Chemical Sensitivities

“I am a person with MCS (Multiple Chemical Sensitivity).
Any products with odors especially fragranced products produce severe migraines and breathing difficulties for me...
Your product has been a Godsend...” - J.K. Durham, NC

Over the years, we’ve built strong relationships with individuals suffering from multiple chemical sensitivities. Their letters helped remind us of the many reasons to keep our recipes simple and natural. We’ve learned a great deal from them over the years, and by sharing these resources, we’re attempting to return the favor. We don’t claim to be experts – but we can do our best to help you find people and organizations that do have expertise.

What is MCS?

Multiple chemical sensitivity, or MCS, is a condition in which certain individuals are highly sensitive to environmental chemicals, some of which may be found in everyday items such as cleaning products. In these individuals, exposure to low levels of these contaminants leads to a variety of symptoms, from vague effects such as headache, fatigue, dizziness, and difficulty concentrating, to more specific symptoms like itching, muscle pain, or skin rash. MCS triggers include a wide range of possible substances that are present in consumer products, such as tobacco smoke, fragrances, or flame retardants. Although most people are exposed to these chemicals, individuals with MCS are extremely sensitive and experience symptoms even at low levels.

The issue is complicated because MCS is not officially recognized as a diagnosable disease. MCS is defined by a vague collection of symptoms that are likely different in each person and could be triggered by a host of substances. This makes it difficult to pinpoint a specific explanation for MCS symptoms. Nonetheless, MCS is acknowledged as an important issue by the US Environmental Protection Agency and the US Consumer Products Safety Commission.

These resources can help you find out more about MCS:


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Cleaning products & other household items

Cleaning products don’t need to be loaded with artificial fragrances and toxic chemicals to be effective. Antibacterial chemicals such as triclosan do not make products work better (Aiello, 2007). Fragrances can be triggers for MCS, and are often accompanied by harmful chemicals such as phthalates. Because people spend up to 90% of their time inside, keeping indoor air and surfaces free of harmful chemicals should be a priority. The most effective cleaning products are multi-purpose, simple, and non-toxic. Regular soap, baking soda, vinegar, and straightforward products such as Bon Ami can clean almost anything in your home without adding unneeded and harmful chemicals.

These resources can give you more information on healthy and natural cleaning products:

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Dietary choices

The list of potential exposures from foods can be alarming. Most fruits, vegetables, and produce are treated with chemical pesticides to avoid infestation and blemishes. Meat, fish, and animal products may have pesticide residues or unhealthy levels of environmental contaminants. Processed foods may have multiple added flavors, colors, or preservatives to alter flavor and shelf life. Children are especially susceptible to the harmful effects of unhealthy chemicals because they eat and drink more in proportion to their small size.

Although this list can be overwhelming, the good news is that – because we eat so often and eat such a variety – it is relatively easy to make small changes that will add up quickly. It’s no wonder that organic foods are the fastest growing segment of all grocery products, and that farmer’s markets and community supported agriculture groups are popping up all over the US. Organic foods are grown without chemical fertilizers or pesticides, and farmer’s markets are sources of top quality produce, where you can speak directly with the person growing your food. While these foods are usually more expensive, consumers do get what they pay for through fewer pesticides in our bodies and our children’s bodies, better farm worker safety, cleaner environments, and more nutrients in our foods.

Here are some general resources to help you learn about choosing healthier foods:

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