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Homesick about MCS and housing
After many years, the film is almost done, but I am looking for pictures of MCSers and where they live to create a collage showing there are lots of us out there around the world. You can view an 8 minute video clip and read more about the project on the Homesick website.
If you are interested, please send a photo of yourself where you live. It could be a room that you consider your “safest” place, a picture of your whole house, or your neighborhood or surrounding area. It may look “normal” or it may have been foiled or fixed up showing what it took to make to make it safe for you. If you live in a car, trailer, or tent, send a picture of that. I hope to include people with all levels of health and show a wide variety of living situations, whether the situation is working for you, or not.
You can email me the picture as JPEG, PDF, or TIFF file to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include your city, state, and country. You can also send your picture through the mail to: Homesick: Pictures, c/o Susan Abod, 11 Balsa Court, Santa Fe, NM 87508. Note that sending your picture grants permission for its use in the film.
If you have any questions you can email me. Please feel free to forward this to other MCSers that you may know of anywhere on the globe who might like to participate!
For more video and info visit our page on the Center for Independent Documentary Website.
Thank you and all the best,
Why are so many mold problems found in newer homes? Some theorize the housing boom a decade ago resulted in too many homes going up too quickly. The Columbus Dispatch featured an article on this very issue a couple of years ago. The article, titled “Newer, poorly constructed homes more likely to harbor fungus,” quotes David Stubbs, a specialist in building systems and indoor air quality. Stubbs believes new-home mold problems often come down to poor workmanship.
“If I built a house 80 or 100 years ago, I was a true craftsman,” said Stubbs, who lived in central Ohio before becoming director of facilities planning and construction for Clarke County Schools in Georgia. “I’d build one house a year. … We don’t build like that today. We take shortcuts.”
Other explanations for the rise of mold problems in newer homes include:
• Oriented strand board, which became a common sheathing material for homes about 20 years ago, absorbs and transfers water more readily than plywood, which was the sheathing of choice for older homes. Even when plywood is used today, it is more likely to be three-ply plywood instead of the four- or five-ply used in earlier homes.
• Stucco is thinner than it used to be, with less cement, and is frequently poorly installed, with two thin coats instead of three thick ones.
• Many homes built during the housing boom used a paper vapor barrier, which can be difficult to properly install, instead of Tyvek or other wraps commonly used in the past few years.
• Newer homes are typically built in empty fields, offering no protection from wind, rain and sun – especially a problem on western exposures.
• Homes built in the past 20 years tend to be tighter than older homes and therefore more likely to trap moisture inside if not properly ventilated, creating what Tom Flood, the president of Air Technology in Hilliard, calls a “giant petri dish.” This was especially a problem in the 1980s and ’90s, when builders commonly put plastic between the studs and drywall as a moisture barrier.
• During the housing boom, homes didn’t receive the attention from swamped inspectors that they might have otherwise.
Steve Verssen, owner of Vertech, a Cincinnati inspection service that has been involved in central Ohio mold cases, recalls teaching a group of home inspectors three or four years ago in a Columbus-area home under construction. A building inspector drove up, jotted down some notes on a clipboard and drove off, without ever approaching the home.
“When things were busy, that’s what happened,” Verssen said.
He thinks some mold problems might be caught if inspectors scrutinized the envelope of a building before it is covered by siding – including the sheathing, the weather wrap and window flashing – in addition to the mechanicals and structural items. (Some city inspectors examine building envelopes, but such inspections are rare.)
Zacks (Benjamin Zacks, a principal in the Zacks Law Group in Columbus) agrees and urges homebuyers to test for mold or moisture if they have any doubts, even if the home passed city inspections.
“People think if the house has a bill of occupancy, it’s safe,” he said. “But it might not be.”
Homeowners who do find mold and hope for relief from their insurance companies are likely to be disappointed. According to the Ohio Insurance Institute, most companies dropped standard mold coverage from their language eight or 10 years ago because of the volume of claims.
Newer, poorly constructed homes more likely to harbor fungus. Jim Weiker. The Columbus Dispatch. December 12, 2010.
Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR)’s Environmental Health Policy Institute, an online forum of physicians, health professionals, and environmental health experts, published the following article in response to the question, “How does our food production system drive our exposure to toxic chemicals?“
The author, Dr. Joanne Perron, offers this eye-opening answer, drawing on her personal journey with breast cancer and her years of experience as a physician.
As an OB/GYN who trained at Los Angeles County/USC Women’s Hospital during its heyday of 18,000 deliveries per year, I saw countless women with fibroids and ovarian masses the size of term pregnancies and an overwhelming number of third-world-like adverse birth outcomes, maternal and fetal. In those ancient times of the late 80s-early 90s, the prevailing wisdom was that these women, who often lacked preventive care, were the unfortunate carriers of bad genes. When people ask me how I first became interested in environmental causes of disease, I recall that I privately thought, never risking professional scorn as a resident, there had to be another component that conventional medical teachings ignored which contributed to the adverse reproductive disorders I was learning about.
Of course then, my cursory knowledge was only of acute pesticides exposures since many of my patients were migrant farm workers. I surmised that there were mutagenic or genotoxic mechanisms from pesticides responsible for their health problems, but other than the nature vs. nurture debate, had never heard of epigenetic mechanisms in my medical training. So fast forward to 2001 when I started training in integrative medicine with Andrew Weil at the University of Arizona, Tucson. This is when I first heard the term xenoestrogens. I started wondering if chemicals in the water and food supply could be related to the reproductive disorders I was increasingly seeing in a middle class population. I say increasingly, because even women who came to see me for their annual “well woman” exam seemed to have an inordinate number of complaints such as abnormal bleeding, pelvic pain, endometriosis, fibroids, fibrocystic breasts, ovarian cysts, or PMS. And most of these women did not work in agriculture.
I also started wondering if all of the cases of non-familial pre-menopausal breast cancer were due to some environmental causes. And then in 2004, at age 45, having breast fed my sons, never smoked, eaten healthy, and exercised regularly, I too got the diagnosis of breast cancer. And I was the kid who actually liked eating eggplant and other “weird” vegetables. With no family history of breast cancer, I started serious study of the potential environmental causes of breast cancer and while I am aware of the multitude of other environmental contaminants, pesticides were something, as a beginner, I could wrap my mind around.
A close friend from childhood, Kristie, who lived 4 houses away, died at 38 from breast cancer. She had no family history of breast cancer. Additionally, both of her sisters had unexplained infertility (their mom was a “fertile Myrtle”). With every high school reunion, I heard of former classmates who had passed away from different types of cancer. We grew up in the west San Fernando Valley, which had mostly ranches and agriculture until the post WWII building boom. In the late 1950s to early 1970s, many of the schools and residences abutted orange groves, onion fields, and corn fields. Not only do I recall frequent spraying of nearby fields, but also the sweet smell of regular misting from the mosquito trucks during the summer months.
Did early pesticide exposure cause my individual case of breast cancer? My scientific training informs me that I will never know for sure. However, a large body of data is beginning to point the finger at early life, including in-utero, pesticide exposure as a crucial factor in many adverse health outcomes, some occurring many years after initial exposure, that clinicians see on a daily basis, including birth defects, reproductive disorders (male and female), cancers, metabolic disease, neurodevelopmental disorders, and neurological diseases.
To this day, when I talk about epigenetics to same-age colleagues in the trenches, some are disbelieving because they didn’t learn about it in medical school and the journals that they read don’t mention epigenetics, oxidative stress, or even endocrine disruption with linkage to adverse health outcomes. The sentinel 2009 Endocrine Society Scientific Statement should be mandatory reading for every health care professional before assuming practice or getting recertified. Most importantly, it states that there is evidence that endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) can have effects on human reproduction, breast development and cancer, prostate cancer, neuroendocrinology, thyroid, metabolism and obesity, and cardiovascular endocrinology. I admit it took my brain a bit of time to rewire and integrate an understanding of the mechanisms underlying epigenetic factors of disease and to appreciate that disruption of the intricate orchestrated endocrine signaling is more complicated than the lock and key theory of hormone function that I learned many moons ago.
This is just a brief summation of the science and concerns that scientists have about pesticides and other EDCs, but what about the local anecdotes that I frequently observe or hear about? From two different sources, I have learned that Stanford hospital receives most of its cases of congenital cardiac defects and childhood cancers from the Salinas valley. Also, that the Monterey/Salinas cancer clinicians are seeing more cases of premenopausal breast cancer from the Salinas area. Monterey County, the salad bowl of the US and the biggest producer of strawberries, is my home. It is an area of exquisite natural beauty, but has some of California’s most polluted streams and rivers from agricultural run-off. I shudder to think of the quality of our drinking water. To add to our woes and potentially contaminate our ground water even more, a great big experiment may soon occur on those who live in proximity to strawberry fields with the December 2010 approval by the California Department of Pesticide Regulation for the use of Über-toxic methyl iodide to fumigate those fields.
Neither does the Pacific Ocean escape the toxic effects of pesticides; the Salinas and Pajaro river watersheds drain those same pesticide laden fields and empty into the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary (MBNMS). Perusal of the MBNMS maps on this site clearly illustrates the color red to indicate “impaired” rivers. Meanwhile, the fishermen wonder where all the salmon have gone and I wonder about the local tide pools that once teemed with loads of hermit crabs, urchins, and starfish for John Steinbeck and my little boys to learn about.
I try not to turn into an Eeyore when I discuss these issues with those I am trying to educate. I often think about the messaging we use in this line of work and how we could better persuade those who are comfortable with the status quo or those who lack knowledge and understanding of the connections between the pervasive use of dangerous chemicals and the health of future generations. At one time I preached about a future scenario similar to the book and movie “Children of Men,” but that didn’t win me any converts. Now, I jokingly tell colleagues that I want to design tee shirts that say “Bugger off, don’t methylate my DNA or perturb my thyroid!” or “Halogens are not for children and other living things.” Mostly, I just breathe deep and acknowledge that I am a foot soldier to take this information to clinicians, policy makers, and patients, but as with many issues in public health this may be a long and arduous march.
Diane said, “It was startling to learn a number today. A hundred and twenty is the answer. 120 chemicals in care products, creams, shampoos, used everyday by women – most of them untested an a lot by men as well. Today, even lawmakers said it was time for a wake-up call …” (ABC World News, 4/30/12).
ABC Senior National Correspondent, Jim Avala went on to explain, “The average woman applies 12 beauty products to her body every day – 120 chemicals. For men, it’s six cosmetics and 80 chemicals.”
The report gave a small example of problematic chemicals such as formaldehye, dioxane, lead, parabens, mercury, toluene, diethyl phthalate (allergies, hormone disrupters, dermatitis in perfume) stating that Europe has banned 1,200 chemicals, which the U.S. has only banned 10.
ADDITIONAL RELATED STORIES ON IDA
Journal of Applied Toxicology published a study on January 12, 2012 finding 99 percent of breast tissue samples from post-mastectomy contained parabens. Tissue was collected in England from 40 patients with primary breast cancer between 2005 and 2008.
Parabens Seen in Almost All Breast Mastectomy Samples. MDNews.com. January 12, 2012.
Measurement of paraben concentrations in human breast tissue at serial locations across the breast from axilla to sternum. Journal of AppliedToxicology. L. Barr, G. Metaxas, C.A.J. Harbach, L.A. Savoy, P.D. Darbre. Wiley Online Library. January 12 2012.
“Fabric softener ads often portray an image of comfort, freshness and sweetness. Yet most fabric softeners contain a grim list of known toxins which can enter your body through the skin and by inhalation, causing a wide range of health problems, particularly for young children” (NaturalNews).
Fabric softeners contain toxic chemicals. Selena Keegan. NaturalNews.com. January 11, 2012.
I live with Multiple Sclerosis and Lyme Disease. I get extremely ill from chemicals in cleaning products and synthetic fragrances. This is not rare, as millions report mild to severe reactions to these (even more so with those living with chronic illness, asthma, allergies, chemical sensitivities, cancer, autism, PTSD, migraines, etc). Other than Disney hotels, I have been unable to stay in a hotel for over 10 years due to air fresheners, cleaners and sprays.
Just before Christmas, my brother passed away, so we needed to go to Grand Junction. From several previous failed attempts to find a place to stay anywhere in the area, we were quite scared to try again, but it was imperative that we find a place to stay.
We certainly did not need a hotel as fancy as the Colorado Wine Country Inn, but had exhausted all of the other options and chains. When I called the manager of this hotel (Jerome) and went through my very lengthy list of qualifications (no smoking, no air fresheners, no sprays, room can’t be near laundry, exhaust or outside smoking, etc), he didn’t even blink an eye. He was happy to answer my questions. Once we decided to make a reservation, he didn’t mind cleaning our room and linens in baking soda and vinegar!
The trip there was nerve-wracking as we had to go and we couldn’t just sleep in the car! We also had my mother with us who is battling lung cancer. When we arrived, my husband went in to check out the room and soon waved us in! We were greeted at the door by Joe and found our room to be fabulous!! The room was clean and comfortable and they had a very nice condolence card for our family signed by the staff.
Another great thing I would like to report is that the chefs were well versed in gluten sensitivities and were also able to accommodate our other food allergies.
HOWEVER! Although the room was absolutely fantastic, I do have to share the negatives and warnings about the things we did encounter for others who live with chemical sensitivities, toxic injury, asthma, allergies, etc.
1) They do have an automatic air freshener in the public restrooms off of the lobby (but none in the lobby, halls or rooms). They will be receiving a nice letter from my husband with information about the chemicals in these units, along with several alternatives based on the information found in this website, the Cleaner Indoor Air Campaign.
2) Even though they use a low chlorine type hot-tub, a slight to moderate chlorine smell is in the lobby and lower levels.
3) The neighbors in the winter use wood and pellet stoves; we did not detect this from inside the room, but could when going outside or opening the windows when it was cold outside.
4) This in is in the middle of vineyards, in which pesticides are used in the spring and summer (we went in the winter).
Even with these hurdles, we were able to secure ourselves in the room and get a good night sleep. None of the other hotels my husband tried stepping into in the area were even a slight possibility.
We cannon thank the Colorado Wine Country Inn enough for taking such great care of us!!
WARNING: I can’t guarantee how your experience will be at this hotel or any other. Please try ay hotel at your own risk after calling to ensure they do not use what you cannot tolerate, asking them to make accommodations and having a back-up plan in case it doesn’t work out! We went through all of the proper steps last summer, but still could not tolerate the room whatsoever.
TIDBITS: Nearly 38% of the population reports some sort of adverse health effect from chemicals in fragrances. Approximately 15% or more knowingly live with chemical sensitivities; it is suspected that many more do as well, but do not make the connection between their symptoms and the source. According to a 2010 study, of the 133 VOCs found in 25 everyday products, “24 are classified as toxic or hazardous under U.S. federal laws and each product emitted at least one of these compounds” (2010 Anne Steinemann, Ph.D).
When we left our home in October 2008, we brought our cars. We didn’t have much choice. In retrospect I might have agreed to borrow a car until we could figure out a course of action, but we were consumed with finding shelter and replacing necessities.
We vacuumed and wiped them with white vinegar.
Within a couple of weeks we noticed that our symptoms increased when we rode in our 9-passenger Suburban. My worry about cross-contamination increased as well.
In the end we discovered we hadn’t cross-contaminated. According to testing performed later, the cars were clean. But our symptoms were heightened when riding in the Suburban. We simply had to replace it. Most people could tolerate the car just fine, so 6 weeks after we left our home we traded it for a used Honda Odyssey with leather seats. That car felt better. Our headaches and congestion improved. We kept our second car, a Honda CR-V, and tried to use it as little as possible.
In December 2008, I traveled to Arizona with several of our children. Slowly the rest of the family followed. Our three oldest daughters relocated, then our high school senior, Ryan. Four vehicles came with them.
We noticed adverse reactions when riding in any of our old cars. Our multiple chemical sensitivity kicked in shortly after vacating our home. Therefore, any air fresheners or chemicals previously used were no longer tolerated.
We found ways to cope with our older vehicles. Regular HEPA vacuuming helped, and so did wiping down the inside with *tea tree oil and other essential oils. Changing cabin filters might have helped. Here’s what one allergy-friendly website says about cabin filters:
What is a car cabin air filter?
Many car owners don’t even realize that such a part exists in their vehicles, much less if it ever needs to be changed. But, no matter if they know it or not, a cabin air filter is an essential part of your car’s ventilation system that removes pollutants from the air before they get inside the passenger compartment. They were originally designed to remove solid contaminants like dust and soot from circulating inside your vehicle, but can now also absorb gases and odors. Cabin air filters may also be known as passenger compartment filters, interior ventilation filters, pollen filters or dust filters.
Why are the cabin air filters used?
It is an undisputed fact that roadways (especially major highways, especially during rush hours) are some of the major sources of air pollution. Therefore, as you are driving, you are forced to breathe the air tainted with exhaust fumes, dust and soot particles, many of which may pose a serious hazard to your health.
The cabin air filter is there to prevent all those pollutants from entering the passenger compartment.
Why and how often should you change the cabin air filter?
Eventually, a cabin air filter starts to lose its effectiveness, as it gets dirty with use. This may result in unpleasant odor, and decreased heating and air conditioning performance caused by restricted airflow through the filter.
It is recommended to replace the cabin air filter at least once a year or every 12,000 to 15,000 miles – more often if your vehicle is operated primarily in areas of heavy pollution or dusty conditions.
Are cabin air filters difficult to replace?
Cabin air filters are typically located under a vehicle’s dashboard or attached to the glove box. Others may be located in the engine compartment. In nearly all cases, cabin air filters can be changed in as little as 10 minutes.
For instructions on replacing the cabin air filter on a particular car model, go to the Car Cabin Air Filters Main Page and find your vehicle under the appropriate category.
Despite all of the filtration options, it was clear that we needed to replace our vehicles. It took more than two years.
Yesterday afternoon we sold the last car from Colorado. It’s been a slow, arduous process. Finding affordable, used cars with no history of air fresheners, chemicals, or mold has not been easy.
The sale of this last vehicle marks the end of a chapter. The old life is slowly passing. Somehow it also feels like a new beginning.
*Please note that many with chemical sensitivities also react to essential oils and/or vinegar. Seek advice from your medical professional before trying any new products or tips and use with your own discretion.
Transitioning to a new environment brings with it a level of stress and anxiety. How can we be sure it’s mold-free? What about the chemical aspect?
The apartment was worth pursuing since it was all electric and only a year old, with no history of water damage. During the walk-through we detected only a faint chemical smell. No plug-ins, no heavy fragrances, and no musty smell. A good, safe home environment should smell like nothing.
The good news about our condition is that our bodies let us know immediately if there is a serious mold issue, something I’ve encountered three times since leaving our Colorado home. All three times I felt a painful tightening in my chest, which took several days to resolve.
Our next step was to inquire about pesticide sprays. Aside from the initial termite spray used during construction, the apartment had not been sprayed indoors.
Although there was no sign of water damage, we decided to have the apartment inspected using thermal imaging. Infrared thermal imaging will detect hidden areas of moisture. It can also spot structural defects and any potential electrical hazards.
According to this website dedicated to thermal imaging:
Thermal imaging inspections provides us with a picture of a specific condition of a home or building. Infrared cameras allow us the ability to see and locate what the naked eye is unable to detect. Infrared images can capture thermal anomalies from moisture or water damage, roof leaks, stucco, EIFS, chimney staining and window leakage. Infrared Scans are able to locate water and moisture intrusion in buildings by thermal patterns.
Our inspector invited our 11-year-old son to put his hands and feet on the wall to demonstrate the heat-detecting capabilities of the machine.
A thermal imaging inspection can range in cost from $100 to $400, depending on the size of the dwelling and whether or not a full inspection is performed.
Here are some things we did to help remedy the chemical smell:
-Placed activated charcoal in open cups throughout the apartment. Zeolite can also be used.
-Cleaned thoroughly with white vinegar.
-Diffused essential oils like lemon and tea tree oil (Be aware that many with MCS cannot tolerate essential oils; use at your own discretion).
-Ran our air purifier (we like the Austin).
The kids are doing well in their new environment. The only question remaining: Who gets the empty room at our house?
The term, Environmental Illness, is generally used to describe a number of mild to severe health responses to the environment, whether it be such things as: food, plants, animals, smoke, smog, chemicals or electromagnetic fields. Most people are familiar with allergies to our surroundings that can range from mild seasonal allergies to trees and grasses to severe anaphylaxis to peanuts. Many people even know how asthma is a closing of the airways that can be triggered by many different … [MORE]
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