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chemical issues
#1
Grumpy Sniky here...

Since the thread Mrs. Sniky started has gone into what we are starting to do on our new van, I thought I'd post a different one to give some background on first,how come we need to do this, and follow with some stuff we have learned from coping with the situation over the years.  Maybe the things we have learned will save some grief for somebody else.

A bit over 14 years ago my wife started having heart attack symptoms one evening, after a stretch of feeling poorly.  After three days in a specialty hospital for cardiac care, she was released.  They couldn't find anything wrong with her heart or her arteries, even after running a catheter through her.  The last suggestion they made was that it might be her gall bladder.  That was close, in a way, but not quite enough.

What we learned over the next few months was that she had formaldehyde poisoning.  Part of the problem was high background levels in our home, part of it was some materials she was working with, and the final trigger may have been a brand new memory foam mattress pad.

If you get too much formaldehyde in your system, it doesn't cause you to break out in hives or have sniffles.  It messes up your liver and kidneys...not fun, and not minor (and the gall bladder is attached to the liver, so that's the connection there).  Over the next couple of years we had to make changes in our lifestyle to detox her system, and find ways to reduce the chemical levels in our living conditions to make that easier.
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#2
Part Two from Grumpy Sniky:

Formaldehyde is a long name for a simple chemical. Here's Wikipedia for anyone who wants to look at it: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Formaldehyde. It is used in a lot of products especially in the homebuilding industry, manufactured housing, and the RV business. (If you remember the flap a few years ago about people getting sick from living in the trailers FEMA provided in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, we were not surprised at all about it, but we were still in recovery mode even then.) A lot of glues used in construction and in making products like particleboard use urea-formaldehyde compounds to stick things together. And particleboard is used a lot: subfloors in many mobile homes and RVs; the bodies of kitchen cabinets are mostly particleboard with a thin plastic coating on it; laminate countertops are made with a thin plastic sheet bonded to a particleboard base. Interior plywood does not have as much glue as particleboard, but it still has urea-formaldehyde glue. Exterior plywood uses a phenolic resin rather than U-F, so it is safer.

And there are many products that do not use formaldehyde itself, but they are made with compounds that will break down later and release formaldehyde into the indoor air (carpets are a problem for this, among others). Even food and drink are not safe. I never did care much for diet sodas, but have avoided them like the plague since learning that when the human body digests aspartame, it breaks down to wood alcohol and formaldehyde!

The other nasty thing about formaldehyde is that it has what is called a "spreading" effect: if you are sensitive to formaldehyde, it will cause you to also be sensitive to other chemicals. We found out the hard way that if I painted our bedroom with latex paint, it would be two weeks before my wife could sleep in the room. There's one particular chemical they add to latex paint that takes two weeks to outgas, even after the paint has dried. An old friend who was head of the lab at a local paint manufacturer confirmed that one for us.

The one bright spot we found out was that formaldehyde emissions do not go on at peak levels forever. It's half-life situation. Say, if your new kitchen cabinets are made out of particleboard, about half of the formaldehyde will outgas in the first 3-1/2 to 4 years. Half of what remains will go in the next 3-4 years, and so on. So eventually the chemical level declines and the health risk declines with it.

So we remodeled our kitchen--used wood cabinets, probably 20 years old or so, and no Formica countertops--ceramic tile over exterior plywood with solid wood trim. No carpets in our home anymore, not even sheet vinyl (the chemicals that soften vinyl are the problem--so the harder the vinyl, the safer; cushioned sheet vinyl bad, old-fashioned commercial vinyl tile often the best). Not even laminate flooring--the backing, which is fiberboard, has a lot of U-F resin in it.

We don't use standard mattresses anymore. It's nearly impossible to buy a new mattress without flame retardant in the foam and cover--even though smoking has declined a lot since they started requiring the retardant, the gov't has not rescinded that regulation. I have been able to find firm foam padding for replacing your own cushions on furniture that does not have retardant in it--and then let it sit for 6 months to a year before we use it.

Even fabrics have chemical treatments applied--and not just the permanent press stuff. The foam-backed fabric on the walls and ceilings in most conversion vans, even with age, is not good (largely because by then the foam is disintegrating). The foam boards used for insulation have to be checked out before we use them--a few are mostly okay, some are not okay at all.

So it has been a learning experience for us, and a lot of things to work out. Thankfully, her sensitivity did decline over time, but we still have to be careful. Yes, her parents' house is a bit of a problem and causes some discomfort--but ten years ago she probably would have ended up violently ill. And we want to make sure our new van, and the amount of time we will spend in it, does not bring back the problems.
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#3
Great thread!

I'm sensitive to formaldehyde, and have the blood tests to prove it! Also sensitive to a lot of other chemicals. My MCS began with a severe overdose of albuterol as a teenager. I wear a chemical cartridge respirator (gas mask) most places; before I had that I was confined to custom built "porcelain" environment (airstream trailer) that saved my life.

We decided to see if I could tolerate a 10 year old RV, hoping that the bulk of the outgassing would have happened by now. Initially, I was unable to tolerate it. We did heat treatments, ozone treatments, and wiped everything down with vinegar. Then we did 2 coats of AFM hardseal all over...everything. Walls, ceiling, cabinetry inside and out, bed platform, etc. The sealant is specifically designed to seal in outgassing VOCs, including formaldehyde.

After all this work, I was able to tolerate the RV most days, unless it got very hot without being aired out. Once we were set up at an RV park, though, I could run my air filters. Most air filters use activated carbon (charcoal) as their filter medium to remove odors, but that doesn't work well for formaldehyde. You want something like this, actually designed for formaldehyde removal. We keep two room models in the RV. I run one of them continuously on low, and turn on the other one and/or turn them to the higher setting if I notice problems. Before I switched the filter media to contain Purafil as well as the carbon, we would get a sickeningly-sweet odor coming from the air filters that would make me feel really sick, even through I had been using on and off for a decade without issue. Turns out carbon doesn't "hang on" to formaldehyde very well at all, and is soon releasing it back into the air! Since I've switched to the other media it's been great.

These precautions have made it doable for me personally, and my multiple chronic health conditions continue to improve while living in this environment. If I had money to burn I'd run a formaldehyde test to see how much is actually in our breathing space. But since my symptoms have been a pretty reliable indicator of what works for me and what doesn't, I feel safe in our current setup. Smile
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#4
I wondered why the air filter did nothing... there was a doctor in Cincinnati helped me detox. He does not believe in removing body parts. I probably should go through it again since I’m living in my parents house. The partical board is just old enough to have already out gassed pretty much. I’ve sprayed and washed walls covered in mold with a mold killer. The bedroom window in this room is covered in mold. I had my BIL cut the bushes off and not replace. Dad had a humidifier put on the furnace. He had it set for 50% humidity last winter. Mold was everywhere. I had to close off the furnace when I first moved in here. Between bullets flying through the door, mold and carpet it isn’t a good place. Not to mention drug raids and shoot outs on either side. I’m not real concerned about living in a van as far as safety goes. At least we can move it if it gets a bit rough near by.

Heidi did you remove partical board from your trailer? I think if I wanted a trailer I’d be thinking about a utility trailer and custom building it to suit my needs. A van is easier to drive in most places we have been so far - maybe a trailer as a base and a van for fidgeting around?
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#5
Heidi, I feel for you with a respirator. One time when I was my sickest and trying to recover I walked into a place that had a lot of fragrances. Grumpy just about had to carry me out. I got two feet inside and I couldn’t move at all. I felt my head go weak and my whole body nearly collapsed. He grabbed me and dragged me right out the door. I was limp for a while. He checks places to be sure I’ll be ok after that. I have recovered for the most part but I’m cautious. We did find a place that sells cot mattresses. I’ve tolerated my new one pretty good. The best thing is to stay out of bed if you feel like crap. Go breathe some fresh air. My chemical problems started when I was born. My parents lived upstairs from a morgue in Oregon in the 50s. Who knows what kind of chemicals were sprayed on crops. They said I didn’t thrive very well. The older I got the sicker. They moved when I was not quite a year old. I think maybe my Mom had problems because my sister was a sick baby, too. I wonder, too, if she really had thyroid problems or chemical toxic problems when they took out her thyroid. She said it didn’t help her one little bit... The place we moved to from Oregon was a beautiful real old YMCA in Wisconsin but they put in beautiful new carpets. I kind of wonder if the chemical problems had to do with my inability to do school... ADD dyslexic, etc. Grumpy did a lot of construction and handyman work with all kinds of treated materials. At one point he had to go through some detox. Heidi I’m going to check into that air thing.
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#6
(11-18-2017, 07:03 PM)Snikwahjm Wrote: Heidi did you remove partical board from your trailer? I think if I wanted a trailer I’d be thinking about a utility trailer and custom building it to suit my needs. A van is easier to drive in most places we have been so far - maybe a trailer as a base and a van for fidgeting around?

There wasn't any particle board to begin with, at least not any we've been able to find. It appears plywood is what has been used throughout, from what we can see. I just sealed it off with two coats of the safeseal (one coat wasn't enough, so we went over the whole thing again. LOTS of work!)

Towing our trailer with a van set up for vandwelling is our current dream! We don't currently have a tow vehicle so moving this thing around is a bit of a pain in the ass. Custom building would be awesome, but neither of us have the skill and we both have pretty significant physical challenges. Currently this is the first time in either of our lives we've had comfortable living in a physically and emotionally safe environment, so right now we're just soaking it up and taking a breather.

(11-18-2017, 07:21 PM)Snikwahjm Wrote: Heidi, I feel for you with a respirator. One time when I was my sickest and trying to recover I walked into a place that had a lot of fragrances. Grumpy just about had to carry me out. I got two feet inside and I couldn’t move at all. I felt my head go weak and my whole body nearly collapsed. He grabbed me and dragged me right out the door. I was limp for a while. He checks places to be sure I’ll be ok after that. I have recovered for the most part but I’m cautious. We did find a place that sells cot mattresses. I’ve tolerated my new one pretty good. The best thing is to stay out of bed if you feel like crap. Go breathe some fresh air. My chemical problems started when I was born. My parents lived upstairs from a morgue in Oregon in the 50s. Who knows what kind of chemicals were sprayed on crops. They said I didn’t thrive very well. The older I got the sicker. They moved when I was not quite a year old. I think maybe my Mom had problems because my sister was a sick baby, too. I wonder, too, if she really had thyroid problems or chemical toxic problems when they took out her thyroid. She said it didn’t help her one little bit...  The place we moved to from Oregon was a beautiful real old YMCA in Wisconsin but they put in beautiful new carpets.  I kind of wonder if the chemical problems had to do with my inability to do school... ADD dyslexic, etc. Grumpy did a lot of construction and handyman work with all kinds of treated materials. At one point he had to go through some detox. Heidi I’m going to check into that air thing.

I'm so sorry you and your family have had so many issues! My parents knew Cindy Duehring before she got ill with MCS from pesticide exposure. She died from it when I was 10 years old. My mom never imagined her own daughter would contract the same condition.

If you're going to look into Aireox air filters, I should also mention another brand, I.Q. Air, also makes air filters that can remove formaldehyde. Here's one of them. IQ Air removes much smaller particles from the air than Aireox, so IMO it is overall the better filter. However it is also more complex, more expensive, and probably uses more electricity to run. IQ air also alerts you when specific filters need to be changed (e.g. particulate, gas cartridges, post filter). I don't own one personally but we use them where I work and also one of my clients also uses it (while another uses Aireox). When checking out the IQ Air spec sheets, you're looking for "impregnated alumina" as the stuff that can filter out formaldehyde. It works by the same mechanism that Purafil does for the Aireox filters.
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#7
Keep up the great work and research on the nasties. Object of this game is to just be out there having fun. ER visits are on the other end of the spectrum from fun.
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#8
I wonder how many people suffer from chemical problems and are misdiagnosed and get treated for the wrong thing.
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#9
Please consider reworking and expanding this material - possibly in collaboration with Heidi - and posting in the Useful Information section.  That way it would still be easily found, years from now.
Regards

John


I don't like to make advance plans.  It causes the word PREMEDITATED get thrown around in the courtroom!
I'm NOT crazy!  My mother had me tested! Cool
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