Home' Inclean : INCLEAN Spt-Oct 2016 Contents 18 INCLEAN September/October 2016
he was just six
weeks old. At
first, it seemed food intolerances might be
the cause, with foods such as bananas and
meat causing painful bowel inflammation
and intestinal bleeding. But then his list of
allergy triggers began to grow: any artificial
fragrances from deodorisers or air fresheners
would cause him to scream and claw at his
cheeks until they bled. When his mother
kissed him, her lipstick would trigger a nasty
rash. Even coloured Play-Doh was off limits.
Cleaning products were also highly
triggering. “I used bleach to clean the floors
one day, and I deliberately waited until Peter
was asleep in his room with the door shut,”
said his mother. “But as I mopped near
his room he woke up with uncontrollable
coughing. I never used bleach again.”
Peter was suffering from Multiple Chemical
Sensitivity (MCS), a group of symptoms
experienced by a small but growing number
of individuals. Sufferers can experience a
range of unpleasant symptoms, such as
allergic reactions and intestinal or respiratory
irritation, when exposed to particular
chemicals in their environment.
Very little is known about the condition,
and it was a long process of eliminating all
possible triggers from Peter’s environment in
an effort to manage his symptoms. “Foods,
cleaning products, soaps, body products,
perfumes – we eliminated as many things as
possible that upset him,” said his mother. It
wasn’t until Peter was seven years old that
his symptoms finally began to subside.
The number of individuals suffering
from MCS is on the rise. Peter’s mother
fought to get a formal diagnosis for her
son’s symptoms, and finally found support
at the Royal Prince Alfred Allergy Unit.
“They’re seeing more and more children like
Peter, but they don’t know exactly why it’s
becoming more common,” she said.
It’s difficult to pinpoint exactly which
substances trigger reactions in chemically-
sensitive individuals. Cleaning products are
a common culprit, as they often contain
a variety of substances that bring about
adverse reactions in susceptible individuals
– and since they’re so ubiquitous, venturing
outside the house can be painful.
It’s one factor that’s driving the increase
in cleaning solutions that are free from
many of the chemicals normally found in
conventional products. Tersano Australia’s
Lotus Pro stabilised aqueous ozone solution,
or ekoWorx’s universal surface cleaner
utilising less than 1 per cent potassium
hydroxide in aqueous solution, are just
two examples of products relying on basic
chemistry principles and plain old tap water
to create effective cleaning solutions. Both
are also certified with Good Environmental
Choice Australia (GECA).
These solutions are game changing for
sufferers of MCS and for the people who care
for them, too. Hughes Primary School in ACT
was faced with the challenge of finding ways
to create a safe and inclusive environment for
students with chemical sensitivities. Where
previous schools had been unwilling to alter
their whole-school practices to cater for these
students, Hughes Primary was ready to try
after hearing parents’ concerns.
The school previously tried cleaning with
a solution of vinegar and water, but this
proved to be “a bit of a hassle”, according
to principal Kate Smith. They it switched to
Tersano Australia’s system, which she says
has made a world of difference in the two
Multiple Chemical Sensitivity calls for
sustainable cleaning solutions
Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS) is a chronic medical condition suffered by a
growing number of people characterised by symptoms attributed to chemical exposure.
Communications specialist for Good Environmental Choice Australia (GECA), Emma Berthold,
talks about the serious side of the condition and why sustainable, chemical-free cleaning is
becoming critical for our wellbeing.
specialist classrooms that cater for students
with chemical sensitivities.
“It’s really made a measurable difference
– these students have a lovely energy and
ability to focus in classes now that they’re
not overly stimulated. Their productivity
and learning efficiency has really
improved,” Kate said.
Of course, MCS sufferers have very specific
needs that simply aren’t an issue for the
majority of the population. The rest of us
would still benefit from choosing cleaning
products with fewer harmful substances,
and with proven links between increased
productivity and good indoor air quality
(of which cleaning products play a part), it
makes sense to use healthier alternatives that
are free from potentially harmful substances.
These products are typically better for the
environment as well. GECA has recently
seen an increase in the number of cleaning
product manufacturers seeking third-party
certification, suggesting that sustainable
cleaning solutions are in high demand,
particularly for buildings seeking a high
Green Star rating.
Considering the growing number of
individuals with some degree of chemical
sensitivity, that high demand is probably
here to stay.
*Name has been changed
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