Canary in the Coal Mine

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In the 1800's canaries were used to save lives. Miners would take a caged canary to their worksite. If the bird stopped singing (or died) the miners would vacate immediately. The bird was telling them the air quality was unsafe.

Those of us who have had a major mold exposure often become chemically sensitive. Essentially we become canaries. We can sense the safety of an environment. When we first moved into our present home I became nervous. I called Kristina who relocated to Arizona for the same reason. She came over to "smell" the house. She gave us a clean bill of health. The only thing she smelled: the VOCs (volatile organic compounds) emitting from the new cabinets in the kitchen. New homes can be tricky because of the off-gassing that inevitably occurs.

Two weeks later she stopped by. I had grown comfortable with our new environment. We were circulating the air with fans, the windows were open and I , miraculously, felt safe at last. Her eyes began watering. Her breathing became labored and she quickly moved outside.

The problem? The toxins on our skin. We were de-toxing heavily and she was reacting to us! No wonder our bloody noses were back! We were reacting to each other. We stepped up our shower routine and didn't re-use towels. We were already using charcoal soap.

I was in a home recently that I sensed had mold. I began coughing within five minutes. I was there for less than two hours. As soon as I left I changed clothes and threw away the outfit. I coughed for five straight days.

The following is an excerpt from an article on bird care. It is a good word to all of us, canary or not.

"Birds have very sensitive respiratory systems, and you will want to avoid using most household cleaners and chemicals around your bird. This includes anything with a strong scent or chemical odor, cleaners, sprays, liquids, aerosols, etc. You should not use air fresheners (deodorizers and scents) when you have a bird, including sprays/aerosols, plug-ins, powders, and scented candles."

There is an excellent website called The Canary Report designed to alert us to the hazards of chemicals.

You can't choose some things in life. Your birthplace. The weather. I wouldn't choose to be a canary. Ever.

I do, however, have other choices. When it comes to my role as a canary, I think I'll do my best to keep on singing.