Steps I've taken to benzene VOCs (volatile organic compounds)

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A German Shorthair Pointer puppy sitting between a coffee table and a brown couch that has a big, black wool blanket on it

I didn’t understand why my new 100% wool blanket was giving me a reaction. I discovered the blanket had a synthetic dye which explained it. The dark color has a very strong, almost unbarable smell. It also still had a tag on it. I got a pretty bad body burn. Or it feels like a burn. I don’t know if that is actually what it is. My skin is dried out like sandpaper with little rough bumps all over. Being around the blanket is nauseating and makes my chest ache.

A purple synthetic collar sitting on top of a gray plastic bin

This kitchen drawer full of dish towels and pot holders need to be sorted out. I will keep all of the 100% cotton items, but the tags will need to be carefully and fully removed. A lot of tags are made from synthetic materials that contain benzene and other harmful chemicals. My hands always swell up with various pains when I remove remove.

A bed with a gray comforter inside a bedroom with blue walls

This 100% Cotton Quilted Down Comforter with Grey Goose Duck Down Feather Filling-Lightweight Duvet Insert was surely to not give me a reaction. But little did I know when I bought it, it has synthetic dye which contains benzene (styrene). It also had a rayon tag. Benzene emits a low-lying VOC vapor that is heavier than air. Instead of evaporating up, it falls. When you cover yourself up with a blanket that contains this type of VOC the gasses build up around your body.

A pile of rayon bed sheet tags and the elastic that was cut off the sheets on a wooden table with the blankets on a chair behind them

Same deal with the "Bed-Sheet Set Percale Cotton - 100% Organic Dark Grey 4-Piece Washed Sheets, GOTS Certified Eco-Friendly Breathable Hypoallergenic Fibers for Pure Comfort", I bought at the same time as the gray comforter. Unfortunately they too had synthetic dye and rayon tags. This picture shows the piles of non-cotton materials that I had to cut off trying to salvage what I bought. If the tags and the synthetic rubber elastic on the fitted sheet were gone maybe I could still use them. But no, the dyes gave me a reaction, making it very hard to relax when laying on them. My hands kept swelling up, my head was tence and hard to relax, my body tingled and my chest had a burn feeling and made me cough. Big lesson learned.

A pair of plastic blue reading glasses sitting on a white countertop

My hand tingled and tightened when I picked up my plastic reading glasses. The frames and lenses are both made of plastic. Finding all metal with real glass is proving to be difficult. I’m thinking about finding a nice magnifying glass necklace. Currently trying to find one with glass lenses that is not teated with anti-scratch chemicals and has a safe metal chain.

A pile of microfiber glass cleaning cloths on a white countertop with a red, swollen, chapped hand in front of them

These microfiber cleaning clothes got me good. I was putting all of my plastic glasses in my desk drawer when I felt a burn down my nose to my throat. Face burn. I had to fight the urge to puke. I looked in the drawer and saw a bunch of microfiber glass lens cleaners. I gathered them to take them to the trash and my hand started throbbing and got crampy. My hand was throbbing just holding it close to this pile.

A set of four white ceramic drink coasters with flowers on them and fake cork on the back on a white surface

The synthetic cork on the back of these coasters gave me a face burn. The hand that held them swelled up, is red and tingles with fingertip pain. Fake cork is right up there with synthetic memory foam as one of the things that gives me the worst reaction.

Two black cork boards leaning against a blue recycle bin on a stone porch with a long driveway and horse feilds in the distance

These two black synthetic cork boards were attached to the back of both mine and my husband's computer cabinets. I had been cleaning and cleaning my cabinet trying to "get the dust out", but little did I know at the time, it was not dust, but VOC vapors coming from the fake cork board and boy was it a harsh reaction. My cabinet had been closed for days. When I opened it I had to run outside of the room and stick my head out a window just to breathe. Synthetic corks are made from plastic compounds. I believe the cork vapors get worse with age.

A pair of one time use hand warmers sitting on a gray floor

When I first began to suspect that styrene (later realizing the more popular name is benzene) was the chemical culprut to my families illnesses, I began to look into everything we used and had in our home. One of the things was the hand warmers I had been using for years. Based on all of the other types of products benzene is used in, I suspected it was also used in the outer casing of my one time use hand warmers.

I called the company twice trying to find answers and got the run around. I posted a question on Amazon where I bought it to see if anyone on there knew and someone answered "some kind of polymer fabric. You may want to contact HotHands directly to find out for sure". My question was deleted from Amazon shortly after.

I decided to put the warmers to the test. I opened a pack and within seconds my hand tightened, I got a metallic taste in my mouth and my body tingled. Then the nerve pain began to set in. I tossed all of them.

The package states that a person with nerve damage should not use the product. I didn't used to have nerve problems, but now I do. From what I read the volatile organic compound vapor benzene causes nerve damage.

Bare feet on the ledge of a coffee table wicker drawer side out with packages of hand warmers in the basket

Our coffee table has a center wicker drawer that slides open and closed. I had put my bare feet on the ledge as I watched TV. The tips of my toes went numb but at the same time felt burned. I looked down and saw a handful of disposable hand warmer packages in the drawer. I opened the drawer and got a face burn from sturring up the VOCs. At the exact same time Spencer my Pit Bull jumped off his dog bed, which was directly on the other side of the drawer. He felt the VOC build up too. When I picked them up my hand tenced up and my fingers burned. I got a metallic taste in my mounth and my arm tingled down to my arm pit. I tossed the warmers in the trash. I will never be using them again.

Sharon Maguire - Updated 1-14-2020

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