Becketwood Cooperative
An Active, Independent 55+ Community of Owners in Minneapolis

Why You Didn’t See Me In October

By Naomi Jackson, Becketwood Member

November 2019

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.









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  • Carol B December 12, 2019, 2:16 am

    I’m so glad this got published. It’s important information, and of course, very well written by you, Naomi.

  • Marilyn Talley Matheny December 14, 2019, 12:01 am

    Thank you for the description of this problem. I suspect I have it too since walking through the perfume department at Macy’s always leave me with fuzz brain.

  • Paulett December 14, 2019, 2:55 pm

    I really didn’t know why I had the headache I couldn’t shake, until we spoke. This is a very good article. Thank you for sharing.

  • Nancy Minahan December 18, 2019, 11:45 pm

    Naomi, I don’t know you yet (I’m new this year), but you were in my thoughts in the days after the first round of carpeting was installed in the “Becky Wood” staircase. The odor was intense, and gave me “fuzz brain” too. I tried to hold my breath all the way up the stairs, after the first time up. I thought, “Now I know what chemically sensitive people feel like.”

  • Peggy Ryden December 19, 2019, 1:33 pm

    Thank you Naomi for writing such a sensitive article. Since moving to BW I have encountered more odors than ever in my past environments. Coming from a strict fragrance free work environment (hospitals) and a private, fragrance free home, the odors at BW have also been a big challenge for my husband and I. Laundry product odors, member’s perfumes, and now new carpet and adhesive odors have also changed how we go about our daily life in cooperative living.

    We are hoping for, as much as we can, a chemical free and a neutral fragrance environment that we can all breathe safely and comfortable in. I hope that BW and our Members keep this in mind as choices are made for our shared interior environment.

    Looking forward to your return home!