5 Daily Life of a Patient with Multiple Chemical Sensitivity
By Chie Yamauchi

In my case, Gesso, which is ground paint, triggered my chemical sensitivity. Gesso stored in a large can is a white and sticky liquid with quick-drying properties. It is quite a useful paint because the concentration is easily adjusted by dilution with water and a used brush can be rinsed out in water. However, I grounded my works every June with the windows opened because the paint was a little irritating. Although repeating the work three times requires physical strength, I was always satisfied with a well-finished canvas with heavy presence.

It happened in 1995. On the second day after I started the work, I suddenly had a headache and felt dizzy and extremely tired, so I stopped working and took a rest. On the third day, when I was polishing my work with a piece of waterproof sandpaper, I felt extremely tired and was not able to stand up. Subsequently, while I was lying down and resting, I got a fever.

 On the fourth day, I consulted a physician at T Hospital. When I came home and entered my studio, I stopped working because I felt severe irritation from the canvas and took a rest. After that, I got a fever. On the fifth day, my attending doctor told me that my blood sedimentation indicated 78 – 127 and my immune system had a problem, so I got antibiotics in the hospital. On the sixth day, the doctor recommended me to be hospitalized. But I postponed my admission to a hospital against my will because I had to go to Tokyo. On the same day, I was not able to ground my works for my exhibition. My ensuing fever lasted for 9 days before I was back to normal.

During my one-week hospitalization, the causes of the fever, headache and fatigue could not be identified. My attending doctor advised me to stop oil painting. I was deeply shocked because to “stop oil painting” meant the same as losing my purpose in life. Thirty-five years ago, although I was told that I would live less than 3 months because of anaplastic anemia, I survived miraculously after I received treatment in the hospital for one year and three month. After that, I started oil painting. The same oil painting that gave me the power to get over my health caused my poor physical condition. I did not hear the doctor’s subsequent words.

 I consulted K University Medical School Hospital and K Hospital after T Hospital. I was told that the cause of my condition was unexplained and there was no cure. There were no hospitals to treat me and I was at a loss. Then I got the answer to my symptoms from a source I did not expect. I noticed that the symptoms described in an article on chemical sensitivity in the magazine “Economist” were similar to mine.

 Until that point, there were few things except for painting tools and building materials which I reacted to, so I was able to go to the hospital using transportation. But, this peace of mind was broken by the new-building construction which had started in the neighborhood about 20m away from my house. On that day I was attacked by a headache, dizziness, a burning sensation of the tongue and stuffiness as soon as I heard a squealing sound. Subsequently, I learned that the white smoke I had seen was particulates from when a board of polystyrene foam was cut with a saw. In order to escape this pain, I went to stay with my second daughter. Taking advantage of this opportunity, I tried to dispose of all my painting tools. However, I left some including tempera paints, because I could not bring myself to throw them away. Consequently, it resulted in my giving up temperas. My studio, reconstructed using natural materials, was also irritating me and it was no longer a cozy place for me. After I came home, my disease turned from CS (Chemical Sensitivity) into MCS (Multiple Chemical Sensitivity) like tumbling down a slope. My reaction to chemicals became widespread as follows: alcohol, paint thinner, paper, fragrances, neighborhood pesticide spraying, furniture, bedding, new food containers, freshness-keeping processed food, hospitals, public transportation and so on. Among them, I had a hard time when I began to react to plastic objects. I first noticed it when I was wrapping food in porcelain using a wrapping material. Not only did it suddenly get hard to breathe, but I also had a headache, and felt dizzy. It was the beginning of my hard time. There were many things all around me, such as plastic cups, glasses, a bathtub, mats, etc. which I could respond to. I look back now and think about it. One day, suddenly, I felt drinking water irritate me. But I was released from my suffering, because the waterworks department of our city exchanged a polyvinyl-chloride pipe with a rust-free cast-iron pipe. I suddenly thought my disease developed from the accumulation of influence of plastics, such as bags used for blood transfusion and intravenous drips, neighbor's corrugated polycarbonate plastic panels for roofing and the acrylic resin for painting I had been unconsciously touching. However, strangely enough, these terrible symptoms ceased after 3 months. I could wear some types of glasses. Today, what I keep in mind for everyday life is: 1) I try not to handle chemical substances as much as possible through food, air, and contact. 2) I take supplements to discharge chemical contaminants from my body and use vegetables high in fiber and seaweed as cooking ingredients. 3) I do moderate exercise and bathe–anything that is likely to make my body feel better. I am wondering when I will be free from this anxiety and suffering. I am dreaming of that day.

Measures against indoor air pollution and health for children
1        Challenges and the Present Condition of Countermeasures against Indoor Air Chemicals
2        Children’s Environmental Health and Countermeasures against Indoor Air Chemicals
3        Measurement and Evaluation for the Determination of Indoor Air Chemicals
4        Building Materials and Furniture and Reduction Countermeasures against Indoor Air Chemicals
5        Daily Life of a Patient with Multiple Chemical Sensitivity

4 Building Materials and Furniture and Reduction Countermeasures against Indoor Air Chemicals
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