If you’ve met me in person, you’ve seen my scarves. They’re hard to miss, I always have one around my neck or nearby.

The reason I wear them, seems vain. It’s considered when I put together my outfit for the day, and it is important to me that the scarf look as lovely with my outfit as possible. I like to look nice for myself when I catch my eye in a mirror. But really, I wear them because you stink. Literally.

I know, I know, you’re looking at me thinking “that was offensive”, well, I apologize for that, and I hope though, that it got your attention. Because I’d like you to be aware of what you are inadvertently doing, because it is killing me. Literally.

Wikipedia recognizes VOCs as “organic chemicals with high vapor pressure at room temperature”. They include both humanmade and naturally occurring chemical compounds AND the vast majority of “scents and odours” are “volatile organic compounds”.

VOCs are what make sick buildings sick. They are the harmful things found in paint thinners and industrial cleaners that require a warning to wear a safety mask. They are also quite naturally found in a large variety of plants, flowers, trees, grains, fruits, mosses, yeasts, and even algaes.

VOCs can be cinnamon, coffee, or peanuts, they can be found in berries, tea, beer, olive oil, cocoa, and various fruits.

For me, though, by far, the most dangerous VOC is the one you are wearing. I have, through allergy testing, learned that lavender is a toxic volatile compound to me. It is not an allergy, so whereas I had been taking an antihistamine to counter the attacks I experienced from perfumes, they weren’t doing anything because I don’t produce histamines. To have you understand what happens with VOC reactions, I want you to picture Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz. She and her companions step out of the woods, to see the Emerald City in the distance. Between them lies the poppy fields. Unbeknownst to the stories’ protaganists, the poppies are poison, so, Dorothy and her friends march joyfully into the field. The deadly poppies awaiting them, delivering their poisons via the volatile organic compounds of the beautiful scent of the poppies.

That’s me, and everyone else who harbours a reaction to the compounds either in the “poison” or in the scent of the poppies themselves.

So, this is my public service announcement for the week.

Volatile Organic Compounds, VOCs, are toxic to some people, and will build up in others, over time, becoming toxic. So, please, when you smell that “fresh laundry” scent, or you burn that ever so calming “lavender oil”, your doctor recommended to help with your stress levels, be aware that you are pumping volatile organic compounds into the air, and they are not my friend, nor are they yours. So you should be avoiding them, not adding them to your environment.

Things that carry VOCs even though labeled “unscented” can include but are not limited to household cleaners, dishwashing liquids, Laundry detergents, fabric softeners, hair spray, leave-in conditioner, body soap, body wash,perfumes, colognes, after shave, sunscreen, moisturizers. If there is a smell to that product you are about to use, it has VOCs, and the more you are exposed to them, the more you will begin to have problems with them.

Dorothy Gale, the Scarecrow, the Tinman and the Cowardly Lion dance into the field of poppies

Dorothy Gale, the Scarecrow, the Tinman and the Cowardly Lion dance into the field of poppies


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