Why Hydrotherm Hydronic Heating is a Breath of Fresh Air (Part II)

How Wood Fires and Ducted Heating Could be Bad for your Health

When building an allergy-free, eco-friendly home, cost can be a huge consideration; however, so can health, especially when good health has been missing from your life for the good part of a decade and a half. In my last post I discussed how using hydronic heating is the only sure way to have a dust-free home. A dust-free home can be a mould-free home (providing you don’t allow for water damage!). Before I show the installation of the Build an Eco-friendly, Allergy-free House project’s hydronic heating ‘fit out’, by Hydrotherm, let’s look at some of the most unsuitable heating systems for people with respiratory illness, asthma, CIRS (also known as mould illness) and illness related to chemical sensitivity:

How can Wood-smoke Fires Still be Popular?

Woodsmoke, I’ve written about it before, but unless someone has an illness like myself and many other readers here, some ‘other’ (not caring about our Earth!) type of people still find wood-fires romantic, tribal or ambient or… burn-old-furniture type of cheap. Not only does storing the wood create a haven for dust and mould but you’re likely to get PM2.5 particles in your house dust after each burn… and your lungs. Plus what you dump into your neighbours’ lungs. Let’s hope they don’t have asthma or chemical sensitivity, CIRS, or respiratory illness! Especially the children.

More on wood-smoke from Australian Air Quality Group:

‘There are no safe PM2.5 Levels’.

PM2.5 are a pollutant with no safe level, that (in Europe) cause 20 times as many premature deaths as the next worst pollutant (ozone). The sensible strategy would be to spend substantially more resources reducing PM2.5 than other pollutants.

Sadly, the approach in “Action for Air” is based on politics, not logic.  For example, a single new woodheater installed in Sydney has estimated health costs of $4,000 per year.  Although this is only half the costs of an existing woodheater (see right column), it is hard to understand why anyone who knows and understand the true health costs, or the amount of pollution emitted by a new woodheater, would want to use one.”

So while some people are practing ignorance, or romance (or both), and the Australian Government are ignoring health statistics, others, like us are practising how to seal our houses up from woodsmoke sneaking in: through door cracks, loose windows, exhaust flues in kitchens and bathrooms and even cracks in the floorboards—we’re running around with painters’ masking tape and cotton wool trying to seal up the cracks in our (Environmental Pollution Authority) EPA’s system. Running air purifiers. Wearing masks. In our own homes. Anything to avoid symptoms bought on by inhaling woodsmoke night after cold, painful night.

Not much longer I tell myself. Drooling over Hydrotherm images of the heating panels on Instagram, lol.

Now, think, if everyone had hydronic systems connected to gas, electric or solar? The air quality could be far better. If the Australian government bought in kickbacks for replacing wood-fire heating systems for hydronic systems, it would show they care about the environment and the true cost of health! “4 k a year in health costs from wood fire heating!” Seriously?

Green Building

(image source: pixabay)

Why ducted heating systems can be bad for People with Respiratory Illness, MCS, Lung Disease and CIRS patients

Other heating I instinctively stayed away from were the ducted versions. Even before I was sick they felt dry and, in many rentals, just blew dust around until the air felt parched, devoid of oxygen, dust, caked into my eyes and nostrils.

One rental, I had to move out after dust and fragrance (and possibly mould) were stirred up by having the ducted heating system professionally cleaned.

And, as it happens: ducted heating systems will spread mould around your house if you have an area that’s water damaged and growing mould. They are notorious for it.

If your house is relatively new and mould free, a ducted heating system is an expensive yet adequate heater if kept clean and turned off at the slightest water leak or need for damage control if mould is found.

For a ducted system not to spread mould, you’d need to know about the leak as, or just after, it happens, dry it within 24-48 hours, and! turn all fans, ducted heating systems, HVACs and exhaust fans off until the mould is taken care of. Again: If this doesn’t happen the ducted heating just spreads it throughout the whole house.

Fact: A ducted heating system uses 3 times the gas than a hydronic system.

Hydrotherm Hydronic Heating is like a breath of fresh air because they don’t pollute the indoor airspace. They allow for a pristine environment, free from allergens such as dust and mould.

Hydrotherm Part I: Radiant Heat Fights Allergies with Hydrotherm Hydronic Heating

Hydrotherm Part II: Why Hydrotherm Hydronic Heating is a Breath of Fresh Air

Hydrotherm Part III: Hydrotherm Hydronic heating for our Eco-friendly, Allergy Free House

Hydrotherm Contact Details

Hydrotherm: Hydronic Heating

Greenheat: Hydronic Heating

Hydrotherm Instagram

Radiant Heat Fights Allergies with Hydrotherm Hydronic Heating (Part I)

hydrotherm hydronic heating for build an eco-friendly, allergy-free house project

Hydrotherm hydronic heating installers arrive for the Build an Eco-Friendly, Allergy-free House project

The Build And Eco-Friendly, Allergy-Free House (BEAH) project had stage 1, the ‘fit out’, installation for hydronic heating: 2 floors, one cottage done a while back. Everything had been planned with the usual military precision and attention to detail: It was a busy two days! And to top it off we had Jacob Maggs, our masterfully-EMF aware electrician on the site working his magic, re-jigging wires, lowering the electromagnetic fields to-be around the bedroom (that’s another post in itself. I do not have EHS (Electromagnetic Sensitivity), however, I’ve included research on building to low EMF standards in my book, Freedom: an Eco-friendly, Allergy-free Home… While also taking precautions with the BEAH project. For now, go to EI Wellspring for the safest information on building low-EMF style.)

Yes, I sent all of our workers’ the doctor’s letter just like always when dealing with companies, businesses and tradespeople.

The Hydrotherm crew arrived like a bunch of scent-free superheroes: no fragrance; no sprays.

Hydrotherm hydronics

Hydrotherm had specified my medical condition’s needs in the actual quote so everyone on the job new about it. Along with AESSRA ‘How to be Fragrance-free’ brochures, I supplied spray cans of ‘QV Naked’ spray deodorant (with the choice of aluminium or not) or a roll on, one for each crew member. (Hot tip: for tradies who leave it there, put their initials on the lid) I like it when workers take it home with them, like a gift. It’s a lovely thought knowing you may have changed someones preferences from chemical irritants, like fragrance, to less-toxic products.

As an example, here’s what I got in writing from one of the managers via email:

“We are happy to comply with all of your needs regarding your respiratory system. As discussed, we are happy to use silicone provided by yourself. We would anticipate a maximum of 6 tubes needed but that would be dependent on the type of joists used.”

With this on our final quote:

Written on our quote, after explaining my 'allergies' to fragrance

Written on our quote, after explaining my ‘allergies’ to fragrance

We had 6 tubes of Selley’s 3 in 1 silicone (lasts up to 5 years) ready for on the day; however, we have been changing the silicone on any external areas to Sikaflex, then going over it with mortar, due to the need to have all external holes in the building watertight as possible. (The Selley’s tested safe for breathing, the Sikaflex, not. However, it’s used on the external part of the building so should be fine.)

The Hydrotherm guys were obsessionally organised, which I found pleasantly unusual in the tradie world…  And they travel out to wherever you are. And did I say they clean up after themselves?

Hydronic heating for allergies

Organisation, plus!

But First!

Hydronic Heating as a Source of Warmth for the Chemically-Sensitive Patient

My treating Allergist and Immunologist, the renowned Allergist and Immunologist, Dr Colin Little, in Mt. Waverly, Victoria, Australia, has a lovely, warm clinic with hydronic heating panels installed.

They have a fragrance free policy there so it’s actually a comfy place, where you can relax waiting for your appointment, especially when it’s cold outside, and still be able to breathe comfortably.

Fragrance free door sign. Dr Little: 324 Stephensons Rd Mount Waverley, VIC 3149

Fragrance Free Door Sign: Dr Little’s Rooms: 324 Stephensons Rd
Mount Waverley, VIC 3149

One of the information sheets he gave me when I tested positive to burnt gas, said: “Hydronic Heating, coil or panels”, are the safest heating option for those sensitive to chemicals or with respiratory illness!

Of course, being a renter, I’d struggled with heating for years. As we all often do.

All of the rentals I’ve stayed in over the last 10 years, I could use the air-conditioning but I struggled to find a heater that didn’t hurt to breathe around, failing with:

  • oil column heaters (the enamel or plastic dials); in an old one once, it was the oil itself that was a problem;
  • convection panel (burnt dust);
  • the Nobo convection heater (well famed in MCS circles) (perhaps I had the wrong model but something inside burnt fumes making me ill for years each time I tried it. No smell just chemicals burning off, it was like the layer that it comes with they recommend you burn off for 24 hours first);
  • And, the worst, I tried the old-school coil heaters that burn dust continually…

…burning dust was an awful problem for me, setting of the diagnosed Alodynia on the left side of my face, so painful (little did I know, inhaling ‘mustiness’  and having MaCRONS (sinus strep infection) was/is my main sinus problem!)

For years I struggled with the only two types of heating I could use: the split system (so long as it was newish with clean filters (no apple caichen (scented) technology (‘ambient scenting’ from Kensington or Fuji (Fuji’s come in a foil packet and are optional to install.) on low heat so as not to cause outgassing in the foil-covered rental; however, I’ve also found these machines to sometimes be mouldy; last, and what I’m left with at the moment: the small Arlec air heaters, replaced each year as they collect dust in the fans. It was a nightmare thinking back on it; and I don’t know why anyone with an illness related to chemical sensitivity, asthma or any respiratory disorder wouldn’t choose hydronic heating, given the opportunity.

“It’s not as expensive as you might think; and if you go with the right company, like Hydrotherm, you’ll get a great price.” ~ Michellina van Loder, CIRS patient

I’ve spent many winters in pain from various heaters outgassing noxious chemicals to which testing shows I’m sensitive to, causing my sinuses to feel like they’re screaming in pain; yet not wanting to turn the heating off due to ice-cold Melbourne nights, I’d put up with it. (I’m also sensitive to breathing cold air: my sinuses and that old pain in my head that gets set off from mould exposure. You know it’s freezing here, on the coast of Victoria, Australia, right?)


Medical ‘Allergy Sublingual’ type testing showed:

  • ‘burnt gas’, from gas heating and cooking;
  • ‘formaldehyde’ often found in new heaters, paints that are not powder-coated
  • formaldehyde found in PM2.5 particles in wood-smoke, sometimes from burning off or most likely, wood-fire heaters polluting the outside air making its way, rudely, inside.

What is Hydronic Heating, Exactly?

From Bosche:

Hydronic heating is a method of heating utilising heated water to distribute warmth throughout a building. The benefits of hydronic heating Hydronic heating offers superior comfort, operational efficiency, and silent operation. It is also known to minimise the negative effects to allergy and asthma sufferers caused by the circulation of airborne particles, such as pollen and dust, that occur with alternative heating technologies employing blown air.

Why we Chose Hydronic Heating?

So I can see why the good doctor gives his allergic and chemically sensitive patients information sheets on Hydronic heating seeing it is the safest type of heating system for people who are immune compromised, have CIRS, MCS, ME, CFS, Asthma or any respiratory illness where irritants can impede on existing health conditions and diseases:

  • because the panels (or under floor coils) don’t collect dust, burning it when switched on, often inflaming airways;
  • clean air;
  • no VOCs gives the hydronic system the five-star advantage over all other heating systems;
  • they don’t exacerbate chronic illness like burning gas, twin-system air-conditioners—that can, and often are, mould contaminated—and hydronic heating doesn’t dry out the air or the eyes;
  • They can’t go mouldy or collect cellulose to make mould;
  • The heat dispensed from the panels is an ambient, warm heat, emanating from powder-coated panels. It cannot pick up unwanted scents or fragrances from visitors, like heaters than have air intake and outtake vents and filters do;

Even EI Wellspring, a reputable US source often used with confidence by downunders says:

“A hydronic system is one where water carries the heat and coolness, instead of using air.  Hydronic heating is common in Canada, the northeast United States and Scandinavia.  Such a system can be designed to be completely free of noise, moving air and EMF, but they are costly.
A boiler (which can be a regular water heater in some cases) heats up the water, which is pumped around by a small circulation pump.  If desired, the boiler can be located in a shed outside the house, even away from the house.  The boiler can then use either electricity or gas (propane or natural gas).  If using gas, it is best to locate the shed down wind from the house.
The hot water coming into the house can either circulate through a slab floor (in-floor heat), through radiators, or go through a heat-exchanger mounted in a conventional forced-air system.  When retrofitting an existing house, upgrading an existing forced-air system may be the most economical choice.

US Information on MCS Friendly Hydronic Heating

“A special type of radiator can both be used to heat and cool a room.  Burnham Hydronics (1-888-432-8887) makes the Duo-Rad, which requires a fan to run continuously.  Edwards Engineering (1-800-526-5201, www.edwards-eng.com) makes the very sleek looking Valance system, which does not require any fan at all.  The author is not aware of any EI person who has actually used either of these two systems
If using radiators, make sure they have a baked-on powder coating.  Painted enamel and simple cast iron radiators are apparently not well tolerated…”

Read more on Heating and Cooling from EI Wellspring

Hydrotherm’s panels are powder-coated.

If the House is an Eco-House with Passive-heating and Passive-cooling, does it really need Hydronic Heating?

Yes, but you need to be active in using it each day, it still fits in well with a passively heated and cooled house because on the colder, no-sun days, it will remain on 22c; and on sunny winter days, it may need to go on 12c to keep the house toasty warm. Of course the front of the house, the north is warmer due to its design but the southern ends of the house can get cold, freezing at night. I know, I’ve had to sleep there a few nights… By having a heating system I can afford to run, I can heat the whole house therefore lowering the risk of mould growing due to cold air in the form of moisture vapour [Think fog, mist, humidity levels!)

Hydrotherm Part I: Radiant Heat Fights Allergies with Hydrotherm Hydronic Heating

Hydrotherm Part II: Why Hydrotherm Hydronic Heating is a Breath of Fresh Air

Hydrotherm Part III: Hydrotherm Hydronic heating for our Eco-friendly, Allergy Free House

Hydrotherm Contact Details

Hydrotherm: Hydronic Heating

Greenheat: Hydronic Heating

Hydrotherm Instagram

Australian National Register of Environmental Sensitivities (ANRES) results for February 2017

ANRES Data for 190 Registrants

By Dr Sharyn Martin.

PDF version: ANRES results n=190


The prevalence and burden of Environmental Sensitivities are largely unknown in Australia. While there have been a few studies on the prevalence of MCS and CFS/ME individually, there are none that we have found on the prevalence of co-morbid conditions with Environmental Sensitivity. When submissions have been made to Government Departments in the past, the reply has often been that there is insufficient evidence that a large enough number of people live with these conditions to warrant further investigation. This is hindering research, inclusion in the medical curriculum, disability support schemes and access to services.  It becomes a circular issue as the lack of consensus amongst the medical profession on the diagnostic criteria for these conditions means that many people do not have a diagnosis and their condition/s are not included in health surveys or hospital records and therefore there is no evidence. Environmental Sensitivities have far reaching implications if left undiagnosed and untreated. It not only affects the health of the individual, it also affects that person’s lifestyle, family situation, financial situation, ability to socialise, ability to support oneself or family, ability to access and utilise facilities such as hospitals, schools, libraries, shopping centres, health care facilities etc.  Many people are suffering hardships and continue to be ignored because there is no evidence that they exist, and there are people in the community with symptoms of these conditions who are not diagnosed and do not know what is causing their chronic ill health and continue to be exposed to triggers and develop more sensitivity. The Australian National Register for Environmental Sensitivities (ANRES) was set up to address this need. We wanted to show the Australian Government and Health Services that there are Australian from all around the country suffer from these conditions so as  to assist in gaining recognition of Environmental Sensitivities as a disability and facilitate moving forward with issues such as access to medical and disability services.

The results from this study are showing that people with Environmental Sensitivities have a number of co-morbid conditions and are living with significant hardship and difficulty in all aspects of their life from their ability to earn an income, have safe and affordable housing to being able to function in society.

Environmental Sensitivities

Environmental Sensitivities (ES) describes a variety of reactions to chemicals, electromagnetic fields and other environmental factors at exposure levels commonly tolerated by many people. The Environmental Sensitivities included in this report are largely hidden or invisible disabilities in our society. They include Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS), Chronic Fatigues Syndrome/ Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (CFS/ME), Biotoxin-related Illnesses, Fibromyalgia, Electromagnetic Hypersensitivity (EHS), and Fragrance and Food Sensitivities.

The environmental factors that cause or trigger Environmental Sensitivities includes chemicals in cleaning products, perfumes, air fresheners, plasticisers, exhaust fumes, newspaper print and more, in the case of Chemical Sensitivities; Electromagnetic fields (EMF) emitted from mobile phones, wireless technology, smart meters etc for EHS; or mould for Biotoxin related illnesses. Environmentally Sensitive individuals can suffer various degrees of health injury and disability whilst in the built environment, including medical facilities during emergencies.

They become sensitive to substances in the everyday environment at levels well below those considered acceptable to normal people. Productive people suddenly or gradually become unable to tolerate offices, homes, schools, hospitals and public places. Employers may refuse to accommodate people to continue working in safety. Despite skills and education some end up on social assistance, many are socially isolated as they are forced to retreat from places and activities they love. This devastation can extend to loss of spouses, family and friends who may not accept their illness. These conditions have become hidden or invisible disabilities as people retreat from society.

Environmental Sensitivity conditions are known to co-exist. Multiple Chemical Sensitivity is known to co-exist with allergy, CFS , Fibromyalgia, EHS (Meggs et al, 1996; Aaron and Buchwald, 2001; Brown MM and Jason LA, 2007; Caress and Steineman, 2005; Lacour et al, 2005; Statistics Canada, 2006; Gibson, 2009; Gibson et al, 2015; Gibson et al, 2016), as well as fragrance sensitivity and food intolerances (Sears, 2007). Aaron and Buchwald suggest that it is highly probable that the degrees of co morbidity among unexplained conditions are due to a complex interplay between genes and the environment (2001). A study of 727 people, (571 with EHS, 52 with MCS and 154 with both EHS had MCS found that concomitant multiple food intolerances were associated with all three groups. Their study indicated that EHS and MCS are associated with some autoimmune response (Belpomme and Irigaray, 2015). In 2011, Allergy Sensitivity and Environmental Health Association Qld (ASEHA) in cooperation with the South Australian MSC reference group conducted a survey of members with MCS. In this survey the most common co-morbid diseases occurring with MCS were CFS/ME, Gastrointestinal disorders, allergic, cardiac, ENT and skeletomuscular disorders.  CFS/ME was the most commonly reported at 74.0% (ASEHA, 2011)

The Ontario Centre of Excellence in Environmental Health report on the Quantitative data in Ontario and Canada showed that the prevalence of one or more Environmental Sensitivity conditions in 2010 was 4.2% of the Canadian population and 5% in Ontario. The conditions studied were Environmental Sensitivities/Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (ES/MCS), Fibromyalgia (FM), Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/ Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (ME/CFS). Between 2005 and 2010 alone, these conditions rose by 23 percent, 34 percent, and 13 percent respectively. (Halapy and Parlor, 2013).

The features that these Environmental Sensitivity conditions share are that they are chronic, they are environmentally linked and appear with other chronic co-morbidities. They affect the nervous system, and many body organs or systems. As their severity increases, there is generally more co-morbidity and many people have two or more conditions simultaneously. All of these conditions produce devastating symptoms that can lead to total disability (Halapy and Parlour, 2013).

Genuis and Lipp, 2001, have used the term Sensitivity-Related Illness (SRI) to describe the aberrant biological processes that occur when these multi-system conditions such as MCS, EHS, CFS and Fibromyalgia develop. Sensitivity-Related Illness describes a pathophysiological response to the bioaccumulation of substances such as toxic chemicals, infections, dental materials etc from various sources. A hypersensitivity to EMF may have started with a totally unrelated toxic insult or multiple insults in the form of foreign exposures (Genuis and Lipp. 2011; Genuis and Tymchak,2015). This pathway of increasing loss of tolerance has been referred to as TILT (Toxicant Induced Loss of Tolerance) (Miller 2001; Miller 1997). It maybe through this pathway that these multiple Co-conditions develop.

Researching the disease burden of Environmental Sensitivities in Australia is not an easy task and it is even more difficult when investigating the social impacts of the condition/s. This is due to the reluctance by various authorities to legitimise conditions such as MCS as a physiological disease (Dummitt, 2005; Phillips, 2010) along with lack of studies that identify the daily needs of people with Environmental Sensitivities.  Brown and Jason, 2007 when studying the functioning in individuals with CFS with co-occurring MCS and fibromyalgia found that participants with three diagnoses experienced the greatest amount of disability (Brown and Jason, 2007). We are investigating whether this is the case in Australians by allowing them to list more than one condition.

Published literature on the effects/life impacts of Environmental Sensitivities show that these conditions are pervasive and include loss of identity because of the contested nature of the condition (Doiron, 2007; Gibson, et al., 1996; Gibson & Lindberg, 2007; Gibson et al., 2005; Gibson, White, & Rice, 1997; McCormick, 2001; Zwillinger, 1997; Gibson P, 2015); damage to income and work (Gibson & Lindberg, 2007; Vierstra et al., 2007); social support (Gibson et al., 1998); access to medical care (Gibson et al., 2015); community resources (Gibson, 2010; Gibson et al., 2011.

As far as we know we are the first to study concomitant Environmental Sensitivity conditions and the impact of these conditions on Australian lives. While these numbers are not large they are representative of the problems and issues surrounding Environmental Sensitivities.

ANRES Environmental Sensitivities register Results.

To date 190 Australians have registered their Environmental Sensitivities on the ANRES website as of February 2017. We have had a reasonable spread of people across all states except Northern Territory. The percentage of registrants from each of the Australian States  are 29.6% from Victoria, 25.4% from New South Wales, 22.2% from Queensland, 12.2% from South Australia and 5.3% from Western Australia and Tasmania.

One hundred and fifty-eight (83.2%) females and 32 (16.8%) males have registered.  These numbers are consistent with overseas estimates of 80% in women compared to 20% in men (Caress and Steinmann, 2003; NSW Public Health 2003; Fitzgerald, 2008) with women reporting more severe symptoms [Joffres et al, 2001]. The South Australian survey of MCS and chemical hypersensitivity also showed that 90% of females compared to 66% of males report perfumes etc as a chemical trigger of hypersensitivity (Fitzgerald, 2008).

Women may be more vulnerable because they have a higher body fat to muscle ratio than men, and so may have more body burden of toxicants accumulated in their fat. Women’s use of cosmetics, household cleaning activities, and work in jobs such as in hair and nail salons could expose them to chemicals to which men are not as heavily exposed [Lipson and Doiron, 2006]. However, there is little research on the reasons for higher rates of Environmental Sensitivities in women, who are most frequently diagnosed between the ages of 30 and 40, the peak productive years for work and family [Lavergne et al, 2010]. Dr. John Molot of the Ontario Centre of Excellence in Environmental Health (OCEEH) suggests that females ‘are more responsive to their environment via both the limbic and immune systems have a greater body burden of chemical exposures and less efficient detoxification systems compared to men’ (Molot, 2013).

Environmental Sensitivity Conditions

Conditions Registered

We have included Fragrance and Food Sensitivity in this study due to the high number of published literature and anecdotal reports of their common occurrence with other Environmental Sensitivities.

The data shows that MCS at 75.8% is the most reported condition followed by Fragrance Sensitivity at 74.7%, Food Sensitivity at 68.9%, Table 1.  We do not know if this will be a general trend or if larger numbers of MCS are registering due to the spread of the ANRES project through the MCS community or it maybe in part due to hypersensitivity in the general community.

The estimated prevalence rates of chemical hypersensitivity in Australia is 7.5% for children 2-15 year old, and between 16% to 24.6% for adults and it is possible that for these people their condition may worsen until it becomes Multiple Chemical Sensitivity. Fitzgerald noted that as there are no diagnostic guidelines for MCS in Australia, it is possible that 1% prevalence rate of diagnosed MCS is due to under reporting of some of the chemical hypersensitivity individuals. Some chemical hypersensitivity individuals had symptomology more aligned with the MCS cases and could represent undiagnosed MCS (NSW Health, 2003, Fitzgerald, 2008).

Chemicals that were attributed to triggering hypersensitivity in adults were perfumes or aftershaves (82.5%), tobacco smoke 42.2%,New building or renovation 40.4%, Pesticides or herbicides 37.2%, Petrochemicals 32.0% Vehicle smoke 27.1% and other chemicals 19.0% (Fitzgerald, 2008). Odours or smells that caused illness in 2-15 year old were Cleaning agents, Petrol or exhaust fumes; Perfumes or aftershaves, Scented soap or shampoo or other toiletries, Scent of flowers such as jasmine, gardenia, wattle, etc, Fresh paint, Pesticides, and Cigarette smoke (2007-2008 NSW Health Survey). These are the same chemicals that cause symptomology in those with MCS.

The high number of Perfume Sensitivity registrations is perhaps not surprising as a national representative survey of over 1,000 Australians showed that one in three Australians experience health problems when exposed to common fragranced consumer products (Steinmann, 2017). In the Fitzgerald 2008 paper, of the 16% of the SA population who reported chemical hypersensitivity, 82.5% attributed perfumes as a trigger of their hypersensitivity symptoms.

Table 1. Environmental Sensitivity Conditions
Environmental Sensitivity Conditions Number Percentage %
MCS 144 75.8
Fragrance Sensitivity 142 74.7
EHS 80 42.1
Food Sensitivity 131 68.9
CFS/ME 84 44.2
Fibromyalgia 54 28.4
Lyme Disease &/or it’s co-infections 18 9.5
Biotoxin-related illness 13 6.8
Other 46 31.9
As registrants can select more than one condition, the percentages do not add up to 100%

Other Conditions Reported

The Other conditions identified  includes skin, food and other allergies, light, noise and motion sensitivities, respiratory conditions, autoimmune diseases, arthritis, gastrointestinal conditions, neuralgia, cancers, and mental health issues.

Conditions by Gender

Although the number of males registered so far is small (32), there seems to be some variation in the conditions suffered between males compared with females, Table 2. What we are seeing is that, like the 2008 Fitzgerald study, where more women than men have perfume sensitivities (Fitzgerald, 2008).

Table 2. Environmental Sensitivity Conditions by Gender
Environmental Sensitivity Conditions Males (n=32)  Female (n=158)
Number Percentage (%) Number Percentage (%)
MCS 16 50.0 128 81.0
Fragrance Sensitivity 14 43.8 128 81.0
EHS 17 53.1 63 39.9
Food Sensitivity 17 53.1 114 72.2
CFS/ME 12 37.5 72 45.5
Fibromyalgia 6 18.8 48 30.4
Lyme Disease &/or it’s co-infections 4 12.5 14 8.8
Biotoxin-related illness 1 3.1 12 7.5

Number of Co-morbid Environmental Sensitivity Conditions

The numbers of conditions that registrants selected are represented as percentages of those reporting 1 condition to the maximum 7 conditions. We also have evidence of high amount of co-morbidity amongst these conditions. Greater than 71% of people have 3 or more conditions, each with their own set of symptoms and challenges that when combined can be devastating, Table 3.

Table 3. Number of Co-Morbid Environmental Sensitivity Conditions
Conditions Number Percentage %
0 1 0.5
1 16 8.6
2 37 19.9
3 46 24.2
4 40 21.1
5 28 15.1
6 16 8.6
7 5 2.7
8 0 0.0

Characteristics of Respondents

Current Age groups of those registering

The average age of people currently registered is 52 years, with a minimum age of 7 years and a maximum age of 84 years with a mode of 62 years, (Table 4). The mode indicates an approximate age given for most respondents.

Table 4. Current Age Groups of Registrants
Age group Number Percentage (%)
0-15 5 2.7
16-30 5 2.2
31-45 49 26.1
46-60 78 41.5
61+ 51 27.1

Environmental sensitivities can develop at any age, (Shannon et al 2003; Woolf, 2000)   and increase with age (Sears, 2007). The increasing prevalence of sensitivities is relevant for young children just starting their life in society, young professionals in the prime of their working careers, the aging workforce, as well as care for the elderly. A survey of over 5,000 parents in NSW determined that 2.5% of 2 to 15 year olds had been diagnosed with MCS and is similar to the percentage (2.9%)  seen for adults (NSW Health, 2007-2008).

All age groups are represented in this study and are consistent with published data.  The largest number of registrations have come from the 45-60 age group, people who are in their most productive years with ongoing careers, house payments and children at school all of which requires a steady reliable income.


The number of registrants have been diagnosed with one or more condition is 149 (78.4%) compared with41 (21.6%) without any diagnosis.  The reported onset of Environmental Sensitivities and the diagnosis of conditions are variable.  Some have been diagnosed with different conditions as they are progressively recognised. From food sensitivities in 1984, followed by celiac disease in 1996 and fibromyalgia in 2014; or pesticide sensitivity in 1987, followed by perfumes, fragrance sensitivity in 1997; or MCS 1986, followed by CFS/ME in 1995 and fibromyalgia in 2015.

There are many for whom the symptoms of conditions developed many years before any formal diagnosis was made, for some it took 25 years for any sort of diagnosis. Many have had conditions such as food intolerances, chemical sensitivities, fragrance sensitivities since childhood. This is similar to overseas data where several years elapsed before they received a diagnosis. For greater than 50% of the respondents it took 4 or more years and for 19% it took greater than 10 years (Halapy and Parlour, 2013).

There are those who have found that alternative therapies to help and others have by necessity researched their condition to find a diagnosis and means to improve their lives. This trend is consistent with the Halapy and Parlour OCEEH report, 2013, where their data suggested that people are looking for effective care and therapies outside of conventional medicine (Halapy and Parlour, 2013).

A number of people are unable to attend physicians who specialise in Environmental Sensitivities for a diagnosis due to the lack of knowledgeable physicians, distance required to travel to doctors, and the cost of consultations that do not attract medicare rebates.

Part Diagnosis is common, they may be diagnosed for one condition such as MCS or CFS, but not for any other of the conditions they have symptoms of such as EHS. Others have self-diagnosed environmental sensitivities but may have a diagnosis of allergies and asthma.

The delay in diagnosis can mean a worsening of their original conditions that may lead to development of other chronic conditions or sensitivities.

Onset and duration of conditions

Age at which Environmental Sensitivities first developed

One hundred and seventy-two people (78.4%) could identify  when their condition/s developed. The age at which Environmental Sensitivities first developed range from an average of 35.1 years, with a minimum of 0 years (from birth) and maximum of 76 years.  The mode at which their Environmental Sensitivities developed was 41 years.  The age affected in this register is similar to that in the Halapy and Parlour OCEEH report, 2013 where the majority of those affected are ages 45-64, Table 5.

This suggests that many became afflicted during their most productive work and family years. Some registrants commented that they felt they were born with it, perhaps suggesting a genetic component and triggered by an exposure or event ‘tipped’ them over the edge. As more women than men are affected this has an implication for parenting and family structure etc. The Environmental Sensitivities conditions described in this report occur among younger children, < 10 years, these conditions have the potential to impact peoples’ lives from a very early age. One registrant commented “caring for my primary school-aged kids: I can do this as I am fortunate enough to be renting a home I can tolerate (although not well). However, due to the issues mentioned above (difficulty in accessing public places), their lives and outings outside the home are necessarily limited to places and regularity I can tolerate. For many people with ES, particularly if homelessness has occurred as a result of their condition, this equates to loss of custody/access to their children also – not because they are any risk to their children but because they don’t have access to safe resources to enable them to provide the requisite care. This has major mental health implications for both the person with ES and their children”. This is an intolerable situation for both the parent and the children.

Table 5. Age when developed Environmental Sensitivities
Age when developed Number  Percentage (%)
0-10 11 6.5
10-20 14 8.2
20-30 44 25.9
30-40 59 34.7
40-50 17 10.0
50-60 19 11.2
60+ 6 3.5

 Specific events that triggered or worsened their conditions

The types of triggers reported are;

  • For those with EHS their health deteriorated and their condition worsened with the installation of Smart Meters, MRI investigations, cell tower exposure, mould exposure, or after years of working with communications equipment.
  • New office building triggered much sensitivity apart from previous formaldehyde sensitivity. Other factors included building renovations, aerial crop spraying, formaldehyde containing products, cigarette smoke, perfumed products, fragrance, wet damaged buildings.

In the Halapy and Parlour, 2013 report specific triggers were also evident such as chemical exposures in their workplace and personal space. For others their onset was slow over many years. (Halapy and Parlor, 2013).

Duration of the condition/s

The length of time  people have had their condition/s range from a mimum of 1 year to a maxium of 76 years with an average of 16.8 years with and a mode of 4 years, Table 6. A chronic medical condition is defined as lasting for more than 3 months.  Many with Environmental Sensitivities  (77.3%) have had their condition/s for > 5 years  and provides evidence of the chronic nature of Environmental Sensitivities.

Of those who had developed the condition within the last 5 year, some of the triggers reported were new office building triggers, water-damaged buildings, increasing EMF, a lifelong condition that worsened due to smart meter installation, and/or chemical exposures.

Duration (years) with the Condition/s

Table 6. Duration (years) with the Conditions/s
Duration with the Condition/s Number  Percentage (%)
0-5 39 22.7
6-10 years 37 21.5
11-15 years 20 11.6
16+ 76 44.2

The prognosis for Environmental Sensitivities patients is variable but many will improve in the course of time, especially with an appropriate management plan. However, symptoms may fluctuate and relapses can occur. Early intervention, positive diagnosis, avoidance of chemicals, EMFs and other irritants that trigger symptoms can result in a better prognosis. A significant proportion of patients will remain quite debilitated for long periods of time. Depending on the severity of their sensitivity levels some may never recover and so require ongoing support. Many others may improve sufficiently to return to a relatively normal life. Early diagnosis and avoidance are paramount to managing and preventing symtpoms of for example chemical sensitivity becoming Multiple Chemical Sensitivity

The long duration of these conditions is similar to those reported in the OCEEH report with symptoms occuring for years, up to 17,  before diagnoses were made (Halapy and Parlour, 2013).

Environmental Sensitivity Co-conditions

All of these conditions produce devastating symptoms that can lead to total disability.  Our study shows that a number of Chronic Environmental Sensitivities occur concomitantly, and is consistent with published data (Table 7).  Halapy and Parlour, 2013 concluded that as the severity (of Environmental Sensitivity conditions) increases, there is generally more co-morbidity and many people have two or more conditions simultaneously.

Here we show that there is a high association of Fragrance Sensitivity with all conditions. The ubiquitous use of fragranced products such as cleaning products, perfumes, air fresheners etc in most public building is resulting in a negative impact on people with Environmental Sensitivities. Accessing hospitals, medical facilities, educational or recreational facilities becomes difficult to impossible. This is aside from the impact on relationships or social interactions leading to isolation and loneliness.

In this study Food Intolerances are also common to all Environmental Sensitivity Conditions, meaning that people need to be able to be able to afford or obtain medically-­indicated food or tolerated foods  (such as organic and gluten free).

  Table 7. Environmental Sensitivity Co-conditions
Environmental Sensitivity Conditions Co-conditions percentage (%) of those with the condition
MCS CFS EHS Fibromyalgia Fragrance sensitivity Food Sensitivity
MCS 47.2 39.6 29.6 88.2 78.5
CFS 81.0 39.3 51.2 81.0 81.0
EHS 71.3 41.3 26.3 65.0 65.0
Fibromyalgia 77.8 79.6 38.9 83.3 87.0
Fragrance Sensitivity 89.4 47.9 36.6 31.7 79.6
Food Sensitivity 86.3 51.9 39.7 35.9 86.3


  Table 7. Environmental Sensitivity Co-conditions continued
Environmental Sensitivity Conditions Co-conditions percentage (%) of those with the condition
MCS CFS EHS Fibromyalgia Fragrance sensitivity Food Sensitivity
Lyme Disease &/or it’s co-infections 55.6 61.1 55.6 44.4 61.1 72.2
Biotoxin-related illness 84.6 84.6 61.5 53.8 53.8 61.5


What was not expected was the high association of Lyme Disease and/or it’s co-infections and Biotoxin-related Illness with other Environmental Sensitivity, we will need more numbers to see if this trend is consistent (Table 7 continued).

Hardships experienced with Chronic Environmental Sensitivities

In OCEEH report into Recognition, Inclusion and Equity Report they concluded that these conditions display ‘an illness burden similar to that of heart disease and greater than that of cancer and diabetes.’ They state that “Measures of functional impairment indicate that people with ES/MCS, FM and/or ME/CFS are at least as disabled and in some cases more disabled than people with other well- ‐known chronic conditions. The levels of unmet health care needs were greater than for our comparator groups. These findings combined with unmet home care needs and less than ideal proportions receiving home care services may indicate people with these conditions are receiving ineffective care or are experiencing barriers to or deficits in care. People with these conditions are experiencing socioeconomic disadvantage as demonstrated by high levels of moderate or severe food insecurity and sizeable proportions with low annual household income (Burstyn and MEAO, 2013).”

Hardship Categories selected by Environmental Sensitivity registrants

During the course of collecting numbers of people with environmental sensitivity conditions it became evident from the comment people were making that we need to collect specific data on the impact on their lives and verify if this data is comparable to published studies (Table 8). Since adding in this question we have 114 responses.

Table 8. Hardships selected by Registrants
Hardship Number Percentage %
Medical assistance 87 76.3
Housing 64 56.1
Education 50 43.9
Employment/Income 88 77.2
Social Services 46 40.4
Accessing public places 74 64.9
Relationships/social interactions 99 86.9
Other 44 38.6
Total answered 114

Number of Hardships

We have found a high number of people (86%) have difficulty in 3 or more hardship categories that covers aspects of normal living, Table 9.

Table 9. Number of Co-existing Hardships
Number of hardships Number Percentage %
0 1 0.8
1 4 3.6
2 9 8.2
3 17 15.5
4 21 18.6
5 19 16.8
6 15 13.3
7 14 12.4
8 14 12.4

Profile of Level of Impairment.

The results of this study on the effects/life impacts of Environmental Sensitivities show that these conditions are pervasive and include

  • Damage to income and work resulting in joblessness and financial destitution, leading to problems with affordable housing, modification to existing home, some facing homelessness and destitution;
  • Problems with relationships and lessened social support with difficulties meeting with other people because of their personal use of fragrances, use of a mobile phone or stigmatisation by others who do not understand or believe these conditions;
  • Difficulty with access to medical care and community resources. Problems with finding a doctor who understands sensitivities or safe medical facilities.
  • Diminishing relationships and social interactions. These individuals and their families often live in social exclusion and economic difficulties.
  • Limited to no access to public places such as restaurants, hospitals, libraries, shopping complexes, education facilities, recreation facilities etc.
  • Debilitating symptoms, largely bed ridden, home bound and isolated from friends, family and society.

These results are similar to published literature on the burden impacts found in other studies.

Their rights to medical care, the right to earn an income, access to affordable and safe housing, access to an education and access to public places are denied to them because of their conditions, placing an added strain on already difficult and disabling medical conditions.

Hardships selected by Environmental Sensitivity Condition

The areas of hardship are consistent across all conditions with difficulties with Relationships and Social Interaction the highest amongst all. Access to medical care and employment/income is also a major problem for many people (Table 10).

Table 10. Hardships selected by Environmental Sensitivity Condition
Hardship MCS% EHS/ES% CFS/ME% Fragrance Sensitivity % Fibromyalgia%
Medical assistance 57.9 34.2 43.9 57.0 31.0
Housing 45.6 28.1 24.6 39.5 19.5
Education 29.8 24.6 19.3 28.1 14.2
Employment/Income 58.8 31.6 38.6 57.9 25.7
Social Services 31.6 21.1 19.3 31.6 17.7
Accessing public places 51.8 33.3 32.5 52.6 23.0
Relationships/Social Interactions 68.4 38.6 46.5 64.9 32.7
Other 29.8 20.2 21.9 30.7 11.5


All conditions have difficulty with all of the listed hardships. For all conditions the percentage suffering hardships with relationships and/or social interaction are highest. This is many due to the ubiquitous use of fragranced products or EMF emitting devices.

Fragrance Sensitivity and MCS showed the highest percentages for all hardships. The percentage of hardships for Fragrance Sensitivity and MCS are – relationships/social interaction (64.9 and 68.4 respectively), followed by Employment/income and Medical assistance (57.9 and 57.0 respectively) for Fragrance Sensitivity and 58.8 and 57.9 respectively for MCS. This is not surprising considering the ubiquitous use of cleaning chemicals, perfumes, pesticides etc that are barriers that create hardships.

In the South Australian study (Fitzgerald D., 2008) 6% of those reporting hypersensitivity stated that it seriously affected their quality of life, with 8.4% males and 15.7% females reporting moderate to severe problems. Within the hypersensitivity group, 15.3% males and 31.9% female participants stated that they had received medical treatment for their chemical sensitivity (Fitzgerald, 2008).

The Australian paper on the health and societal effects from exposure to fragrance consumer products found that of the 33% reporting health problems when exposed to fragranced products, “more than half (17.1%) of these could be considered disability under the Australian Disability Discrimination Act” and fragranced products were found to hinder access to public places such as restrooms and businesses (Steinmann, 2017).

Other Hardships

The other areas that individuals indicated they have difficulties with were generally an extension of accessing public places due to exposures to fragrance, other chemicals or electromagnetic fields.

  • Public transport/travel
  • Tradespeople
  • Shopping
  • Eating out/Restaurants
  • Public conveniences
  • Hospitals
  • Personal care (eg haircut)
  • Wi-fi exposure
  • Mobile phone exposure
  • Cinema, community events and organisations
  • Housework and home maintenance
  • Outdoor markets are full wireless transmissions from cell phones, cell phone tower and etpos
  • Accessing aged care facility
  • Gardening, day-to-day activities, finding suitable clothing
  • Caring for school-aged children

Details of Hardships

Medical Hardships

General categories were:

Physical Barriers

  • Lack of a Safe Environment – Issues with chemicals and EMF exposure in consulting rooms.

Lack of Knowledge of Environmental Sensitivities amongst Medical Professionals

  • A lack of understanding of the condition and the consequences of a chemical or EMF exposure to the individual by medical staff. When making an effort to avoid triggers that cause adverse health effects people feel that staff are not taking their concerns seriously and consequently suffer from exposures. “ There are no safe environments (chemical and EMF free) for people to wait for appointments.”
  • Lack of knowledge by GPs and Specialists. There are few GPs or specialists who are knowledgeable about Environmental Sensitivities. Those that are often expensive, do not bulk bill and Skype and Phone Consultations do not attract a Medicare rebate.
  • Many have seen multiple GPs and Specialists with no diagnosis or effective treatments and have given up. Some have found alternative therapies to help.
  • Misdiagnosis and inappropriate and harmful treatments. “Took over 25 years to diagnose Environmental Sensitivities and was by then a Universal reactor stage. Was treated badly by medical professionals and told symptoms were in my Psychiatric and psychological treatments made symptoms worse with medications producing horrendous side effects – was pumped with more. PLEASE STOP THIS MEDICAL MADNESS
  • Others have taken years for a diagnosis by which time they are severely disabled

Some have found alternative therapies to help and many have by necessity researched their condition to find a diagnosis and means to improve their lives.

“There are no pills for these ills. And that is a blessing in disguise because I’ve found that holistic living (diet, exercise, lifestyle upgrades) make it possible for me to have hope.”

Again this is similar to the OCEEH report where unmet health care needs are found for all three conditions EHS, MCS, CFS/ME with many more women likely to consult with alternative health care providers.  (Halapy and Parlour, 2013).

They are unable to get a diagnosis for their conditions, or unable to access doctors rooms because of perfumes, cleaning products etc or electromagnetic radiation from wireless technology.

They are unable to find a doctor with knowledge of Environmental Sensitivities or get treatment for other medical conditions that require medical treatment. Access to medical services such as dental, pathology, physiotherapy, eye specialists etc are also difficult. The barriers to medical assistance might be physical barriers, chemical contamination, EMR contamination, cost of services, or eligibility for services.

The difficulty in finding a doctor who understands their sensitivities and fear of possible harm from chemical or EMF exposures in the health care setting is reflected in the Gibson 2015 study of 465 people with the Environmental Sensitivities, Chemical Sensitivity and EHS. Other common themes are an inability to afford doctors services, do not feel well enough to go or have no transport. In this same report the degree of distress on a scale from 0-10 with 10 being most distressed, the men level of reported distress was 7.5 for unmet primary health care needs. (Gibson, 2015).


There are difficulties finding affordable safe housing away from sources of EMF and free from chemical triggers in building materials, paint, new carpets, pest treatments. Renting properties is difficult because of the requirements for pesticide treatments when a tenant leaves a property, or neighbours use of toxic chemicals. Residual pesticides are a very real problem for those with Environmental Sensitivities such as MCS. There is a denial of rights to accommodation and public services, people suffer from stigma and institutional denial.

In many cases this meant staying at home where they have some measure of control of their environment and experiencing isolation.

Other location issues were

  • Neighbours use of chemicals and/or wi-fi devices
  • Proliferation of mobile phone towers
  • Proliferation of Wi-fi hotspots
  • 4GX mobile transmission
  • Smart meters. Some registrants have had to move from Victoria to other states after the installation of smart meters that they report adversely affected their health and triggered or exacerbated their EHS.

The high usage of EMF emitting devices in many to most locations is becoming a real problem for those with EHS.

Where unemployment has resulted from developing their condition they have no money and are unable to move, renovate their existing home, or buy their own home or find suitable rental properties.

Others feel they are stuck where they are despite their issue/problems with proximity of phone towers, hot spots or chemical usage. They do not have the money or resources to move and do not know where to move to.


There were comments that the proliferation of chemicals and EMF in the workplace has meant that they cannot work, or have been made redundant after disclosing their sensitivities. Most felt they were now unemployable.

Environmental Sensitivity Conditions are not understood in the community and consequently people are not being believed and suffer ridicule and bullying as a result.  For one who is trying to manage in the workplace:

“I suffer daily in my workplace…. they do not take it seriously and I feel victimised, bullied by certain people occasionally and very isolated. I have even been told by my Leader, ‘Maybe this isn’t the job for you?’”

A lack of financial security adds to the personal distress and can place extra strain on relationships and families.

Many are too sick to be able to carry out minimal activities of daily living and are not able to work.  Due to lose of employment and income some may lose their home and find it difficult to find affordable safe housing. Some have been forced from their employment, others are bullied and ridiculed and feel that they are now unemployable. They are unable to get disability pensions and other economic help is denied to them.  Assistance and/or a disability pension require the assistance and support from a doctor who has an understanding of the conditions.

Economic insecurity is a major issue linked to a lack of recognition which means difficulties in obtaining workplace accommodation and lack of disability coverage. This denies sufferers an income and the ability to live without social assistance, or parents unable to pay for a child’s higher education.


Education facilities and libraries are increasingly using new wireless technology. For those with EHS these facilities using wi-fi technology are unavailable for them.

For those with MCS the prevalence of perfumes and other chemicals were found to be a barrier.

Two secondary school aged children who are very sensitive to EMF may need to be home-schooled in order to avoid it.

Social Services

There were difficulties in attending Centrelink [Australian welfare] centres due to use of chemicals and EMF exposures

As there is no recognition of Environmental Sensitivities Disability Support pensions are not accessible.

Many are unable to obtain a medical certificate or letter from a GP [medical doctor] to support their case which leads to difficulties in obtaining support for disability pensions or Workers Compensation cases.

Accessing Public Places

We have reports of problems accessing public spaces such as shopping centres, medical centres, entertainment centres, public gatherings, parks etc. Most public places are inaccessible to some degree. The barriers include chemical use (particularly high levels of fragrance, cleaning chemicals, pesticides, and so on) and EMF exposures from mobile phones and wi-fi technology. This includes libraries, Medicare offices, Centrelink offices, hospitals, shops, cinema, churches, government buildings and council chambers to name a few.

Many parks, beaches and other external environments are inaccessible due to regular use of glyophosate and other herbicides and EMF from mobile phone towers, Telstra Air and free wifi hotspots. There are also problems with cigarette smoke, new furniture, new carpet, cleaning fluids, printers, fragrances, air fresheners, diesel fumes in public places both indoors and outdoors.

The issue of accessibility to a safe environment is important for both employment and accessing public places. To avoid these debilitating exposures people stay at home and are housebound and isolated.

  • For both workplaces and accessing public places there is the issue of accessibility to a safe environment
  • Most public places are inaccessible to some degree. The barriers include chemical use (particularly high levels of fragrance, cleaning chemicals, pesticides, and so on) and EMF exposures from mobile phones and wi-fi technology. This includes libraries, Medicare offices, Centrelink offices, hospitals, shops, cinema, churches, government buildings and council chambers to name a few.
  • To avoid these debilitating exposures people stay at home and are housebound and isolated.
  • Where possible, people used online services for shopping.
  • Many parks, beaches and other external environments are inaccessible due to regular use of glyophosate and other herbicides and EMF from mobile phone towers, Telstra Air and free wifi hotspots.
  • There are also problems with cigarette smoke, new furniture, new carpet, cleaning fluids, printers, fragrances, air fresheners, diesel fumes.

Relationships/ social interactions

Isolation was a common theme. 

A large number of people have little to no social interactions and have difficulty forming or maintaining relationships due to the complex nature of their conditions and a lack of understanding by the general population.  Some are particularly isolated from public, family and friends, and are no longer able to work

Even when family and friends acknowledge the problem and do not wear a perfume, there are other layers of fragrance. The use of soaps, shampoos, conditioners, deodorants and washing machine products that leave traces of fragrance that makes it difficult for them to comply. They often cannot smell the background levels of fragrance that these products leave.

The use of wi-fi and mobile phone usage is ubiquitous in the community, family, friends and visitors often carry a mobile phone and have them switched on.

Many relationships break down due to scepticism by the partner or unable to live with the necessary changes that need to be made. In the same way people are isolated from family and friends and find in difficult to participate in any social activities. They cannot participate in hobby activities, further education or other social contacts

Resultant impacts are far reaching and significantly affects families/caregivers, communities and society.


The results of this analysis show that it is time for the medical profession, workplaces and society at large to start paying attention to those with Environmental Sensitivities. People with these conditions face challenges in their experience as patients trying to obtain a diagnosis and treatment to living with the long term impacts of a chronic condition. Environmental Sensitivity individuals suffer from stigmatisation in clinical settings, the workplace and other areas of their lives as a result of general lack of understanding of these complex conditions by the medical profession and wider community. A consistent pattern in relation to Environmental Sensitivities clearly emerged across a variety of factors related to measures of disability, socioeconomic status, health care utilization and unmet health care needs. These conditions affect all ages, from the very young to the elderly and disrupts all aspects of a persons life. People are feeling alone, isolated and unable to do anything about it.

The physical and emotional challenges of day-to-day life have become the new norm for people with Environmental Sensitivities. The effects/life impacts of Environmental Sensitivities show that these conditions are pervasive and include damage to income and work resulting in joblessness and financial destitution; potential homelessness, problems with relationships and lessened social support; access to medical care and community resources. These individuals and their families often live in social exclusion and economic difficulties.

They are chronic and disabling conditions that are not well understood by the medical profession or the general community and have a negative impact on all aspects of their lives.  It affects their ability to function normally in society. While many chronic disabling conditions are known to be associated with older age (eg cancer, heart disease and stroke) Environmental Sensitivity conditions are common amongst middle aged i.e. when they have potential to be highly productive, employable and contribute to the economy and society.

As Environmental Sensitivity conditions are largely misunderstood by medical practitioners and the general community this means that for people with ES their basic medical and social needs go unmet. Because of this lack of understanding people are constantly being made ill when trying to access services or a workplace.

Income support from welfare services is insufficient to provide for their special needs in housing, disability aids, or medical aids etc. Food and nutrient support is often required as food allergy/intolerance is often a coexisting factor along with inability to take many medications. There are many who have lost their income, do not qualify for Disability Support pensions and cannot afford Air filters, water filters, organic food that they need and their condition prolonged and worsened.

The high association of fragrance sensitivity with many of the conditions, has meant that access to many premises is difficult with the high usage of perfumed products such as cleaning products, personal care products and similar, in most public buildings including medical facilities, hospitals and educational facilities. Those with MCS, Fragrance Sensitivity and EHS were the most impacted in their ability to access medical assistance, accessing public places, Employment and Relationships/Social Interactions.  Fragrance has become the new second-hand smoke problem and needs to be addressed by government and health care agencies to reduce their usage.

While waiting for the controversy over Environmental Sensitivity diagnostic criteria to be decided and acceptance into mainstream medicine, people are suffering and will continue to suffer hardship and ill health. Early recognition, clean air, food and water and avoidance of symptom-triggering agents and modification of their homes are necessary for people to successfully live with their condition. The prognosis for Environmental Sensitivities patients is variable but many will improve in the course of time, especially with an appropriate management plan.

Environmental Sensitivities should be included in the medical course curriculum and Continuing Medical Education (CME) process to ensure that all physicians are educated in how to diagnose and manage Environmental Sensitivities. Physicians with experience with environmental sensitivities claim that diagnosing and treating environmental sensitivities early often stops the illness in its tracks (Kassirer and Sandiford,  2000; Genius and Lipp, 2011; Genius and Tymchak, 2014).  Dr G H Ross of the Environmental Health Centre, Nova Scotia, Canada, a specialist in diagnosing and treating Environmental Sensitivities claims the chronic cases he sees are the result of the failure to diagnose and properly treat environmental sensitivities (Kassirer and Sandiford.  2000).

Health services can help by modifying their rooms to avoid triggers. Restricting the use of fragranced products can help more people than those with ES. The Steinmann, 2017 study where the common adverse effects of fragranced products included respiratory problems, mucosal symptoms, asthma attacks, migraine headaches amongst others. (Steinmann, 2017).

The Canadian Medical Association Journal, in 2OI5 says, “Artificial scents have no place in our hospitals”, about 30% of people report having some sensitivity to perfumes worn by others, 27% of people with asthma their condition is aggravated by artificial scents,  particularly concerning for hospitals patients with asthma or other upper airway or skin sensitivities are concentrated.  “We have much to learn about the mechanisms underlying scent sensitivity, but we know enough now to take precautionary measures in our hospitals.” Their recommendation – “Hospital environment free from artificial scents should become a uniform policy, promoting the safety of patients, staff and visitors alike.”  (Flegel and Martin, 2015). They note that for those with asthma there are a range of irritants that are not categorized as allergens, such as second hand cigarette smoke, cleaning fluids (bleach), perfumes and other strong odors.  This precautionary measure should also be extended to other health facilities and aged care facilities. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Indoor Air Quality Policy (CDC, 2009) states that “Scented or fragranced products are prohibited at all times in all interior space owned, or leased by CDC”.

The Medical profession can greatly assist people with Environmental Sensitivities with letters of support rather than medications to which many people with ES are sensitive. Letters or paperwork can assist with social welfare services such as In-home support, Carers, Unemployment benefits, Sickness benefits ,  Disability support, Compensation payments for workplace injury, Referral to specialists, physiotherapists and OTs etc – ES patients are likely to have other chronic health issues that require specialist care or other type of intervention., Government Housing suitable for Environmentally Sensitive patients, Home schooling , Disability parking , Assistance with medical aids e.g. wheel chair, oxygen at home, Aged care or respite services, Pain management services, Chronic illness/loss/grief counselling, Social workers, Rehabilitation, and Ambulance transport services.

The high usage of products such as cleaning fluids and co-workers perfume, new carpet or photocopier fumes, or wi-fi technology and mobile phones can make the workplace a dangerous place to work.  If an employer does not understand and take measures to ensure a safe workplace people are forced from their jobs or risk further health problems. Employees can assist by modifications to the workplace and consideration by both the employees and co-workers that will allow people to be productive and self-sufficient.

Social support is critical for those with chronic health conditions.   Individuals with lower levels of social support are known to suffer more symptoms and greater mortality while a higher level of support indicates better psychological wellbeing.  Individuals with MCS scored lower than healthy people and some with diabetes and multiple sclerosis (Gibson.  2000).   As with other forms of chronic illness, Environmentally Sensitive patients have difficulty maintaining social contact due to pain and functional disturbances.   Social Services can assist by understanding the problems and provide eg Home Care staff without wearing perfume or using fragranced and switching off their mobile phones.

(Reprinted with full permissions from ANRES)


Aaron LA, Buchwald D. 2001 A review of the evidence for overlap among unexplained clinical conditions. Ann Intern Med 2001; 134, pp 868-881.

ASEHA, 2011. A survey of individuals with MCS in Australia. Available online: http://www.asehaqld.org.au/index.php/multiple-chemical-sensitivity/aseha-mcs-publication/140-a-survey-of-individuals-with-mcs-in-australia-2011

Belpomme D and Irigaray P, 2015. Electrohypersensitivity and multiple chemical sensitivity: two clinicbiological entities of the same disorder? 5th Paris Appeal Congress, 18th of May, 2015, Royal Academy of Medicine, Belgium. Idiopathic environmental intolerance: whatrole for electromagnetic fields and chemicals?

Brown, MM and Jason, LA. 2007. Functioning in individuals with chronic fatigue syndrome: increased impairment with co-occurring multiple chemical sensitivity and fibromyalgia. Dynamic Medicine 2007, 6:6 doi:10.1186/1476-5918-6-6.

Burstyn V and the MEAO, 2013. Recognition, inclusion and equity – The time is now: Perspectives of Ontarians living with ES/MCS, ME/CFS and FM, Complete Report/Appendix to the Ontario Centre of Excellence in Environmental Health (OCEEH) Business Case.  Available onlinehttp://recognitioninclusionandequity.org/resources/

Caress, S. and Steinemann, A. (2003). A Review of a Two-Phase Population Study of Multiple Chemical Sensitivities. Environmental Health Perspectives, [online] 111(12), pp.1490-1497. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1241652/pdf/ehp0111-001490.pdf [Accessed 9 Mar. 2017].

Caress, S.M. and Steinemann, A.C. 2005. National Prevalence of Asthma and Chemical Hypersensitivity: An Examination of Potential Overlap., J Occup Environ Med.;47, pp518–522

CDC, 2009. US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Indoor Environmental Quality Policy, pages. :pp. 9–10 Available:. http://www.drsteinemann.com/Resources/CDC%20Indoor%20Environmental%20Quality%20Policy.pdf.

Doiron N. People with Environmental Sensitivities: Life, Identity, and Services. Doctoral Thesis in Social Work, (2007). University of Toronto.

Dumit, J. (2006) Illnesses You Have To Fight To Get: Facts As Forces Uncertain, Emergent Illnesses, Social Science and Medicine, 62, 3, pp 577–90.

Fitzgerald D, 2008. Studies on self-reported multiple chemical sensitivity in South Australia. Environmental Health 8, no3. 33-39.

Flegel, K. and Martin, J. (2015). Artificial scents have no place in our hospitals. Canadian Medical Association Journal, 187(16), pp.1187-1187.

Genuis S and Tymchak M. (2014) Approach To Patients With Unexplained Multimorbitity With Sensitivities. Can Fam Physician;60, pp 533-8

Genuis, S. and Lipp, C. (2012). Electromagnetic hypersensitivity: Fact or fiction?. Science of The Total Environment, 414, pp.103-112.

Gibson P, Leaf B and Komisarcik V. (2016). Unmet Medical Care In Persons With MCS: A Grounded Theory Of Contested Illness. Journal of Nursing Education and Practice, Vol. 6, No. 5. (8165-28972-2P8)

Gibson, P. and Lindberg, A. (2007). Work accommodation for people with multiple chemical sensitivity1. Disability & Society, [online] 22(7), pp.717-732. Available at: http://www.mcsresearch.net/Conferencepapers/work&communityaccess.pdf [Accessed 8 Mar. 2017].

Gibson, P. R. (2009). Chemical and Electromagnetic Exposures As Disability Barriers: Environmental Sensitivity. Disability & Society, 24, pp 187–199.

Gibson, P. R. (2010). Of the world but not in it: Barriers to Community Access and Education for Persons with Environmental Sensitivities. Health Care for Women International, 31, pp 3–16.

Gibson, P. R., & Lindberg, A. (2007). Work Accommodation for People with Multiple Chemical Sensitivity. Disability & Society, 22, pp 717–732.

Gibson, P. R., Cheavens, J., & Warren, M. L. (1996). Multiple Chemical Sensitivity/ Environmental Illness and Life Disruption. Women & Therapy, 19, pp 63–79.

Gibson, P. R., Cheavens, J., & Warren, M. L. (1998). Social Support in Persons with Self-Reported Sensitivity to Chemicals. Research in Nursing & Health, 21,  pp 103–115.

Gibson, P. R., Kovach, S., & Lupfer, A. (2015). Unmet Healthcare Needs for Persons with Environmental Sensitivity. Journal of Multidisciplinary Healthcare, 8, pp 59–66.

Gibson, P. R., Placek, E., Lane, J., Brohimer, S. O., & Lovelace, A. C. E. (2005). Disability Induced Identity Changes in Persons with Multiple Chemical Sensitivity. Qualitative Health Research, 15, pp 502–524.

Gibson, P. R., White, M. A., & Rice, V. M. (l997, March). Life Satisfaction in Persons with Invisible Disabilities: Chemical Sensitivity/Chemical Injury. Poster delivered at the 21st National Conference, Association for Women in Psychology, March 6-9, Pittsburgh, PA

Halapy E. and Parlor. The Quantitative Data. Environmental Sensitivities/Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (ES/MCS), Fibromyalgia (FM), Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (ME/CFS). Appendix to the Ontario Centre of Excellence in Environmental Health (OCEEH) Business Case.  Available online: http://recognitioninclusionandequity.org/resources/

Joffres, M., Williams, T., Sabo, B. and Fox, R. (2001). Environmental Sensitivities: Prevalence of Major Symptoms in a Referral Center: The Nova Scotia Environmental Sensitivities Research Center Study. Environmental Health Perspectives, 109(2), p.161.

Kassirer J. And Sandiford K. 2000. Socio-Economic Impacts of Environmental Illness in Canada. 2000. The Environmental Illness Society of Canada http://homepakolaiset.fi/lahteet/EISC_Report_Published_Word_FMT1b.pdf

Lacour, M., Zunder, T., Schmidtke, K., Vaith, P. and Scheidt, C. (2005). Multiple Chemical Sensitivity Syndrome (MCS) – suggestions for an extension of the US MCS-case definition. International Journal of Hygiene and Environmental Health, 208(3), pp.141-151.

Lavergne et al. (2010). Functional Impairment in Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Fibromyalgia, and Multiple Chemical Sensitivity, Canadian Family Physician 56:, pp57-65.

Lipson & Doiron (2006). Environmental Issues and Work: Women with Multiple Chemical Sensitivities Health Care Women Int. 2006 Aug;27(7, pp:571-84.

Meggs WJ, Dunn KA, Bloch RM, Goodman PE, Davidoff AL. (1996). Prevalence and Nature of Allergy and Chemical Sensitivity in a General Population. Arch Environ Health.; 51, pp275-282.

Miller CS.  (2001). The Compelling Anomaly of Chemical Intolerance. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences. 2001;933, pp 1-23.

Miller CS. (1997) Toxicant-induced Loss of Tolerance-An Emerging Theory of Disease? Environmental Health Perspectives – Vol 105, Supplement 2, pp 445-453.

Molot, J., MD. (2013). Chronic complex conditions: Academic and clinical perspectives. Ontario Centre of Excellence in Environmental Health (unpublished); the clinical submission to the Ministry of Health and Long Term Care, supporting the Ontario Centre of Excellence Business Case.

NSW Department of Health. 2002 NSW Public Health Bulletin Supplement Volume 14, Number S-4 December, 2003 The NSW Adult Health Survey. www.health.nsw.gov.au

NSW Population Health Survey 2007-2008 Report on Child Health www.health.nsw.gov.au

Phillips T. (2010). Debating the Legitimacy of a Contested Environmental Illness: a Case Study of Multiple Chemical Sensitivities (MCS) Sociology of Health & Illness Vol. 32 No. 7 2010 ISSN 0141–9889, pp. 1026–1040

Sears (2007) The Medical Perspective on Environmental Sensitivities Report to the Canadian Human Rights Commission. , Available: http://www.chrc-ccdp.gc.ca/sites/default/files/envsensitivity_en_1.pdf

Shannon M, Woolf A, Goldman R. (2003). Children’s Environmental Health: One Year in a Pediatric Environmental Health Specialty Unit. Ambul Pediatr. 2003;3, pp53-56.

Statistics Canada, 2006 Statistics Canada. (2006).  Findings from the 2005 National Survey of the Work and Health of Nurses. Statistics Canada. 11-12-. (Table 36) www.statcan.ca/english/freepub/83-003-XIE/83-003-XIE2006001.pdf

Steinemann, A. (2017). Health and societal effects from exposure to fragranced consumer products. Preventive Medicine Reports, 5, pp.45-47.

Vierstra, Courtney V., Rumrill, Phillip D., Koch, Lynn C., McMahon, Brian T. (2001) Multiple Chemical Sensitivity and Workplace Discrimination: The National EEOC ADA Research Project. Work, vol. 28, no. 4, pp. 391-402, 2007

Woolf A. (2000) A 4-year-old girl with Manifestations of Multiple Chemical Sensitivities. Environ Health Perspect. 2000;108, pp 1219-1223

Zwillinger, R. (1998) The Dispossessed: Living with Multiple Chemical Sensitivities. Paulden, AZ: The Dispossessed Project.



Please Help Australia’s MCS/EHS Advocate, Amelia Hill

The following is a letter from Jenny Buttaccio, and an Instagram post from mother and carer, Danija Hill, in regards to helping Australian Writer, and MCS/EHS Advocate, Amelia Hill. Amelia’s health has recently had a rapid decline. Please read with an open heart, and, if you can afford to, please go to the GoFundMe page and donate what you can. Or alternatively, share with your friends and social media contacts. Right now, she needs all the help she can get!

Hi Everyone, This is Amelia’s Mum. Amelia has been seriously unwell these last few weeks and we are all VERY concerned for her. It is very difficult for Amelia to access Medical Care because she is housebound and because of time type of illness she has … so Amelia’s lovely friend @jenny_buttaccio has launched a GoFundMe Campaign to try and help her. I know so many of you care about Amelia so much and have followed her story online over the years so please take the the time to visit the GoFundMe page and share it with your family and friends and online communities as well. Amelia’s situation is incredibly dire and heartbreaking right now. She really needs your support. Thank you. You can find the link to the GoFundMe campaign in her profile. Thank you. Regards, Danija https://www.gofundme.com/amazingameliahill #amazingameliahill #MCS #CFS #GoFundMe #gofundmeamazingameliahill

A post shared by Amelia Hill (@amazingameliahill) on

“Dear Friends,

This is Jenny Buttaccio (Amelia’s friend in Chicago). Some of you may know ‘Amazing Amelia Hill’ as the girl in the bubble, living with severe MCS/Multiple Chemical Sensitivity, CFS/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, and EHS/Electrohypersensitivity. Or maybe you know her as I do–the girl with an unbreakable spirit. It’s one of the reasons people follow her healing journey on social media from all around the world. She makes others believe they can get through whatever circumstances come their way. She inspires us all to be our best selves.

Though not always easy, she bravely shared her story in the media several times and published articles to raise awareness for the illnesses that have ripped her life apart and the lives of so many others. No matter what her circumstances, she’s always trying to help others.

Many of you watched the challenges she faced. She’s endured horrible, disabling symptoms, long-term isolation, a very limited food intake, living in an empty, sealed room for several years, and dental surgery in her kitchen. For the last year, she’s had to sleep on the bathroom floor.

Despite all of these trials, she’s fought incredibly hard to improve her health over the last few years, and many of you have cheered her on. You’ve celebrated every healing milestone along with her–like walking outside for the first time, going for a short drive in the car to the end of the street, having visitors, and experiencing a few precious hugs. Remember those moments?

Unfortunately, it breaks my heart to report her health has taken a turn for the worse. Her family, friends and I are very concerned for her well-being. She can no longer hold her body upright, and her respiratory muscles are so weak, making it is very difficult for her to breathe 24/7. No one is sure why she has deteriorated so dramatically.

Amelia needs emergency care but she cannot go to the hospital, so getting the help she needs is proving to be very difficult. Sadly, medical advice, specialist consultations, and testing are very hard to access when you’re housebound with the illnesses that Amelia suffers from. Plus, her medical expenses are not covered by any insurance.

Amelia told me she hasn’t wanted to ask for support because she felt she had somehow failed all of us. And, she recently told me that she can no longer afford her health care costs, and she has stopped all treatment (including treatment with an environmental doctor in the U.S., who she felt was really helping her). She’s already sold all her furniture and many possessions to fund her medical costs, but that is now gone. Her situation is so dire that she’s regularly forced to choose between food and medical expenses.

Amelia confided in me that she has started to lose hope, and she’s feeling scared for her life. She doesn’t want this to be the end of her story. She still has so much more to give.

Amelia desperately needs our help right now. If you have ever been touched by her story over the years, let’s work together to get her the care she so badly needs. Please contribute what you can and share this campaign with your own friends and family too.

The money we raise will go specifically to Amelia’s urgent medical expenses. They include:

*In-home consultations with a family doctor/primary care provider
*In-home consultations with specialists including respiratory and neurology.
*Restarting treatment with her environmental illness physician.
*In-home nursing visits.
*In-home blood draws and other testing.
*Medical equipment including an oxygen concentrator and a nebulizer (will purchase second hand if available).
*Shipping and handling to send some specialized test abroad.
*Necessary medication including prescription, herbal support, and supplements.
*Adjunct treatments, like acupuncture, to build her immune system back up.”

Please click this link to support Amelia: GoFundMe page

You can visit her website here, where she publishes information to help others like herself

Links related to Amelia’s story:
Amelia’s story
Adelaide’s girl in a bubble 
Fit traveler: Meet the Amazing Amelia Hill
Huffington Post: When People Don’t Look Sick Enough
Media & Links
Wholesome Living: Confined to one room for 5 years

How Proclima, and Laros Fixed Our Slab/Frame Overhang

The Slab Overhang Issue

How did this happen? Is slab overhang a common happening? How do you avoid a mess like this? Well, the Surveyor, contracted out by the builders, came out twice (over a six month period) to measure up, placing painted sticks and ties about the property for both house designs. We can’t work out what happened exactly. Except maybe…


Take your own measurements, folks

…the kangaroos jumped the fence and moved both sets of sticks about. Yep! The first lot were left in; and the new ones were added to mark out the slab boundary.

The other thing could be that we downsized the house therefore confused our measurements. We’ve still not gotten to the bottom of it all but it really doesn’t matter now. The way the situation was handled by our carpentry team who alerted us and by our concreting team, who found the right people for the job, it’s such a small issue in retrospect!

If you accidentally design a McMansion and decide to downsize, beware!

Oh the #kangaroos this morning made my #heart sing I know why I live where I do. #grateful #wildlife #vegan #loveanimals

A photo posted by Michellina (@michellinaoutofthelabyrinth) on

Because of this mishap, the slab (due to the pegs and measurements) was made to the incorrect dimensions—the frame on the south side, the cold side of the house, was too short by 40 ml, and another 40 ml in two other places on the northern side, leaving our custom-built, excellent Calco hardwood frame hanging over—not precariously so but, according to engineering good practice: It wasn’t safe to build a second story on.


And to answer the question: How common is this? People in the industry told us this happens a lot. Many builders don’t go to the trouble that we all went to. Life has been very stressful for him lately. He has to do so much. I can’t get government help for Oxygen or CIRS medications (some of them, but most, no!), testing cost a bomb. I’ve got my uni and my plans for a career from home but I don’t feel the disabled are given a fair go. Unless a fair go is just laying in bed getting sicker by the year!


This piece was expertly sliced off by a concrete cutter

Plus, another section on the north side (the sunny, warmer side, which is our passive heating side during Melbourne winters!) and the western side (the hot side where the sun sets) were too big by 40 ml, which meant the concrete had to be wet cut with an electric saw by a concrete cutter.

These are the drawings our engineer drew so that we could get a clear picture of the solution to the slab overhang:


Basically, we had a steel beam bolted onto the 3 edges of the slab to support the frame. However, right away from a building biology standpoint, it bothered me to think that some builders and owner-builders would construct a building straight over this  because of the condensation issue that most likely would develop: basic building-biology science says that if you have metal that’s cold on the outside while warm on the inside (as most houses are in cooler weather) then condensation will occur… then mould! could follow.

Being concerned about the health of the building envelope, condensation for the above reasons and, for a mould sensitive person with CIRS, this is a nightmare of a mistake to make.

In my brain fog, attached to oxygen, I contacted Thomas at ProClima in New Zealand (whom I found out about from Building Biologist, Rapheal at EcoLibria at Torquay, who I found out about from Lucinda at Eco Health Solutions). Thomas then put me onto Andreas at Laros Technologies, here in Australia.

Thankfully, Andreas understood my concerns! I have CIRS

The irony of writing a book on how to Build and Eco-Friendly, Allergy-Free House that is mould free and having to deal with these issues aren’t lost on me. As far as my book and blog go, this is a fantastic event to document because, thanks to ProClima and Laros, we fixed the issue. (I have a whole chapter on mould and happenings that can and did! go wrong and how we overcame these issues.) Dan and I inserted this thermal break ourselves. Now, 12 months later, my thumb still hurts from holding the beam while Dan wedged that low voc, non-toxic ‘thermal break’, between the slab and the metal beam.

Other ProClima products we plan on using:

Intello Internal Airtight Wrap (post coming up on that)

And, hopefully having our house and cottage roof windows’ supplies (flashing and tapes) supplied by them. I’m trying to book Kale in from KLM plumbing to do the job. He’s the perfect plumber: on time; does what he says he will. We’ll be sure to get good instructions for our plumber from Andreas [check] at Laros!

An Energy Efficiency Weakspot

From an energy efficiency point of view: this would be a weak spot that would suck out heat from the building during winter. So although the solution from our engineer was a clever one that saved our house and budget, it didn’t take into account that, Melbourne, being a colder climate, that has such *lovely cold weather, which would keep the piece of steel cold on the outside and warm on the inside each time the house was heated: this would cause condensation given those conditions, which is a great way to end up with mould!

The solution was to create a thermal break along the piece of steal. This would be a guarantee against condensation because there wouldn’t have any heat conductivity of the steel leading to it in the first place!

The galvanised steal beam which is called a ‘RHS’ (Rectangular hollow section) bolted to the slab edge. The RHS had the dimensions of 150 X 50 mm; and was placed On the 3 sections under the overhang of the hardwood frame&msash;Southside and Northside.

Again, the slab was too big by 25 ml: the whole west side length of the house, jutting out with no purpose but to leach heat out of the house by poking out into the cold like that.

The slab jutting out by 25 ml along the length of the westside, a potential heat leak in a passively heated house.

The slab jutting out by 25 ml along the length of the westside, a potential heat leak in a passively heated house. We had this saw off by (update coming)

So then the builders and Dan found a concrete cutting mob to came out to the build. Whew! They bought with them a special saw and expertly cut the excess slab of by 25 ml, exactly!

Our frame was then nailed and glue together by Pristine Carpentry the ones who rang us alerting us to the fact that the house frame was too too big for the slab. When you take into consideration all the bricks, tin and metal that need to make up the house, that’s still only 40 ml hanging precariously over the edge of the slab. Earthquake anyone? Hyperbolic catastrophes aside:

The problem was: because of the steals temperature conductivity, it was a potential, most definite with time. Mould problem caused by condensation, which would have rose up the wall.

We could have used a hairdryer to meld the shape of the material to the beam but, we realised the pressure of the house would do this.

It was a hard lesson.

Note: It’s best to check yourself.

But it’s all taken care of one thanks to Laros and ProClima: sell truly environmentally-friendly and people-friendly products made for New Zealand weather.

Our solution to slab overhang came from Laros.


People and Places where we Received Assistance in Relation to Building Biology for People with MCS and Mould Illness (CIRS)


EHS News: A Cell Phone Destroyed My Nervous System and Health

Today, YouTuber, Leesa aka: Aussie Vegan Gardening Yogi, tells us about her experiences with Electro-hypersensitivity (EHS). She also shares some insights into the condition, her treatment by the Australian medical profession so far; and some of the research, diet tips and practices that have helped her. You can find an excellent source of links to research, architects and support groups at the bottom of her clip (on her channel over on YouTube). Thank you for sharing your story, Leesa xx

(Following this video is another YouTube clip where the much esteemed, Dr Willliam Rea, MD from the Environmental Health Centre ~ Dallas,  gives this talk titled ‘Triggering Agents of Electromagnetic Sensitivity’)

Triggering Agents of Electromagnetic Sensitivity

“… a presentation and Q&A by Dr. William Rea, M.D.. Dr. Rea presented his compelling evidence and recommendations for a healthier world at Creating Safe Havens in a Toxic, Electromagnetic World, a conference hosted by the International Institute for Building-Biology & Ecology.”

Full Text of the Latest Australian Fragrance Study by Professor Anne Steinemann—for Translation Purposes

Health and societal effects from exposure to fragranced consumer products

(For the purposes of being able to translate this document into your preferred language, here is the full translatable text. Our translate button is up to the right of the page. Use the dropdown menu to choose your language, then copy and paste into a text document, print and pass on to your loved ones or friends who don’t read english.)


Anne Steinemann

Department of Infrastructure Engineering, Melbourne School of Engineering, The University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Victoria 3010, Australia College of Science, Technology and Engineering, James Cook University, Townsville, Queensland 4811, Australia Climate, Atmospheric Sciences, and Physical Oceanography, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California, San Diego, La Jolla, CA 92093, USA

Article Information

Article history: Received 25 September 2016 Received in revised form 5 November 2016 Accepted 12 November 2016 Available online 14 November 2016


Fragranced consumer products—such as air fresheners, cleaning supplies, and personal care products— pervade society. This study investigated the occurrence and types of adverse effects associated with exposure to fragranced products in Australia, and opportunities for prevention. Data were collected in June 2016 using an online survey with a representative national sample (n = 1098). Overall, 33% of Australians report health problems, such as migraine headaches and asthma attacks, when exposed to fragranced products. Of these health effects, more than half (17.1%) could be considered disabling under the Australian Disability Discrimination Act. Additionally, 7.7% of Australians have lost workdays or a job due to illness from fragranced product exposure in the workplace, 16.4% reported health problems when exposed to air fresheners or deodorizers, 15.3% from being in a room after it was cleaned with scented products, and 16.7% would enter but then leave a business as quickly as possible due to fragranced products. About twice as many respondents would prefer that workplaces, health care facilities and professionals, hotels, and airplanes were fragrance-free rather than fragranced. While 73.7% were not aware that fragranced products, even ones called green and organic, emitted hazardous air pollutants, 56.3% would not continue to use a product if they knew it did. This is the first study in Australia to assess the extent of adverse effects associated with exposure to common fragranced products. It provides compelling evidence for the importance and value of reducing fragranced product exposure in order to reduce and prevent adverse health effects and costs.

1. Introduction

Contrary to popular belief, most exposure to hazardous pollutants that affect health and wellbeing occurs indoors (Ott et al., 2007; Brown, 2007). A primary source of these indoor pollutants and exposures is common fragranced consumer products, such as air fresheners, cleaning products, laundry supplies, and personal care products (Cheng et al., 2015; Nazaroff and Weschler, 2004; Steinemann et al., 2011). Exposure to fragranced products has been associated with a range of adverse human health effects, including migraine headaches, contact dermatitis, asthma attacks, respiratory difficulties, and mucosal symptoms (e.g., Kelman, 2004; Caress and Steinemann, 2009; Elberling et al., 2005; Millqvist et al., 1999; Johansen, 2003; Kumar et al., 1995). In two previous surveys, Caress and Steinemann (2009) found that 17.5% and 20.5% of the general US population (between 2002–3 and 2005–6 respectively) reported breathing difficulties, headaches, or other health problems when exposed to air fresheners and deodorizers. Fragranced consumer products emit dozens of different volatile compounds, including terpenes (e.g., limonene, alpha-pinene, and beta-pinene) that are primary pollutants, and that react with ozone to generate secondary pollutants such as formaldehyde and acetaldehyde (Nazaroff and Weschler, 2004). Even so-called green and organic fragranced products emit hazardous pollutants, similar to regular fragranced products. Little information exists, however, on potentially hazardous compounds emitted from fragranced products, in part because products are not required to disclose all ingredients (Steinemann, 2015). Thus, knowledge of potential exposures and effects is essential to effective risk reduction. This study investigates the occurrence and types of exposures to fragranced products and associated health and societal effects in the Australian population. Further, it investigates the potential for preventive measures, such as fragrance-free policies, to reduce health risks and costs.

2. Methods

An on-line survey was conducted of the adult Australian population, using a national random sample representative of age, gender, and state (n = 1098, 95% confidence level with a 3% margin of error). The survey instrument, a 35 item questionnaire, was developed and tested over a two-year period, including cognitive testing with 10 individuals and piloting with over 100 individuals, before full implementation in June 2016. The survey drew upon participants from a large web-based Australian panel (over 200,000 people) held by Survey Sampling Interna- tional. Participant recruitment followed a randomized process (SSI, 2016) with an open invitation, rather than a direct invite, to the pool of panelists available at the time. The pool was filtered to achieve a representative sample through a set of initial questions for basic demographic characteristics. All responses were anonymous. Average survey completion time was approximately 10 min. Survey response rate was 93%. Only completed questionnaires were included in the final data analysis. The research study received ethics approval from the University of Melbourne. Details of the survey methodology, as well as statistical analyses of questionnaire data and for results summa- rized below, are provided as supplemental documents. The questionnaire investigated both personal and public exposure to fragranced products, health effects related to exposures, impacts of fragrance exposure in the workplace and in public places, awareness of fragranced product ingredients and labeling, preferences for fragrance-free environments and policies, and demographic information. The questionnaire provided one question on each page, with multiple choice and open format answers; five sets of questions were randomized for their multiple choice items, and eight questions were condition- ally displayed based on responses to other items. Data were collected and analyzed in June 2016. Fragranced consumer products were investigated in the following categories: (a) Air fresheners and deodorizers; (b) Personal care prod- ucts; (c) Cleaning supplies; (d) Laundry products; (e) Household prod- ucts; (f) Fragrance; and (g) Other. Health effects were investigated in the following categories: (a) Migraine headaches; (b) Asthma attacks; (c) Neurological problems; (d) Respiratory problems; (e) Skin prob- lems; (f) Cognitive problems; (g) Mucosal symptoms; (h) Immune system problems; (i) Gastrointestinal problems; (j) Cardiovascular problems; (k) Musculoskeletal problems; (j) Other health problems. The categories of fragranced products and health effects were developed from prior studies (Steinemann, 2015; Caress and Steinemann, 2009; Miller and Prihoda, 1999), and pre-tested and piloted with over 100 individuals, including health care professionals, before full survey implementation.

3. Results

Overall, 98.5% of the Australian population is exposed to fragranced products at least once a week from either their own use (98%), others’ use (88.1%), or both. From their own use, 66.8% are exposed to air fresheners and deodorizers at least once a week; 91.6% personal care prod- ucts; 83.2% cleaning supplies; 84.3% laundry products; 77.1% household products; 69.6% fragrance; 2.3% other. From others’ use, 50.8% are exposed to air fresheners and deodorizers at least once a week; 61.5% personal care products; 50.7% cleaning supplies; 44.3% laundry products; 49.6% household products; 67.8% fragrance; 1.8% other. Importantly, 33% of the general population reported one or more types of health problems associated with exposure to one or more types of fragranced products. The most common types of adverse health effects were as follows: 16.7% of the population reported respiratory problems; 14.0% mucosal symptoms; 10.0% migraine headaches; 9.5% skin problems; 7.6% asthma attacks; 4.5% neurological problems; 4.1% cognitive problems; 3.3% gastrointestinal problems; 3.3% immune system problems; 3.0% cardiovascular problems; 2.6% musculoskeletal problems; and 1.9% other. When exposed to air fresheners or deodorizers, 16.4% experience health problems; these include respiratory problems (9.1%), mucosal symptoms (6.2%), skin problems (4.8%), asthma attacks (4.5%), mi- graine headaches (4.2%), neurological problems (2.2%), among other adverse effects. In addition, in other types of exposure situations, 15.3% reported health problems from being in a room after it was cleaned with scented products, 6.1% from the scent of laundry products from dryer vents, and 19.4% from being near someone wearing a fragranced product. For 17.1% of the population, the severity of the health problems was reported to “result in a total or partial loss of bodily or mental functions,” which is a criterion for determining disability under the Australia Disability Discrimination Act (DDA, 1992). Fragranced products also hindered access in society. Of the general population, 11.6% are unable or reluctant to use the toilets in a public place, because of the presence of an air freshener, deodorizer, or scented product. Also, 10.3% are unable or reluctant to wash their hands with soap in a public place, because they know or suspect that the soap is fragranced. Further, 15.0% have been prevented from going to some place because they would be exposed to a fragranced product that would make them sick. Interestingly, 16.7% of the population reported that if they enter a business, and smell air fresheners or some fragranced product, they want to leave as quickly as possible. Finally, 7.7% have lost work days or a job (in the past 12 months) due to exposures to fragranced products in the workplace.

Fragranced products emit a range of chemicals, including hazardous air pollutants, but ingredients do not need to be fully disclosed on the product label or material safety data sheet. Even so-called green and or ganic fragranced products can emit hazardous pollutants, similar to reg- ular products (Steinemann, 2015). Of the population surveyed, 47.2% were not aware that a “fragrance” in a product is typically a chemical mixture of several dozen to several hundred chemicals, 68.6% were not aware that fragrance chemicals do not need to be fully disclosed on the product label or material safety data sheet, 68.9% were not aware that fragranced products typically emit hazardous air pollutants such as formaldehyde, and 73.7% were not aware that even so-called natural, green, and organic fragranced products typically emit hazard- ous air pollutants. However, 56.3% would not still use a fragranced product if they knew it emitted hazardous air pollutants.

Fragrance-free indoor environments received widespread support. Of the general population, 42.8% would be supportive of a fragrance- free policy in the workplace (compared with 22.2% that would not), 43.2% would prefer that health care facilities and health care professionals be fragrance-free (compared with 25.2% that would not). Also, 57.7% would prefer flying on an airplane without scented air pumped through the passenger cabin (compared with 16.3% with scented air), and 55.6% would prefer staying in a hotel without fragranced air (com- pared with 22.7% with fragranced air).

4. Discussion

The problem of fragranced products is sweeping Australia and other countries, resulting in adverse health effects, lost workdays, and inability to access public places, such as restrooms and businesses. While the use of fragranced products may be premised on that they improve in- door air quality, the contrary is actually the case; that is, fragranced products emit and generate a complex mixture of chemical pollutants, including carcinogenic hazardous air pollutants, but nearly all are undis- closed. While further research is needed to better understand which chemicals and mixtures are associated with the effects, what is known is that the products are reportedly causing adverse effects in a sizeable (33%) percentage of the population. Further, the effects can be immedi- ate, severe, and potentially disabling. Important implications for prevention arise from this study. First, for workplaces and other environments, fragrance-free policies would be a logical step, benefiting employees, employers, and the public. Such policies have been implemented in workplaces, schools, hospitals, and public and private buildings around the world. As an example, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Indoor Environmental Quality Policy (CDC, 2009) states that “Scented or fragranced products are prohibited at all times in all interior space owned, rented, or leased by CDC.” Second, for individuals, fragranced products can be removed from use, or swapped out for fragrance-free products with similar functionality.

A fragrance in a product is not intended to clean the air or reduce air pollutants. Thus, it could be asked whether the perceived benefits of use are dwarfed by the costs to personal and public health.

Third, for businesses, fragranced products may actually repel more cus- tomers than attract, as well as create potential liability; e.g., the use of air fresheners in a business can cause potentially disabling effects in customers. Fourth, for medical professionals and patients, when faced with health problems such as headaches, respiratory difficulties, mucosal symptoms, rashes, asthma, and others, consider the possibility that fragranced products could be a contributor. Finally, for public officials, the problem of “secondhand scents,” or indirect exposure to fragranced products, has parallels to secondhand tobacco smoke. Prevention from fragrance product exposure will enable individuals to work in their workplaces, attend school, and function in society without suffering involuntary harm.

5. Conclusion

This study found that common fragranced products can trigger adverse effects throughout the Australian population, with consequences for public health, workplaces, businesses, and societal wellbeing. It also indicates that some relatively straightforward and inexpensive approaches, such as fragrance-free policies, could not only reduce health risks but also increase revenues and societal access. While research is needed to fully understand why fragranced products are associated with a range of adverse health effects, and in a substantial portion of the population, it is important to take steps in the meantime to reduce or eliminate exposure for prevention and public health.

Conflicts of interest



I thank Amy Davis and Jim Repace for their very helpful reviews of this article. I also thank Amy Davis, Jim Repace, Alison Johnson, John Branco, Susan Felderman, Claudia Miller, Rudy Rodolfo, Lynn Heilbrun, Robert Damiano, Taylor Williams for their valuable reviews of the survey and results. The research received funding from Clean Air and Urban Landscapes Hub, at the University of Melbourne, through the Australia Department of the Environment. Finally, I thank the staff of Survey Sampling International for their superb work.


Brown, S.K., 2007. Indoor Air Quality, Australia: State of the Environment Technical Paper Series (Atmosphere). Department of the Environment, Sport and Territories, Canberra. Caress, S.M., Steinemann, A.C., 2009. Prevalence of fragrance sensitivity in the American population. J. Environ. Health 71 (7), 46–50. CDC, 2009. US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Indoor Environmental Quality Policy, pages. :pp. 9–10 Available:. http://www.drsteinemann.com/Resources/CDC% 20Indoor%20Environmental%20Quality%20Policy.pdf. Cheng, M., Galbally, I.E., Molloy, S.B., et al., 2015. Factors controlling volatile organic com- pounds in dwellings in Melbourne, Australia. Indoor Air 26 (2), 219–230. DDA, 1992. Australian Disability Discrimination Act, Australian Government. Act No. 135 of 1992. Availalble at:. https://www.legislation.gov.au/Series/C2004A04426. Elberling, J., Linneberg, A., Dirksen, A., et al., 2005. Mucosal symptoms elicited by fra- grance products in a population-based sample in relation to atopy and bronchial hyper-reactivity. Clin. Exp. Allergy 35 (1), 75–81. Johansen, J.D., 2003. Fragrance contact allergy: a clinical review. Am. J. Clin. Dermatol. 4 (11), 789–798. Kelman, L., 2004. Osmophobia and taste abnormality in migraineurs: a tertiary care study. Headache 44 (10), 1019–1023. Kumar, P., Caradonna-Graham, V.M., Gupta, S., Cai, X., Rao, P.N., Thompson, J., 1995. Inha- lation challenge effects of perfume scent strips in patients with asthma. Ann. Allergy Asthma Immunol. 75 (5), 429–433. Miller, C.S., Prihoda, T.J., 1999. The environmental exposure and sensitivity inventory (EESI): a standardized approach for measuring chemical intolerances for research and clinical applications. Toxicol. Ind. Health 15 (34), 370–385. Millqvist, E., Bengtsson, U., Löwhagen, O., 1999. Provocations with perfume in the eyes in- duce airway symptoms in patients with sensory hyperreactivity. Allergy 54 (5), 495–499. Nazaroff, W.W., Weschler, C.J., 2004. Cleaning products and air fresheners: exposure to primary and secondary air pollutants. Atmos. Environ. 38, 2841–2865. Ott, W., Steinemann, A., Wallace, L. (Eds.), 2007. Exposure Analysis. CRC Press, Boca Raton, FL. SSI (Survey Sampling International), 2016. Dynamix Sampling Approach.Available at:. https://www.surveysampling.com/technology/ssi-dynamix/ (accessed August 3, 2016). Steinemann, A., 2015. Volatile emissions from common consumer products. Air Qual. Atmos. Health 8 (3), 273–281. Steinemann, A.C., MacGregor, I.C., Gordon, S.M., et al., 2011. Fragranced consumer prod- ucts: chemicals emitted, ingredients unlisted. Environ. Impact Assess. Rev. 31 (3), 328–333.

E-mail address: anne.steinemann@unimelb.edu.au.

http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.pmedr.2016.11.011 2211-3355/© 2016 Published by Elsevier Inc. This is an open access article under the CC BY-NC-ND license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/).

Breaking News: Professor Anne Steineman’s Latest Study on the Impact of Fragrances in Australia

Breaking News

Professor Anne Steinemann from Melbourne University has published her Australian study: ‘Health and societal effects from exposure to fragranced consumer products’ on fragrance-irritant chemicals and the impact they have on people who need access to workplace, health care facilities and professionals, hotels, airplanes and schools. Her study shows why it’s so difficult for people with illnesses having chemical sensitivity as a symptom or for people with full blown MCS to be able to access public spaces (even with a recognised disability that’s further hindered by the inhalation of fragrances, cleaners (even green ones!) and other fragrance containing products); and why family and friends don’t understand or even begin to comprehend that it’s the chemical irritants here that are the problem, rather than the actual smell:

73.7% of the Australian population are not even aware that these products can and do harm others health, restricting their lives to the point, in some cases, of not being able to go out into public buildings at all.

Please download this study and show it to your employer, workplace safety representative, your course co-ordinator or Disability Officer, or that pesky family member who insists you (or other family member with MCS or CIRS, ME/CFS/SEID) have a ‘mental illness’ or childhood trauma related to an ‘aftershave’ etc.

CIRS, ME/CFS/SEID, Fibromyalgia, Chronic Lyme, Toxic Encephalopathy, Asthma, Red Cedar Asthma (Plicatic Acid Sensitivity), IgE-mediated Triethanolamine Sensitivity, Pine Allergy (Abietic Acid Sensitivity), Formaldehyde-induced Anaphylaxis, Phthalic Anhydride Hypersensitivity, Ammonium Persulfate Sensitivity, Glutaraldehyde-induced Asthma, Phenyl Isocyanate Sensitivity, Halothane-induced Hepatitis, Sulfite-induced Anaphylaxis, Chemical Worker’s Lung, Farmer’s Lung, TDI-induced Asthma, NSAID Intolerance, sufferers of inhalant allergies, particular chemical sensitivities, and respiratory inflammation, Occupational Asthma, Irritant-associated Vocal Cord Dysfunction, Reactive Airways Dysfunction Syndrome (RADS), Irritant-induced Asthma, Small Airways Disease, Vasomotor Rhinitis, Occupational Urticaria, Occupational Rhinosinusitis, Hypersensitivity Pneumonitis, Photoallergic Contact Dermatitis, Airborne-irritant Contact Dermatitis, Irritant-associated Vocal Cord Dysfunction, Sick Building Syndrome (Building-related Illness) and the big one Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS): are all valid diagnostic conditions that have chemical sensitivity to chemical irritants as a symptom. And they are medical conditions that can be impacted by indoor air-quality, which is paramount to comfort, good health and quality of life for everyone.

Too many people are discriminated against in Australia by not having access to the most basic of care, employment and education. Thankfully we have dedicated organisations such as AESSRA and Emerge where we can get hard facts and concrete information on the law and Disability Discrimination and what actions we can take. Don’t take discrimination lying down. Personally, I don’t. I have, and will, go to the DDLS (Disability Discrimination Legal Service) every single time (always as a last resort!)  because I deserve medical care, an education and part time employment. In Australia, in case you’re not aware, we have the Access to Goods and Services Guidelines, which have been of great assistance to those who use them.

I’m diligently waiting for our Australian Government and mainstream media channels to step up and help educate others over this matter. Thank you to Professor Anne Steinemann for working on this important research sure to help many Australians. Thank you from our full hearts to yours. <3 And thank you to the lovely gentleman who bought this study to my attention this morning. I love my readers. We’re all in this together; and I, personally, are with you all the way. I support you and wish you all the best. Enjoy!


“Fragranced consumer products—such as air fresheners, cleaning supplies, and personal care products— pervade society. This study investigated the occurrence and types of adverse effects associated with exposure to fragranced products in Australia, and opportunities for prevention. Data were collected in June 2016 using an on-line surveywith a representative national sample (n=1098). Overall, 33% of Australians report health problems, such as migraine headaches and asthma attacks, when exposed to fragranced products. Of these health effects, more than half (17.1%) could be considered disabling under the Australian Disability Discrimination Act. Additionally, 7.7% of Australians have lost workdays or a job due to illness from fragranced product exposure in the workplace, 16.4% reported health problems when exposed to air fresheners or deodorizers, 15.3% from being in a room after it was cleaned with scented products, and 16.7% would enter but then leave a business as quickly as possible due to fragranced products. About twice as many respondents would prefer that workplaces, health care facilities and professionals, hotels, and airplanes were fragrance-free rather than fragranced. While 73.7% were not aware that fragranced products, even ones called green and organic, emitted hazardous air pollutants, 56.3% would not continue to use a product if they knew it did. This is the first study in Australia to assess the extent of adverse effects associatedwith exposure to common fragranced products. It provides compelling evidence for the importance and value of reducing fragranced product exposure in order to reduce and prevent adverse health effects and costs.”

© 2016 Published by Elsevier Inc. This is an open access article under the CC BY-NC-ND license http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/

Download (PDF, 220KB)

Cars in Australia and the US: Is the New Car Smell Bad for your Health?

Of course we all remember the article, a little while back now, about how: Dr Geoffrey Evens Suffers with MCS-like Symptoms with New Cars? Evens, the Research Scientist who bought a new car that set of his formaldehyde allergy he picked up while working in a laboratory for years. Well, the gist of this story is long-winded, something that’s not going away fast, for many of us.

In ‘How toxic is your new car?‘ by Building Biologist and author of Healthy Home Healthy Family, Nicole Bijlsma, answers to some of our questions are put forward:

Ever wondered what that new car smell was doing to your health?

Well if you drive a Honda Civic or CR-Z or Toyota Prius you can breathe easy as they were rated the healthiest. If however you recently purchased a Mitsubishi Outlander or Chrysler (family cars) consider wearing a respirator and tyvek suit – they were the worst. A study conducted by consumer advocate HealthyStuff.org (US) investigated the pollution in cars. There are over 275 different chemicals in the interiors of new cars many of which are associated with birth defects, impaired learning, liver toxicity and cancer (HealthyStuff.org, 2012). Cars were assessed for a variety of toxins including PVC (hormone disrupting chemical), heavy metals such as lead (behavioural disorders) and cadmium (carcinogenic) and brominated flame retardants.

You can Read more here

In Is the New Car Smell Bad for your Health?, written by Jim Travers and published by BBC Autos, the article is ripe with helpful information for consumers:

“There are over 200 chemical compounds found in vehicles,” he said. “Since these chemicals are not regulated, consumers have no way of knowing the dangers they face.”

Since these chemicals are not regulated, consumers have no way of knowing the dangers they face. 

Just reading a list of the substances is scary enough, and makes your car’s interior sound like a hazmat hall of fame. Benzene, toluene, formaldehyde, and heavy metals are all part of the mix. And the danger of exposure is scarier still. Immediate symptoms can range from a sore throat to headaches, dizziness, allergic reactions and nausea, depending on the sensitivity of an individual.

For people already sensitive to formaldehyde and other chemicals, choosing a car can be difficult, especially if the fragrance used in most 2nd hand cars puts many of them out of reach. However, there is great news from BBC Auto when it comes to buying new cars:

Automakers we spoke with, including Fiat/ChryslerFordGeneral Motors and Honda all say they’ve taken steps to reduce VOC levels in their vehicles, along with other substances of concern (SOCs). They say they’ve accomplished this primarily by using different materials, coatings and adhesives in manufacturing, and all say they are continuing to look for ways to reduce the use of potentially harmful substances in their cars.

One known carcinogen that seems to be on the way out is polyvinyl chloride (PVC), which the Ecology Center found was used in virtually all new car interiors in 2006. By 2012, that number was down to 73%. Manufacturers say PVC use continues to decline, and Honda, for one, claims to have eliminated it entirely from interiors of most models.

Other companies like Ford are trying out alternatives like soy padding used in the seats. However, while Australia and the US lag behind the European Union’s REACH program (Registration, Evaluation, Authorization, and restriction of CHemical substances), designed to protect consumers from harmful chemical irritants, allergens and toxic chemicals, the BBC suggests:

” … the best thing that buyers can do to limit exposure is to keep car interiors well ventilated, especially during the first six months of ownership. Park in the shade with the windows open when it’s safe to do so, or at least try to air it out before getting inside — especially on hot days.

Avoid sitting in the car while it is parked, and use a windshield solar shade to minimize heat buildup. The Ecology Center also advises frequent passes with a microfiber towel and a non-toxic cleaner, especially when a vehicle is new. “Chemicals like to hang out in the dust,” said Gearhart.

And for those who are especially sensitive to chemicals, he suggests making an extended sit behind the wheel part of the test drive, to see if symptoms or irritation start to develop.

“Spend time in the vehicle before purchasing it,” said Gearhart. “Or even consider buying a used car.”


The New Ecology Center guide to toxic chemicals in cars helps consumers avoid a major source of indoor air pollution. Honda rated the best again due to reductions in PVCs.

Nicole Bijlsma: How Toxic is Your Car

Jim Travers, BBC Autos: Is the New Car Smell Bad for your Health?

This report contains vehicle screening as well as historic test results for nearly 1,000 vehicles: 2011/2012 Guide to New Vehicles

In the US: SaferCar.gov is the NHTSA site where you can identify and report problems you might be having with your vehicle, tires, equipment or car seats

The New Ecology Center guide to toxic chemicals in cars helps consumers avoid a major source of indoor air pollution

New Research Paper by Nicole Bijlsma ~ Environmental Chemical Assessment in Clinical Practice: Unveiling the Elephant in the Room

Building Biologist and author of Healthy Home Healthy Family, Nicole Bijlsma has published the following paper titled,    ‘Environmental Chemical Assessment in Clinical Practice: Unveiling the Elephant in the Room‘, it discusses ways in which the link between human health and environmental exposure can be managed. It’s an exciting way forward for people who are sensitive to chemicals or suffering ill health because of their housing. This paper will make it easier for clinicians to assist families and people who need it by helping them understand the link and consequences in environmental health and building biology.


There is also a need for concerted action at all levels, including actions by individual patients, clinicians, medical educators, regulators, government and non-government organisations, corporations and the wider civil society, to understand the “exposome” and minimise the extent of toxic exposures on current and future generations

The full document has been shared under the Creative Commons act.

Download (PDF, 391KB)

This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY) which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

More also available on NCBI (The National Center for Biotechnology Information): http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4772201/

And on MDPI: http://www.mdpi.com/1660-4601/13/2/181

More from Nicole Bijlsma

Her Website: Home page

Building Biology: Articles by BiJlsma

Her thoughts on Mould!



Abode healthy home cleaning products

Advance Diploma of Building Biology

Mould Testing Course

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 »