Book Review: Understanding Multiple Chemical Sensitivity

Understanding Multiple Chemical Sensitivity: Causes, Effects, Personal Experiences and ResourcesUnderstanding Multiple Chemical Sensitivity: Causes, Effects, Personal Experiences and Resources by Els Valkenburg

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I inhaled this book in one sitting, literally. I gassed myself on the petrochemical inks used in the printing of it; because I wanted to know how, what, why MCS. (Not that I’m an MCS-er (cause like, it doesn’t bloody *exist* here in Australia; yet, contradictory to this non consensus on an actual diagnosis, I’ve met plenty of these walking-talking-MCS wounded myself!) but I have been tested and diagnosed as sensitive to chemicals, so I just wanted to find some help relevant to my situation, seeing it’s so bloody similar?!)

Although insightful and engaging, this book was an intensely annoying read because, although it contains a whiff of delightful little morsels of helpful information, ultimately, it’s not as ‘resourceful’ as the title suggests: the links referred to in the book are outdated; therefore, some of the references are not able to be located using a Google search. This book was released in 2009, so the information should still be current. (So to all those aspiring authors out there – you know who you are –  make sure the sources and links you quote as references are able to be followed up on.)  However, I did enjoy reading about the suggestions for using Tyvek to cover furniture, and the use of Tyvek suits for visitors to wear if they happen to have perfume on, but this protection measure would not do anything to prevent the air being contaminated by the perfume. Would it? And besides, who lets fragrance-wearing people into their home if they, themselves, are sensitive to it? Oh, of course, that’s it: Valkenburg must have visitors who have it in for her, just like I do occasionally. (Yes, Aunty Betty, I’m talking ’bout you!) You know the type: the “I’m-not-wearing-any-LeDoucheDaSmellyArse-Designer-Fragrance-today,” types. (Said from behind teeth lying through pong emanating out VOCs packed with enough synthetic musks and phthalates to supply a Greenpeace Investigation of Chemicals in Perfumes.  (If you are interested in this Tyvek idea, there is a woman using it to protect herself from mould spores, which she is highly sensitive to; and I can’t recommend her tips highly enough. She knows her stuff!)

Valkenburg makes many suggestions regarding helpful products and services for people with Environmental Illness (EI), chemical sensitivities, and Multiple Chemical Sensitivities (MCS) (which really are all the same illnesses, it just depends on which country you live in, and what the doctors there tell you!). Some of the suggestions were new to me, but most are common knowledge for anyone who has had to live with this for many years (like I have. Twice). There is not a lot of lateral thinking, which I found disappointing as I was really looking for some new ideas. I guess I’ll just have to stick with avoiding chemicals, walking on the beach, and covering everything with foil, taking supplements, wearing a mask, and in the mean time, hope to hell that I can recover. Again.

And another thing, pedantic I know, the mask that Valkenburg wears on the cover is not one listed as available from any sources in the book or one that I’ve ever seen. Anywhere. Ever. She does make it look fashionable though, in that rich autumn berry colour, and I really, really want one like that. But alas, it’s not discussed in the book. The only masks are the 3M, I can Breathe, and the other ‘ugly fugly’ ones that we can get here, in Australia too.

Furthermore, I would liked to have seen some coping strategies and some tips on getting people who wear fragrance to not wear it. (I guess I’ll just have to write a post about that subject myself. When I’ve mastered the art of this task, of course!)

The foreword is by Greenpeace, which is probably why I bought the book in the first place. I’d follow Greenpeace to the end of the earth (or to the saving of it.).

Overall, Understanding Multiple Chemical Sensitivity: Causes, Effects, Personal Experiences and Resources is a fast yet dense devouring, leaving the reader feeling that MCS is a real and severely debilitating illness that needs to be taken seriously right now. The topic is given extra weight when it is the writer, who themselves is suffering, and putting their energy into writing such a book for the benefit of those who suffer like themselves in having to deal with what is fast becoming a modern epidemic.

I can only recommend this book to people newly chemically sensitive because the rest of us know most of what is in this book. I still gave it five stars (cause I’m good like that!). If you’d like more up to date information, and to find out about the hottest book on this exact subject about to hit my shores and yours, head on over to here.

Understanding Multiple Chemical Sensitivity: Causes, Effects, Personal Experiences and Resources is available from Amazon and all good bookstores.

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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.



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  1. I was disappointed with the book as well. The tyvek was all I got out of it. It was my way to force home health to treat me. The state said i needed at home nursing home level of care but the agency wouldn’t even listen to how to do this and abandoned me. I sent 22 pages of ADA and MCS info, and bammo when i said ILLEGAL they asked for advice. Tyvek. It works. The person still cannot wear perfume or mouth wash or chew gum, but they can do physical therapy, pour my meds, and clean. I also have some myself for building manager, phone company guy, etc. I am sensitive to everything, so anyone whose clothing is not organic and undyed makes me sick most of the time. Anyone who uses anything other than Dr Bronners on their hair and body makes me very ill. So for me, it’s not an issue of fragrance. if they have rubber boots, used any unscented laundry product. used any shampoo or body cream, used essential oils, bammo I am sick and home destroyed.

    That was all I got from this book. I think she is now in the cured by NLP group.

    Plus it was too one size fits all woo woo. Reiki makes me violently ill while some other energy work does not. Reiki is seen where i live (Vermont USA) as the ultimate everything and everyone appears to be a Reiki master, but they don’t get that the energy they send into people is not universal, it harms some of us a lot, sometimes for years.

    As for understanding MCS: No science. I understood it less. She says in the book she doesn’t know the science part but that was what I wanted to buy. I have the daily hints aside from Tyvek and everything else she mentions in the book from other books. Being disabled in the US I am below poverty level. I would have rather bought something NEW not a rehashing.

    • Michellina Van Loder says:

      Thank you for reading my review; I, too, wanted more from the book… I was feeling cantankerous when I sat down to write this here review, so, sorry but it kind of shows up in it.

      Yes, the Tyvek was a winner! And I’m so glad Tyvek has allowed you to receive the help you need, Heather. Yes, the fragrance issue is considered a disability in many places, therefore it’s illegal for them to discriminate against you or me. The problem is, as i’m sure you already know, there is not enough awareness surrounding the issue, and ordinary folk don’t realise that it’s not just fragrance sufferers being pedantic; it’s actually a medical condition caused by exposure to chemicals, just like the asbestos and smoking issue of days gone by! I have problems accessing basic goods and services all the time, and now I feel like a robot explaining [insert polite voice] that yes, I have a disability, and yes I’m covered under the Disability act, and if they don’t take (as an example) my computer in for fixing, and don’t wear fragrance or spray deodorant, or wear gloves, then they are actually discriminating against me, and I WILL have to go to the Disability Discrimination Legal Service (DDLS) about it. That too, changes their perspective on the issue. I think it is because they believe it’s the smell of something that is bothering us, rather than the chemicals actually causing physical symptoms. (I then tape a letter from my doctor to the computer, or whatever it is I’m trying to get done. Now, if only I could tape a letter to my forehead.)

      Wow, you are really that sensitive to all fabrics? Apart from organic ones? You really have it tough, and I feel for you. I do hope you have some understanding people come into your life, as it can make all the difference in the world! Again, glad you found the Tyvek. And Dr Bronners, which I’ve just discovered: the shaving cream for a particular male visitor I have calling has turned out to be a total jewel in the mud… Do you use the soap or the body wash? I bought the soap bar once but it had other soap residue in it, so it was no good for me.

      I tried to buy some Tyvek suits here and found that they had been impregnated with some type of orange solvent type stuff (these suits were for chemical spills and a friend borrowed them from his work for me to try). What brand do you use? Can I buy it on Amazon? I have another friend in the US who has these too, and they work so well for her… I think I must try some out. Using Tyvek to cover furniture would be good too I think (and that was in the book too).

      I tried a few expensive sessions of NLP–nine years ago–in the early days of struggling with being sensitive to chemicals; however, I didn’t know that that was what was wrong with me. I could only link it to smells at the time (and I was still wearing fragrances. Duh!), so I saw an NLP guy. I haven’t tried that, what-ever-it’s-called type of NLP that others have; but the one that I tried, I can only liken it to bashing my head against a concrete wall while having an allergic reaction and being told to ‘picture’ an imaginary Epipen in my mind… Sorry but, like you, I need science and PubMed docs before I spend my money on a treatment (unless it’s free and involves herbs or mediation, then I’ll give it a go).

      It is good that Els wrote the book with the intention to heal, and it’s a pity there was not more to it. Don’t worry though, i have plans to review more books that come out, and a few of the older pre-existing ones. I’ll try to be in a better mood next time when I write one, but I’ll still give Understanding Multiple Chemical Sensitivity five stars for effort!

      Cheers darlinks


      • Oh yes i guess I am a Universal reactor. Finding things I do not respond to is near impossible. I have a very limited palette of color in my life due to that. I was dying things with turmeric and staghorn sumac and walnut hulls but my lips go numb near that too. I think the CO damaged my CNS. It is all I can imagine causing me to react to everything including light. They call it MUSES, like MCS times a hundred.

        The Tyvek suits I use are on Amazon but cheaper at PK Safety which may not delivery to where you are. They are by Dupont (they poison us and then get us to pay for suits, argh!) Tyvek coveralls 1414. They do run a bit small for esp if people have their winter layers on. They are hot after a while I hear. When homeless I slept in one for that reason.

        I have been using Dr Bronners since i was an off the grid kid in the 70s who bathed in a creek! I use it very dilluted for my hair as it coats, and then rinse with lemons I had boiled earlier to make the house smell better. (Two birds.) I used apple cider vinegar as a child but vinegar makes me really sick now. His son was in and out of foster care, I guess he was an awful abusive/neglectful father. It’s weird how that works. Hippie land gossip! LOL


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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.
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