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Shelter: A Quest for Non-Toxic Housing 507

Posted by michael
from the pup-tent dept.
Crocuta writes "Many of the geeks on /. voluntarily confine themselves to their homes for vast stretches of time, but what happens when your home becomes your prison? Eric Hunting suffers from Environmental Illness which perpetually confines him to his home, which even as carefully furnished as it is, is still slowly killing him. His website, Shelter, is both a plea for help and a guide documenting one man's quest for non-toxic housing."
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Shelter: A Quest for Non-Toxic Housing

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  • by stonebeat.org (562495) on Thursday March 13, 2003 @10:26AM (#5502536) Homepage
    Arcosanti [arcosanti.org] is housing project designed and developed by Paolo Soleric
  • Erm... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by pubjames (468013) on Thursday March 13, 2003 @10:30AM (#5502563)
    Erm, wood anyone? Bricks and mortar? Glass?

    Having looked at the site, I can't help thinking that there might be a psychological element to "Environmental illness".
    • Re:Erm... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Maeryk (87865) on Thursday March 13, 2003 @10:38AM (#5502633) Journal
      Erm, wood anyone? Bricks and mortar? Glass?

      What wood? Plywood (flooring substrate) and press board are all made with really nasty glues.. that give off formaldehyde, among other things, for years and years. Bricks are made of god knows what in some cases, bonding and strengthening agents are used in the formula, and these too can give off gasses or dusts that are toxic to people with allergies. Mortar has really nasty things in it.. which again people can be allergic too, and to seal it you need to use paint.. which also can cause reactions in people who cant deal with certain fumes.

      The fact that the guy is leaning towards adobe makes me think he is allergic to something that is pretty commonly used as a "safe" bonding or strenghtening agent.

      Maeryk

      • Re:Erm... (Score:5, Funny)

        by pubjames (468013) on Thursday March 13, 2003 @10:48AM (#5502705)
        What wood? Plywood (flooring substrate) and press board are all made with really nasty glues.

        Well don't use fricking plywood or press board then!

        Bricks are made of god knows what in some cases

        Bricks are made of clay, baked at very high temperatues. There really isn't much more to it than that.

        Mortar has really nasty things in it

        Really, like, erm, lime, silica and sand?

        Where do you buy your building supplies, for flips sake, Dr. Evil?
        • Re:Erm... (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Christopher Bibbs (14) on Thursday March 13, 2003 @10:58AM (#5502782) Homepage Journal
          Mortar has really nasty things in it

          Really, like, erm, lime, silica and sand?

          Where do you buy your building supplies, for flips sake, Dr. Evil?

          I don't know where you get your building supplies, but the stuff my contractor showed up with had a long list of US patent numbers for additives that improved the strength, reduced the set time, and cut down on the dust. Anything else those chemicals might do is beyond me, but I can tell you there is more in there than lime, silica, and sand.

          • Re:Erm... (Score:4, Insightful)

            by JudgeFurious (455868) on Thursday March 13, 2003 @11:33AM (#5503141)
            You are correct in that there are a number of things in there other than lime, silica, and sand but that would make me ask the question "But does there have to be?"

            Wood, bricks, and mortar. If he simply used real natural wood, basic clay bricks, and a standard simple mortar he would get the desired effects I think. I don't know if those are even available today without an additive here or a treatment there but that would be an answer I think.

            having said that it seems like the hardest part of all of this would be making sure the contractor was in fact only using the materials you specified. I mean, who's going to check it? You? In this scenario you're the guy who gets sick around the stuff so that's not going to be any fun. On top of that would you know what you were looking at and if you did could you be there during the entire construction to make sure?

            Tough nut to crack here.
      • Re:Erm... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Reziac (43301) on Thursday March 13, 2003 @12:06PM (#5503461) Homepage Journal
        And as to his quest for an *adobe* house... Adobe is made from natural clay mixes, which particularly in the Southwestern U.S., can contain (and leak) measurable quantities of lead, arsenic, uranium, and in some basin areas, enough selenium to make anyone sick. Not to mention that adobe is not chemically-inert (it tends to dissolve over time, if not kept roofed and whitewashed) and is fairly dusty.

        Then he was looking at ceramic-coated steel buildings. Some older ceramics contain lead pigments, sufficient to be toxic. Has he checked that? evidently not.

        If discarded UFOs were available as housing, THAT is what he'd be trying to finance.

    • Re:Erm... (Score:5, Informative)

      by Zathrus (232140) on Thursday March 13, 2003 @10:55AM (#5502756) Homepage
      Modern wood isn't very chemically "safe" -- various treatments involve chemicals you wouldn't otherwise like to be exposed to. One of the primary agents used in pressure treated wood is aresenic -- and there's some evidence that it does leak out into the surroundings (although still at a non-harmful level). Engineered wood (plywood, pressed wood, OSB, etc) often contains formaldehyde, along with other chemicals used in the bonding process (again - low levels - less than 1% of the mass is the bonding agent).

      Modern wood floors are coated with polyurethane and aluminum oxide. I've done more furniture finishing than I care to think about and poly isn't the nicest thing on earth.

      There are various chemicals used in the tinting of bricks and mortar, which I can imagine would be problematic. Modern concrete is also nasty - there's a reason they warn you not to handle with bare hands, since you can get chemical burns in short order.

      Glass would seem to be relatively inert, but who knows.

      Paints and wallpaper all have fun and interesting chemical compounds.

      There probably are some psychosomatic symptoms in this illness, as there are in many, but I doubt that covers all of it. There's a high likelyhood that he actually does have severe negative reactions to a vast amount of chemicals -- although why this is is an interesting question. Genetic defect? Too many antibiotic sprays and cleaners as a kid (yes -- overuse of these is bad and reduces the overall effectiveness of your immune system)? Exposure to some high doses of chemicals that caused a trigger effect?

      And while he claims the need for EI-friendly housing is "extreme", it's extreme only in a very, very, very small community. I won't question his need for it, but I do question the number of people in need. And the fact is, it's going to be expensive. Hideously so. Removal of modern building methods and resources means a lot of human intensive labor along with some very specialized resource requirements. An adobe home for $125/sq ft may be one of the cheaper alternatives.
    • Go see Safe [imdb.com], by Todd Haynes. Forget about interpretations and allegories, and just try to empathize with Julianne Moore (a terrific performance, BTW).

  • Bullshit (Score:4, Flamebait)

    by sam_handelman (519767) <.skh2003. .at. .columbia.edu.> on Thursday March 13, 2003 @10:32AM (#5502583) Homepage Journal
    The article poses the question: What Is Environmental Illness? It then goes off about Northern Exposure, which was a very funny television show, but is not a well established authority on immunological disorders.

    It's a psychosomatic condition. [fumento.com] Get a subscription for paxil and go the fuck outside.
    • Re:Bullshit (Score:3, Insightful)

      by srboneidle (648298)
      The bit I like best from this site (fumento.com) is this:

      MCS has been rejected as an organic disease by the American Medical Association, the American Medical Council on Scientific Affairs, the American College of Physicians, the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, and (my favourite) the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology.

      It really just sounds like a nice new way of blaming someone (or something in this case) else for agoraphobia.
    • Frankly I don't see how something like this gets modded as "Flaimbait". Some good points in the link provided and it made sense to me.
    • I'm reminded of my aunt, who always swore up and down she was allergic to onions and claimed she had all sorts of horrible symptoms as a result of eating onions.

      With wicked glee, we sneaked onions into every meal they could be hidden in (soups, casaroles, etc). Funny thing -- so long as she didn't *know* there were any onions in the food, she had ZERO symptoms. :)

      Now, I do know someone who is genuinely allergic to onions -- they come back on him rather explosively. As an onion lover who used to eat 'em li
  • For those of you.... (Score:4, Informative)

    by pfankus (535004) on Thursday March 13, 2003 @10:33AM (#5502585) Homepage
    ...too lazy to dig deep enough, here's a description of the illness from the site:

    What Is Environmental Illness?

    In 1990 the CBS television series Northern Exposure introduced America to a little known community of disabled people through the character of Mike Monroe, a lawyer afflicted by an illness known as MCS (Multiple Chemical Sensitivity) who sought refuge in a peculiar geodesic dome home on the outskirts of the eclectic Alaskan community featured in the series. Mike was 'allergic to the 20th Century' and suffered a variety of symptoms in response to the most minor exposures to chemicals. Though writers of this series took much liberty with the facts of this ailment, the essential social condition of people with this illness was well portrayed, in particular the alienation and social anxiety associated with having an illness that no one really comprehended, least of all those in the medical community who would normally be relied on for understanding and compassion.

    It is unclear precisely when MCS first emerged because misdiagnosis and politically motivated denial have consistently accompanied it to the present day. But over the 1980s physicians throughout the industrialized nations of the world began reporting a steadily growing number of cases of people developing a host of chronic symptoms, sometimes vague, sometimes plain, and sometimes dramatically life-threatening, which seemed to have no obvious pathology other than an association with the presence of common household industrial products or pollution. Symptoms ranged from things one might normally associate with conventional flu or allergy -such as asthmatic, skin, and gastrointestinal reactions- to neurological effects both subtle and dramatic -such as cognitive difficulty, numbness, trembling, twitching and spasms, and partial to total paralysis. Some patients claimed sensitivity to things well beyond the conventional clinical sphere, such as electromagnetic fields produced by appliances and electrical wiring. And there were few symptoms any patients had consistently in common other than a general progressive malaise dubbed 'chronic fatigue' and a vague chronic muscle or joint pain labeled Fibromyalgia. Many could trace the onset of their illness to a trigger exposure to some specific chemical product which resulted in a sudden flu-like illness and rapid break-down, though therafter their reactions would come in response to exposures to a vast assortment of things, including foods and sometimes natural contaminants like pollen, fungal spores, dusts, and natural fragrances.

    Most MCS suffers tended to succumb to the condition in mid adult-hood and are often female with middle-class backgrounds. In the US there is a preponderance of them from northern and eastern urban/suburban regions, suggesting an association with general environmental pollution levels. Male cases were rarer and more often associated with specific industrial chemical contamination or industy-related pre-cursor illnesses such as the Systemic Candidiasis which is common among brewery workers. (GWS suffers, as noted below, are veterans and mostly male, their trigger exposure related to whatever they were subjected to in the Gulf War) Children were the rarest group but also a rapidly growing one, due perhaps to an increasingly sedentary and sequestered lifestyle that keeps children exposed to more indoor air pollution coupled to a steadily decreasing quality of diet for children in industrialized countries.

    These cases proved immediately politically controversial because of the implication that they could be related to ubiquitous consumer products. These 'human canaries', as some physicians had dubbed them, were a potential threat to corporate interests and the government agencies charged with establishing safety and health standards. Thus there was a tendency by the medical establishment to at first dismiss the growing number of reports and then to promote a psychosomatic explanation that effectively blamed the patient -or the
  • Um.. MOVE! (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 13, 2003 @10:33AM (#5502591)
    Steps to finding a non-toxic home:

    1. MOVE OUT OF NEW JERSEY

    The rest will be much easier once step 1 is complete.

    • Exactly ... this guy isn't motivated to "fix" anything. It seems like he likes his situation, be it for the social security handouts or the pity aspect.

      If I was that sick, I'd be out in the middle of the desert building my own shelter out of wood and rock.
    • I feeel obligated to defend my state. Most people, when they think of New Jersey, think of Newark, the location of the airport, which, when most people come to my home state, come here. Newark is an inudutrail hell nightmare, and the surrounding "suburbs" of Newark are even scarier. The second most common entry point in Camden, the city that people coming to NJ from I 95 come through. Camden is a nice place to be, if you're a bullet. But other than those two extremes, NJ is a fucking great place to liv
  • impossible quest (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Joe the Lesser (533425) on Thursday March 13, 2003 @10:34AM (#5502594) Homepage Journal
    Well, without building a treehouse and moving there.

    Anything chemically processed is a potential source of 'toxins', not to mention possible natural toxins that may get trapped in your house instead of floating around in nature.

    This quest, like the quest for a bacteria free home (lead by those lysol nuts), are not realistic.

    What you can do is get outside and exercise/experience the real world more often, and this exposure to a wide variety of things should help one's body recover from being sheltered inside a closed system that contains toxins.
  • What is "Environmental Illness"? I've never heard it before in my life.

    What does "toxic home" mean in this context? I've never thought of lampshades as dangerous. I'm left guessing here.

    Obviously I can look these all up (and I will). But any other reporting source would've explained these concepts in some detail.

    • by Maeryk (87865) on Thursday March 13, 2003 @10:42AM (#5502664) Journal
      What is "Environmental Illness"? I've never heard it before in my life.

      Basically, from what I have read, it is one step below bubble-boy on the allergen list. Instead of being suceptible to germs, these people are susceptible to gasses and chomicals that most of us tolerate fine.

      What does "toxic home" mean in this context? I've never thought of lampshades as dangerous. I'm left guessing here.

      It means that every piece of anything chemically processed that you have in your home slowly breaks down over time, and gives off noxious chemicals. Everything from formaldehyde to radon.
      Most of us dont notice, but it apparently makes some people _very_ sick. Couple this with todays "need" to make homes virtually air tight, and you have a place that makes reactive people really, really sick.

      Obviously I can look these all up (and I will). But any other reporting source would've explained these concepts in some detail.

      He kinda does on a another page.. but you have to dig a bit to find it. It apparently involves moose, alaska, and nOrthern Exposure.

      Maeryk

      • Basically, from what I have read, it is one step below bubble-boy on the allergen list. Instead of being suceptible to germs, these people are susceptible to gasses and chomicals that most of us tolerate fine.

        Nitpicking note--germs are not allergens, and bubble-boy syndrome (severe combined immune deficiency--SCID, IIRC) is a result of a person's inability to produce and maintain a healthy population of immune cells. Allergic reactions typically look and feel like a severe overreaction by the immune syst

      • every piece of anything chemically processed

        You mean like every object you can buy? Last time I checked, everything was a chemical. Better not wash those Oranges off, after all, water is a chemical!!

      • It's even worse than that - no chemical cleaners of any kind can be used. Shampoo and soap? nope (for the most part). No varnishes or treated woods or treated carpets (and most non-natural carpet fibers, for that matter).

        I know a guy with this in Wisconsin - he grew up near a chemical plant that spilled toxic chems into the water table. That company basically pays for everything he (and his less probematic brother) need, as well as everyone else who grew up in that neighborhood before the cleanup (they s
    • " I've never thought of lampshades as dangerous. I'm left guessing here."

      Obviously someone missed When Lampshades Attack on fox.
  • Wrong problem (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Gypsum, plaster, brick, wood, steel are inert. If you can't handle these natural substances then too bad. Fate is not always kind. Life is not fair. Perhaps you have a psychological problem. Maybe a psychiatrist would be your best bet.
    • Re:Wrong problem (Score:5, Informative)

      by Maeryk (87865) on Thursday March 13, 2003 @10:46AM (#5502693) Journal
      Gypsum, plaster, brick, wood, steel are inert. If you can't handle these natural substances then too bad. Fate is not always kind. Life is not fair. Perhaps you have a psychological problem. Maybe a psychiatrist would be your best bet.

      BZZT:! Wrong answer. Gypsum is bad for anyone who has respiratory issues, because it is such a fine dust, and anyone with any kind of silica allergy has serioius problems with it.

      There are several woods that are downright toxic.
      Line a room with Cedar and make the house airtight and see how long you survive. The gas given off by it is not only toxic to Moths, it is toxic to people also. But the little blocks you keep in your closet dont release enough to sicken you, unless you are highly reactive to it.

      Bricks are also not inert all the time. The JIRR
      had an article on a brick in Boston that was carrying syphillus. (yes, that was meant to be humorous, but its true).

      Yeah.. I know i'm feeding a troll.. but your misinformation is staggering.

      Maeryk

      • No not really. Actually his misinformation is merely average.
      • You are suffering from hysteria.

        Gypsum dust is produced when you are cutting plasterboard or mixing plaster. When it's up on your wall, it isn't releasing dust.

        Nobody lines an interior wall with cedar - it's too hard to cut properly to use inside. Some people choose to use cedar for their outside siding.

        Bricks are inert baked clay. Other than background radiation from the clay, it releases nothing.
  • When I was a poor student, I lived in a basement suite that had a problem during heavy rains... Namely that the floor became a bit squishy in areas...

    Fortunately I moved out, however I did at one point find something resembling a truffle growing in a dark closet corner... Needless to say, I'm sure _that_ environment wasn't doing me any good.

    N.
  • by egomaniac (105476) on Thursday March 13, 2003 @10:39AM (#5502645) Homepage
    Does the guy wear a tinfoil hat as well?

    Studies of such "syndromes" as sensitivity to EMF have revealed that the people in question are utterly able to distinguish the presense of radio waves or whatnot. It's bogus -- they're scaring themselves to death.

    I quote from The American Academy of Family Physicians website [aafp.org]:
    "[MCS] has been rejected as an established organic disease by the American Academy of Allergy and Immunology, the American Medical Association, the California Medical Association, the American College of Physicians, and the International Society of Regulatory Toxicology and Pharmacology. It may be the only ailment in existence in which the patient defines both the cause and the manifestations of his own condition. Despite this, it has achieved credibility in workmen's [sic] compensation claims, tort liability, and regulatory actions."


    "No evidence based on well-controlled clinical trials is available that supports a cause-and-effect relationship between exposure to very low levels of substances and the myriad symptoms reported by clinical ecologists to result from such exposure . . . . Until such accurate, reproducible, and well-controlled studies are available, the American Medical Association Council on Scientific Affairs believes that multiple chemical sensitivity should not be considered a recognized clinical syndrome."

    "Review of the clinical ecology literature provides inadequate support for the beliefs and practices of clinical ecology. The existence of an environmental illness as presented in clinical ecology theory must be questioned because of the lack of a clinical definition. Diagnoses and treatments involve procedures of no proven efficacy."
    Sorry to be insensitive, but until I see some better evidence for this being a real disorder, I'm going to assume that he's just another crackpot hypochondriac.
    • I believe you're right about these illnesses being more psychiatric than physical. However, that doesn't mean that they're not real in terms of the suffering that these people go through. The "crackpot" label is a little harsh. This guy probably has a mental illness, but it's an illness all the same...
    • If *all* the major peer-reviewed medical associations call it quackery, then it's Quackery with a capital "Q".

      MCS/EI folks need good shrinks, not safe houses.
    • And doctors know everything...

      In 1967 I was advised by an MD to start smoking because it would help my asthma. Studies since then have shown the hazards of smoke and secondhand smoke. I smoked for 17 years after that, have been quit for more than 20, but still have asthma.

      Asthma is quite often triggered by the very chemical pollution your AAFP article would seem to deny. No, I don't have clinical trials, just my own experience. When the pollution is low, my asthma is tolerable, when the pollution is h
    • How sorry? (Score:3, Insightful)

      by thatguywhoiam (524290)
      Sorry to be insensitive

      Okay. I agree. The author, in all likelihood, has a kind of psychosomatic disorder.

      So, how does this translate to 'crackpot hypochondriac'?

      Let me be more specific. I believe that there are a great many common illnesses that are psychosomatic in nature. However, the pain is real. This guy is in pain, its clear to see. He's pursued this untenable solution to his pain for most of his adult life, according to the site. He's endured a fair amount of ridicule for thinking he's 'aller

  • This "illness" reminds me a bit too much of the condition footsie as described in the Judge Dredd comic books. It's labled as "future shock," wherein the sufferer can't deal with living in the necessarily confined spaces with large groups of individuals for long periods of time without it taking a physical and mental toll on the body--result being eventual madness and death. Of course the best idea is for this guy to (a) see a shrink, and (b) get out of NJ.
  • A suggestion (Score:2, Insightful)

    by ptomblin (1378)
    Everything I've read about "Environmental Illness" suggests that it's psychosomatic. The amount of money this guy is spending on a special house and medical quackery could buy an awful lot of psychotherapy.
  • by WIAKywbfatw (307557) on Thursday March 13, 2003 @10:41AM (#5502658) Journal
    In the near future, environmental problems will come home to roost - a direct result of the short-sighted environmental policies persued by both governments and corporations.

    You may dismiss this as "tree-hugging BS", that's your perogative, but illnesses such as childhood asthma, leukemia, allergies, etc are all on the rise. And, as much as they try to hide it, pollution does maim and kill thousands, if not millions, every year.

    Arguably, modern medicine is to blame as well. By curing the sick and the weak, modern medicine has prolonged the lives of people who would have otherwise died (including me). Don't get me wrong, I'm not against treating sick people but it's an inescapable fact that by allowing the weak to live you're weakening the gene pool.

    Harsh facts but the facts all the same.
    • "Arguably, modern medicine is to blame as well. By curing the sick and the weak, modern medicine has prolonged the lives of people who would have otherwise died (including me). Don't get me wrong, I'm not against treating sick people but it's an inescapable fact that by allowing the weak to live you're weakening the gene pool."

      Does that mean you don't have the right to live? If so, perhaps you can deal with the situation directly.


      the above statement is sarcasm...don't freak, yo.
    • It is correct to suggest we should be worried about the potential lethality of the substances we manufacture. That is precisely why people who claim they are alergic to "chemicals" are so dangerous. They do damage to an important issue through their irrational claims. Look people, EVERYTHING is a fucking chemical. That includes things like AIR and water. Just because it came out of a factory does not *necesarily* mean it is toxic. Plenty of "natural" things are far far more toxic than anything in your kitch
    • So which is better? Vinyl siding on your home or natural wood shingles? Sythentic carpet or a wood floor? Vinyl siding and nylon carpet are made from toxic chemicals that have wasteful byproducts and does not break down for hundreds of years if at all. Or should you cut down more trees for a wood floor and wood shingles? Maybe we should all live in caves.
    • Look, I know that appealing to Darwin as if he were some sort of demigod leading humanity to perfection is fashionable here on Slashdot, but from what I learned in my physical anthropology classes, "survival of the fittest" just isn't the reality. Closer would be, "survival of that which is most likely to procreate."

      Follow me here. In Africa, they have a disease called malaria, which has lead to the sickle cell trait being passed down and becoming common [nih.gov] among populations in Africa. Sickle-cell blood i

  • by Lumpy (12016)
    And i thought it was life that was slowly killing him and me and everyone else.

    i would love to read the article, (slashdotted) but if this is anything like the other 900,000,000 crackpots out there making claims that X,Y and Z are slowly killing him/her yet no scientific evidence or other tests show this to be a fact, I'd simply write it off as another crackpot looking for attention.

    I know thereare some rare diseases out there that are really freaky, but this smells way too much like "Just Another Nut" or
  • by 2Flower (216318) on Thursday March 13, 2003 @10:44AM (#5502677) Homepage

    In film class I saw a terrific movie called "Safe" which depicts the slow descent of a woman into Environmental Illness, starting as a mild allergy and ending as a nearly life threatening condition which mandated housing inside a 100% clean room geodesic dome (like on Northern Exposure).

    The ending is a bit ambiguous (but only a bit) coming down slightly on the side of the condition being purely psychological. A reasonable assumption due to the complete lack of scientific evidence that EI exists beyond the patient's reactions, but it's hard to say one way or another when many people exhibit the same symptoms.

    Your obligatory IMDB link: http://us.imdb.com/Title?0114323 [imdb.com]

    • Just because multiple people claim the same symptoms doesn't mean it's real. Many people claimed that there were witches in Salem. Many people claimed to see Sathya Sai Baba make gold valuables appear. Many people claimed that they saw a rocket hit TWA 800. The human mind is easily capable of recieving information from others, and incorporating that into their fantasies.
  • Someone who used to work overnights at my company had this condition, though not to quite the same severity as the person described in the article.

    It was the strangest thing, after about one week in the building, she was hospitalized for a week with a respiratory condition. Her manager wasn't thrilled with the idea of telecommuting for anyone, so she constantly got flak. However, she worked overnights, I could never understand what the big deal was.

    I think it's possible for people to have some pretty se
  • by AbbeyRoad (198852)
    Environmental Illness is much like RSI. RSI
    is one of the psychosomatic illnesses that
    the more you think you might have it, and
    the more you worry about having it, the
    more it starts to feel like you have it.
    In Australia, when the courts dismissed
    RSI as a bogus illness, thousands of employees
    coincedentally became well and went back
    to work.

    I do believe this guy really is sick, but
    he made it that way through pure mind-power.
    He could unmake it if everyone would just
    stop feeding him sympathy.

    -paul psheer@icon.
    • Grouping MCS and RSI is a weak analogy. While there have been cases of psychosomatic RSI, there are also proven cases where there is an actual, visible, measurable damage caused to the tendons, nerves, and other tissues. Having myself had RSI in both wrists, seen them swell up from the nerve pressure on the carpal tunnel, I firmly believe there was a pathological cause. On the other hand, there is no firm, measurable studies confirming (or denying) MCS. So I take it with a large grain of salt.

  • by Delgul (515042) <gerardNO@SPAMonlinespamfilter.nl> on Thursday March 13, 2003 @10:49AM (#5502711) Homepage
    In the industry I work in, very extensive lists are available that describe which chemicals may be used in production facilities and which products are specifically forbidden. Do not underestimate the extend of this: This goes as far as the paint on the outside door or the kind of tissues allowed to wipe your nose with ;-). The reason for this is that even the smallest quantity of harmful chemicals in the air can disrupt your production process.

    These lists often provide a reason for allowance/disallowance of the specific chemicals. Some dangerous chemicals (paints for instance) may still be approved because they simply don't leak into the environment. If this is so, the lists state these reason. This info may be very valuable for these people.

    I am not at liberty to provide these lists here, but you might be able to convince some of these industries to help. I work in a company producing color picture tubes, but I can also imagine that you might find help in the chip-industry.

    Hope this helps a bit, cause things like this send shivers down my spine...

  • The guy could always live in a bubble but nooooo.. he has to play the victim card and make a web page. Heck, he could even web enable his bubble with the RJ45 server mentioned in the previous slashdot story. [slashdot.org]
  • by TheMonkeyDepartment (413269) on Thursday March 13, 2003 @11:01AM (#5502799)
    This guy says he was diagnosed with "systemic candidiasis." This set off some alarm bells for me -- as in my opinion, it's currently a big pseudo-medical quack health craze.

    A few years ago, I got really sick. While I was trying to figure out what was wrong, I read about "systemic candidiasis" (one of the things this guy has been diagnosed with). So I talked to my doctor about it.

    Turns out, "candidiasis" is one of the most misdiagnosed diseases, because most of the time, people diagnose themselves with it. My doctor told me that yes, occasionally, people with very suppressed immune systems can get yeast overgrowths, which is an extremely serious, potentially fatal condition, usually treated by antifungals. It is also possible for some people to get an oral candidiasis infection. This is cured with a simple mouthwash.

    Apparently, though, many people convince themselves they've got candidiasis -- blame all their various health problems on it -- and then become obsessed with this idea that yeast is taking over their body. It's a mass delusion, like the idea that microwaves leave radiation behind in your food.

    Go ahead -- Google for it [google.com]. Read through, for example, the A Better Way [a-better-way.com] website. Or try the CandidaFree.net [candidafree.net] website. If the stuff in these pages doesn't set off your "quack" alarm bells, you're not reading it carefully enough. They talk about candida overgrowth, but also vague, medically questionable talk about "acid/alkaline body imbalances" and the like.

    You should also be aware that most of these websites are selling something. See that as a red flag? You should.

    Here's the symptoms they list:
    The most common symptoms are: an incapacitating fatigue and problems with concentration and short-term memory, flu-like symptoms such as pain in the joints and muscles, hyper-acidity/acid reflux, unrefreshing sleep, sore throat, sinusitis, headache. Visual disturbances may include blurring, sensitivity to light and eye pain. Psychological problems may include depression, irritability, anxiety, panic attacks, personality changes, and mood swings. More of the physical symptoms may include chills and night sweats, shortness of breath, dizziness and balance problems, sensitivity to heat and/or cold, alcohol intolerance, irregular heartbeat, irritable bowel, low-grade fever or low body temperature, numbness, tingling and/or burning sensations in the face or extremities, dryness of the mouth and eyes (sicca syndrome), menstrual problems including PMS and endometriosis, recurrent yeast infections, recurrent ear infections, rashes and dry, flaking skin, jock and rectal itching, ringing in the ears (tinnitus), allergies and sensitivities to noise/sound, odors, chemicals, anemia, weight changes without changes in diet, light-headedness, feeling in a fog, fainting, muscle twitching and muscle weakness, jerky-leg syndrome, low sex drive. These are only the most common documented symptoms.


    OK, with a symptom list this long and vague, a lot of people could reasonably assume they've got candidiasis. Many of these symptoms could be caused by so many other problems, though.

    My doctor compared this to the old craze, in the early 1900's, where people started getting really obsessed with their colons. They were convinced that the waste in their colons was somehow putrefying and poisoning their bloodstream. People were pumping laxatives, even having their colons removed unnecessarily. Turns out, we discovered that a properly functioning colon doesn't poison your body at all.

    I'm not saying this guy is crazy. I'm sure he's really sick. I'm just concerned that his "diagnosis" may have sucked him into a world of quackery and scientifically questionable treatments.
  • by ReidMaynard (161608) on Thursday March 13, 2003 @11:02AM (#5502816) Homepage
    I break out in apathy every morning.
  • A given cause (Score:2, Informative)

    by Sargent1 (124354)

    Unlike many cases of Multiple Chemical Sensitivity that I've read about, he actually gives a possible cause in his autobiography page [weblogs.com].

    After some study and positive response from trial treatment, I was finally formally diagnosed as having Systemic Candidiasis as well as Multiple Chemical Sensitivity resulting from the immune system breakdown caused by decades of going without proper treatment.

    Systemic Candidiasis is a recognized disease [merck.com], and is associated with people whose immune systems are out of wha

  • by WallyHartshorn (64268) <wally...hartshorn@@@pobox...com> on Thursday March 13, 2003 @11:04AM (#5502832) Homepage
    We've discussed multiple chemical sensitivity on the Skeptic News [skepticnews.com]. In addition, QuackWatch has written on the topic [quackwatch.org] and the American Council on Science and Health has produced a report about multiple chemical sensitivity [hcrc.org]. Here's an excerpt from the conclusion:
    Convinced by proponents that they are environmentally ill, these patients are misdiagnosed, treated improperly and often persuaded to alter their lifestyle in unnecessary and life-limiting ways. In addition, their demands for compensation, insurance payments, workers compensation and special treatment are burdening industry, government and society as a whole. Unsick people who are convinced by clinical ecologists that they risk future illness and are suing for damages compound the already substantial legal problem.
  • Granted there are times where I'm working on a project and I'll be up in my home office till the wee hours of the morning. There have even been times where I'be been in that office for an entire weekend non-stop (save for food and restroom breaks of course).

    But I've never considered my house a 'prison'.

    I have in the past and probally in the future will work like a dog in my house getting something urgent done as fast as I can, but when the job is done (or when I really need a break) There is this nice big
  • by wayward_son (146338) on Thursday March 13, 2003 @11:09AM (#5502858)
    Not to belittle anyone's pain, but MCS/EI is more than likely psychosomatic.

    My mother-in-law had something similar, although nowhere near as severe as this case. She was allergic to most everything, including things that were supposedly hypoallergenic.

    It turns out that her illness was caused in large part by stress and anxiety, much of which was subconscious. She only found relief after going to this guy in Georgia, Pastor Henry Wright, who teaches about the spiritual nature of disease. No, he's not a "faith healer". However, what he does do is treat the underlying spiritual and psycological problems that tend to cause chronic illness.

    Yes, some of his theology may be a little off the wall, but medically he seems to know what he's talking about. I know several people who have been down there with chronic illness and improved greatly after going.

  • Annoyed (Score:2, Informative)

    Is anyone else annoyed by this whiner? I'm sorry he has issues, but many people do.

    However, this guy mooches off the state and does nothing but bitch and moan about how he doesn't get enough money out of my pocket.

    He seems very annoyed that he can't live well off of our money, and is shocked that he'd have to try and find a job.

    Maybe I'm callous, but he sure seems ingrateful.

    Admittedly, I scanned through the article pretty quickly, but - why can't he find an outdoor job??

    If every environment makes him
  • by rolfpal (28193) on Thursday March 13, 2003 @11:19AM (#5502975) Homepage
    I have built a few "Healthy Houses" for clients that were both environmentally sensitive and for non sensitive people.

    The simple fact of the matter is that buildings are made of stuff, and some of this stuff gets on our skin and into our lungs. If the stuff is bad for you, why use it. This problem is worse in energy efficient houses.

    Just the same as we know now that smoking is bad for you so:

    It makes sense to avoid building materials that produce toxic dust (silicone, asbestos, fiberglass)

    It makes sense to avoid materials that offgas formadehyde gas or other noxious organic compounds. Materials such as particle board, cheap carpet, urea formaldehyde foam insulation offgas significant amounts of formaldehyde, formaldehyde is good for some things, but not increasing your lifespan.

    It makes sense to minimize the potential growth of toxic or allergic natural pests such as mold, dust mites, spiders, ants and wasps.

  • My medical opinion is that this guy has a bad allergy to Pyrimidines and Purines [geocities.com]. He probably should watch out for those Phosphorous compounds [wustl.edu] as well. I suggest he move to a place far away from these dangerous chemicals. [uj.edu.pl]
  • by ahfoo (223186) on Thursday March 13, 2003 @11:21AM (#5502998) Journal
    It's a fact that the air we breathe, even in the cleanest environments is composed of a large percentage of free radicals. That's a basic fact of life on Earth.
    The people who created the original microbial test for cancer later became its loudest critics when it was found that almost anything in excess can cause cancer. The air itself is toxic without any form of man made pollution.
    I'm all for prolonging life through stem cell reasarch, cloning, genetic repairs, whatever. But trying to avoid, rather than repair, cellular damage is ridiculous. You can't do it.
    Playing the blame game just keeps money in lawyers pockets. Don't participate in that crap.
  • by SlaveToTheGrind (546262) on Thursday March 13, 2003 @11:25AM (#5503044)
    I grew up with this sort of mindset presented as the normal way of life. My mother self-diagnosed herself with EI, MCS, Lupus, and other assorted disorders which never seemed to be confirmed by traditional medicine. This was always presented by her as proof of the shortcomings of the allopathic community.

    We lived out in the middle of the country, in a house made with a purposeful absence of traditional building materials. Non-treated wood, cedar shakes, etc. In spite of this, my mother seemed to grow constantly more sensitive to her environment, and put more and more safeguards in place to attempt to purify it. Ionic air filters were everywhere, including one in the car to attempt to reduce the effects of hydrocarbon emissions. She pursued a macrobiotic diet in order to attempt to balance her body and eliminate toxins taken in through food. Nothing seemed to improve the situation. Strangely(?) enough, as the years went by, both my sister and I both started exhibiting similar sets of symptoms.

    12 years later, I have a very strong feeling about what actually happened during that time of our lives. After I moved out, I started presenting a plethora of external insults to my body in the form of poor environmental conditions, a [comparably speaking] junk food diet, and ingestion of various chemical substances. I called it "college." :-) Strangely enough, the longer this went on, the less and less sensitive I became to my environment, to the food I ate, to the air I breathed. Now, as I sit here at my glue-ridden wooden desk in my carpeted office, breathing the air of one of the worst polluted cities in the country, the transformation is complete. I understand perfectly that people in my mother's mindset will say that I have "deadened my senses" to the surrounding toxins. My opinion is that, like any exercise in biodiversity, increased exposure to a variety of envioronmental substances makes one's system more able to cope with foreign invasions. The attempt to sterilize our living environment while growing up simply made us react more strongly to any small variation in that environment.

    As an addendum, my mother is still attempting to isolate herself from the known universe. In spite of this, she is still having the same difficulties. Given my experience over the past decade, I really have to wonder if the cure is a substantial portion of the disease.
    • by RembrandtX (240864) on Thursday March 13, 2003 @02:12PM (#5504692) Homepage Journal
      I too know folks like this.

      Its a self-reinforcing downward spiral. At some point person-A becomes convinced that their recient sickness/ailment is due to something in their environment/diet/etc. So they alter that environment. Use more anti-bacterial soaps, and strangely enough .. continue to get sick even more frequently.

      I had a pal who ate only alge cultures and tofu, hardly ever went outside, wore sunblock constantly, never used deodorents, and took showers at least 4 times a day.

      After 5 years of this he was admitted to the ER with a severe case of pnuemoneia (in August) and when he tried to tell the Dr. that was treating him that he had severe allergic reactions to any 'toxins' the doctor took a culture.

      The doctor then brought in the test results (along with some kind of a picture of the cuture from his mouth) and showed them to him. He carefully explained that he had accute pnuemoneia which he believed was caused by his body loosing its tollerance to the .. ready for it .. COMMON COLD.

      Apparantly my friend Paul isolated himself so well from germs, that his immune system no longer felt it needed/could produce antibodys to the germs that are part of our everyday life.

      Paul resumed normal life, and started eating acutal food again etc. And what do you know - he gets sick a lot less.

      of course .. he still can't eat meat, apparantly after an extended time without processing meats, the body doesnt start producing the enzymes needed to break it down quickly.
    • Oddly enough, just after reading your post I ran across this at the Reason website:

      http://www.reason.com/rb/rb031203.shtml

      Looks like the body may well adapt to toxins in a way that is comparable to other desease causing agents.
  • There are three large cohorts, the Vietnam Vets, the Gulf War Syndrome, and the Japan nerve gas subway survivors. All three have Chemical Sensitivity symptoms. Essentially, pesticide is a toned down nerve gas. It is oil soluble. It is designed to kill stuff. Nerve gas and pesticide is the same chemical family. Since it is oil soluble it is difficult for the body to excrete. And yes it acts as an immune system adjuvant spurring the immune system into hyper alertness. When we bombed Saddam in the last war we
  • by dfenstrate (202098) <dfenstrate.gmail@com> on Thursday March 13, 2003 @11:50AM (#5503314)
    ...By indulging his hypochondriac fantasies. I glanced over his autobiography, and here's what I think (I am not a mental health professional, but I know plenty of mildly crazy people)

    1. He's had trouble getting a job because he keeps on bringing up his fantasy 'handicap' (though he surely believes it's real), and he finds no employer wants to deal with a handicapped IT person.... I think it would be more accurate to say no company wants to deal with a crazy employee in any proffession.

    2. His entire autobiography, he paints himself a victim of this 'syndrome.' (and peer abuse, and being overweight) Never anything more than that. True, his weblog is about 'non-toxic' housing, so he may want to keep it on topic, but it really seems to be more of an entire 'pity me' diatribe than a tale of his life thus far. Certainly he takes no responsibility for the over-eating and inactivity that made him fat, and is responsible for his low stamina. (News flash: Fat people can't move fast, or far. Remember, KE=M*V^2!)

    3. I bet his doting, single mom raised him to think he was always sick- ever heard of Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy [mhsource.com]? Tell a kid something long enough, and he's likely to believe it. Drag him around to all sorts of doctors starting in infancy, and you might start to think you can never be healthy.

    MCS, as many other posters have pointed out, is a fantasy illness. Michael Fumento, a respected health writer, has written a number of articles on the subject that can be found here. [fumento.com] Incidentally, I reccomend browsing through his articles for any other topics that might be of interest to you.

    So here's my (albeit non-proffessional) advice to this gentleman:

    A. Stop eating.

    B. Start Exercising. Cardio-Vascular and weight training. Do it till you drop. Guess what? You'll find that every week you keep it up, you'll last just a little bit longer. I'm not slim (6'1", 255lbs so not grossly obese either) but I've started exercising regularly- trust me, it won't be long before you start noticing the improvements. Maybe weeks. The fatter you are, the more you need to start right now.

    C. STFU. really. No one cares about your problems, except fellow hypochondriacs who are looking for reciprical support on their bullshit illnesses. Any given ailment can be exploited for a very limited amount of sympathy. Coming up with new ailments all the time will just piss off the people around you, and turn sympathy into mild disgust.

    Buddy, it seems to me your mom screwed you up from the start, before you even had a chance to know better. Blame the doctors for prescribing too many anti-biotics? Blame your mom for bringing you to so many doctors and insisting on medication. Up until the mid 90's, anti-biotics, especially weak ones, were the classic 'go-away' prescription, since doctors can't exactly prescribe sugar pills to crazy patients, or patients with crazy moms.
    Oh yeah, the bad thing about over prescribing anti-biotics is that it makes the pathogens more resistant- they don't do much to you except a little diarehhia, because they kill helpful intestinal bacteria. But you must of missed that news report.

    Your mom screwed you up. It's high time you got over it.
  • Oke. Here on quackwatch [quackwatch.com] there's a whole lot about what to look for in an illness description that might not be, well, as deductively logical as we'd like. But while MCS may not be generally acknowledged by the standard med community, that doesn't mean that there aren't conditions which can cause extreme sensitivity. For example, there are autoimmune illnesses with measurable, detectable effects, such as Celiac sprue, [celiac.org] in which the body can't quite identify what it's fighting- and a whole host of new alle
  • House pollution (Score:3, Interesting)

    by forkboy (8644) on Thursday March 13, 2003 @12:26PM (#5503646) Homepage
    I work for an environmental laboratory that does testing for this very thing. This guy's whining aside, many folks' houses are more polluted than the outdoors.

    There are quite a few factors that can cause illness to those living in such a place. Many older paints contain lead, older carpeting and padding can give off fumes of organic solvents, a lot of older linoleum and drywall contains asbestos, mold can grow in moist areas and squirt bits of mold particles all over, basements contain radon in many areas, oh and it clings to smoke/dust particles which lets it lodge in your lungs and sit there emitting harmful ionizing radiation directly into lung tissue. Granted, much of this stuff is just allergens, but constant allergies can lower your immune capability. And some of this stuff is downright toxic or carcinogenic.

    Get your house tested. It really doesn't cost that much. Do it sooner rather than later, especially if you have children...this isn't a plug to drum up business for my lab, you really will be amazed at what kind of crap is in your home.
  • by Xthlc (20317) on Thursday March 13, 2003 @12:56PM (#5503944)
    This guy's site is not doing much to help those who are environmentally sensitive. He's got all the warning signs of an chronic hypochondriac (read his autobiography; he goes out of his way to portray himself as a martyr and a victim of pretty much everyone and everything he's ever encountered). I think he's got some serious attention issues, and will prejudice the casual viewer against against ES sufferers.

    Another poster in this thread recommended the movie safe [imdb.com], and I couldn't agree more. ES syndrome is a complex, daunting problem that is often equal parts biology and psychology; you can't treat the psychological factors without giving some relief for the physical symptoms, but the problems will never truly go away until you address the mental component of the disorder. A patient often has some kind of severe sociopathology (extremely needy and demanding of attention, or fearful of social interaction), and attendant phobias or OC fixations. It's pretty amazing to see somebody break out in hives when you just *tell* them that there are painters in the other half of the building; this is a disorder of mind and body that Western medicine's reductionist approach is more or less powerless to address.
  • by MarvinMouse (323641) on Thursday March 13, 2003 @02:31PM (#5504876) Homepage Journal
    Everyone nowadays is on a real kick. They think that they can diagnose every single illness and problem with themselves. Without any knowledge other than what the internet says or a book says. Well I have one thing to say to them. Stop trying to diagnose yourself!

    One important thing was said to me during my psychopathology class and it has stuck with me ever since. (Roughly):

    "You are going to learn about many different psychological diseases, their symptoms and causes. Just because you learn about it though, doesn't mean you are qualified to diagnose yourself. Your problems always seem amplified to yourself, so you never really get to see the actual picture of what you are doing and what's happening to you. So, right now I am going to tell you all, you very likely aren't bipolar, don't have any personality disorders, aren't schizophrenic, and don't have any of the diseases the book talks about. If you feel you do have any of them, go and see a professional and don't diagnose/treat yourself. It's that simple. You will avoid a lot of hardship that way."

    Well, I think that applies to all of these people who think their bodies are hosts for bug larvae, or people who are determined that every big evil corporation is actively trying to kill them, or that their small problems in their life are so huge that the world must be collapsing and the sky must be falling...

    You likely aren't sick, but if you honestly feel you are, go see a qualified professional and get it checked out properly. At least that way you can try to find the root of the real problem, and not live your life in fear and horror of these imaginary deamons that are haunting you. Stop attacking these windmills blindly.

    Also, I would like to point out that there isn't a giant conspiracy orchestrated by the doctors and psychologists to steal your money and keep you sick/kill you.

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