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Am I Sick? Or Am I Having An Allergic Reaction?

Coughing, runny nose, itchy eyes or skin, headache, nausea; these are common symptoms we have all experienced at some time. Common enough that we may assume we’re fighting a cold or infection, or that we’ve brushed against poison ivy or been nipped by an insect, or simply that something “didn’t agree with us”. However, did you know these can also be symptoms of an allergic reaction to something in our environs?

KitchenAssociates III has focused on sourcing healthy materials for homes that are green or sustainable for a long time. Good information hasn’t always been available, so we’ve used our intuition and worked closely with fabricators to specify custom pieces that are inert and safe. That’s been a tall order at times, particularly when working with someone who is not exactly sure what they are reacting to.  Many chemically sensitive people have a general feeling of lethargy or malaise; their immune systems are compromised to such a degree that any little thing can lead to a full blown system shut down. It makes it all the more difficult for doctors to diagnose, let alone remedy.

Numerous things can trigger an allergic reaction.  Many are organic or natural in our world, such as pollen, mold or dust mites. Others may be chemical based, innocuous or brief, but enough exposure over time can cause toxins to build up in our systems, whether organic or chemical, creating long term or permanent damage.

Symptoms When Exposed to Formaldehyde

We don’t pretend to be scientists but while completing research for our book Sustainable Residential Interiors, we looked into some of the key offenders.  We found that one of the more commonly used compounds in the home construction industry is formaldehyde. Reactions range from mild to severe, depending on the exposure level, and you can feel irritation in your eyes, nose and throat initially, coughing and a raw throat can develop, and you may even have trouble breathing. Chronic exposure can lead to respiratory damage and severe skin damage such as welts and burns. There is also evidence that constant exposure may lead to forms of cancer and death.

Sources of formaldehyde in the home include building materials, smoking, household products and the use of un-vented, fuel-burning appliances, like gas stoves or kerosene space heaters. Formaldehyde, by itself or in combination with other chemicals, serves a number of purposes in manufactured products. For example, it is used to add permanent-press qualities to clothing and draperies, as a component of glues and adhesives, and as a preservative in some paints and coating products.

Why some people react more to formaldehyde, or any substance, is not clear but my concern is that the numbers are growing as we use such chemicals to produce further items. It can’t be good.

— Debbie Hindman

Next time — What is Formaldehyde and how do I avoid using it in my home?


ACAAI — The American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology: www.acaai.org