Monday, December 29, 2008

Multiple Chemical Sensitivities: The Crazy Sh!t We Gotta Do

When dealing with chemical sensitivities even the most mundane tasks, plans and events become an olympic style obstacle course to get through...and due to economic breakdown I am getting a housemate. Anyone reading this who has MCS will understand this is the kind of event that can put the shake in the rattle and roll of fear, because other people bring things into your safe home that you normally can not tolerate. If you don't have chemical sensitivities you may find the following project completely insane, but tell the Gulf War Veterans who are now officially declared to have MSC/GWS from chemical exposure, the still sick rescue teams from 9-11 who didn't have protection going into the disaster, and my good friend Lou Cheese who was chemically injured on the job that their medical & government documented affliction is insane.
The following project is how me and Nick sealed off the door between the two halves of the house & it is now a duplex with separate outside entrances.

Check this crazy out:::::
Meet Nick, my new housemate who is kind enough to help me do this important yet coo-a-doo project. The first layer against the door is foil strips taped together with packing tape- then taped flush to the wall.
This is my sci-fi fashion pose, a possibly failed attempt to make the MCS foil barrier somehow a sexy thing. (I did help tape too! I swear.) With the foil completely flush and tape around all the edges, a layer of plastic was added on top... While this was happening I was on the other side of the door squeezing organic fleece fabric strips into the door cracks with pointy scissors. If I look a little haggard at this point it's cause I was extremely haggard...the thrill was gone. The very last layer of protection is bubble wrap! Why? Cause that is what I had on hand and doesn't it look like a portal to another dimension now !?!? Hopefully I get beamed to a place with unicorns, aliens, or just no chemicals...
I will update later on whether this MCS protection project worked to it's full potential as Nick (the impending housemate) moves his belongings into the other side of the house. Leave me any suggestions in the comments section...

And in the words of Britney Spears: "You Say I'm Crazy, I GOT your crazy!"


Next Door Nick said...

Damn you make me sound like the plague. You failed to mention I'm your good friend that would do anything for your health and well being!! Look! I've even got on Oko Box jeans!! Filling them out nicely if I do say so myself....

The Oko Box said...

You are not the plague, just the junk you own is. ;) Thanks so much for helping me put up the crazy sci fi portal barrier, without a word of how bizarre a project it was.
ps- I mentioned you were nice in the top intro lines!!! But did forget to mention how ECO your outfit was... organic jeans and thrift score sweater.

linda said...

All I could see was the vent beside the door as a space those alien evil molecules could still gain entry.

Do you have any charcoal pre-filter material available to tape over that, in case it is an important heat register?

I use Honeywell 38002 (nfi) and cover that with really old thin threadbare cotton to deal with any charcoal dust on my window screens sometimes.


My landlords had to have their engineer come up with a similar project that met code, to deal with some holes in my ceilings. I have shiny ceilings in some places now.

Amazing how toxic "ordinary" stuff can be these days.

The Oko Box said...

Hey Linda!
That vent is for a gas heater not being used and goes into a wooden box that leads to underneathe the house...but maybe i could cover the vents with a little platic too?
It is uncanny how everything these days is soaked in some kind of harmful chem and then sold as if it is safe...looking forward to when the government does their part in protecting people rather then big rich companies!!!
---My new housemate doesnt use a single chemical, not for shampoo, not for clothes, not for cleaning... it's really just the stuff being brought in i am trying to keep out. I am sure you understand how even the little things are nasty too!

Susie Collins said...

We should all be so lucky to have friends like this! My non-MCS friends would look at a request like this and think I'd gone round the bend. God bless Nick! This sealant is a really smart solution-- kudos to you both for figuring it out and getting it done.

The Oko Box said...

Thanks Susie...
I almost didnt put this post up because i figured non-chem sensitive peeps would think this looks like a quarantine (i say that because someone told me that is what it looked like! lol) ---> but really it's just like any form of allergy protection. Would be cool if people understood these types of chemical reactions as well as allergies to cats & peanuts.
It's better to be heathly & look over to coo coo's nest... then to be laying in bed wishing you had the balls to take care of yourself.
Hopefully Nick will get on and comment why he is so understanding... (Please please nick)!

VardoForTwo and The Storyteller said...

Hay Leslie,
I appreciate this post. This is the exact stuff we all do in an 'ordinary day.' I'm sitting in my Kitchenette looking at the Sheet n Foil wall that keeps the old stinky smells in the rest of the apartment OUT. It's what we need to do, and you make me remember HOW LUCKY WE ARE (YOU AND US ... me and Pete) because you have NICK, and we have JOEL---people who GET IT.

Yes, let the story out there sci fi? That would be the WORLD OUT THERE!!

Love your way, Mokihana

Nick said...

Ok. But only because you asked so politely..... I've had to deal with problems from the affects of chemicals myself. My parents unknowingly moved to a house that was near a chemical dump site before I was born. My mom had already had chemical sensitivity prior to moving there but afterwards was seriously ill for years and was hospitalized for long lengths of time. I have a vivid childhood memory of sitting in her room as a priest read her her last rites. My brother and I both were also born with birth defects. Both of us with bad allergies, my brother with asthma and a 6th finger, and I was born with clubbed feet which led to 48 sets of casts, 3 surgeries, and a lifetime of chronic pain, and also had to have 6 sets of tubes in my ears. Jackpot! Thanks chemical dump!
I don't know what the symptoms have to be to qualify for MCS but I'm sure I don't have it. Chemicals do affect me strongly though. A lot more than I thought before I decided to cut them out of my life. Throughout my childhood and on into my adulthood I was sick all the time. I would always come down with bronchitis, respiratory infections, and strep throat. I decided to cut out the extra chemicals I use after I met Leslie actually (thanks Leslie!) and aside from a couple of colds and my everyday dust, pollen, and dander allergies have not been sick since!
I guess all of that would make me a little more empathetic to people with chemical sensitivities. The project was actually kind of fun. You didnt show the last picture where the door is covered with organic olive green fabric and one of your awesome poke berry paintings! Looks like home instead of a space ship.

The Oko Box said...

Hey Mokihana!
Glad to know I am not the only one who's got foil up in my is the first time I have had to use it actually, since I have been in my own space for alot of years now without worying what others might bring in.

THANKS Nick for sharing your story!In my opinion all the regular chem exposure is why people now are catching not one cold a year but several, including a spike in respitory infections. Society just accepts it as normal, but i think it's getting to be a really unhealthy way to live for many.

Liberty said...

Oh I SO relate to this!!!
Sometimes I think how crazy our lives might look to outsiders.

I know people whose entire mattresses or couches are sealed in mylar (emergency blanket stuff).
I have lived places where I covered the entire floor in builder's foil, have had particle board furniture covered in aluminum foil and sealed with foil tape (great stuff, and I presently have the insides of some kitchen cabinetry covered entirely in builder's foil because of scents that had penetrated from previous tenants. MCS can be a very shiny, sci-fi weird life! Good thing I like sci-fi ;-)
I also have a kitchen counter covered in glass - cheaper than replacing the counter with something safe.
My experience with odors seeping in is that I can seal it with just foil tape if it's a crack they are seeping through - eg where wall meets floor underneath trim, where wall meets door etc.

I'd love to see pictures of how it looks with the painting and fabric up!

The Oko Box said...

Thanks Liberty for sharing! I have never heard of foil tape or builders foil... where do you buy those things? Those are some really good suggestions, especially for those who live in apartment buildings where smells leak into their place from the other units!
I also really like that you used glass to contain a counter space. All this makes me want to build my own eco hut... come on economy, get good already!!!! :)

Liberty said...

I buy them at hardware stores (darn stinky places). Foil tape is pretty much just heavy, heavy duty aluminum foil on one side and adhesive on the other side. It's the only kind of tape that I know of that stops the VOCs from the adhesive from passing through into the air we breathe. It can be a pain to use but for those really sensitive to the VOCs in adhesives, it can be a lifesaver!

here is an example of foil tape:

I find it cheapest in the bigger rolls and I shop around for prices because they really vary.
I have heard that the Walmart hardware area has it for a good price. I get it at Home Depot usually.

The builder's foil is harder to find. It comes mostly in large rolls (eg 100 feet by about 4 feet - should be less than $40). It's a piece of brown kraft type paper on one side and has aluminum sprayed onto it I think (with some kind of adhesive on the paper to make it stick. It is a pretty good vapour barrier too so long as it stays in good condition.
I haven't been able to find a good example online yet but will post if/when I do.
I find it can smell when I first get it so I buy it in advance so it can outgas for longer.
It's great to use in areas where actual aluminum foil would rip (eg floor) and it is massively cheaper than aluminum foil.

The glass on the counter actually looks really nice :-)

The Oko Box said...

Thanks Liberty for the link! Super helpful!

VardoForTwo and The Storyteller said...

Leslie and all,

E.L. Foust is the online place we have been buying the 'builder's foil' DENNY FOIL. Here's the link for any who are interested. We buy it and keep it with us ... and use it in the building of our vardo.

Aloha, Mokihana

linda said...

Other useful MCS materials to know about...

I remembered this vapour barrier/bubble wrap stuff.

There might be U.S. sources too if you google foil bubble wrap or vapour barrier foil.

You would want to weigh risk if using anything with plastic in an area that would get heated. If it was sealed between 2 layers of foil and taped, might be ok.

Mylar would have the same issues in areas with heat or sunlight as the polyester can offgas when heated.

Nick Next Door said...

Wow busy post. I'm a celebrity! You can send $20 and your autograph requests to

The Oko Box said...

As an update, I think so far this seal job has worked... i went over to Nick's side and the smell was entirely different and had not leaked over into my side in any way I can tell. The whole project is slightly eclipsed though - by the not too ironic coal ash spill in TN that blew over here and made people sick the last few days.

Lou Cheese said...

That really is awfully nice of Nick. All my friends have gotten used to seeing me in a respirator, but if I tried putting foil on the door that would probably still raise some eyebrows.

If anybody is having trouble with their mattress, I can get them a link for an organic one if they need it.

The Oko Box said...

Hey Lou!

It is really nice of Nick! If he is raising any eyebrows it is now on the other side of a well sealed door! lol
Definitely give links to good mattresses! I use organic cotton and wool mattress pads stacked together- i used to have a hemp mattress from the Natural Emporium, I think it was called? (it got ozone blasted though, so i no longer have it).

Anonymous said...

Organic beds and linens:

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