Some of us go through life with no allergies or sensitivities to anything, really. We are the very lucky ones. Then there are those of us that may have an allergy or two, maybe seasonal, maybe to cats. Life sometimes feels not so great, but, in general, we can manage okay. Then there are those of us who experience Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS), also called Chemical Injury, Chemical Sensitivity, Environmental Illness (E.I.), and Multiple Allergy. With MCS, life can often be unbearable.
In the broadest of terms, MCS is an unusually severe reaction to many different kinds of chemical pollutants including solvents, pesticides, plastics, synthetic fabrics, smoke, petroleum products, paint fumes, VOC’s (Volatile Organic Compounds), perfumes, and smoke. Sufferers of MCS are also often allergic to pollen, dust mites, and pet dander.
Perhaps the most frustrating thing is that, unlike typical allergies, MCS is considered “idiopathic,” meaning there is no known mechanism or true cause for the condition. And, because there are usually many variables from one patient to the next, treatment can often be hit-or-miss.
Because MCS has been a puzzle to many clinicians, treatment options in recent decades have been fairly limited. Luckily, as more researchers sign on to tackle the problem, treatments have become more effective. Here are the top 3 treatment options for MCS sufferers:
The most obvious and effective treatment for Multiple Chemical Sensitivity is to avoid the chemicals which seem to trigger a reaction. Avoiding chemicals brings immediate relief as acute symptoms are not triggered.
On top of this benefit, removing chemicals also helps to reduce the body’s overall toxic burden. More and more doctors are beginning to think that total toxic burden is the key between health and illness.
As you can imagine, avoiding chemicals is not that easy, as they are all around us. You will want to limit your exposure to the main sources of chemicals, including:
- Cleaning and personal care products
- Building materials
- Household furnishings and electronics (e.g. computer printers)
- Environmental exposures (vehicle exhaust, tobacco smoke, pesticides, neighbors' chimneys and dryer/boiler exhaust - and of course other peoples' perfume/deodorants.)
As you can see, the list is extensive and again, avoiding every single chemical that may trigger your symptoms is generally very difficult.
Nutritional medicine is often prescribed to help MCS sufferers. The idea is that certain nutrients can help our bodies detox on a cellular level, thereby reducing the toxic load and allergy symptoms.
Certain nutrients and herbs like alpha lipoic acid and milk thistle have been shown to help. If you or a loved one are interested in trying nutrition therapy, speak with your healthcare provider who can connect you with the right clinician to oversee your treatment plan.
No matter how hard you try, sometimes it is just impossible to remove ALL of the offending chemicals in your home. This is when an air purifier can help. Certain air purifiers have been designed to remove chemicals specifically from the environment so you don’t have a reaction.
But not all air purifiers are created equal. While most will clean your air to a certain extent, there are specific features you will have to look for in order to have the kind of clean environment your health requires.
Choosing an Air Purifier for MCS
By ensuring your air purifier has the following features, you will be able to remove the chemical pollutants from your home’s environment to breathe easier.
These days, almost all air purifiers use a HEPA filtration system, but there may still be those units on the market that don’t. You absolutely must choose a unit that has a HEPA filter.
HEPA stands for High Efficiency Particulate Arrestor – it’s kind of a fancy term that means this filter can pull out even the tiniest particles from your home’s air. HEPA filters are necessary to remove pollutants like dust mites, pollen, pet dander, viruses and bacteria out of the air.
While some MCS sufferers are triggered by dust mites, pollen and pet dander, the majority suffer from exposure to chemical (or gaseous) fumes, not particles. Most VOCs will fly straight through a HEPA filter and re-enter your room unless you have something else that will absorb them.
That’s why your air purifier unit should absolutely have a carbon filter. The type and weight of the carbon filter used in the unit determines how much of the chemical fumes will be trapped. Look for units with the heaviest or densest carbon used.
We should mention that some inferior manufacturers use a flimsy filter that they basically dust with carbon, so that they can “legally” claim their unit features a carbon filter. These flimsy filters will do almost nothing to remove the harmful chemical fumes from your home’s environment.
A Powerful Motor
You could have the best HEPA and carbon filters in your unit, but unless the air in your room actually migrates toward the unit, your air won’t be cleaned. In other words, if the fan on your unit is weak, the air isn’t going to be drawn and sucked into the unit to have the chemicals removed. You will have wasted time, money and electricity.
Look for a unit that offers a powerful enough fan motor that can suck in the air and recirculate it back out into the room. To properly clean the air, the fan must be able to suck in air, clean it and recirculate it back out 5 (or more) times every hour.
Finally, you must choose an air purifier that can handle the size of your room. This is one of the most common mistakes consumers make – a small unit to manage a large room. Some units have been designed to handle rooms that are 300 sq. feet, while others can handle 500 sq. feet and 800 sq. feet. You cannot use a unit that was designed to handle a 300 sq. foot bedroom and expect it to handle your 800 sq. foot living room. It won’t be able to do it.
Be sure to read the fine print and look for something that says Air Changes Per Hour or ACPH. This will give you an idea of the size of room the unit was built for.
Speak with a Specialist
We hope this guide has helped you understand what to look for in an air purifier that can specifically help chemical sensitivity, but we also understand you may still have some questions. Please feel free to give us a call. We can help you determine what unit will fit your room best or answer any other questions you may have.
Contact us and let’s get you and your family breathing easier.