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Year-end Story Time: A Family Visit
AKA: The Fabric Softener Story

Story appearing in The New Reactor,Vol 9, No. 6: Nov-Dec. 1999.

Once upon a time, oh, say mid-December 1992, my mother-in-law had fallen into her bathtub, as a result of a fainting spell and broke her left leg in the tumble, just below the knee. She was, as she referred to herself, "A tough old bird."

Our son changed his family's vacation plans and came to visit us a few days ahead of schedule to spend more time with his grandmother. His wife and children first visited her family in southern California, then joined us. They were still using their clothes from home when the whole family got together.

We all visited great-grandma, then enjoyed a trip to Pt. Reyes -- all in one car. Thule Elk ( were there to be admired. The air was clear. Life was good.

The next morning I was suddenly made ill on the second floor by something wafting upstairs from the living room. I knew not what the cause, but I did know I had to vacate the house immediately.

I "flew" down the stairs and outside as fast as I could. Our grandson was 2.5 years at the time and saw an opportunity to get out of the house, onto the front porch with me -- he eagerly joined me.

I'm afraid my shock and dismay outweighed my grandmotherly spirit for I quite shouted: JORDAN, YOU'RE OUTGASSING!

His big brown eyes welled up. His lower lip quivered. Two big tears dropped onto his cheeks and ran down his face to drop onto his shirt. With the saddest face you'd ever want to see, he said, "My mommy doesn't say THAT to me!"

He ran inside throwing his little face into his mother's thighs. He wrapped his arms tightly about her and sobbed, "Grandma said I was OUTGASSING!" Jane with a bemused look, then with grin, asked, "Barb, WHAT is going on?"

Funny. Sad. Life! Life with MCS.

Jane's family had washed their clothes for them, using highly scented detergent and fabric softener. When they opened their suitcases in the living room and began dressing, the chemical fumes wafted upstairs and got me. But good.

It turns out that Adrien had started coughing as they were getting dressed. Jordan was saying, "Oh, my shirt smells so good!" He could have been in a fabric softener commercial.

Tom washed the clothes repeatedly with Borax. His final touch was to throw vinegar into the rinse. The clothes came out fine and could be dried in my dryer. And I was then able to enjoy the family visit.

P.S. My grandson still loves me.

-- barb


Follow-up 7/2000: The children now come to us with their clothes in need of washing to spare us all the highly scented detergents and fabric softeners used by the other grandparents. And these days, both children have respiratory and headache reactions to fragrances. Neither child lived on her/his allergy medicines while visiting us, as they had to while visiting the other grandparents.

All anecdotal.

All true.

Go figger!

-- barb

Support EHN's Citizens' Petition brought before the FDA May 11, 1999.

The still-current petition requests that the FDA follow its regulations already on their books and require warning labels on synthetic fragrances .released to market without adequate testing.

    Tell the FDA about your adverse reactions to synthetic fragrances.
    Reference "Docket Number 99P-1340/CP 1"

For excellent information on health effects of fragrances, visit the Fragranced Products Information Network:

Comments? (Barb's email is no longer valid, please contact EHN). Please put WWW in subject line. Thanks.

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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. In this section, EHN brings you a few stories that appeared in past issues of The New Reactor EHN's HomePage is