Chemical Hypersensitivity

By Christel Broederlow

Please note: If you recognize any of these symptoms, please consult your Physician and/or Health Professional if you have any concerns. These are my personal observations and are not factual evidence linking chemical hypersensitivity to being empathic.  What may occur in one empath can be completely unseen in another.  Circumstances vary from person to person, place to place. There has been much research done with chemical sensitivities as it applies to human beings and animals in general – this research is continual.

The understanding I have personally gained in researching Chemical Hypersensitivities has helped me tremendously.  I have learned what causes my body to react to certain chemical substances etc and to appreciate how I will respond prior to, during and after each interaction, as well as what methods I can use immediately in making it more bearable/tolerable and/or avoidable all together.

The hypersensitivities I experience are not one-time occurrences.  They are a regular day-to-day part of my life though extreme and unusual to most.  In a nutshell, many empaths don’t experience to the degree that I do and vice versa.  Common sense and your personal observations of yourself are of the utmost importance, as well as regular contact with your health professional.


I discovered in one of my first jobs, a sensitivity to chemicals.  My position at the time involved the wash down of screens in a reputable screen-printing company.  The toxicity of the paint fumes left me dazed every time, without fail!  Yet it never appeared to leave my co-workers as frazzled as I.  How come they didn’t have the same ill effects as I did?

After 8 months, of spending on average 20mins in the wash down room, (every 2nd day), I quickly became ill.  The nausea that pursued stayed with me for days on end and I began to display other typical allergy-type symptoms.

Watery eyes, runny nose, full body aches, headaches and fatigue set-in, not to forget feeling ‘spaced out’ constantly. Regular visits to the doctor at the time didn’t result in much, other than bed-rest and the connection wasn’t sort till months up the track.  As much as I loved this job, the days off to recover from the chemical sensitivities were becoming too frequented and in all fairness to the company I resigned.

By the time I would conceive my first son, chemical sensitivities was something I would be weary of.  At this point I had come to realize that I was not just sensitive to chemicals, but acutely so – hence the term ‘hyper’-sensitive gave birth.  It is not unusual for pregnant woman to become more sensitive to certain food smells, aerosols, paint etc, however for myself, this would be best described as the now familiar ‘hyper-sensitive!’  There was very little that involved chemicals that I was not sensitive too.

I could not escape my extreme sensitivities.  Everything smelt 10 times stronger, the odors would have me run for cover and/or have me curled up in bed with the ‘wiped-out’ feeling lasting for days on end.  How could everyone else NOT smell these intense and overpowering odors?!  Soon as my baby was born the hyper-sensitivities I’d come to know so well, would ease up and I would find a much more pleasant flow on again.

That was until the birth of my youngest Twin sons, the chemical hypersensitivities I’d once again acquainted myself with decided to stay.  I spent the greater part of this particular pregnancy in hospital hooked up to an IV because I couldn’t keep any food or water down.  The mere odor of food cooking, or body odors would send my body reeling.  Everything once again had a distinctly powerful scent, which brought me to pondering the life of a dog and their extremely sensitive ability to track & identify through the vast and varying scents!

Hairsprays, body deodorants, perfumes, everyday products that we adorn our bodies with, were creating havoc with my senses.  Car fumes, petrol fumes, aerosols, general household products, the list was growing and my dazed allergic like reactions would leave me confined to the bed.

All these products filled with chemicals!

Some items are challenging to avoid and/or do without for the necessity is obvious – petrol for example to run the car.  Where I cannot eliminate entirely the use of something in particular, I however can and do take extra precautions with how I will use it.  When painting or polishing or using chemical substances to clean the shower/bathroom etc, I will use a good facemask, ensure the room is well ventilated with open windows and doors and if necessary use a fan to help circulate airflow.  Do not use powerful chemicals in enclosed areas.  Take regular breaks outdoors for a breath of fresh air to help clear out any residue picked up and passed through the lungs.  Thoroughly wash hands and face regularly when taking breaks and a full wash down when you are finished.

If it is not possible to allow someone else to do these kinds of jobs, taking precautions minimize effects.  There are also many “Environmentally Friendly” products available in your local supermarkets that are not just good for the environment but also for your home and overall well-being.  Certain paint companies have products available that have no odor, no magnetism and are non-toxic.  These are highly recommended if you are preparing a nursery for a new baby arriving soon.

If you are looking at painting the home it will be well worth your while to seek such products out.  However if you can’t find toxic-free paint products, ensure you adequately ventilate the newly painted room(s), allowing the toxic fumes to vaporize prior to moving into it.

The same applies when restoring furniture.  Choose your preparation and paints carefully.  If in doubt, speak to the professional in your local paint store.  Tell them that you are looking for a product that is non-toxic and fast drying because of the ill effects you experience otherwise.  Certain paint techniques/products can take several weeks to dry in-between coats and even longer on the final coat!  The vapors can linger for quite some time.  Be ‘picky’ if you are considering restoring your bedroom furniture – your body will love you for it.

Certain body & hair products I stay away from completely and like household products I will seek an item out for what they don’t have rather than what they do!  One learns quickly what is user friendly and what is not.

Today’s weary buyer dictates the need for the market to supply natural products.  Health products are now a natural expectation in the general supermarket aisle & not solely for the Health Store.  The suppliers of such products have become savvy in targeting the ‘health conscious’ shopper with clever advertising – ‘green is clean’ – ‘natural’ – ‘100% pure’ – ‘environmentally friendly’ – ‘odorless’ – ‘hypo allergenic’ etc.  However don’t just take their word for it, check the labels thoroughly.  Some products claim to be ‘user-friendly’ yet are far from it.  Consumers need to be savvier!

My reaction to chemical hypersensitivities did become more extreme, and towards the end of 2001 I had to seek out Professional (Specialized Medical) advice with the help of my family Doctor, as the effects were many.  Tests helped to pinpoint and confirm some areas of concern with medical treatment and continued follow-ups; some of my symptoms are now manageable and better understood.  Again, if in doubt, seek medical advice.

Some Specialists are not accepting to the term ‘hyper-sensitive’ and will quickly wash it away as ‘hogwash!’  Yet in the same breath refer to ailments, ills and disease(s) as relative and directly linked to sensitive reactions to certain products, environmental etc.  Do not be swayed by the terminology used or referred too.  It is how you respond to what effects you and how best to overcome these and/or work with these that matters most.

Choose to eliminate and not be eliminated!  In doing so you will gain a sense of self-control & understanding of your environment and how you best flow with it.

Copyright © 2002 Christel Broederlow

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