The Chemical Sensitivity Podcast

Episode 22: Bodily Natures: Exploring Multiple Chemical Sensitivity. A Conversation with Stacy Alaimo, Ph.D.

March 20, 2023 Episode 22
The Chemical Sensitivity Podcast
Episode 22: Bodily Natures: Exploring Multiple Chemical Sensitivity. A Conversation with Stacy Alaimo, Ph.D.
The Chemical Sensitivity Podcast
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Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Episode 22 of The Chemical Sensitivity Podcast is available now!
The title is “Bodily Natures: Exploring Multiple Chemical Sensitivity.”
You’ll hear my conversation with Professor Stacy Alaimo, who teaches at the University of Oregon in the US. She specializes in environmental humanities, American literature, and how writers explore environmental threats to oceans, plants, and animals. Professor Alaimo also has Multiple Chemical Sensitivity and describes it as relatively mild.

We start our conversation talking about her experiences with MCS. Then we explore her influential 2010 book, “Bodily Natures: Science, Environment, and the Material,” in which she writes in detail about MCS.

You’ll hear Professor Alaimo discuss:

• How many products that people buy make them ill in unexpected ways.
• Why the majority of people with MCS are women.
• How most people who are able to get diagnosed with MCS are white and have completed higher education.
• And more.

More information about Professor Alaimo’s research can be found here:

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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Special thanks to the Marilyn Brachman Hoffman Foundation for its generous support of the podcast.

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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 toxicant induced loss of tolerance or TILT. The podcast also highlights emerging research about the illness. I'm Aaron Goodman, host and founder of the podcast. This is episode 22 and the title is "Bodily Natures: Exploring Multiple Chemical Sensitivity." You'll hear my conversation with Professor Stacy Alaimo. Professor Alaimo teaches at the University of Oregon in the US. She specializes in Environmental Humanities, American literature, and how writers explore environmental threats to oceans, plants and animals. Professor Alaimo is also a prolific writer, has lived with Multiple Chemical Sensitivity for a long time and describes it as relatively mild. We start our conversation talking about her experiences with MCS. Then we explore her influential 2010 book, Bodily Natures: Science Environment and the material in which she writes in detail about MCS. You'll hear Professor Alaimo discuss how many products that people buy make them ill in unexpected ways why the majority of people with MCS are women and how most people who are able to get a diagnosis of MCS are white and have completed some form of higher education, and more. I hope you enjoy the conversation and find it of benefit. We release new episodes twice a month, subscribe wherever you get your podcasts. leave a review on Apple podcasts. It's a great way to help others learn about the podcast. Find us on social media, just search for the Chemical Sensitivity Podcast or podcasting MCS. Leave your comments about anything you hear on the podcast and please share the podcast with others. The podcast is also available on YouTube and you can read closed captions in any language you like. You can support the podcast and help us continue creating greater awareness about MCS. Please find the link in the episode descriptions at If there's someone you'd like to hear interviewed on the podcast or a topic you'd like us to explore, just let us know email and thanks for listening.


Aaron Goodman  02:38

Professor Alamio, thank you so much for joining me on the podcast. And I'd like to invite you to just introduce yourself to listeners are there is there anything you'd like people to know about you? 


Stacy Alaimo  02:49

Well, in in my book, Bodily Natures, which does have the chapter about Multiple Chemical Sensitivity and environmental illness, I have another chapter called material memoirs, which basically means how some of us who have something like MCS will look back on our life and chart some of the chemical and toxic exposures that we've had. So I will give one of those very unconventional biographies here and say that I grew up in, in Michigan on the shores of the lake, and there's there and all sorts of other chemical companies that are there. And the lake that we live nearby was extremely polluted. And also my father did. He worked on motorcycles and cars and things in the house and was always spraying chemicals all over the house. So and I do know that people in that area, there are many there many cancer clusters in that area of Michigan that's very toxic area, not as toxic as Detroit. And of course, that gets to some of the racial politics of of where various dangerous chemicals are placed and all of that the racial and class politics. But yeah, so you know, I went to I went to graduate school and I worked at University of Texas at Arlington for a long time as a professor and now I am in Eugene, Oregon, and I'm really happy to be in Oregon, except for maybe, you know, the the wildfires in the summer are really something and I can talk about that later. In terms of MCS, the wildfires, I think really fit in with this topic. So yeah, so I'm, I love scuba diving. I love hiking, I love I'm really obsessed with planting native plants in my garden right now and especially for birds and butterflies and things.


Aaron Goodman  04:39

Well that's wonderful and disturbing also to hear. So would you say that you have been personally impacted by multiple chemical sensitivity? 


Stacy Alaimo  04:50

Yes, I'd say I have a mild, a mild case. I mean having you know wet and researched about what other people suffer I don't suffer that much from it but I definitely if I'm exposed to any kind of chemicals or oh fabric softeners dryer sheets, all of that kind of thing, even if you're out walking in the neighborhood and someone has their dryer on, you know, immediately like headache, nausea, weakness, joint pain, dizziness, so yes, so I definitely in air fresheners and hotels, that kind of thing is really hard on me. So yeah, so I do experience it. And I just try to keep my home and my diet as, as clean as I can, you know.


Aaron Goodman  05:31

I'd like to invite invite you to share some thoughts on your 2010 book, which is titled "Bodily Natures: Science Environment and the Material Self." And there is a compelling chapter in your book about Chemical Sensitivity. And you noted another chapter and the whole book is, is really incredible. And I wanted to ask if you could possibly just let listeners know a little bit about the book as a whole? And what motivated you to write it. And it's really very frequently cited by people who write about chemical sensitivity today, you know, scholars and thinkers across many, many disciplines. And it's clear to me in a sense why that is, but as the writer, it'd be interesting to hear why you think it resonates to this day? And what do you think we'll get into some of the details of the book, but again, what led you to write it and what to write about? And why does it resonate? 


Stacy Alaimo  06:32

So one of the things that led me to write it is that in my first book, I was using ways of thinking about nature from the humanities, which is basically what was called social construction, like the idea that what the humanities does, is just look at ideas of things. So the idea, the concept of wilderness, or the concept of environmentalism, or everything is a concept, right? And so you're thinking about it. But what I was what I saw, as the limit of that is that that then human bodies, and nature and animals and all of these things, no world are not given any kind of agency, like the ability to act to do things. And I thought, we really need more of a paradigm, a way of thinking in which there are physical forces happening, and then they interact with our ideas. So that is, that is a mode of what's called New materialism now that I helped develop. And so for me, my concept of transcorporeality, which is basically just means across the body, is a way of thinking about our bodies in perpetual exchange with the environments around us with the air, the water, the chemicals, this is really familiar to a lot of people with MCS, it's like, that's what you live, like, that's just exactly how you are living. 


Stacy Alaimo  07:57

But that concept that that awareness isn't something most people share, the dominant way that we're taught to think about the world is that each of us is inside our own separate body. And then we have control over things and say, you you buy something to eat, you buy something to drink, you buy a couch that you sit on. And those things are just supposed to do exactly what they're supposed to do, like the couch is just supposed to be a couch, it is not supposed to somehow make you sick. And so I'm really interested in the way that the way that MCS really shows us that the human is not separate from the environment that we are absolutely interwoven with the environment and that human health and then broader ecological health can't ever be separated, ultimately, because the chemicals that are hurting people that that people with MCS are very aware of the ways in which chemicals have these harms, or people who have cancer, perhaps are also aware of this kind of after the fact those chemicals are hurting all sorts of things. I mean, all sorts of of ecologies and animals and even now we have to think about how extreme the insect apocalypse is. I mean, how did all these insects just disappear from the planet that has to be to a large part about the fact that we've just covered everything with with pesticides, so that's and we're not separate from that whatever we spray on, on the on the insects, we're going to be drinking it or breathing it or eating it. 


Aaron Goodman  09:33

And so on on the notion of transcorporeality and MCS, you write MCS may well be the quintessential example of what I'm calling transcorporeality, as those who are chemically reactive experience themselves as coextensive of the material world, an ever emergent world of risky knowledges mangled practices and disturbing potentially deviant material agencies, unquote. So I think you've broken that down for for listeners really. 


Stacy Alaimo  10:11

Oh, good. Thank you. 


Aaron Goodman  10:13

Yeah. But throughout our conversation, I may just draw on a few quotes from your book. And so you also write about this, this concept of deviance. Right that well, let me ask you is and then I'll just read a brief quote, if I may, you know, you write that "chemically reactive, people continually negotiate the interacting material agencies of every place every stream of air, every food, personal care product they encounter, experiencing their bodies as scientific instruments. Ironically, even as MCS is denounced as, quote, 'immaterial', unquote, by scientists who claim it's a psychological not a medical problem. It has incited cultural theorists immersed in social constructionist paradigms to insist upon its unruly materiality." So one more sentence, "this unruly materiality can be understood as a kind of deviance in the sense that bodies and human substances may depart from norms, standards and models of predictions." So are you saying that our bodies as people with MCS are out of the norm that were seen as deviant or not, were abnormal, according to the standard measurement. 


Stacy Alaimo  10:20

The deviance is more than that, and kind of put together an environmental way of knowing here too, that humans in Western culture believe that we can just dominate and master nature and make it do what we want. And then of course, with capitalism, and the production of products, products are sold to you as doing just what they're supposed to do. They're not supposed to have like extra effects where they do other things that they're not intended to do, like, say, give you cancer or give you a headache, or anything else. The deviance is that substances in the world, especially Xeno, biotic chemicals, so chemicals that are created by humans, and that are strange to nature, like they're not recognized in nature, our bodies don't know what to do with these chemicals, those chemicals are going to have deviant agencies and that they're going to do things that was not intended. 


Stacy Alaimo  12:27

And that would be so many things like, you know, I was doing some research on the cabinets in my kitchen. And it turns out, they're made of something that off gases and is really toxic. I also in the house that I bought, unfortunately has a gas water heater, and anything gas in your house releases dangerous fumes. And you know, that's only if finally people there was actually an NPR story on that about how people should get rid of their gas stoves. Finally, like I've known this for years, because of the MCS, this is very this is very harmful. So the out, and I also wouldn't say that people who are aware through various degrees of having MCS that there are these effects are deviant, I would say that they are much more, you know, they're sort of educated, they have a sense of what is happening to them because they're forced to experience it. 


Stacy Alaimo  13:22

But the thing is, there's all kinds of other people who probably are having exactly the same reactions, but are covering it up say with, you know, the enormous amount of say, pain relievers that people take in this kind of tree. Like why are so many people taking so many pain relievers, not just people who are older or who have something actually wrong with them. But young people like people are taking pain relievers all the time. So is that covering up headaches from you know, perfume that they're wearing or from cleaning chemicals? So I don't think you can draw a sharp line between what a lot of people are experiencing, but they just don't have a word for it or a way of explaining it. So in that way, I wouldn't put MCS people really in a totally different group except for the fact that they're, they're more aware. And then people who experience it more extremely obviously, they're forced to be aware of it. Whereas other people may be if they're just having constant headaches, they are more readily like they'll just say, well, I'll just take more and more ibuprofen or something. Yeah, so the deviance comes with the the substances and chemicals doing things. Yeah, we don't want them to be doing right. 


Aaron Goodman  14:36

Right. So an unintended consequence of those chemicals. That's the deviant I understand. You also write that women and others have written about this too, that you write you cite Fiona Coil, who writes that 80% of people with MCS are women and why is this? You write that could be because women may have or often have higher percentages of body fat And we know fat retains chemicals. And then their interactions between estrogen and chemicals. And perhaps women are often, you know, more in touch with cleaning products and you know, to perfume and cosmetics which contribute to the higher percentage of females who are chemically reactive?


Stacy Alaimo  15:19

Yeah, and I'm not sure you know, I am not sure the recent research, whether any, anyone has recently looked at any kind of gender issues here, but of course, the the gender issues are intersectional. So it also has to do with where you live, and, you know, how toxic is your neighborhood? How toxic is your job? How, you know, all of those questions that that map out in, in some ways that are that makes sense for, you know, our, like environmental justice issues with race and class but and other issues. I say there are some outliers, like epidemiologists or other people who might have very high level jobs, but because of what they're dealing with in terms of the substances, they're more exposed.


Aaron Goodman  16:08

Understood. And you also it's very interesting, you write that, on one hand, people who are marginalized and face economic challenges and people of color, African Americans, who often live near sites of contamination or exposed to more toxins are more likely to develop MCS. But you also know that we're all not immune, we're all vulnerable. And you write that no one in industrialized culture is safe from MCS, and even affluence itself may multiply risks because of exposure to new furniture, new carpeting, clothing, paint, dry cleaning fumes, fabric softener, cosmetic products. So the more consumption and exposure, the more the risk. Do you think people think about that in our society today?


Stacy Alaimo  16:58

No. No, I mean, imagine something like a new car, right? People are very excited to get a new car. And people even love the new car smell, which is kind of disturbing to think. And that that goes along with some of the theories about Multiple Chemical Sensitivity being like a toxic addiction to various like that it would originate in that. I mean, think about all the people who've said they love the smell of gasoline, or they love the smell like that can't be good, right. But yeah, I don't I don't think there's any sense that that affluence would, would have this sort of negative effect. But it is true. If you buy furniture that's used. If you have an older car, you probably are exposed to less than if you fill your house with all sorts of new things that are off gassing it is is a paradoxical thing.


Aaron Goodman  17:51

Yeah. It's fascinating to to read to you and hear you. And you also talk about and we all know the people with MCS, we mostly have all experience denialism and dismissal by by doctors and clinicians, and how harmful that that can be. And you're right that most people who are able to get a diagnosis of MCS from a physician are white, and the majority had some higher education.


Stacy Alaimo  18:15

Yeah, Joseph Dumit's essay, which I just love is, the title of it speaks volumes, "Illnesses That You Have to Fight to Get," you need to have access to information, you need to have access to the ability to meet, you know, have a wide range of doctors that you would see, etc. I've never pursued any kind of diagnosis myself. So I mean, it just seems pretty obvious to me that I get you know, I have effects from various chemicals. And I think, you know, I think probably most people do, like I said earlier, it's just a matter of degree a continuum.


Aaron Goodman  18:54

And a lot of people need sometimes, they need that diagnosis in order to get medical accommodation at work or proper housing. And then as you say, it can be a real fight and a lot of people aren't able to get it and yes, you know, people who are people of color or Black African Americans really struggle more than white people with higher education. Yes, exactly. So disturbing.


Stacy Alaimo  19:15

Accessibility issue is huge too. Because you know, it's it's hard. It's hard because if you say if you're going to have meetings in your office and you tell people could you please not wear cologne or perfume in the meeting? Can we please not have those plug in air fresheners everywhere? Can we like that is a difficult thing because people really don't like it if you ask them not to wear cologne or or fabric softener or on their clothes or you know, all of those things. And it that that is a really different eras really difficult issue for accessibility in the workplace, I think is it's not something that's recognized. It's not like oh, this is a normal accommodation that we would make. It's still on the outskirts It's I went to a disability studies conference once and that I think was the only place I've ever been where they had rules that people could not wear any scented products, and that they should avoid washing their clothes beforehand with anything scented.


Stacy Alaimo  20:17

Oh, there, I mean, I can smell those things like half a block away. I mean, especially the dryer sheets, which just seemed particularly toxic to me, those are just seemed like they're everywhere.


Aaron Goodman  20:17

That's really encouraging and it's it's encouraging to see other places and we're going to chat on the podcast with some groups, community groups are doing that and leading a path and hopefully the knowledge will spread. But it's it's hard work. They acknowledge that it's hard work. And as you know, Professor Alamio, the laundry products, you know, because it's one thing to ask someone to refrain from wearing perfume or aftershave or scented hair gel, for example. But because in a lot of places, the only options people have are to buy heavily scented laundry products, and what can you do about that, but those are often really the kryptonite for a lot of people, as they say, right? 


Aaron Goodman  21:07

Agreed. And in your, in your chapter in your, in your book, you write about the pervasive dismissal and denials and by doctors and there's this really compelling anecdote you write or this you talk about how a psychiatrist had difficulty understanding how someone with MCS could be severely impacted by a chemical even like a minut amount, right? We all know, it just could be one inhalation can create a trigger, or can create a negative reaction, which can be very debilitating. And that on one hand, they've failed to recognize or validate that. But in their practice, as a psychiatrist, they were prescribing psychiatric medications and small amounts, which affect the brain in very significant ways. So it's the balance of they could see the value of psychiatric medication and the impact on the body, but not recognize that chemicals can affect people. How do you see that contradiction?


Stacy Alaimo  22:07

I mean, it's an amazing paradox, it makes no sense at all that people would, of course, believe that various chemicals we call drugs, would have an impact. I mean, everybody's everybody understands that, but then that other chemicals surrounding us wouldn't have an impact, it doesn't make any sense. I think I would go back and again, draw on some environmental philosophy here, this kind of Western and scientific and technical arrogance regarding this delusion, that we can just control all of these substances, you know, we have complete control. So if you create a drug, and you put it in a bottle, and people take a little bit of it, that, of course, is completely what physicians believe can be controlled, and drug companies too. And it's part of this idea of the mastery of nature, the mastery of the whole world, that we just can control everything, make it into products, and then people take those products. 


Stacy Alaimo  23:07

But we don't want to think about things not have that we don't have control over things. So various toxins that cause cancer, or MCS or endocrine disrupters. Nobody wants to think about that. And, and usually, if you tell people about something like this, they go to the opposite extreme of just, well, if everything is so toxic, then then there's nothing you can do about it. And we should just accept that and just stop thinking about it, which is not exactly helpful for anyone to just say, Okay, you can't just say it's all I mean, that doesn't make any sense. But people, that's a sort of the flip side of denial, like there's outright denial, and then there's okay, everything's super toxic, and then and then there's nothing we can do. So just stop talking about it. 


Stacy Alaimo  23:58

So I can keep living my life exactly as I'm living without thinking of these wider implications. And I think that one of the things I really wanted to stress and bodily nature's is that because of the world we're in which now this term wasn't widely available at the time, but now we would call it the the Anthropocene the idea that humans have disrupted nature on the scale of a geological force, like we've basically changed everything. We've changed the atmosphere, the climate, there's toxins and chemicals everywhere, there's radiation, there's the sixth great extinction, all these things that in that era of of the Anthropocene, that ethics, what our circle of ethics includes has to be different. We can't have this model of there's people separate from the environment over there. And ethical issues have nothing to do with substances because these substances are hurting people. It needs to be an ethical issue, and we need to think about also sorts of things that we do that used to be considered personal like whether or not you put a bunch of cologne or perfume on before you go into your job that is no longer a merely personal issue that is an ethical and political act, if you're doing that. 


Stacy Alaimo  25:15

And boy, all of this, all of this really came up with COVID. Because the way in which certain people were so outraged by masks and mask wearing, and the idea that that you would have to sit like right now, for example, wear a mask in particular instances to help immunocompromised people. And we just really saw that a lot of people are not willing to think ethically about their fellow humans, that's really something like by look, for me, trans Corporal reality is about thinking of the actual substance of the material world, not as external to us, but because it's also part of us. It's always ethical and political.


Aaron Goodman  25:57

And it just feels like, you know, you talked about in your book about misogyny being a factor and you know, in terms of the denialism and a lot of women are dismissed and denied as complaining, and and also, you know, you're you're talking about the ethics. And I wonder if the word care or compassion or words that resonate with you, when it comes to this issue, you know, because rather than being acknowledged, we're often told that we're mentally ill, or we have anxiety. And we know that that's just not true, right? You know, what we could have anxiety as a response to as a symptom were treated often with a lack of care? Do you see that changing in any way? But from the time you wrote your book, do you feel like there's been a progression? Or how do you view the current state of things? Now, it's certainly critical with the climate care, climate chaos? Do you think more and more people are able to feel safe and be met with compassion and ethics? Or do you feel that it's still a long way to go?


Stacy Alaimo  27:02

I think my answer would have to be really polarized, like so many things are polarized right now. I mean, I think we have on the one hand, there's a culture that is hyper, hyper individualist and masculinist and wants to call other people who care or who need care or who are vulnerable snowflakes, or weak, or all of that. There's, I mean, that is still there. Like, that's undeniable. That's that's very strong right now. 


Stacy Alaimo  27:31

On the other hand, in being a professor, I have seen over the last decade, there are so many more students who are who have disability accommodations for things like anxiety and depression, and almost to the degree where it's sometimes a third of the students in the class. I mean, and there is I think there is developing a whole culture of being more compassionate and being more kind. I think that's that's definitely happening. And as far as the the anxiety, I think that's a really interesting issue right now. Because on the one hand, I mean, why wouldn't students be really anxious over the last 10 years with climate change with the economic issue with so many things, their own precarity and vulnerability in so many ways? Of course, they would be anxious. 


Stacy Alaimo  28:22

I also wonder, though, I do wonder what we don't know. So there's a book by Robert Proctor called something like it's called "Cancer Wars." And then the subtitle is what we do, what do we know about cancer? What don't we know? And the politics of that that's not exactly what the subtitle is. It's a much more, it's much more kitchy than that. But basically, he makes the argument that chemical industries don't want us to know what chemicals cause cancer. And so then the research is not done on those chemicals. And it's actually really shocking how in the US, there's a lot of things that are allowed here that are not allowed, say in the EU, but then in also in countries, even of the Global South, people would be surprised like we have extremely weak rules. And if the science isn't done on the effects of these chemicals, then there's so much we don't know. 

 Stacy Alaimo  29:16

So for example, one of the things I always wonder about to go back to the discussion about how psychiatrists can believe that drug would say cure anxiety or depression, but that things in the environment could never cause anxiety or depression, which doesn't make any sense. I wonder with these students, whether there is a kind of exposure that is creating more depression and anxiety because I mean, it's it's epidemic right now among students. It's epidemic. I've, I've changed from I don't even give in class exams anymore because so many students can't take the anxiety of the time limit so I just don't do it anymore. I give them days to do their work and just give them a word, a word count. But because you know, you have to deal with reality. This is an be more and compassionate to all the students because the students are really, they're really struggling right now young people are really struggling. And I'm not convinced. I don't have no evidence of this, I believe in science. But I also believe that science is or isn't done because of ideological and economic reasons. So I don't think the science would be done to tell us whether there's particular chemical circulating that could cause anxiety or depression, because we want to know that with the chemical companies know who's going to fund the science.


Aaron Goodman  30:35

So there is a serious lack of funding for for research about the impacts of potential impacts of chemicals and about MCS itself, would you say? 


Stacy Alaimo  30:43

Absolutely, absolutely. Yeah. 


Aaron Goodman  30:45

That's really unfortunate. And the hope is that that changes, right. And it's good to know that some research is being done into the science of it, and that people like you are continuing to create awareness about it. But one hopes that there is more right, and maybe just as a last question, and then I definitely invite you to share any parting thoughts for our listeners, but you know, as the planet heats up, and as climate chaos continues, you know, one thing you write about is sort of an intertwining or an intertwining between MCS, EI and environmental justice. And do you have a sense of it? Can one have hope that that as climate change progresses, that maybe MCS will become part of the mix that people will become more aware of the impacts of, as you say, coming into work doused in cologne or scented laundry products? Is there is there any reason to hope that the awareness can build,


Stacy Alaimo  31:41

I would like to be hopeful about it. I think one of the challenges of climate change, however, is that it's very dramatic. And so you have tornadoes, and hurricanes and drought and all of these things that are very visual and very dramatic and can go on television, and can be these big events. On the other hand, something like MCS, or any other issue caused by chemicals is invisible. And it depends upon a kind of scientific testing, verification. And then even after the science would be done, there has to be a way of making this understood and visible and seem real, because the problem with something that's invisible is it doesn't seem real to us, unless you're the person who has MCS and then it's absolutely real, like you absolutely know that there's something in that room that's making you really sick, you know it, but if no one else can see it. And if no one else is experiencing it, it doesn't seem real.

Stacy Alaimo  32:44

And so, you know, the worry with climate change is that it really trumps everything else in a way and it makes the invisible things seem like they don't count at all. For us on the West Coast, though the wildfires are an issue that people should be thinking about MCS in terms of because we had where I live in Oregon, we had the Holiday Farm fire was really close to where I live, but all around us, everything was on fire, the summer of 2020, everything was on fire and this sky was was dark for several days and ashes rained down from the sky we had in my yard I had, you know, several inches of ashes, okay, because of the fact that I do have mild MCS and I've studied this, my first thought was what is in those ashes? Like what is actually in there? Because I have a vegetable garden. The ashes were everywhere in the vegetable garden, because in the fire, it wasn't just trees that burned down, like we think, Oh, it's natural. It's trees. It's like a campfire? 


Stacy Alaimo  33:47

No, it isn't. It's gas stations. It's industrial sites, it's people's houses and cars filled with all sorts of toxic things that all went up in smoke, and then came down and ashes. So we were breathing, the smoke, we have ashes everywhere. How toxic is all of that? And who is going to do the science to figure that out? And then what will the result be? That's the sort of invisible invisible chemical exposure issue that almost nobody talks about? And that's, you know, that's that's the kind of thing I'm interested in. How do we how do we make these things seem real when they're invisible?


Aaron Goodman  34:24

I'm really glad you raised it. And it's really disturbing, you know, just anecdotally, I'm in touch with one person who reported developing MCS after exposure to or being in the midst of a wildfire. 


Stacy Alaimo  34:36

Yeah, so yeah, right. It makes sense right? So if you think about what's being burned up and what's happening, it's like in the other you know, this is a this is a popular culture reference, but Grey's Anatomy did an episode about the burn pits in, like wars in in, in the Middle East like military people setting these all kinds really super toxic things on fire and then breathing it in and then having terrible, terrible health effects. 


Aaron Goodman  35:06

Absolutely. Absolutely. Well, it's been really fascinating to speak with you and to listen to you. Thank you so much for making the time. Is there anything you'd like to leave our listeners with?


Stacy Alaimo  35:19

My own wisdom? You know, I tried to just, my myself, there's so many things that I'm concerned about. There's so many things that I'm despairing about, and just always starting with reality, you have to accept reality. And then I don't really believe in hope, per se, I believe more that you you try to be useful. You try to do what you can do every day you do what you can do to make things better. And however, in whatever way you can, but without without hoping that everything will change. Or if you just you try to make things happen in the way that you can and have your own agency about the life you're living and what you can do to make the world less harmful place for so many people and animals and everything else. 


Aaron Goodman  36:04

Well, thank you so much, Professor Alamio, for everything you've shared. Thank you so much. 


Stacy Alaimo  36:09

Thank you. Thank you. It was a real pleasure. 


Aaron Goodman  36:11

That brings us to the end of this episode of the Chemical Sensitivity Podcast. Thank you very much to Professor Stacey Alaimo for speaking with me. The podcast is produced by me Aaron Goodman, Raynee Novak and Kristy Eckland. 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. Follow us on social media just search for the Chemical Sensitivity Podcast or podcasting MCS. Leave your comments about anything you hear on the podcast and please share the podcast with others. The podcast is also available on YouTube and you can read captions in any language you like. You can support the podcast and help us continue creating greater awareness about MCS. Please find the link in Episode descriptions at If there's someone you'd like to hear interviewed on the podcast or a topic you'd like us to explore, just let us know. Email info@chemical and thanks so much for listening

Aaron introduces the podcast and episode.
Professor Alaimo introduces herself.
Professor Alaimo speaks of her experience with having MCS.
Professor Alaimo talks about her book.
Professor Alaimo speaks about toxic environments.
Professor Alaimo discusses deviance is that substances.
Professor Alaimo speaks about using drugs to mask reactions.
Professor Alaimo talks about toxic items in her environment.
Profesor Alaimo discusses gender issues.
Professor Alaimo speaks of toxic addiction.
Professor Alaimo talks about Joesph Dumit's essay.
Professor Alaimo discusses acessibility.
Professor Alaimo speaks of the paradox between chemicals vs. drugs.
Professor Alaimo discusses ethics.
Professor Alaimo talks about accommodations.
Professor Alaimo speaks about cancers.
Professor Alaimo discusses invisible illnesses.
Professor Alaimo speaks of climate change.
Professor Alaimo talk about toxic fires.
Professor Alaimo gives her closing thoughts.
Aaron concludes the episode.