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Peanuts and Perfume

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Peanuts? No, I’m not referring to the cartoon strip! Most everyone enjoys peanuts and peanut butter. However, peanuts can be deadly to some people! It has become necessary to post signs on school doors. Parents of children with peanut allergies use extreme caution to prevent their child from consuming even the smallest amount of peanuts. Anyone can develop an allergy to peanuts, but it is more common in people who have other atopic conditions, like eczema, asthma or hay fever, or who have immediate family with these conditions.

What do peanuts have to do with perfume? Recently I was diagnosed with multiple chemical sensitivities (MCS), a condition that, like peanut allergies, can be deadly or crippling. I’m not allergic to peanuts, but I am allergic to the chemicals in perfumes, aftershave, colognes, some hair sprays, some deodorants, etc., which affect my respiratory system causing labored breathing or worse.

In the book Get a Whiff of This: Perfumes (fragrances)—the Invisible Chemical Poisons by Connie Pitts, the foreword (by Rosalind C. Anderson, Ph.D.) tells the story of how the book’s author became a victim of MCS. Interestingly enough, the cover shows a picture of a perfume bottle with a skull and cross bones on it.

Anyone can develop an allergy to peanuts, but it is more common in people who have other atopic conditions, like eczema, asthma or hay fever, or who have immediate family with these conditions.

In the preface, the author states that a large number of perfumes contain harmful substances and few are safety tested. After World War II, synthetic chemicals were found to be much cheaper and easier to use for creating fragrances. The introduction states that while people are aware of the toxic effects of tobacco smoke, they are still in the dark when it comes to the serious health risks related to exposures from perfumes, colognes and other scented products and fragrances (p. xvii). MCS has become an epidemic in the United States. Many fragrance chemicals can act as sensitizers, causing immune system damage so that you become allergic to the chemical (p. xvii).

What is MCS?

According to the Web site, “Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS) is basically a subset of Environmental Illness (EI), which is caused by living in a toxic world. The chemicals synthesized after World War II (including, pesticides, synthetic fragrances, cleaning products, detergents, etc.) are mostly ‘petro-chemicals’ (petroleum based) and are quite toxic to humans.

One of the biggest offenders is perfume and other scented products. Did you know that many of the ingredients in your perfume are the exact same ingredients found in gasoline?! The scary thing is the perfume industry is not regulated at all—they can put any number of chemicals in fragrances without revealing what those chemicals are—or how they affect humans, and it’s making some of us very sick.

Coal miners took canaries into the mine with them to warn them when the air became toxic. It was time to get out when the canary stopped singing or died. We ‘human canaries’ are here to warn the rest of you that unless you start making changes and avoid as many toxic chemicals as possible, you too may become very sick. Non-toxic living is actually much ‘simpler’ and cheaper!”

Mr. Don Hooser published an article in the January 2002 issue of United News entitled “Colognes, Chemicals, Compassion and the Church,” which explains how Church members and leaders can help. Check it out on the UCG Web site at You can read John LaBissoniere’s personal story at

Let’s take a minute to think about the dangers of secondhand smoke, which is defined as a combination of smoke given off by a burning cigarette, pipe or cigar, plus any smoke the person exhales.

The following is a quote from the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America: “Tobacco is treated with chemicals so that it will keep burning even when it is not being smoked. Secondhand smoke contains up to 4,000 chemicals, including trace amounts of poisons like formaldehyde, arsenic, DDT and cyanide. More than 40 of the substances in secondhand smoke are known to cause cancer. Many more cause irritation of the lungs and airways.”

My affliction began with secondhand cigarette smoke in the workplace, interestingly enough. I now am allergic to the chemicals in fragrances.

My affliction began with secondhand cigarette smoke in the workplace. I now am allergic to the chemicals in fragrances.

Please consider what you personally can do to help people with this condition. If you find out that people in your church or workplace have such allergies, please don’t go to services soaked in perfume or cologne. Even if you don’t approach the afflicted person yourself, you can still affect him or her. Your perfume can rub off on others you might hug and they might have contact with the sensitive person. You can decimate their ability to return to socialize with others. Please be aware, understanding and considerate of others’ needs.

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