In 2008 I developed multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS) and my life changed forever. I embarked on a journey of figuring out chemical free living.
I was living in Perth, Australia with a bustling social life and successful business. My reactions started and I had to adapt quickly. The main thing was I suddenly could not go out to restaurants, shops, movies, other people’s houses, to work or ANYWHERE I could be accidentally exposed to everyday chemicals.
MCS forced me to withdraw from the world where most bodies, buildings, vehicles and even open spaces are saturated with chemicals. Even small exposures to these common place chemicals can cause severe reactions. Things like inflammation on the brain, severe headaches, hampered motor skills and a long list of other debilitating symptoms.
Whilst each individual has different triggers, symptoms and reactions we all face similar challenges in our lives. Most people wear perfumes and use scented soaps and laundry products which are a huge trigger for MCS sufferers. Inevitably we have to let go of our active social lives and relationships and many are forced to live like hermits. This is one of the hardest symptoms of chemical free living.
Even our homes become intolerable forcing many sufferers to constantly move in search of somewhere safe. Some people resort to moving out into their gardens, forced to sleep in tents to escape the chemicals in their homes. Removing these chemicals should be easy but actually it is an almost impossible task in our modern world.
Over the last 50 years over 80 000 man made chemicals have been introduced into the environment; most of them with little or no study into their long term health effects on people or animals. This myriad of chemicals have been put into production processes by manufactures world wide and so we have entered the age of Off-gassing.
These airborne chemicals involved in off-gassing are called volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and can be found in common household products, construction materials, carpeting, cabinetry, furniture, paint, computers, cars etc… The most common chemicals off-gassed by household items are things like formaldehyde, benzene and ammonia. Some you can smell like that brand new car smell people love, others have no scent.
Offices, work spaces and computers off gas. It becomes increasingly difficult to keep a job . Trying to live chemical free directly impacts on most MCS sufferers ability to earn a living.
Yet for many MCS sufferers one of the hardest aspects of the condition to live with is the forced self-isolation and alienation from friends and family. Most sufferers receive little to no understanding and support from family members and friends. It is terribly sad that the condition is not well understood especially and most importantly by the medical community and Doctors.
In the 1980’s people with chemical intolerance began to come to the attention of the medical profession. Early studies did not have definitive results and this lack of understanding led to these patients being cast aside. On top of losing their former lives and their families these people are given little to no hope of finding treatment for their physical symptoms. Most sufferers find they experience more acute symptoms as time goes on.
Forty years later 1 in 5 people suffering with chronic health issues also have some degree of chemical intolerance. These intolerance’s are becoming so common place but are still not recognized by the medical community. Our planet is reaching a tipping point with toxicity levels. What a perfect time for us all to start thinking about chemical free living and how to take small steps in turning the tide.
Having to adjust to this way of life it became apparent that I needed to be away from the city. Back in Australia I Googled the crime rates of police stations in South Africa my home country. I found that Vanwyksdorp in the Klein Karoo came up as the safest area in South Africa with no major crimes to report. A few months later I found this run down farm on the outskirts of Vanwyksdorp and began restoring it.
With my life forever changed I sought to create sanctuary for myself and others suffering from chronic health conditions. We now have a growing community of people who all understand and work with me around my condition.
Our valley is far away from any kind of commercial farming activity, factories, big roads and cities. The air is clean here and we are surrounded by pristine veldt in every direction. We have an organic food garden and olive grove and our cottages have zero emissions or off gassing.
With so many natural soap and shampoo options out there I struggled to find ones I could trust as they are not always as natural as they claim. Any hidden chemicals set off severe reactions and this left me searching for something that was safe for me to use in my daily life.
Together with our community members we began making 100% chemical free soap and other home and body care products. For the first time in years I have everyday products that I can trust which do not make me sick. They are so effective and luxurious we decided to start sharing them with the world and Ricky’s Drifts range of home and body care products was born.
I still cant partake in any of those simple pleasures most people take for granted. Things like going to a restaurant and attending social activities.
I have not recovered, unfortunately I have mostly gotten worse. Yet living chemical free out in the Karoo with this community, making new things happen is what gives my life real satisfaction.
We can all shift our focus to considering the effects of chemical saturation and what it is doing to life on this planet.
MCS sufferers might be like canaries in the mine, an early warning system alerting humanity of crisis. Here to show us that chemical saturation is reaching hazardous levels and that we need to change soon otherwise everyone is going to suffer.
I now realise first-hand how important it is for our health and the health of the planet not to load our systems with more chemicals.
Ricky’s Drift, living chemical free in the Karoo.