Barb Wilkie's EHN Website
Last updated 2008

EHN Board President Barb Wilkie was very ill from chemically-induced kidney disease for several years. She passed away May 31, 2011. EHN presents this site both as a tribute and as valuable information. Many links and references will be out of date but Barb's research holds up over time. We will be transferring the site page by page, with updated details, to EHN's main site. If you would like to reach an EHN staff person, please contact us directly.


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Michael Fumento's
Senselessness About Scents
A Wilkie by any other spelling ...

By Barb Wilkie, April 8, 2000; slightly revised April 26, 2000



The American Spectator

On the April cover is: "The Politics of Smell"

Page 7, Contents ... Vol 33, No. 3 April 2000; Features ...

24/ Scents and Senselessness, by Michael Fumento
(Available online, with links to spinoff articles, at Michael Fumento's site:

"The Anti-Fragrance Movement has its nose out of joint -- and sweet-smelling Canada is leading the way."

Dear Readers:

Follows is my opinion ONLY! Please do not misconstrue the following as being the opinion of any other person -- or organization, including EHN. -- barb

Michael Fumento leads the charge ... and yet he follows

Fumento follows by a decade, the damning -- and damaging to the lives of millions -- treatise of the Chemical Manufacturers Association. The CMA published their "Environmental Briefing Paper" in 1990. It was reprinted by The Reactorin fall 1990 and is again available in The BEST of The Reactor, 1985 - 1995,edited by Susan Molloy; page 171. It also is available online

Note: "CMA" used here is not to be confused with the California Medical Board, which has challenged Dr. Sinaiko's right to treat his patients based on his "clinical experience, [and] academic research and framed by a thorough informed consent procedure." See

"Scents and Senselessness" was written by Michael Fumento, a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute in Washington DC, without contact with Betty Bridges, RN; Albert Donnay; Nancy McFadden; Betty McEntire; or me.

Evidently Michael Fumento slopped his one-sided piece together. It nicely serves the propaganda machines of the chemical industry. It also gives license to those who wish to wear their fragrances and scented products, regardless of polite requests to leave their scents for their own enjoyment in their own homes. It also serves copycat reporters, who in turn serve the unregulated industry. It does not serve the public health and welfare.

Fragrance-free requests, policies, programs reflect disease; not dislike. This is an important distinction. Often our diseases are caused and triggered by modern synthetic fragrance chemicals -- superfluous products, which the wearers presumably like. Still, millions more people are offended by the effrontery of another individual's sense of scent, which far too often is not subtle. And they, who simply dislike synthetic fragrances, should also be able to enjoy fragrance-free access to meetings, school, workplace, theater, restaurants, religious services ... healthcare facilities.

What goes unmentioned is that the fragrance industry has proclaimed a "Scent Circle." By the industry's standard, one's perfume is not supposed to be detected beyond an arm's length. In my former workplace, folks not yet highly sensitized by modern fragrances could note when a scent-abusing person arrived to work. The building took up one city block and some of the offices polluted by the arriving scent were a good third of that distance away from the elevator. There is no wonder to me why I got sick and there is no wonder to me why so many other staff suffered other environmentally caused diseases.

# # #

Following are Fumento's comments from pages 24, 26, 28 and 29 of April 2000, The American Spectator, as they pertain to items I know about. His works are indented, my comments are not.

At least some of the information Fumento discusses is available to everyone on the web so where that is true, and it pertains to items with which I am familiar, I shall build links so you can read it for yourself ... in context.


Fumento opens, on page 24, with the story about the Dirksen Senate Office Building cafeteria in Washington D.C. ... and its strong odor. He quotes a police officer: "'What they found was a bag of onions ... and they just gave off a strong odor.'"

The funny thing is, I've never heard this story before. If anyone knows the truthful details, please contact me at (Barb's email is no longer valid, please contact EHN). What I do know, from personal workplace experience as well as the website of the Environmental Protection Agency, is that tests and readings "proving" there is no cause for illness of staff are notoriously inadequate when it comes to being able to detect toxic chemical odors and/or their sources. The equipment generally does not test parts per trillion; furthermore, it is often set up for a "snapshot" reading. For more information, see EPA's "Indoor Air Facts No. 4 (revised); Sick Building Syndrome (SBS)"

That leads into Fumento's reference to the fallacious article published by the New England Journal of Medicine -- "Mass Psychogenic Illness Attributed to Toxic Exposure at a High School" by Timothy F. Jones, Allen S. Craig, Debbie Hoy, Elaine W. Gunter, David L. Ashley, Dana B. Barr, John W. Brock, William Schaffner. Abstract available at

Fumento writes:

"A year earlier, no fewer than 170 students, teachers and others sought emergency treatment at Warren County High School in McMinnvile, Tennessee, after a teacher whiffed an odor that she said turned her stomach. Authorities shut down the school of 2,000 students for more than two weeks, and nearly $100,000 was spent on emergency care alone. "The cause of the odor may never be known, but the cause of the outbreak? Mass hysteria, according to an investigation reported in the January 13, 2000 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

"Witness ye the powers of man's most underrated sense, that of the nose. A school of 2,000 sounds like a lot, but what if you heard that fragrance fright has already swept an entire province in Canada and become institutionalized? What if you heard that there were efforts to essentially turn the entire United States into a Dirksen building cafeteria or a Warren County High School, that powerful environmental groups are involved, and that something already generally accepted by the media called 'Multiple Chemical Sensitivity' has already paved the way?"

Media Mania

Lest anyone have any doubt that a poorly researched article can do untold harm, just look at the generation of duplicitous stories being spun off that article, "Mass Psychogenic Illness Attributed to Toxic Exposure at a High School" -- link out to EHN's site -- and the list now includes Fumento's as well as the spinoffs of his article.

Errors compound. You may wonder: Will the truth ever be told by mainstream media? Or heard by the general public, BEFORE they, too, become ill?

Here we have an excellent example of media mania for spinoff, factless stories that best serve the chemical fragrance and pharmaceutical industries, which advertise widely. Oh, dem golden dollars!

Following EHN's section on spinoff stories you'll find, "What really happened!" Click out to the true account of actions concerning the McMinnville, Tennessee high school: "In Opposition to Journalistic Errors" by Nancy McFadden, BURNT; Mon, 24 Jan 2000. This article includes the letter written by Thomas W. Hatfield, Supervisor, Department of Plant Maintenance

Truth told. There is an accurate newspaper account -- "Hysteria article angers school officials;" The Tennessean by Anne Paine / Tennessean Staff Writer; Monday, 2/7/00

And should you have your interest piqued concerning the harmful effects of ozone generators, link out to EHN's section on those devices:


And then, back to Fumento's writing, how many of you wonder along with me ... "[MCS] has already paved the way" . . . to what? Chronic illness. Disability. No access to healthcare, jobs, school, religious services, ... We're not even talking recreation here folks. Just the basics!

Kendall, Bridges, Wil... who?

Fumento takes on the volunteers who work to bring about an awareness of the potential harm to health caused by synthetic fragrances. (In the case of Julia Kendall, her work continues to serve the public and it is still being shared round the world. Julia continues to inspire many of us, certainly me. )

On page 26, of The American Spectator, Fumento "credited" information to me with a line that is indeed ambiguous. As he writes on, you'll notice he thoroughly confuses the fact that I've simply uploaded a page of Julia Kendall's work to EHN's website with ... well, his line is such a non sequitur, I can't begin to fathom it. It's best if you read it for yourself.



"Since there's a victim's group for absolutely everything in North America, not surprisingly there are a few of those who disdainfully refer to fragrances as 'skunk juice.' Their ribbon is blue and yellow. As to what ails them, you name it and they suffer from it.

"Betty Bridges' Fragranced Products Information Network, quoting verbatim from a newsletter put out by the late Julia Kendall of Marin County, just north of San Francisco, claims:


"SYMPTOMS PROVOKED BY FRAGRANCES INCLUDE: watery or dry eyes, double vision, sneezing, nasal congestion, sinusitis, tinnitus, ear pain, dizziness, vertigo, coughing, bronchitis, difficulty breathing, difficulty swallowing, laryngitis, asthma, anaphylaxis, headaches, seizures, fatigue, confusion, disorientation, incoherence, short-term memory loss, inability to concentrate, nausea, lethargy, anxiety, irritability, depression, mood swings, restlessness, rashes, hives, eczema, flushing, muscle and joint pain, muscle weakness, irregular heart beat, hypertension, swollen lymph glands, and more.
"Another olfactory activist, Barb Wilke [sic] from the San Francisco area, informs us via the Web that:
"Multiple Sclerosis, Parkinson's, Lupus, and Alzheimer's are all neurological disorders. Dyslexia is a neurological dysfunction. Could any of these neurological dysfunctions be caused by exposure to neurotoxic chemicals? Symptoms are often identical to chemical hypersensitivity. Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) is also a neurological dysfunction. Could fragrant fabric softeners or detergents emitting neurotoxic chemicals cause the neurological breakdown?

"If you have an infant, you're probably already rushing to toss out these products. Don't. SIDS isn't a neurological dysfunction. 'When you find nothing, then that's what SIDS is, a death that remains unexplained. It isn't like finding liver disease,' explains Betty McEntire, executive director of the American SIDS Institute.

"Wilke's[sic] 'source' is a number of documents in which she combines 2 plus 2 and arrives at 526. Kendall's source is something called the 'Candida Research and Information Foundation, Perfume Survey, Winter 1989-90.' The foundation, located north of San Francisco, is a supporter of MCS. The survey has no medical validity. indeed, a Nexis computer database search of newspapers, magazines, and medical and science journals showed virtually no references to the foundation except for Kendall's." ...

Fumento gratuitously references Betty Bridges and me in the quotes above, but doesn't identify the source -- Julia Kendall's flyer, "Making Sense of Scents" at

The section attributed to Bridges "quoting verbatim" can be found at And the list of illnesses can be found at

For more information compiled by Julia Kendall, please visit EHN's "The Work of Julia Kendall (1935 - 1997)" at

The works of Betty Bridges, RN, and a link to her website, Fragranced Products Information Network, are available from

Yes, it is true: I do "inform" folks via the web -- specifically, EHN's website: -- but only those who seek the knowledge. Of course, I've no control over how it then gets bastardized. Frankly, I do not understand how Fumento can state I "inform" via the web but then go on to say: "Wilke's[sic] 'source' is a number of documents in which she combines 2 plus 2 and arrives at 526." He is being unnecessarily cute and misleading at one and the same time.


This is -- to say the very least! -- sloppy journalism. But then what do we expect from chemical industry flacks?

Fumento not once mentions that the medical industry is too often quoted as saying something along the lines of: "We don't have a good explanation for these findings." This stated by Lynn Goldman, M.D. [Source: Parenting; April 2000; page 50.] In this case, Dr. Goldman was referring to "low-birth-weight babies." But other doctors could as easily be making a comment about the skyrocketing cases of asthma and asthma deaths, or of autism, or Parkinson's, or cancers ... How often can researchers and doctors state they "don't have a good explanation" without the people becoming suspicious of the very products of toxic chemical formulations that they have been led to believe they must use?

Fumento derides the people of Halifax; that best serves the multi-multibillion dollar synthetic fragrance industry. Of course, he does not mention that there are numerous, perfectly valid reasons for Halifax, Nova Scotia taking measures to move to fragrance-free public environments; that wouldn't best serve the multi-multibillion dollar synthetic fragrance industry. Halifax and its fragrance-free citizens should be lauded, not ridiculed.

Fumento does not give a hint about the power of the fragrance industry. Of course, he didn't inform his readers of the fact that the industry is not required to report cosmetic-related injuries to the Food and Drug Administration. He certainly wasn't about to inform his readers that the US FDA doesn't regulate the fragrance industry. See "FDA AUTHORITY OVER COSMETICS"

Visit the FDA's website and its information on cosmetics and you, too, may come away with the feeling that it's the fragrance industry that has the power over the FDA --

Fumento sees a "tree" and thinks it's the "forest"

Page 28 brings us:

"MCS: Skunk Science

"Anybody can be allergic to a given ingredient or collection of ingredients in fragrances. But some 3,000 different chemicals have been identified in fragrances, which makes for an almost infinite number of possible combinations. Some of the chemicals are natural; some are synthetic. So the only thing all fragrances have in common is that they're fragrant. To be allergic to all of them is like being allergic to everything beginning with the letter F. This condition is not an allergy in any normally accepted sense of the word. Hence the term MCS (often also called not just 'ecological illness,' but 'toxic encepholopy' or even 'chemical AIDS'). Doctors who treat MCS patients also go by several names, but 'clinical ecologist' and 'environmental physician' seem most common."

Besides inaccuracies -- e.g., it's more like 5,000 chemicals and fragrance formulations are now about 90 - 95 percent petrochemical products -- Fumento narrowed the sensitivity scope of his comments to heft onto the shoulders of the oft-maligned folks diagnosed with Multiple Chemical Sensitivity. Thus far, we've been easy pickin's!

But therein lies a few of the burgeoning public health issues. One, MCS is largely a preventable disability. Two, cases of other environmental illnesses are rapidly climbing. Three, reportedly the medical industry is baffled by increases in all of the diseases associated with environmental toxins, including cancers. Four, fragrances have been ignored rather than studied as possible causes and triggers of various illnesses, despite the fact that back in 1986 the National Academy of Science recommended to the 99th US Congress that fragrances be tested for neurotoxicity. "Neurotoxins: At Home and the Workplace;" Report by the Committee on Science and Technology. U.S. House of Representatives, Sept. 16, 1986 (Report 99-827). And the count continues ...

Let's look at just asthma: The National Institutes of Health estimated 14.6 million Americans were living with asthma in 1994 ... now the American Lung Association states: "More than 17 million Americans suffer from asthma, which is the seventh-ranking chronic condition in America." See And asthma is but one of life's debilitating, disabling, killing diseases triggered by fragrances. That jump in figures will really mean something if you, or a loved one, suddenly becomes seriously ill with asthma.

But it's not just those with MCS or asthma who are adversely affected by synthetic fragrances -- often used by others. Perhaps you suffer from headaches, including migraines. Or perhaps it's sinusitis. Or, perhaps you have had cancer and treatments ... See an extensive yet incomplete list of august bodies that acknowledge that synthetic fragrances trigger illnesses -- EHN's "Avoid Fragrances" at

Right To Know and Informed Consent

There is not enough known about individual fragrance chemicals; there is virtually nothing known about those chemicals used in combination. And those of us already exhibiting the symptoms of chemical injury are, at best, ignored. Not only are we ignored, we are disparaged, to such an extent that no one in the chemical fragrance industry or chemical medical industry, or our government for that matter, ever considered developing a database; and that despite the fact that some of us have pleaded. (For more information on MCS, please visit EHN's links to books --

If the public were allowed to know that the synthetic fragrance industry was not only unregulated, but further protected by outmoded trade secret laws, they might start demanding safe products. And, in the meantime, the public may even seek fragrance-free products. Heavens to Betsy, the public might even write letters to the Food and Drug Administration, swamping it with comments, as was the US Dept. of Agriculture when it tried to make organics into sewage sludge products, et al.

Who knows, a properly informed public might demand that fragrances be adequately tested for neurotoxicity and systemic effects upon the body. The concerned public might worry about fragrance personal care and cleaning/maintenance products not being adequately tested for inhalation and absorption. These products are made to be inhaled and are often applied directly to the skin, yet there is no official data on effects as a result of inhalation or absorption. (You may be interested in some of the information gathered by Alison Johnson

Keeping formulations secret has not prevented "rip-off" scents from being marketed. From my limited reading about the trade secret law, I cannot help but wonder: As rip-off scents can be manufactured, why doesn't that nullify the industry's right to trade secret status? Removing trade secret status would do much to rightly inform the public about the toxicity of products they've been induced to buy and use through advertising.

That the fragrance industry is protected isn't generally learned by consumers until they become patients. Trade secret laws keep not only the public and their doctors from being informed, but also the FDA and other government agencies charged with protecting public health. No one can easily learn about the chemical formulations of synthetic fragrances, yet these laws do nothing to protect the industry from "rip-off scents." Obviously the industry fully appreciates trade secret status as these laws prove invaluable in shielding it from an informed consumership ... and astute doctors. Shamefully, people already ill from the volatile organic compounds of fragrance formulations cannot easily learn about the chemicals that make them ill. The information does not have to be made readily available by the industry ... and as we've learned, it is not even provided to the FDA. Having an analysis performed is expensive. To learn more about trade secret laws, see 1910.1200 App D - Definition of "Trade Secret" (Mandatory) OSHA:

I'm not a lawyer, but to my mind, modern reverse analysis capabilities makes a mockery of trade secret status and it is the public who suffer as a result of not being informed of the chemicals in the very products that are manufactured to be inhaled and applied to the body.


The informed public might write to its congressional representatives and senators stating they wish to have safe fragrance products, proven safe before marketing. Aware consumers might also feel they have a right to know of the chemicals used and possible side-effects ... just like drugs. Fragrance chemicals, like drugs, enter our body through inhalation and/or absorption.

The informed public may demand testing BEFORE marketing. And the informed public may demand that in the meantime, the FDA follow its own regulations already on the books, and require warning labels on products released to market without adequate testing.

What a novel idea ... informed consumers.

Petitioning the FDA -- a deep secret kept by mainstream media

Some of these very points are made in a petition currently before the FDA. Public comment and documentation is welcomed by the FDA. The comment period has been extended for an unknown length of time. For more information on writing to the FDA, please visit

From EHN's FDA Petition, you can click out to a sample letter; and to some letters we've been granted permission to post. You can also click out to analyses on six fragrances done by one lab and an analysis of one of those six scents, done by a second laboratory. You will see for yourself, the chemicals used in the formulations of these few fragrances. Do your own check of the material safety data sheets (MSDS) on those chemicals (linkable from the Analysis Summary).

If you wish to support EHN's petition currently before the FDA, please reference "Docket Number: 99P-1340/CP 1" and e-mail your comments to:

Return to Fumento

As Michael Fumento has taken on Halifax (big time), he has also had comments about Claudia Miller, Albert Donnay, Dr. Grace Ziem, Ecology House's rules, and the Sierra Club's San Francisco Conservation Committee's resolution against excessive use of fragrances in public places.

The latter two are closer to home -- so I'll continue quoting from the magazine, page 29 ...


... "The bad news is, the fragrance fighters have already gained a toehold in the U.S. The good news is that, for the moment at least, it seems confined to Northern California. San Francisco's Ecology House, an institution for alleged MCS sufferers, posts rules forbidding, among other things,
  • perfume, cologne or after-shave;
  • hairspray, mousse, scented shampoo or hair conditioner;
  • scented deodorant, lotion, lipstick;
  • any scented personal care or cosmetic product;
  • recently dry cleaned clothing;
  • scented laundry detergents;
  • fabric softener or dryer paper (even those labeled unscented or fragrance-free);
  • shoe polish;
  • chewing gum.

"Chewing gum? meanwhile, the San Francisco Chapter of the Sierra Club has urged action to discourage the use of fragrance products in all public places. If you're going to San Francisco, be sure to wear only fake flowers in your hair.

"Fragrance products worn by people a block away adversely affect the chemically sensitive," claims Marin County's Barb Wilke [sic squared!]. A block away?

"'No one should be wearing perfume to the theater,' the influential California activist Julia Kendall told author James Bovard. 'Why should we have brain damage because people are wearing toxic chemicals?' Her agenda? 'Basically, we want to destroy the fragrance industry.' ..."

Ecology House is home to those living with MCS and Chronic Fatigue. If the residents of any given complex are not allowed to post the rules of their own residence, then what is left that is sacred to the people in the Fumento camp?

Ecology House is host to EHN's meetings. We request that people follow the rules of Ecology House if they are going to join us for our meeting. It is common sense and common courtesy. See the full list of rules to follow when visiting Ecology House:

The Sierra Club's Conservation Committees of both the San Francisco and Loma Prieta chapters, have passed resolutions against the excessive use of fragrances in public places. I am proud to be a member of the Sierra Club and am very pleased that they have taken a stand for air quality and public health. San Francisco's resolution can be viewed at

Regarding Fumento's working in a comment concerning me: I have been known to say on the order of fragrances a block away can adversely affect me and/or other chemically sensitive individuals ... That is a true statement. I have been walking with people who were witness to the fact. I just have no clue as to where/how he found that info; he certainly didn't ask me. * The length of time the odor holds and the distance it travels is a measure of pride within the industry, be those odors from personal care or household or janitorial cleaning/maintenance products.

While I could develop an instant migraine or asthma, or sinus pain -- depending upon the toxic chemical formulations from that individual's signature scent or other product -- my friends were simply annoyed that someone would be so rude as to wear that much perfume. Ironically, that would throw me into defense mode for the odorovector. I'd explain how s/he has probably destroyed his/her olfactory sense with the fragrances and simply had no clue as the noxious vapor trail being laid down. Or, the individual was simply -- albeit ignorantly -- following the suggestions of the fragrance industry to layer up (from feet to shoulders), and apply often, the scents chosen for any given day. See Fragrance Foundation's

Interestingly, Fumento failed to mention my comments about fragrances in fabric softeners. There should be no doubt they can be smelled/inhaled for blocks. You cannot walk or drive down a city block without being inundated by the chemical's outgassing from someone's laundry. We are subjected to air pollution for the sake of some advertised promise of "freshness." That is a lie ... or advertising hype. Take your pick. But one thing for sure, fragrances do not clean and they do not freshen. Fragrances pollute!

However, it has done no good to complain to the Air Resources Board. You may be interested in two anecdotal -- but TRUE -- fabric softener stories. If you please, see my -- "It's Personal! -- A conversation with an air quality district's representative at
Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD)" and "Year End Story Time: A Family Visit - AKA The Fabric Softener Story"

Regardless of how laundry detergents and fabric softeners waft about on the ambient air affecting user and non-user alike, I could find no mention that the California Air Resources Board counted them when it looked at consumer products that volatilize and contribute to air pollution. See CARB's "Consumer Products Compliance Program", where you'll read: "Consumer Products emit about 260 tons per day of VOCs in California alone. These emissions represent approximately 15% of the total VOCs emitted by all stationary sources in California." CARB has come to realize these figures are too low. However, I link to this page, because I believe folks wouldn't guess -- let alone know -- that they are contributing to at least 15 percent of the total volatile organic compounds released by all stationary sources in this state.

Obviously, consumers have a choice. We who have become disabled by synthetic fragrances have led the way ... we've cleared a path and we invite others to seek out low-emitting VOC products, including fragrance-free products. They are available. But a word of caution ... and you'll not find this in Fumento's writings ... products labeled "fragrance-free" or "unscented" can, by law, contain fragrances. See FDA's FRAGRANCE FREE & UNSCENTED

Now to return with Fumento to Julia Kendall. Even though he mentioned "the late" Julia Kendall once, at the beginning of his article, he goes on to write of her as if she were leading the charge ... which she is, in a way. Certainly her spirit is a beacon that lights the way for so many of us. But really, I'm not sure that Fumento would ever be able to understand that ... leading me to think that the way he writes of Julia is just more of his slop journalism, rather than honoring Kendall with the thought that she is leading us by virtue of the work she had made available.

I'm glad Fumento mentioned Kendall's oft expressed belief: "'No one should be wearing perfume to the theater." It is a shared belief of mine -- and I add, nor should anyone wear fragrances while dining. (Hey, folks, eating is an olfactory pleasure! Don't compete with the aroma of food by wearing toxins that overpower not only your own food but that of everyone else. Let's see a little common sense and a whole lot of common couresy.)

Long before I developed MCS, my husband and I had to forego our pleasure of attending theaters and the opera in the San Francisco Bay Area. I had spoken with the theater groups and was easily dismissed by others as being "the only one" sensitive to the toxins in fragrances. Of course, that was no more true than the statement that EVERYONE likes fragrances, but since I waged a losing battle, we simply did not spend our money there ... and many others chose the same tactic.

Perhaps you'll be interested to read what the actors have had to say about an odorovecting audience. I should think the actors owe Julia Kendall a debt of gratitude for her, "No one should be wearing perfume to the theater." From the actors point of view, please see: "Success Smells Sweet to 'Phantom's' Vroman," Thursday, December 12, 1996; San Francisco Chronicle; by Jerry Carroll:


"... The house is always packed that night, and therein lies the problem. 'Everyone dresses up big time,' said Lisa Vroman, who plays the virginal Christine in the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical. 'And everyone wears a different scent.' Some really pour it on. ..."

Obviously, what industry and some people prefer to view as a "personal choice" issue, is in reality, a very public issue. There is no such thing as an industry-prescribed scent circle. That is ludirous just on the surface. Just imagine theater seating with an "arm's length" all around each individual patron. Besides, the industry assures that scents do not stay in lock-step with the user by virtue of its chemical formulations of these synthetic scents. And if that isn't enough, the industry recommends LAYERING. See The Fragrance Foundation's ragrance Use Tips

Fumento wants to stare at one tree, the MCS tree

The public health issue that begs attention is that of an entire forest, the Environmental Illness forest! That forest, as I view it, includes such environmental illnesses as asthma, sinusitis, rhinitis, laryngitis, migraines and other headaches, cancers, Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, ADD, autism, low-birth-weight babies, CFIDS, SBS, GWS, . . . and MCS. And the saddest thing to my mind is that by government and industry concentrating on "diagnoses" and "cures" -- the revenue generators! -- rather than on prevention, we see our EI forest grow. While the growth of living forests is one very important matter; the growth of the EI forest, real as it is in its own way, quite another. Environmental Illnesses, such as cancer, Parkinson's . . . MCS are largely preventable. PREVENTABLE debilitating illnesses and disabilities.

Time -- which translates to more people becoming disabled by synthetic scents -- along with conscientious scientists and doctors, will prove that that many trees in that forest of illnesses has its collective health imparied by synthetic fragrances in personal care and cleaning/ maintenance products.

Millions more than just those diagnosed MCS are made ill by fragrance chemical formulations. And now there is evidence that these fragrances can adversely affect children in utero. Even a fragrance company states: "Just a note, personally, if someone is pregnant, we would not use any Fragrance, Essential Oil or Aromatherapy items." The problem is, all "non users" are second-hand users! For more information, see EHN's "Pregnancy & Fragrances"

If fragrances are as benign as the industry has us believe, then the industry should not be afraid to disclose the chemical makeup of each scent. And as with drugs, which we are to inhale and/or absorb into our bodies, the fragrance industry should make known the counterindications.

Assault by toxic chemical synthetic fragrances is not your due in life (and it isn't mine either). Enough is enough! We all are worthy of safe products, proved safe before they are released to market. Certainly, our children and grandchildren deserve to breathe air unpolluted by superfluous toxins, and our unborn deserve no less.

We are all stakeholders when it comes to breathing. Sadly, our government and our doctors have paid too much attention to the chemical industry and its focus on its multibillion dollar economy. Ultimately -- and ironically -- we who live with MCS will be heeded because of a focus on the economy.

We who are already disabled by MCS will begin to become too costly in terms of health care and subsidized (subsistence) living. Employers will also wake up to the need for cleaner air and their obligations in providing same, when they start to realize that today it is a sickleave day for a migraine or a severe asthma attack ... tomorrow it is a multiday sickleave for MCS. (For me, it was a progression of more frequent and more severe ashtma, sinusitis, chronic bronchitis, laryngitis, etc. during the 1980s. Had my employer acted on my request and set limits on the amount of perfume allowed to volitalize off any given body, I know, simply know, I would not have gone into the abys of MCS in April 1991. And once I learned in March 1992 what I had, had my employer then heeded the voluminous information and video I provided, my MCS would not have grown more severe. And maybe, other staff wouldn't have developed pneumonia, long-lasting "flus," suffer their asthma attacks and migraine headaches. And who knows, maybe some of the staff could have been spared cancer and benign tumors. Etc.)

Eventually business and government will wise up and place a price tag on what our environmental illnesses cost them. Only then will they start thinking in terms of cleaner air for all as they build, rehab,and develop their workday programs and policies. Tragically, no one will be able to put a price tag on the cost in terms of human suffering from preventable illnesses and premature death. We've paid a price beyond measure.

For the still healthy, if there ever was a time for Caveat Emptor, the time is now.

-- barb
Barbara Wilkie


12/8/00 - "A block away?"

It just dawned on me: Michael Fumento must have found that statement in my article, "It's Personal!"

Truly there was no interview; no contact whatsoever. His duplicitously written article is a figment of his imagination, based not upon interviews, not upon facts as they were written, but upon his own belief system, which speaks well for the chemical industry. Never mind that his articles and the copy-cat writers that use his material for gains of their own are making a nice bundle of money at the expense of public health and their personal integrity. (A case in point: "From A Perfumer's Point Of View" by Jean-Pierre Subrenat at

You may be interested in the fact that I recently asked one of the woman who was with me if she remembered the incident. She did -- even to giving me the block in Oakland, California, where I had reacted to the fragrances worn by the people in the block ahead of us. My reaction became a proven point once we three closed the gap between the heavily scented and ourselves. Then, both of the women I was with acknowledged the heavy scent -- noxious synthetic fragrance product fumes -- in the air.

One of the two women I was with hadn't realize my body was so affected by fumes at such a distance. But when we got nearer to the scented women, and she detected their fragrances, she stated that she was quite amazed that I had to put on my respirator when I did, but recognized my need to protect my health. The other woman, my "lunch buddy," has been with me in times of serious chemical threats to my life; she was not the least bit disbelieving as I put my respirator in place. She had volunteered that this was not an unusual event when walking with me.

Another thought regarding the odorovectors has since crossed my mind: Perhaps the women were addicted to their fragrances and therefore kept reapplying to such an extent that they couldn't help but leave their noxious vapor trails. See "Potentiation of GABAA receptors expressed in Xenopus oocytes by perfume and phytoncid;" by Aoshima H, Hamamoto K

# # #

If you decide to write to Mr. Fumento, first check his voluminous "Hate Mail" links on his website. The hate seems to be oozing from him . . . If he responds to you in his typical fashion, just know that as with MCS, you are not alone. Frankly, I don't want to fan his flames of hate mongering, so I've not written to him.

If you care to write to The American Spectator -- e-mail addresses appear on this page:

Also, please visit the National Post and then take time to write to them. If still available, see: "Cosmetics industry wafts into Nova Scotia's scent debate" by Jonathon Gatehouse; Tuesday, April 25, 2000 at E-mail addresses are available on the Post's Feedback page: -- barb

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4/8/00; revised 4/26/00

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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. Learn from the work of Julia Kendall, get The BEST of the Reactor, join EHN and receive The New Reactor. Learn of the damaging influence the Chemical Manufacturers has had against those of us with EI as written in their 1990 EI Briefing Paper. The URL for this page about Michael Fumento's Scents and Senselessness is