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Massachusetts Governor Recognizes Chemical Sensitivity

Jean Lemieux recounted the sort of story last week that I hear way, way too often. Twenty years ago she was a healthy, thriving athletics teacher for a local school. Life was good.

In the blink of a single chemical weed application to her school playing field, her existence was shattered. She has since suffered from acute chemical sensitivity, a condition that can make every single day a tantamount struggle for normalcy — especially since many in the mainstream medical community refuse to recognize that the condition even exists.

“It can be a struggle to find a doctor who takes this seriously,” said Lemieux, who helps run The Massachusetts Association for the Chemically Injured, which functions as a support group with a dynamic web site full of great resources:

Lemieux was in a celebratory mood last week with the news that Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick had declared May 9-15 as Multiple Chemical Sensitivity Awareness Week, which included the signing of this proclamation: “Multiple Chemical Sensitivity is a condition caused by exposure to toxic chemicals, and other irritants in the environment, which causes affected individuals to suffer such symptoms as chronic fatigue, muscle and joint pains, rashes, asthma, short-term memory loss, headaches, and other respiratory and neurological problems . . . ” said the proclamation in its opening stanza.

As a chemically sensitive person myself ever since my career as a licensed lawn pesticide applicator in the early 1990s, I learned first-hand how difficult it is to get a proper diagnosis of the illness. I know how miserable life can be in airports, cabs, lobbies of new buildings or the seats of new cars. I’ve also seen the open campaigns led by the chemical industry that suggest chemical sensitivity “is all in our heads.”

“Largely to protect their own financial interests and liability, a well-funded pharmaceutical and chemical industry campaign of disinformation was designed to cast manufactured doubt over the existence of MCS. This campaign is crucial to the continued sales and use of chemicals and implies that chemicals are safe and MCS is merely psychological, having nothing to do with chemical exposure,” wrote Lourdes Salvador in the February 2008 issue of American Chronicle.

Having a state governor make such a public statement should embolden sufferers of MCS, not just in Massachusetts, but nationwide. Perhaps it will be a first step to more funding for research and more compassion from the legal and medical communities.

In the meantime, there is great comfort to be found in support networks. Jean Lemieux’s group will be meeting this coming Wednesday, May 19, to screen the film, A Chemical Reaction, and continue to share information. Here’s her email if you’d like to find out more:

About The Author

Paul Tukey

An international leader of the green movement, Mr. Tukey is a journalist, author, filmmaker, TV host, activist and award-winning public speaker, who is widely recognized as North America's leading advocate for landscape sustainability and toxic pesticide reduction strategies.

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  • Bobbie Raymond

    I just found out that my neighbor across the street in Oak Park is the attorney for ChemLawn and thinks our position is a bunch of hooey. I offered to loan him a copy of the film to see. He states that they have refuted all claims of chemical sensitivity.

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