Archives for August 2012

Perfume and Histamine

But mine are designer fragrances…

I used to use a lot of perfume; it was one of my most favourite things. Ever. Before I became sensitised to the chemical ingredients in fragrances, I liked nothing better than to not only spritz on my darling L’Air du Temps (a fragrance by Nina Ricci), but also bathe in it, using the matching scented soap, then finish off with the L’Air du Temps talcum powder, and then, in the same luxurious, self-pampering vein of things, I’d lavishly apply the moisturiser as well. I would also use other designer perfumes: one named, ludicrously enough, ‘Poison’, which I didn’t wear much—not that that makes a difference to my situation now; Chanel no.5, for special occasions; Gucci Rush, another favourite (it’s weird, but I miss being able to enjoy the scent of this one—I  especially remember the heady, intoxicating bouquet of musky-jasmine, hidden amongst top notes of orange, and how I used to delight in surrounding myself in clouds of it. Adored it!), I used to wear this one so much, and I’d spray it on everything: my books, my bookmarks, my bags, scarves, even in my car!

When I was younger, for everyday use, I’d use Impulse deodorant; I can also just about still recall that scent too, it was called Inspiration—it had a cheap fragranty-chemical aroma, but still, I loved it. It  made me feel fresh. It was in an aqua blue spray can, and I’d carried one of many that I’d purchased throughout my lifetime, in my handbag since the age of fifteen.

At the age of 34, I was surprised to find myself experiencing symptoms bought on when applying my perfumes; it was one of the first chemicals that I reacted to, and the most troublesome: my eyelids would swell up, my eyes would dry out and everything—cleaning products, car fumes, fresh newspaper ink—would either sting or itch them. There was no escape. On hot windy days, the air touching my eyeballs was pure agony. At night, I’d wake up with my eyelids stuck to my eyes, and I’d scatter and grope for my Bion Tears: my eye drops. After extensive testing with an immunologist, using sublingual drops, I was diagnosed as sensitive to various chemicals. Because of the amount of perfume, I used to use, I had to throw out, give away or sell most of my possessions, all of my clothing, and a hell of a lot of my books… Heartbreaking is the only way I can describe it.

Although I never tried Opium–the fragrance that is–a while ago I came across this study, where an analysis was done on this particular fragrance’s chemicals.

(For anyone who has just landed on this page, and does not follow my blog, or have any understanding of chemical sensitivities, know this: perfumes and aftershaves are made up of mostly synthetic (and some natural) chemicals that make people, like myself, ill. Yes, people who are not wearing it, can become ill just from breathing in a fragrance that another person wears into a room or public space. It’s not the smell; it’s the chemicals used to make it, and it’s the chemical ingredients used to disperse and atomise the product as well: these make it linger and hang about in the air, around the person wearing it. There are even people who can’t go out to public places where others might be wearing it. Can’t go out. At all. Ever. And then there are people, like myself, who have to take precautions such as wearing a mask, showering straight after exposures, and asking others to please, please not wear it. And even then, after going to outlandish lengths to avoid them, I can experience symptoms bought on by exposure to these abominable products because they get on my hair, skin and clothes just from being in a room with people wearing them. Products I used to use; products I can no longer use because they make me ill… Think about that for a second… For your own sake, and if not your own (because, perhaps you think this will never happen to you), then for people like me. Please…)

The perfume used for this study was ‘Opium®’, (Yves Saint Laurent, Paris France).The designer scent has been on the market since 1977 and it is in the top ten of the most sold perfumes in Europe. An Analysis of the chemicals has shown that the fragrance chemicals in this perfume are also used in other brands. The following is part of an extract of the study:

Summary: Background Environmental perfume exposure may cause respiratory symptoms. Individuals with asthma and perfume contact allergy report such symptoms more frequently than others. However, immunologic mechanisms have not been demonstrated and the symptoms are not associated with IgE-mediated allergy. The study aimed to investigate whether basophils from patients with respiratory symptoms related to perfume released more histamine in the presence of perfume as compared with healthy volunteers.

Methods: Histamine release was measured by the glass fibre method. Blood was obtained from healthy volunteers (n=20) and patients with respiratory symptoms related to perfume (n=17) attending a dermatological outpatient clinic for patch testing. The effect of an international brand perfume was investigated using the basophil histamine release test with perfume. Furthermore, basophils from a healthy non-atopic donor were incubated with participant’s sera and histamine release induced by perfume was measured.

Results: In both groups incremental perfume concentrations showed a positive and significant (P<0.001) dose-response effect on the release of histamine. At the highest perfume concentration, the basophils released significantly (P<0.05) more histamine in patients as compared with healthy volunteers. No difference was found between the groups when sera were incubated with basophils from a healthy non-atopic donor.

Conclusion: Perfume induces a dose-dependent non-IgE-mediated release of histamine from human peripheral blood basophils. Increased basophil reactivity to perfume was found in patients with respiratory symptoms related to perfume.”

Basically, from what I can gather here, this study is telling us that people who experience either a skin reaction or respiratory reaction are having an allergic reaction where the body is releasing histamine… Um, I kind of figured that:

Obviously not my best look, but, perhaps I should be proud of my body’s effort to produce histamine?

What I find weird is this: I wasn’t born with an allergy to fragrance chemicals, it developed, or showed itself, 25 years after I’d been using them. There was no warning; it just happened to me. Of all the chemicals that make me ill, fragrance, solvents and hydrocarbons produce the worst affects. Isn’t there something strange about that? Is it me? Am I the strange one here, or is there something ‘not right’ going on with the companies who make these products? That question is rhetorical, but the this one is not: If some people are becoming ill after using these products, who, exactly, carries the burden of proof here? You see, when a product causes harm, it’s the consumer who bears the burden of proof (to prove that the products is safe). When enough people are made ill, and health care professionals and the public make complaints about ill health effects, the product is then proven to be unsafe, therefore it’s taken of the market.

The true cost to our environment:

“Of the more than 75,000 chemicals registered with the Environmental Protection Agency, only a fraction have gone through complete testing to find out whether they might cause problems for human health. Many that are produced in enormous quantities have never been tested at all. Usually, it takes dramatic episodes of workplace injuries or wildlife poisonings, combined with rigorous scientific proof of harm and public outcry, before the government will act to restrict or ban any chemical. And that is no accident. The current regulatory system allows synthetic chemicals into our lives unless proven beyond doubt to be dangerous.”

If the laws where changed to reflect the principles of the Precautionary Principle instead, the world would be a better, fairer place for people affected by these types of products because before a product could be sold, the manufactures would have to err on the side of caution…

What exactly is the Precautionary Principle?

“The precautionary principle (United Nations Conference on Environment and Development 1992) holds forth that a point can presumably be reached when human well-being and environmental health are put at risk by a large-scale human activity or man-made system over which humans have control. At such a point the problem could be identified, a course charted, and precautionary actions taken to ameliorate or prevent a potential threat to human and environmental health on behalf of current and future generations.”

Many fragrance ingredients are respiratory irritants and sensitizers, which can trigger asthma attacks and aggravate sinus conditions, so it makes sense to apply the principle rather than make the public carry the burden of proof. More about the Precautionary principle from The Ecology Centre:

“The majority of the more than 2,000 chemicals that come onto the market every year are not subjected to even the simplest tests to determine toxicity. In addition, the ways that these chemicals react with each other and with our bodies is even less studied. A better way to create public policy is by using the Precautionary Principle as a guide to protect us and the environment from harm:

When an activity (or product) raises threats of harm to human health or the environment, precautionary measures should be taken even if some cause-and-effect relationships are not fully established scientifically. In this context, the proponents of an activity (the product manufacturer), rather than the public, should bear the burden of proof (to prove that the product is safe). The process of applying the Precautionary Principle must be open, informed and democratic and must include potentially affected parties (the public and consumers).”

You can find the rest of the study here



Clinical & Experimental Allergy, Volume 37, Issue 11, Page 1676-1680, November 2007

Sources / Resources

Environmental Health Perspectives,
Environmental Working Group,
Health Care Without Harm,
Home Safe Home, Debra Lynn Dadd, (Penguin Putnam, 1997) (extensive information on health and toxics)

(Image source:

Michellina Van Loder is a Professional Writer, Journalist and Blogger. This is where she shares her tales about trail blazing her way out of the Labyrinth of Chemical Sensitivities and Mould. This is also where you will find the latest Research on related topics.

Dragon Tales

Dragon Tales

The dragon, the colour spectrum of his apparition, hidden in a decade past: only illuminative remnants of consciousness left over from the crackle and pop of jewels burnt on the pyre. Yet, like emeralds glinting in amongst the coals, his eyes still spy out from the darkness…

and the treasure kept hidden, deep down in the labyrinth in which we were both prisoners of boulders and chains, if there had been a Minotaur in sight, surely, without hesitating, we would have been the ones to sacrifice ourselves to it. But alas, the beast slept on…

The memory licks its fiery flames, inflaming the roar of Dragon’s birth; and how I hatched him out from that speckled egg, his drakeîn nature, and the way he diligently watched over his treasure—me.

Glittered scales shone as he darkened each hour, his all-encompassing passion grew, and towered over every day and night; I climbed his prehistoric limbs and wept, cradled in his mythology.

I knitted our time into a fairy-tale of melancholy happiness; and my tears became his fountain at the altar of love abiding loyalty. Taken from him, I starved, gaunt and baron; and the ball of wool rolled off into the fire.

Then the ashes rained down, and in his green fury, and whirly-wind of anger, he knitted us into realms of adversity where I knew I didn’t belong. Yet I stayed while the scorch of persimmon flames licked at the souls of our feet.

Because under a Solstice moon was shelter from the lies: a violet refuge from the agony of a mother’s deception; and the mirror of abandonment reflected in a lizard creature’s egg.

With such beauty, such respite from the first blossom of the carnal economy: the nude skin, and glittered scales drowning the knowledge of a hero with a thousand faces…

For that damn dragon was running amock in the shadow, staining blood at the door of my anima, raw grains flowing in melancholic wine, taking me down, down, dripping into the belly of the whale and its molecules of desperation

and out onto the road of trials, I saw that the beast—ugly and true—was me. So from under the serpent’s membranous wings, I took flight but not before inhaling the smell of Dragon’s blood, and tasting the scent of Eden’s nature garden, for I was lost amongst the synaesthesia of a ravenous love…

And screaming, I said, ‘Enough!’ No longer fearing Dragon’s crocodilian smirk, I reached down into the labyrinth and awoke the Minotaur. Lifting his head, he swayed, drunkenly on his feet, head bulbous and too big for his body,

dusting off cobwebs from his own cosmogony, called anew, he lent me a spark of recognition for the preciseness of this world, sending out wild seeds to arrive on the wind, and into modern warfare…

I took charge and slew this legendary creature, taking him down in a hail of imaginary bullets—terminating his serpentine rein. As my hero status faded, so too did all who were laid to waste in his crimson mist of poppy seed desire…

and their explosions out into the cosmos deluged down energies transmuted through the ages: Ganesh, Theseus, Amythystos, Eros, and Venus laughed and raised their glasses…

we all watched the volcano erupt, as I laid Dragon’s body on a bed of crimson petals. And as the lava solidified, so did my love for being alone–and free, leaving me with only a raw lucidity for this world, and the path for bliss laid bare.

And with the seeds sown, and the forest grown anew, the hero’s journey was reborn, and the day I slew the Dragon and escaped out of the labyrinth is all that I have left of the treasure to share

with you.


© Michellina van Loder, 2012


A Bearded Dragon

This is Nidhogg (his name is taken from Norse Mythologies’ dragon of the same name), my pet Lizard, not the subject of the poem, but a Dragon (and Bearded!) nonetheless…


(Note: As a part of my Myths and Symbols assignment and my learnings on Joseph Campbell and The Hero’s Journey, and in my imitative poetry student style, I lovingly crafted this poem; it was definitely influenced by my studies on Luke Davies, an Awesome Australian Contemporary Poet, and his equally awesome Epic Poem: Totem Poem. There are parts of Dragon where I allude to parts of Davies’s, Totem Poem, (Ganesh… the preciseness of this world… The labyrinth… and The Minotaur.) I do this with the greatest respect and awe for Luke Davies and his Totem Poem. You can read The Totem Poem here. And you can find more of his poetry: Interferon Psalms, over here.)

Thank you for reading. Any feedback on this poem will be appreciated, as it’s one I’m considering workshopping this year…

Michellina Van Loder is a Professional Writer, Journalist and Blogger. This is where she shares her tales about trail blazing her way out of the Labyrinth of Chemical Sensitivities and Mould. This is also where you will find the latest Research on related topics.

How to Outgas Toilet Paper

Toilet paper can be a massive pain in the butt sinuses! You see, there are toilet papers sold as hypoallergenic, fragrance free, and allergy free; then there are the unscented versions… Finding a brand that doesn’t have fragrance chemicals in it is a game of pin the tail on the donkey. Often, the hypoallergenic ones are scented with artificial rose, or some such shit irritant. In the past, I’ve found ‘safe’ brands, yet for some reason, the manufacturers change their manufacturing processes and the rolls end up no longer truly fragrance free. My boyfriend told me it’s a ‘profit issue’ because if a company makes an unscented version and a scented version, the machines would need to be cleaned in-between batches—and then they’d have to pay someone for their time to do that…

Anyway, then there are the brands that reek of bleach, or some recycled-paper-and-ink type contaminant. Also, if the toilet papers been sitting in the supermarket, in/near the cleaning isle, then it needs to be aired outside for at least a week until I can even have it in the house. Look, I’m not being fussy, I swear. All I want is toilet paper that is fragrance free. Many times I’ve given it away to a friend or my boyfriend’s mum because, hey, how long can a person be expected to ‘air’ the stuff? You see, if it’s impregnated with this ‘scent’ and it gets on my hands and/or contaminates the air space in my bathroom,  it irritates my eyes and nose when I breath it in; and I—cantankerous of me I know, I just don’t want to wear a mask in my own bathroom.

I know this is not a normal thing to write about on the internet, but this here is my toilet paper routine (no, not folding or scrunching—outgassing chemicals!):

  1. I have a dear friend go to the supermarket for me, and buy the brand of toilet paper I’m using at the moment. If they don’t have it, he must go to all the other ones until he finds it. (This drives him nutty.) I think I’ve blogged about why I can’t go into the supermarket? Well, at this point in time, I can’t go into a supermarket (unless I’m wearing a mask, am super quick, steer clear of the cleaning isle, and shower and wash my hair as soon as I get home) because my eyes stop producing tears, my lids swell up, a stinging rash appears on my face, and breathing through my nose becomes painful; this is from the chemicals in the cleaning isle, outgassing vapours, which infiltrate everything in the place—including my own hair! I’m hoping this will change as I make my way out of the Labyrinth of Chemical Sensitivities… It’s been seven months since I last went into one, and I kind of miss it!
  2. I have *dear-gone-extra-nutty-by-now friend unwrap dunny paper and stack it on a table in my driveway—undercover from the elements—so that it can air out for as long as it takes. (This is the part where the neighbours hear me yell, “DOES IT STINK OF FRAGRANCE?  IS IT BAD?  IS IT RESIDUAL OR IMPREGNATED?  WELL, DO YOU THINK IT’S THE SORT THAT WILL GO AWAY SOON?  OH, AND PUT THAT BLOODY STINKIN WRAPPER IN THE BIN WILL YOU!”)
  3. After, two-three weeks (in winter) (or one-two in summer), when it’s ready, I bring it inside; if it’s not fragrance free, this is the point where I give it away: The fragrance has obviously been added ‘into’ the paper or the little cardboard cylinder in the middle of the roll, and it’s not going to air away… Not for me. Time to find a new brand.
  4. Add more toilet paper to the shopping list so the process can be repeated again. Before we run out…


This is what our outdoor table looks like almost permanently…

Supposedly 'fragrance free' toilet paper, being aired before use because of fragrance chemicals used in the manufacturing process or the contamination of fragrance chemicals from the shops

Supposedly ‘fragrance free’ toilet paper, being aired before use because of fragrance chemicals used in the manufacturing process or the contamination of fragrance chemicals from the shops. Only time will tell…

And this is our outdoor table in between deliveries…

Pretty, isn’t it?

There ‘s a coincidence in this: one brand that is safe to use, is actually called ‘Safe‘! Made by Encore, endorsed by Planet Ark or course… The other safe toilet paper brand: Kleenex, Cottonelle, Unscented: this comes in a double wrapped plastic bag and, at the time of this blog posting, is available in packs of 48 rolls and, for me, takes the least amount of time to outgas residual fragrance chemical vapours!

It’s a weird life, I can tell you…

(Disclaimer: *Nutty friend (who was not actually nutty until he started doing my shopping for me) gets compensated with payment of petrol and organic chocolate—therefore has not been emotionally or psychologically harmed during the process of fulfilling my requirments.)

Michellina Van Loder is a Professional Writer, Journalist and Blogger. This is where she shares her tales about trail blazing her way out of the Labyrinth of Chemical Sensitivities and Mould. This is also where you will find the latest Research on related topics.

Information, products and views presented by guest bloggers @The Labyrinth are not necessarily the same as those held by this blog's author, Michellina van Loder. Reviews are my own personal opinions (unless stated otherwise); and satire is used throughout personal posts. Any health topics discussed are not to be taken as medical advice. Seek out medical attention if needed and do your own research; however, you're welcome to use mine as a start.
Translate »