By Naomi Jackson, Becketwood Member
People have been inquiring, “Have you been gone? I haven't seen you for awhile.”
No, I haven't been gone. Yes, you haven't seen me for a while. Why? In a word, carpet. New carpet.
As some of you know, I have a condition called Multiple Chemical Sensitivities (MCS). It was caused by chemical exposures, mainly to herbicides and insecticides, in the mid-1980s.
This means that when I am exposed to various chemicals and fragrances, I react to them in a negative way: headaches, sinusitis, sore throat, asthma, eczema, digestive problems, and—my least favorite—“fuzz brain.” Yes, that's a real thing.
In 2018 the National Institutes of Health reported that 25.9% of the U.S. population suffers from chemical sensitivities. The number may be much higher because the chemicals in their environment affect most people at some level but they don’t realize that’s what is causing their headache or exacerbating their asthma. If the NIH figures are right, as many as 70 Becketwood Members may have some degree of chemical sensitivity.
People with MCS can react to permanent markers, perfumes, exhaust fumes, laundry and cleaning products, preservatives in food, air fresheners, fire retardants, lawn chemicals, paint, and, yes, carpet. New carpet and the glue with which it’s attached.
Having MCS is isolating. We have trouble being in crowds of people. Airports and planes, hotels and concert venues, the household cleaning products aisle in stores, and even church are off limits for many of us. I’ve had to leave a number of Becketwood programs because someone walked in wearing a strong scent.
Since the first week of October I’ve stayed away from the first and second floors where new carpet has been installed. Since these are the areas where people congregate and programs are held, my social life has taken a nosedive. And it’s unlikely you’ve seen me in November, either, because new carpet can take weeks or even months to outgas.
I take great comfort in the support and understanding I’ve received from friends at Becketwood. I look forward to rejoining you sometime in December or January. Please save some puzzles for me.