The Chemical Sensitivity Podcast

Episode 9: Creating a Fragrance-Free Policy with Mushim Ikeda

August 14, 2022 Episode 9
The Chemical Sensitivity Podcast
Episode 9: Creating a Fragrance-Free Policy with Mushim Ikeda
The Chemical Sensitivity Podcast
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Thank you for listening to The Chemical Sensitivity Podcast!

New episodes twice a month. Subscribe wherever you get your podcasts to never miss one.

This episode is about creating a fragrance-free policy.

My guest is Mushim Ikeda.

Mushim is a writer, poet, longtime Buddhism and mindfulness teacher, and Community Director at the East Bay Meditation Center (EBMC) in Oakland, California. She has played a key role in developing a fragrance-free policy at the center, and it is an excellent model and  resource for organizations of all kinds. 

In our conversation, Mushim speaks speak about:

  • How the fragrance-free policy was created.
  • Challenges the center encountered.
  • How other groups and organizations can adopt fragrance-free policies. 

The information, including but not limited to, text, graphics, images, and other material contained on this website are for informational purposes only. No material on this site is intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment and before undertaking a new health care regimen, and never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. No material or information provided by The Chemical Sensitivity Podcast, or its associated website is intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.

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 Aaron Goodman  00:05

Welcome to the Chemical Sensitivity Podcast. It’s a podcast that amplifies the voices of people with Multiple Chemical Sensitivity or MCS, also known as Environmental Illness, Chemical Intolerance and Toxic Induced Loss of Tolerance or TILT. The podcast also highlights emerging research about the illness. This episode is about creating scent free policies in order to safely accommodate people with MCS. I think it's an important topic and on the minds of many folks with MCS, because we often struggle to be in indoor environments and participate in group activities because of the presence of chemicals and scented products. 

My guest is Mushim Ikeda. Mushim is a writer and poet and holds a graduate degree in Fine Arts and poetry writing from the University of Iowa graduate Writers Workshop. She has been a devoted Buddhist practitioner since the early 1980s.

She was born and raised in rural Ohio. Her family was the only Japanese-American family in their community. One of her earliest memories, which we discuss, is vibrant sunsets caused by pollution from tire factories. Mushim and her adult son on both have MCS and live in Oakland, California, where Mushim is a socially engaged Buddhist teacher and mindfulness meditation teacher at the East Bay Meditation Center in downtown Oakland. As the community director at the center, Mushim has played a key role in creating and working with the community to implement a fragrance-free policy to safely accommodate a growing number of people with MCS. It's part of what the centre calls its radical inclusivity practices, designed to ensure that all people feel safe and welcome. 

In our conversation, we speak about how the fragrance-free policy was created, some of the challenges the centre encountered, and how it's something that all communities, not just spiritual centres, can strive to adopt. One of the major takeaways from our chat for me was that it's never enough to simply create a fragrance-free policy and post it online or put up a few posters. It requires ongoing education, dialogue, patience, and commitment in order to help make it work for everyone. The work that Mushim and her community have done is really remarkable and could be very helpful for other institutions that are looking for models or information about how to do this. I'll post links the Mushim’s website and te East Bay Meditation Center’s online information focused on ‘Why be Fragrance-Free,’ ‘How to Be Fragrance-Free,’ and lists of scent-free body and house cleaning products. 

I hope you enjoy the conversation find it of benefit. We release new episodes twice a month. The best way to never miss one is to subscribe for free wherever you get your podcasts. Leave a review on Apple Podcasts. It's a great way to help others learn about the podcast. Thanks so much for listening. 

Aaron Goodman  03:07 

I want to just welcome you to this podcast. And thank you very much for joining me today.

Mushim Ikeda  03:10

You're very welcome. I'm honoured to be here. Thank you, Aaron.

Aaron Goodman  03:14 

There's a lot of different areas that I'm interested in exploring with you. And I wanted first perhaps to invite you to share what are your experiences with multiple chemical sensitivities.

Mushim Ikeda  03:25

My sensitivity to scented products began to be more noticeable to me around maybe 13 or 14 years ago, and then begin to accelerate rapidly. Before that time, I'm Buddhist. And so I have meditated and been part of so many Buddhist environments where of course, incense was used as part of the rituals and the creation of a spiritual or sacred environment. And looking back, I am a meditation practitioner, and I've done many intensive retreats. 

Ironically, I think it's possible that breathing in all that incense all those years during my monastic and lay training has partially been the cause of my sensitivity. My extreme sensitivity now to incense in any form, including unburned, I see other factors as well, including, again, ironically, Aaron, in my early monastic training and Ann Arbour Michigan in the United States, I moved into a Zen Buddhist temple, and we had hardly any money. So we bought an old two-storey frame house in Ann Arbour Michigan and there was a very robust resident community of cockroaches. Being Buddhist, we tried to coexist peacefully. However, eventually they overran us and we had to exterminate, and I was the temple treasurer, so everyone else got to go off swimming for the day. ate and had a day away from the temple. And I stayed behind to pay the company that did the extermination. They were very irresponsible, possibly illegal, we paid them so little money, because we didn't have much of anything. And they came storming in without calling me without even shouting, I was on the second floor, and they begin immediately fumigating. So I was directly exposed to lethal gas, and then ran outside and there was no outside shower or any way that I could get it off my body. 

And after that, everyone in the temple actually did become ill that winter with a lot of respiratory illness. And when I think back to it, it's possibly that overdose of chemical that went into my system. However, I have no way of proving it. These are these are anecdotal incidents. I do know, of course, as do you, and many people do not are not aware of that we live in societies in North America, in environments where scented and unscented chemicals that may be harmful to the human body are very prevalent.

Aaron Goodman  06:11

Absolutely. And it's such a distressing experience that you share. And I think a lot of people, including myself, we sort of look back into our personal histories and try to identify what it could have been the triggers, right. In my case, it was also exposure to pesticides. So I really understand I wanted to ask you also about your early years, your childhood, because I read something that you wrote about your childhood, if I recall correctly, in that passage, you were referring to the colour of the sky.

Mushim Ikeda  06:46

Yes, thank you for reminding me of that era. And I grew up in I was born and grew up in the state of Ohio, in the Midwest area of the United States, kind of in the central part of the state. I grew up in a semi rural environment. And the nearest major city was the highly industrialised city of Akron, Ohio, then known as the tire capital of the world, all the major tire factories were there. And those were the days that would have been in the 60s 1960s, where factory emissions were, I'm sure completely unchecked. And when the winds were blowing from Akron toward the rural area in which I lived, it smelled exactly like burning tires, because that's what was happening. It was rubber that was being heated and made into into tires. And there was so much pollution that went into the air that it produced the most spectacular sunsets that my family had ever seen. 

 On a summer evening, we would go outside breathe in the smell of burning tires, and exclaim, how beautiful the sky was because it would turn all kinds of colours of pink and orange and rose and the clouds would look grey. And we were aware at the time that that was pollution that we were breathing in. I do want to take one step back and just add on a note, which may be pertinent that in Ohio when I was growing up, my parents both came they were second generation Japanese Americans. And they both came from agricultural backgrounds. 

My father, in fact, grew up on a farm in Indiana, and my mother and her siblings grew up in Hawaii, where they worked in the pineapple fields. And again, this was a 1960s. And I think it was DDT. The pesticides were being used so widely widely, because of course it yielded a greater farming crop for fruits and vegetables that killed the insects. And I remember my parents reading Rachel Carson's book Silent Spring about the dangers of DDT very early on right after it was published. I remember it sitting on the night table in their bedroom. And I would go in and I would look at at the cover, and I would think about that very evocative title Silent Spring, meaning that the insects were poisoned, therefore, the birds that ate the insects would die. And therefore, the springtime instead of being filled with joyful birdsong would be silent. I’m mentioning that this because my parents had an interest in this subject very, very early.

Aaron Goodman  09:36

Thank you for sharing that and I wanted to fast forward in your role at the East Bay Meditation Center. How long have you been involved? And was it your idea to initiate an accommodation policy to make sure it could be a safe place for folks with chemical sensitivity 

Mushim Ikeda  09:54

East Bay Meditation Center is located in downtown Oakland, one of the most diverse urban areas in the United States. It's been my home for 31 years. And I've been involved with East Bay Meditation Center starting as a board member when we opened our doors in January of 2007. I segwayed into being a part-time staff member in the year 2012. I believe, and I'm the community director working a lot with key communications volunteers and on many of our key committees, including our Radical Inclusivity Committee, which includes in our scope of work, looking at issues of access for people and accommodations for people with disabilities, chronic illnesses, chronic pains, and people also who are neuro divergent and have, as we say, differences and limitations of any sort, which should include almost everyone, in the broadest view of looking at it. 

Once again, we opened our doors in 2007. And at that point, I did self-identify as a person with sensitivity to fragrance products, therefore, multiple chemical sensitivities or MCS, and I was one of a small board of six members. When we started out, we did everything, including taking our own garbage home because we didn't have a garbage contract. So we were teachers at the centre, we were the administrators, we were creating infrastructure using Excel spreadsheets, we basically did everything. 

And our first rented facility was a one small one room storefront on Broadway in downtown Oakland.  We loved that little space. It had two wheelchair accessible restrooms, and a small office. So it worked well enough for us. And at that point, we did not have air filters, and there were no windows that would open. So we couldn't get any ventilation in it at all. And I would say that it was because I was by then very sensitive to fragrance, hair and body products, cleaning products, and being part of such a small community to begin with that the fact that that small board of directors needed and wanted, although there were tensions among us, however, as a body needed and wanting to accommodate me so that we could do in person meetings, that that was a key factor leading to our beginning the work to go towards a fragrance-free meditation centre and meeting place, community meeting place because as the word got out, then other people with asthma and with MCS, whatever it was called in those days began to feel well, this could be a safe space for me, and community momentum developed

Aaron Goodman  13:05

In terms of a Buddhist Centre, is it quite an anomaly in terms of accessibility for folks with chemical sensitivity?

Mushim Ikeda  13:13

That's a great question. So fast forwarding from 2007. When we opened our doors now, it's 2022. For many years, not only our fragrance, what became a fragrance-free policy, many other forms of access that we were trying to provide didn't make us fairly unique. And as a teacher, I used to say it's a meditation centre is unique and we don't want to be, we do not want to be an anomaly. We don't want to be unique. We want to set the bar for a spiritual environment that is as welcoming and healthy for as many people as possible. And I'm happy to say that in the intervening years, we have now become less unique and less of an anomaly, that section of the website on fragrance-free products, the reason why we wish to be fragrance-free, lots of information, lots of product listings for household cleaning products, hair, body products, including products that are especially good for people of colour has been used by so many groups, not just Buddhist, any kinds of groups. Therefore an answer to your question or to sum up, we would like to see this information about being fragrance-free and widespread even more widely. And we're not forcing it on anyone. However, it is spreading more widely in many different circles.

Aaron Goodman  14:42 

As far as I know, you've really been involved in this work to create a radical inclusivity policy, including for folks with chemical sensitivity and it's good to hear that it's catching on. Is there something unique about Buddhism that mandates you to care for others to create a respectful space, or is this just something that anyone who's creating a space for the public can learn from?

Mushim Ikeda  15:10

I would say both. And this is the public health issue in how we look at it. And from years ago, the information that I saw online in the United States is that this was from, I believe, HUD, the Housing and Urban Development Department of the United States government. And there, there was, I think, a YouTube video that showed an official saying that for government funded housing projects, that people with multiple chemical sensitivities are categorised as people with disabilities, and therefore need to, by law have access to housing, which is safe for people with this with this disability.

So in our point of view, it's good for everyone to consider it as a public health issue. In Buddhism, there's a lot of emphasis on compassion. And of course, that is not some unique Buddhist philosophy, or term or concept. Insofar as I know, and I do quite a quite a bit of interfaith work and dialogue. Compassion is essential to human beings. It is present in all spiritual and religious traditions, and in the atheist world as well, because it doesn't have to do with any particular as far as I know, religious commandments are I mean, that might be connected, however, universally to human beings, unless we're able to develop the quality of compassion, which as a word in English literally means suffering with others come with passion, suffering, that we empathise, we've got these apparently mirror neurons in our brains, that when we see like a dog with an injured leg, or a person who is in pain, a child who's crying, because they're so tired, or because they're hungry, there's something in our heart minds, as Buddhists would say, there's something in us that resonates with it, and which arouses the desire to say, How can I help? How can I be of service? How can we have a more compassionate society? 

 Now, Buddhism does have a set of beliefs and teachings as to why universal compassion isn't, in fact, realised globally, throughout human societies. And in our system of beliefs, everything goes back, we don't have a concept of sin, I would say, neither do we have a creator or god, it goes back to also that within human beings, there is compassion, there is love, there is empathy. And there is also what we call greed, hatred, and delusion, the qualities that lead to separation, discrimination, and wars

Aaron Goodman  18:17 

Has it been easy to invite everyone or to bring folks on board?

Mushim Ikeda  18:23

It has not been easy. What I can say is that I think we're now in our 16th year of operations. And East Bay Meditation Center was incorporated as a nonprofit in the United States for maybe nine years. Even before then, however, we didn't have a physical place to call our own until January of 2007. And I would say it's been a continual struggle. Since 2008, I would say is when we were open to the public for more events and more meditation groups and classes, it has been a continual struggle. It has been extremely divisive.  

There have been many tensions and conflicts that have arisen many painful disagreements, ruptures of relationships, it has been, I would say, the single most divisive issue in our spiritual community, which was intentionally created to try to form a meditation, mindfulness-based meditation, Buddhist based spiritual community in the Bay Area in the United States, which is an area which is extremely diverse in terms of race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity, immigration status, and many other diversity dimensions as well. That's part of our mission. 

We used to say we were founded in celebration of diversity. So it's not that we're coming together in spite of our differences. We're coming together because of our differences. It's an experiment. How can we get along? How can we be on the ground not with just with theory, but with the realities, which are often very difficult, as you know, because everyone has different or many people have different views, have different lived experiences, have different conditioning that have validly led them to their points of view. Today, most people feel I'm right, and have good reason to do so because their life experience has has been the foundation, we came together as a group to say we have different life experiences. How can we learn from one another, instead of fracturing along lines of difference? How can we come together, in order to experimentally form we might say, a microcosm of a society that is more liberated, that is more accessible, and that has ways to hold difficult conversations. 

Because in the United States, I'll just speak for the United States. I was born and raised in the United States. Our society is one of a lot of emphasis on the rights of the individual to choose what the individual feels will help an individual feel happier, feel more attractive, will feel more comfortable. And because diversity is a fact of life, then we end up in public situations, or places where people gather with many individuals who feel because we live in a consumer society as well, that it is their right, and something that they've worked really hard for they you know, most people work so hard to earn their money we serve. We were founded as a meditation centre to serve low-income people and people from historically excluded communities such as black indigenous people of colour communities, the LGBTQI / Two-Spirit communities, and people with disabilities, as well as low income people from low income communities. And many of the people who come to East Bay Meditation Center, very understandably, feel I have struggled so hard for my family and for myself. And so to give myself some joy in life, I like to be able to choose the laundry products, who make my clothes smell like spring, and to send to my car and my and my home and to burn scented candles, and to have body products that helped me feel more attractive, that helped me feel more confident. And also, this is very important, Aaron, as you undoubtedly know, many people feel that a very understandably that I want to choose the products that go on my hair and skin and fragrances that I might use, such as cologne, or perfume or botanical oils that relate to my ancestral identification. And that connects me to my roots, spiritual traditions. So if our ancestors come from some part of Africa, if our ancestors are indigenous people from any part of the world, for whom for instance, burning sage and other fragranced natural things as part of very deeply significant spiritual traditions that help connect us to the earth and to one another. This is not something that you can tell people, well, it's really better for the community health just don't do it. Because when you come to the centre, even if you put on clothing that has been laundered and fragrance-free products, if it's in your house in the closet and hasn't been exposed, or if you have one of those ironically, deodorant, hanging tabs in your car, your clothes, your hair, everything is going to pick up all of that chemical which is offgassing because that's how, what it's meant to do. It's not to send to everything and then when you arrive at the meditation centre, you might say I used fragrance-free shampoo. I put on fragrance-free clothing. How can you say that I'm endangering anyone's health? I'm a good person, I'm not harmful. 

You can see how many hurt feelings and how much information is needed. Not only information is needed, but what we found out is that I would say for a person who's uses a lot of scented products, which is most people in the United States, becoming 100% fragrance-free, is the process if the person even wants to do it, that takes a minimum of one year, possibly two years. Because here would be a typical example, we had one wonderful volunteer who gave probably hundreds of hours, to our Everybody, Every Mind Sangha, which is a meditation-based group that still meeting now online every Sunday evening for people with chronic illnesses, chronic pain, disabilities, differences and limitations of any sort. And this wonderful volunteer was happy to become fragrance-free. However, their spouse insisted on using fragrance laundry products, because the spouse felt this is what makes me happy, and makes our clothes feel clean and good to me. Therefore, this volunteer had to figure out a way to have a full set of fragrance-free clothe  in a closet, in a special bag or some kind of container that could not be permeated with the laundry products that were on all the other clothes in the closet and figure out a way to get on those clothes, take a shower, use all fragrance-free materials, and then come to the centre and hope that they didn't pick up some sense as even as they walk through their own house. 

This was a person who wanted to do it, and who themselves identified as a person with a disability. So their compassion was huge. And we don't live alone, we're with other people who make other choices. It's a process that is not up to individual choice, an individual may say I want to be fragrance-free, it doesn't work like that, to some extent, their families, people in their apartment buildings in the laundry rooms, the entire society in outward ripples needs to begin to consider what it means to be fragrance-free. And that means that the large corporations that are selling all of these scented products and making millions and billions of dollars will lose revenue. If the encouragement to using just very simple fragrance-free products becomes more widespread in our society. It's an economic and political issue as well as a health issue.

Aaron Goodman  27:37

It's really incredible to hear you speak in detail about the great lengths that you and your community have gone to to create a safe space for people with chemical sensitivity. Do you have any words of encouragement in light of the challenges that you've outlined, Mushim? 

Mushim Ikeda  27:59

I do? Thank you for asking. My first word of encouragement is to look toward medical professional institutions, and what they what they're recommending and how they're doing it, to try to provide an encourage more fragrance-free and sent free environments for again for public health. So for instance, years and years ago, in Oakland, Kaiser Permanente is one of the very largest health providing or organisations. I'm a member, that's my medical insurance. And I went to get physical therapy. And right in the waiting room, I was so happy to see there was a sign a very nice sign on a floor stand that said something like, please do not wear perfume or cologne or scented products. And that has spread throughout, again, the medical providing systems, I've noticed that dentist office as well. 

So in other words, medical and dental and health professionals who come very close to and will touch people's bodies. They're all scent-free now. So to look towards that and say if they're doing it, and their specialty is health, that's something that we can we can learn from and also look at their signage and look at how they're they're doing that they must obviously be requiring their employees to be fragrance- free. That's number one.  

Number two, the takeaway is, this is not something where we can make a sign, even set a policy and say, Oh, goody, now we're on to the next issue. It has to be a commitment to ongoing education and very importantly, ongoing community conversations, where if tensions and conflicts arise, people aren't just shut down, which means there'll be angry and they'll either leave and go elsewhere or They'll start to dig in, and then a mini war erupts. So it's an ongoing, very deep commitment to how do we, how are we able to open what some communities called difficult conversations? And how do we provide facilitated community forums, in any form, it could be online, it could be in person town halls, it could be little mini breakout sessions within various groups so that everyone can be heard and hear one another with facilitation that tries to guarantee as much as possible that the civic discourse is respectful, inclusive, and is a practice of deep listening. 

And deep listening, we agree to put aside our own views for the moment, and not to be rehearsing in our heads things that we want to say, instead of listening to actually what other people are saying. And this is, again, an ongoing process. It's not something that we're ever done with. However, it does mean that community whole communities can gain the skills that are needed to be able to hold conversations across lines of difference that are respectful, and in which a great deal of compassionate learning takes place. And we're able to move in the direction of communities that embody loving kindness and caring for all members of our communities. And people will change, they will say, Yes, I love my favourite cologne, I love my favourite perfume. And I also love my community. So I can see, I'm going to have to make some changes. And it's taking me a while, and I'm willing to make those changes. And you see the difference between that kind of attitude as opposed to well, the group I want to go to is has this rule and this law, and they don't listen to me, they don't care anything about me. So I guess it's just stay or go their way or the highway, it's a totally different kind of atmosphere with the community feels that their voices count, and that they have helped to dialogue with one another. So looking to the medical professions and dental professionals, number one, number two, take away the commitment to ongoing learning about how to have conversations across lines of difference and disagreement. And number three, be coming creative in all of the many ways that what we call education might take place, because different people learn things in different ways over time. And one thing that we've done in addition to experimenting with signage with the section on our website. 

So that's written communication. It's also how people can give what we call the fragrance-free talk in person events, training our volunteers, training our teachers, training our staff and how to give a talk that is friendly, that is compassionate, that is informative, that is brief. And we've also have a small by donation fragrance-free shop, Aaron, where we have little travel size bottles, and containers of fragrance-free personal products that people are invited to take on a donation basis, meaning if they don't have any money to give, they can take whatever they like, and they don't have to leave any money at all, there's a little basket, and then people who can afford to give would put in their coins in their, their bills, and also to receive input from the community as to the specific products that are offered. So that we try, for instance, to offer sample products for people with many different types of hair. And so a hair product that really works for them, and that makes them feel happy with their appearance as well as personal products such as a skin lotion. And then, of course there's laundry detergent as well.

Aaron Goodman  34:18 

You spoke about empathy and compassion. And a lot of the times we find ourselves either working or going to or having to be in spaces or organisations where those values may not be priorities, they may have other priorities right. And so, in my experience that may make it a little bit more difficult to invite people to come on board with scent free policies.

 Mushim Ikeda  34:44

I wear a number of hats and one of those is I am independent diversity, equity inclusion and access consultant, mostly for Buddhist groups for some educational institutions as well. And there is what we might call a business case to be made for fragrance-free environments. In my point of view, it does have to do with the public health. A healthier work environment is going to be one in which you have fewer workers who are getting sick, and who are able in just raw capitalistic terms, there'll be more productive than someone who's experiencing brain fog. Maybe they're they don't say I'm sick, and I have to go, go home. Maybe they're at their workstation, and they're not working efficiently or effectively, because they're, they're battling these chemicals that they're breathing in or that are on their skin. It doesn't have to be about empathy and compassion. 

It can be about raising your profit margin, we can make that case as well, in terms of empathy, and compassion. I'm a parent. And I've worked with a lot of children, I was a volunteer in the Oakland public schools for 11 years. And I love working with children and teenagers and, and youth, maybe even a little bit more than with adults. However, I love working with adults. Also, empathy and compassion are abilities or traits that the human being as a mammal, is born with my understanding is that we share the same brain structure, all mammals share the basic same brain structure. And as we know, dogs and horses, and many other mammals have been demonstrated to show empathy and compassion and caring. So it undoubtedly has an evolutionary function as well for the survival of the species. And the well being of one's tribe or clan, or whatever group that the animal is, is in. So when we look at empathy, and compassion, the seeds of those qualities are in us at birth, and they need to be developed, or they can be shut down, or almost erased, there may be a few individuals who are what we call sociopathic. However, they're greatly in the minority in society.

And for so for most of us, we're looking at how we can again, open conversations, how we can provide information, just look at the basic question of what is it that creates more number one curiosity about what you pointed to as invisible disabilities. If we see someone in a wheelchair, we can make all kinds of assumptions, we don't really know why they're in the wheelchair at all, they may even be able to walk, just be in such chronic pain, that they're using the wheelchair, or maybe they're physically unable to walk, however, we do know they're using that wheelchair. And we might be able to see that their lives probably aren't easy in terms of access, and therefore compassion and empathy can arise. For people within invisible disabilities, there aren't the exterior signs or cues. 

And therefore it needs to be a process of dialogue, it needs to be a process that could take quite a while ironically, that can be shut down. Because if as a person with MCS, this has happened to me many times, I don't know if it's happened to you, people who might genuinely care about whom I'm trying to say you are wearing scented products, you have scented products that are making me very, very, Ill become so anxious, because they love me so much, that they want to come really close to me and say, Mushim, I would never do anything to hurt you. I love you, I love you. And they're they're actually in my face or grabbing onto me making me sicker and sicker as every second goes pass. So this is something that we need to work with over time, we need to develop more understanding, it won't be fast, and it will be accomplished only through hundreds and 1000s and millions of conversations among individuals, small groups, larger groups, and at the societal level and in public health policy in order for people to feel that sense of more people to feel that sense of empathy and compassion, of I don't have those sensitivities, to fragrance or scented household cleaning products, industrial cleaning products, to people's personal products. And someone in my family could maybe I don't have children now. Maybe I'll have children in five years. And one of my children will have asthma, I want to work to create that society. Now. That environment now so that my future child can be healthy.

Aaron Goodman  39:59

So as you move forward as an organisation, informing folks about fragrance, we will continue to be a priority.

Mushim Ikeda  40:08

It will, I'm happy to say. And one thing I didn't mention is that our meditation centre uses all fragrance-free cleaning products, in our bathrooms in any of our spaces. And that this provides a model for people who do like fragrance environments to be in, in a public gathering place. And to go and use the bathrooms and to see how they feel about being in a fragrance-free environment and many of them get used to it and love it.

Aaron Goodman  40:41 

Well, Mushim, I want to thank you so much for everything you've shared and for all the work that you and your colleagues and community are doing. It's so important. We'll I'll invite listeners to check out all the work you're doing online. And I again, thank you so much for your leadership and for taking the time to speak with me today.

Mushim Ikeda  40:57

Thank you so very much for your work as well. And thank you to everyone who is listening and watching who is interested, who’s curious and learning more or who may already be part of an organisation that is working to provide fragrance-free environments.

Aaron Goodman  41:17 

That brings us to the end of this episode of The Chemical Sensitivity Podcast. Thank you very much to Mushim Ikeda for taking time to speak with me. 

The podcast is produced by me Aaron Goodman and Dani Penaloza. We release new episodes twice a month. Please subscribe for free wherever you get your podcasts. leave a review on Apple Podcasts. It's a great way to help others find the podcast and follow us on social media. Just search for The Chemical Sensitivity Podcast or PodcastingMCS. If there's someone you'd like to hear interviewed on the podcast or a  you'd like us to explore, just let me know. Email me at and thanks so much for listening.

Episode introduction
Mushim's personal experiences with MCS as an adult
Mushim's childhood in Ohio and exposure to industrial pollution
When the East Bay Meditation Center first created its fragrance-free policy
More organizations are adopting fragrance-free policies
Fragrance-free policies for public health reasons and as a reflection of compassion
Challenges creating a fragrance-free policy
How the East Bay Meditation Center responded to challenges of creating a fragrance-free policy
Capitalist motivation to create fragrance-free politicies and more on empathy and compassion
The East Bay Meditation Center's fragrance-free policy is a model for others because they use scent-free cleaning products
Conclusion of episode
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