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NPR and Scott Simon

This letter sent to NPR staff, Scott Simon and Mayor Walter R. Fitzgerald,,

Dear NPR Staff and Scott Simon,

It has come to my attention -- I did not personally hear it -- that Scott Simon of NPR gave "one-sided and irresponsible coverage" to the fragrance-free policies in Halifax, Nova Scotia. The original story, "One City Turns Up Its Nose Against the Use of Perfumes" was published July 28, 1999 in The Wall Street Journal and written by Larry M. Greenberg.

What is needed is factual reporting . . . to accurately inform the public.

Toxic chemical fragrances are used in products for personal care and cleaning/maintenance. YOU should be outraged about the industry! These chemicals, used for other means, have information available through Material Data Safety Sheets (MSDS) to warn people to use respirators, goggles, to not inhale, to wash off our skin, etc. We'd be informed that these chemicals can cause cancer, Central Nervous System (CNS) illnesses, target male organs . . . As it is, we aren't allowed to know the chemicals in fragrance products. Without that knowledge we cannot even look up the MSDS for ourselves.

I suppose it is understandable that mainstream media is loathe to give a full report on the fragrance issue, because they advertise the very products making millions ill. Nor are they likely to print any of our letters, although that does give lie to the expression: "Freedom of the Press." But it is really disheartening to learn that NPR would have followed the "party line" and not have looked into the issue of fragrances in general and particularly, the city of Halifax, Nova Scotia's intelligent, caring and economically sensible way of dealing with this health hazard. What alchemy led you to ally with mainstream media?

It is past time due to reach the people who have yet to exhibit signs of their chemical injury in hope of preventing damage to their health and lives. You could have provided that essential public service.

It is also important to reach the people who have already been injured and are living with the symptoms, but whose doctors who are not astute enough to recognize that fact. And it is crucial to disseminate factual information to inform health care facilities, workplaces, schools, government entities . . . unwilling to accommodate those already diagnosed by competent doctors. Not only will fragrance-free policies help those already ill, they will improve the air quality -- and therefore lives! -- for all.

Too many chemically injured folks, who have yet to learn the cause of their illnesses, go for years struggling through life on drug after drug, sometimes trying doctor after doctor. They are given drugs by doctors following ON LABEL use of prescriptions, mind you. Their uninformed doctors are following the "Standard of Care" -- while making their patients more ill . . . dead. The lucky folks find knowledgable mainstream doctors, or seek alternative care, either through medical doctors who are learned in Environmental Illness or through other health care practices such as chiropractic, acupuncture, homeopathy, etc. Certainly this searching for health care would be considered "normal" for anyone, yet we are subjected to the barrage of the industry flacks who accuse us of somatizing and recommend cognitive behavior therapy. Indeed!

I assure you, that despite the assault launched in 1990 by the Chemical Manufacturers Association, in their "Environmental Illness Briefing Paper," and the continuing pap released by the various medical and researcher representatives of the industry, chemical injury is real, not imagined.

There is a cause and effect at work here. The reason for chemical injury is: The plethora of toxic chemicals, which are in the commonly used products we have unwittingly welcomed into our lives. We inhale them. We absorb them through our eyes. The uninformed also absorb them through their skin -- as do we, if we are unfortunate enough to touch the fragrant residue . . . and there is no easy way to wash it off. These chemicals enter the body's blood stream, cross the blood-brain barrier, they target organs, they are passed along to our children through mother's milk, and as they cannot be processed out of the waste water, wind up adversely affecting streams, lakes and wildlife.

These toxic chemicals continually assault our bodies, making it dangerous to seek health care, to remain gainfully employed; attend school -- from grade school on through higher education; attend civic meetings; deal with our government officials; go shopping; attend the theater or opera; go to movie theaters, eat in restaurants, attend ballgames, . . . Even a walk in the woods can put us in jeopardy if the trail is used by a fragrant odorivector who has laid down a noxious vapor trail. These volatile organic compounds (VOCs) become the air, and remain one with it, long after the individual is out of sight. These toxic chemical products create invisible yet formidable barriers to our access.

It really boggles the mind -- well, at least it boggles the minds of people who have taken the time to learn about these products -- that the industry cannot only "get by with murder" (only an expression, but it gives pause as asthma deaths have burgeoned), but that the industry is also protected by the Food and Drug Administration. Protected in that the FDA has not carried out its own mandate to declare such inadequately tested products "misbranded." By the way, nearly 13 long years ago, in September 1986, the National Academy of Sciences reported before the 99th US Congress that fragrances should be tested for neurotoxicity. That has yet to happen!

There are alternative products available, and with just cause. There is quite a market with the thousands of people who find the scents just simply obnoxious and millions more of us who have already been chemically injured and cannot use the scented products. (Dr. William Meggs estimates 10 percent of the population have MCS -- and that doesn't begin to take into account those who suffer from only chemical injury-induced asthma, migraines, laryngitis, sinusitis, rheumatoid arthritis, Parkinson's . . . cancer. Note: the US Census lists the July 1, 1998 estimated population figure at 270,298,524.)

We, who are already aware of our body's reaction to the assault of toxic chemicals, use either the alternative products for cleaning/maintenance and personal care, or the standards of yesteryear such as: baking soda, Borax, salt, lemon juice, vinegar, hydrogen peroxide.

People can use fragrance-free detergents for dishes and for laundry. One should not really use any fabric softeners, but if one insists, there are fragrance-free dryer sheets available. (I use vinegar in my rinse and that works just fine.) People can also use fragrance-free personal care products: shampoos and conditioners, lotions, deodorants, natural deodorant soaps. (I use Tom's of Maine and my chemically injured friends have no trouble being by me when I use that. However, if I'm going to be near someone who has already been severely chemically damaged, I'll use just baking soda for washing my hair and body. Baking soda, by the way, is my dentifrice and deodorant of choice.)

I'll grant you, it was tough to learn just what was wrong with me, especially since mainstream medical doctors didn't recognize the symptoms and relied upon prescribing drugs -- even ones that soon after you are warned not to use! (Seldane comes readily to mind.)

It is easy for the individual to be living with one of the Many Chronic Symptoms of Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS) and not realize they are exhibiting symptoms of chemical injury. But one would hope their doctors would recognize it. For instance, during the 80s, I suffered increasing bouts of what became diagnosed as "chemical-induced asthma," chronic bronchitis and laryngitis. (I have lived with chemical-induced asthma since age five without realizing it -- the medical industry didn't even recognize it until rather late in my life, hence there was no diagnosis. However, I early on developed well-honed coping skills. I was not raised as a "hot house plant.")

During the 80s, I certainly knew that the more outrageous perfumes triggered my asthma. But I didn't realize lighter scents also wrecked havoc, nor did I know the widespread injury my body was sustaining because of all the fragrance products I was forced to endure in the workplace. Nor did I know that fragrances were something more than flower petals and alcohol. I was a secondhand user! I learned. The hard way.

Following those years of exposures to fragrance products in my workplace, I went over into unmistakable yet undiagnosed MCS in April 1991. I suffered an acute exposure in outdoor Dodger Stadium when a young woman took her seat in front of me during the second or third inning. She was loaded with seemingly an entire bottle of a synthetic musk-like scent. My family and I could not move away far enough, fast enough. My life and theirs, was forever changed.

I finally learned what I had in March 1992. I continue to learn.

And even after I became aware, there was always something new to knock me for a loop. Or worse, products that I thought I was OK around suddenly gave me asthma or severe migraines, laryngitis, sinusitis, . . . incontinence. It is always a surprise to learn that what hadn't bothered me earlier, suddenly could no longer be tolerated by my body. This phenomenon is called "spreading." It is a result of a lowering of the threshold. MSDS sheets tell of subsequent exposures lowering one's threshold. It is a legitimate concern. It is reality.

My quest for knowledge about my own health has taken the form of a website. This information is made available to folks through the site of the Environmental Health Network ( ). We are told it is a great place to begin a major research project.

I sincerely hope you will avail yourselves of the general information, but more importantly, I plead with you to study EHN's petition of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to declare *Eternity* "misbranded." The basis of this petition is the lack of a warning label on the product informing consumers that all the materials in the product, and the product, have not been adequately tested for safety.

People have the right to know about the toxic chemicals used in products they assume are safe. Without knowledge there cannot be informed consent. The burden of proof of safety belongs on the industry. It is criminal to put the burden of proof of illness on those already chemically injured. It is a dereliction to allow others to continue to be exposed to these chemicals without so much as the right of informed consent.

It is time the fragrance industry stopped hiding their toxic ingredients behind the outmoded trade secret laws. Outmoded in my opinion because of what OSHA (Occupational Safety & Health Administration) has to say about trade secret laws -- ingredients must be secret! OSHA: (6) the ease or difficulty with which the information could be properly acquired or duplicated by others --

Laboratories today can easily ascertain the chemical formulas . . . for a price. Hence, "rip-off scents," and EHN's petition.

Two laboratories found the toxic chemical makeup of Eternity. (We selected the fragrance for analysis because its the one we received the most vocal complaints about regarding health and job discrimination as our budget, unlike that of the chemical industry, is limited.)

Petition background information and index:

The petition:

The Analysis Summary from Laboratory 2

I also suggest you visit the Fragranced Products Information Network for thoroughly researched and factual information --

Please avail yourselves of these resources and then please meet YOUR obligation to inform the public. Accurately.

Thank you for your time.


Barbara Wilkie
(My convention is prevention)

cc: Walter R. Fitzgerald, Mayor, Halifax

Support EHN's petition. WRITE to the FDA today!

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The Environmental Health Network (EHN) [of California] is a 501 (c) (3) non profit agency and offers support and information for the chemically injured. EHN brings you topics on this page that need your immediate attention The URL for this page is