Side Are They On?

“Regulatory capture”, for those with an interest in finance and politics it means that bodies and organisations set up to regulate activities too often are infiltrated, then under the influence, and eventually controlled by those who they are meant to keep in check or limit in their more damaging activities. A key factor in the major economic crisis was that bodies supposed to be keeping watch and curtailing wild high risk financial activity and fraud failed because the people they were created to control had taken control themselves.

Besides official bodies, there are charities and organisations , like AllergyUK intended to represent groups who have a special interest and need. Clearly the larger the organisation and the more complex its field of work or interest the greater its needs for income for the staff and range of activity it becomes involved in. AllergyUK is an organisation that is ostensibly independent and set up to represent its members. Nevertheless, income can arise from contributions from companies buying an image of caring.

But it has put itself into the position of “Approving” products in various categories. As they say, the road to hell is paved with good intentions. It began simply enough. If a product had peanuts or peanut oil then it was not suitable for those with an allergy to peanuts. There were many such people and relatively clearly so. It was of great help and assistance to know that Big End Chocs had them but Little End Chocs were free from them.

But as you move on from simple foods into more complicated areas with other allergies or reactions deriving from substances and products that are far from simple, indeed highly complex, then you are heading into a thick fog of understanding and corporate politics. Do remember that the driving dogma of business these days is shareholder value and central to that is the “added value” of the product.

AllergyUK may be good on foods and food related allergy, but it is bad on others, notably the increasing level of serious reactions and dangers arising from the increased strength, application, and pervasiveness of powerful synthetic chemicals in a widening range of products. They are limited on the issues arising from this. Recently they have received a complaint about giving their Seal of Approval to an air freshener called Ambi Pur Puresse.

AllergyUK’s response can be paraphrased as saying “If it kills you then refer the matter to the makers. We have been given evidence from the maker that scientifically it only affects people who know they will be affected. Unluckily we cannot tell you what is in it because we have agreed not to release either the scientific evidence the makers gave us (we have none of our own because it is so very expensive) or any indication of the contents as this is commercially confidential. So if you do not know what is in it then it is your own fault and we take no responsibility nor will the maker because obviously you did not understand the guidelines about not using it. We are sorry you have chemical anaphylaxis but hey guys we all have to go some time.”

There is one factor of course. It is that the makers had AllergyUK over a barrel in that under the UK of defamation if they had not given their seal of approval they would be have faced with a law suit that would have ruined the organization. I regret that this is all too likely and why AllergyUK had to approve and keep very quiet about it. As I said, the road to hell etc. Watch out for other strange or inexplicable approvals in the coming years.

What about the product? This is from the Ambi Pur web site relating to Puresse: “The perfect way to enjoy Ambi Pur's new, more caring fragrances. The Puresse range is specially formulated to minimise the use of 26 known skin allergens and is the first and only air freshener to be awarded the Allergy UK Seal of Approval.”

So the approval only relates to the reduction in quantity of “26 known skin allergens”. Skin? Is this all? What about all the other potential and bad reactions? Does this mean only skin tests? What about other tests? This is a product that is intended to be breathed in and to change perceptions of what is in the air and the way you react to it. This means the brain.

The most ludicrous feature of this is the weasel word “minimise”. Anyone with the cheapest home computer can find out in minutes the implications of the rapidly advancing technology in fine particle development. Nanotechnology does have important contributions in engineering and medicine, but using it to stuff bigger bang synthetic chemicals into personal and household products is uncharted territory with serious dangers. Does it turn aromatic previously inert substances into something else entirely?

It is possible that the company and AllergyUK do not accept the new fangled idea about the circulation of the blood because according to all I have read if particulates get into the lungs then they get into the blood and the rest and it goes all over doing things nobody knows. Perhaps in their world Galen still rules OK.

Since when have routine skin tests been regarded as 100% reliable? Why no full scale immunological testing? Why not MRI detailed scans for brain effect and reactions? Why no research into the lungs and other vital organs? Why no testing for chemical reactions in the blood. Just how much did AllergyUK consult with those, easily identified, who know and experience strong chemical reactions? Last but far from least what about the sperm count?

So is it that AllergyUK has been caught with a “sucker punch” from a crafty corporation? Is that they have just been very stupid? Is it that having worked themselves up into a frenzy of “Approval” for status and contribution they cannot come off the fix. Or is it that they have now been bought and are part of the problem?

Friday, 9 April 2010

A Ray Of Hope In A Darkening World

From thecanaryreport dot org, I believe this attracted some critical reports in some of the press. Inevitably from journalists whose track record does not include any serious or active research of the subjects they comment on. However, for some of us it represents a ray of light in a polluted world.


US Centers For Disease Control And Prevention Issues Indoor Air Quality Policy For All CDC Offices Nationwide
Posted on Apr 07, 2010 by Susie Collins

This is arguably the strongest and most important chemical-free and fragrance-free policy in existence for the workplace.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a federal agency under the Department of Health and Human Services, recently issued a policy on indoor air quality that will affect all CDC offices (owned, leased and rented) and more than 15,000 employees nationwide. Among a host of indoor air quality standards, the policy includes specific guidelines restricting the use of fragrance in cleaning and personal care products.

Housekeeping Guidelines

CDC will ensure that products used in the workplace, such as soaps, cleaning products, paints, etc. are safe and odor-free or emit low levels of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) to the fullest extent feasible.

Only green cleaning products shall be specified and used within CDC facilities and leased spaces unless otherwise approved by the Office of Health and Safety.

Non-Permissible Products

Scented or fragranced products are prohibited at all times in all interior space owned, rented, or leased by CDC. This includes the use of:
• Incense, candles, or reed diffusers• Fragrance-emitting devices of any kind• Wall-mounted devices, similar to fragrance-emitting devices, that operate automatically or by pushing a button to dispense deodorizers or disinfectants• Potpourri• Plug-in or spray air fresheners• Urinal or toilet blocks• Other fragranced deodorizer/re-odorizer products

Personal care products (e.g. colognes, perfumes, essential oils, scented skin and hair products) should not be applied at or near actual workstations, restrooms, or anywhere in CDC owned or leased buildings.

In addition, CDC encourages employees to be as fragrance-free as possible when they arrive in the workplace. Fragrance is not appropriate for a professional work environment, and the use of some products with fragrance may be detrimental to the health of workers with chemical sensitivities, allergies, asthma, and chronic headaches/migraines.

Employees should avoid using scented detergents and fabric softeners on clothes worn to the office. Many fragrance-free personal care and laundry products are easily available and provide safer alternatives.

Further, the policy extends to enforcement. Within the document itself is clearly stated the process by which an employee may file a report about air quality problems through a questionnaire, and further still, who is responsible for overseeing the investigation:

Building occupants who experience irritation or symptoms that may be related to the quality of indoor air should notify their supervisors, and the OHS or local Safety Officer to initiate a complaint. BFO must also be contacted upon initiation of a complaint, to identify and/or review any potential structural, maintenance, or heating, ventilating or air conditioning (HVAC) issues.

Building occupants must also complete the Indoor Air Quality Questionnaire (see Attachment B) in order to properly document the complaint. Each IEQ complaint poses a unique set of circumstances that will determine the investigative procedures used to resolve each IEQ concerns.

Office of Health and Safety/Designated Safety Officer Administers the Indoor Environmental Quality Program and serves as the primary coordinator and investigator for reported incidents involving IEQ hazards or conditions; educates CDC supervisors and workers; develops report findings and recommendations for corrective action; and reviews and updates to meet future needs and regulatory changes.

You’ll also be happy to see that there is a section on pest control. Although it’s not perfect, it’s far safer than the hazards many workers endure with ubiquitous application of hazardous pesticides, usually performed without notice: “Pest management, for both buildings and lawn care, will emphasize non-chemical management strategies whenever practical, and the least-toxic chemical controls when pesticides are needed. Integrated Pest Management practices must be utilized.”

Coming from the CDC, this is arguably the most important chemical- and fragrance-free policy in existence for the workplace. In the words of former CDC director Dr. Julie Gerberding, the agency is charged with confronting “the challenges of 21st-century health threats.” It looks like the current CDC administration believes this responsibility covers not only the general public, but CDC’s own employees and workplaces as well.

Creating nontoxic work environments is not just good for employees’ health, it’s good for the bottom line, too. Workers who are not being slowly poisoned by toxic chemicals on the job can think clearer, work more efficiently and be more productive.

Employees who suffer chemical sensitivity, asthma and other respiratory ailments will take less sick days. People who are prone to developing health problems triggered by toxic chemicals will be safer; in fact, everyone who works in CDC buildings will now be safer.

For those of you with Multiple Chemical Sensitivity who are currently battling it out with your employer over hazardous chemicals in your work environment, in addition to discussing your rights to safer accommodations under the Americans with Disabilities Act, you might want to print out this new CDC policy and give copies to your boss, your CEO, and your human resources director.

Explain to them that the experts at CDC understand that indoor air quality is greatly compromised by a host of toxic chemicals, including those from cleaning products used by maintenance personnel and personal care products used by employees. Tell them that this recent CDC policy is indicative of the way trends are going, and any company getting on board now will be spared future costs caused by condoning an unsafe environment for employees.

This policy is incredibly good news– use the clout and expertise of this CDC policy to strengthen your arguments for a chemical and fragrance-free work environment.


When I try to explain to people that having a plug-in air freshener is roughly the equivalent of running a moped engine permanently in the room they often are unable to take in that not only are the emissions both chemical but they are very similar.

Monday, 5 April 2010

The Baglady's Day Out

We are the bagpersons, carrying with us whenever we go out sundry types of large garden bags. On the train we cover the seats to avoid contamination from the transferred detergent, fabric conditioner, deodorants, personal fragrances and other products. On the Underground we stand, preferably anything up to a mile we walk, using back streets where possible to avoid too many people.

In the auditorium we stand and our positions are close to ventilation grills. But up in the Champagne Bar in The Floral Hall we like to sit apart, using our bags on the seats, by the windows and again by ventilation grills. We are in old clothes but they are very well washed and fresh on for the occasion. The standing positions give us space and we can move around if needed and the Champagne Bar is high and airy. Probably, I am the only person there who ever barrowed flowers and fruit in and out so long ago and can recall the smell of real flowers.

We are taking as much avoiding action as possible, even the train routes and times are selected for that purpose, driving to services on other lines where the carriages are of recent better ventilated types. Not only do we keep our distance but when we are seeing people we know they are kind enough to avoid the problem substances but we have had to brief them.

Despite all this when we arrive home the clothes are off into fresh bags and we have to shower thoroughly and clean off. Also our sense of smell is often either impaired or not functioning. It is only on the next day when we check our clothing that we know that it all stinks despite all the efforts to avoid contamination.

This means another round of washing to make sure we deal with it. But now we have to wear the same clothes every time we go out otherwise all our clothes will become affected as well as everything else in the wardrobes and draws.

It is not just the outer clothing. It seems weird but it is the underclothing as well and I can assure you that we have remained fully clothed at all times otherwise you will have read about it in those newspapers that feature such events. So how has it happened? Quite simply it is the extent and nature of the pollutants in the air from the products mentioned above.

They are designed to carry distances, remain airborne, to adhere, to transfer and to penetrate. In my case they go through thick cotton outer clothing and a fishing jacket. Despite hours of travel, marching about and standing they still overcome the all too natural smells of my drill corporal’s feet. That really does take some doing.

Another issue is if these products can to this to the exterior of our bodies what are they doing to the interiors? Unluckily to find this out means research on a basis where there is no “added value”. Our government does not fund research of this kind, unless it is into prestige projects or helps their friends make more money. The rapid development and application of new technologies in these products have effects all too evident to those able to detect, so what damage is being done?

What I do know is that when I stand there in the audience looking down on the heads in front of me, I see that the hair of younger women these days is a lot thinner and much more brittle than I ever remember. Also, there is a lot more coughing going on.