Sunday, May 14, 2006

No Shit Toxicity

In late January my paternal parents came to visit the baby for the first time, and we all had a marvelous romp together. On their way out of town they bequeathed our little family with a number of the sort of odd little items I have come to expect from a couple of aging, well-meaning alcoholics: a six pack of ginger ale, half a bottle of wine, Thai food left over from the restaurant next to their hotel, a dress my stepmother never liked and so gave to me, several pairs of black nylons, and a bottle of "odor neutralizing" spray. This post is the chronicle of the life of this last item, which was specifically Renuzit Odor Neutralizer.

For a little historical background, I'll note that I grew up loving the smell of these deoderizers. The cinammon fall blends, the summery citrus, the spring time BabyGc. I associate them with vacations because my parents have reverently saturated every hotel room they've ever stayed in with products akin to the Renuzit, since I can remember. Of course, I can't tell you who they think they're fooling when they try to conceal the Jim Beam/boxed wine/generic cigarette smells (me? the maid? themselves?)...but the consistent insistence that they CAN cover said smells with scented petrochemicals is nonetheless remarkable.

Before today I've written about how a) no matter how foolish I know it is I believe things ought to "smell" clean (foolish because if something were really clean it wouldn't be saturated in a smell); and b) that I dumped out all the family's toxic products last fall JUST IN CASE it might protect BabyG, not because I really believed the chemicals were harmful. Which is to say, I want to be a good mom by creating a safe environment for my child, even as its very difficult for me to believe products I've used all my life are really all that bad.

When my parents came to town and left the Renuzit Odor Neutralizer, then, it wasn't hard to convince myself to ignore all I've learned about toxic chemicals and to decide that using the rest of the bottle of Renuzit wouldn't be such a big deal. It looks environmentally friendly's not even an aerosol can. It's a spray. Ozone friendly is a good thing, right? I decided that I had been acting irrationally when pregnant, and surely odor neutralizer was harmless.

Well after dying my couch with beet juice, it smelled for a few days. I decided to neutralize the odor by spraying it with the Renuzit. No sooner was it sprayed than: 1)I got a tiny, annoying headache; 2) cat started meowing insistently about needing to immediately vacate the premises; 3) baby started crying; 4) most interestingly to me, I could detect the petro-y part of the fumes. And I guess, also, just I noticed for the first time in my life that it was a sweet fume. It didn't smell like I neutralized anything.

This is interesting to me because as I've noted, my family used this crap all my life and I really used to believe it masked smells. Maybe I was so used to chemical smells that I didn't notice them as being noxious? Took them as par for the course?

I went for a walk with BabyG, and was still blown away by the slight scent of orange scented gasoline when I came back in the house after the walk. Of course, after discovering the no-shit toxicity of the Renuzit, I of course threw the stuff away.


I hid the bottle on a shelf is what I did. Because in my head still was this idea: I should save it to use for POWERFUL odors. Despite the cat and my head's insistence about the poisonous nature of my "neutralizer," a much older part of me said: "Stupid girl. The cat wanted outside because he always wants outside. And you got a headache because you went to yoga and pulled something. It smells bad because you've brainwashed yourself into thinking it SHOULD. But one day you will have an odor so bad that you will NEED this deodorizer. It smells powerful because it is."

So last week we had a party. Somebody threw something in the trash can and a few days later it smelled like a colony of rats had died in it.

I did not run for my all-powerful peppermint or eucalyptus essential oils. And I did settle for one or two cautious squirts of Renuzit. I let out six or seven cautious squirts of Renushit into the can.

And my head nearly blew up with pain, my throat ached, my cat's meows to escape the house were immediate and nearly convulsive. I left the door open and left for an hour. Still, this week, if I open the top of the can I am greeted with the slightest, yet most persistent tinge of petrochemicheadache.


Morals? Getting rid of all the chemicals in your house makes you more susceptible to noticing and feeling ill because of said chemicals. So on one hand, since this is a world filled with these sorts of smells and cleaners, maybe we’d be better off getting used to the smell, like I used to be. On the other hand, do I want the little red flag in my head that detects poisonous sludge fooled with? Can’t help remembering about how American housewives, who spend their days inside their own not-very-well-ventilated houses, have much higher cancer rates than American women working outside the home.

For me, the second, unfooled hand wins mostly because even as I write this I find the degree of ickiness in that spray shocking. I know for a fact I used it not even a year ago, at my parents’ house, and thought it did its job very nicely. It’s spooky that just eight months into a less toxic filled home environment, my senses have changed so much.

technoratti tags: , , , , ,


Chuck said...

wow sounds pritty messed up.

Jessi Louise said...

I heard something about women's cancer rates being higher than men's a couple weeks ago and that's exactly what I was thinking. Women usually spend a lot more time around cleaning products and some of them can be really intense. It makes sense to me!

Izzy said...

My sister will not touch anything in a hotel room until she has sprayed everything with a half a can of Clorox spray disinfectant. She is convinced that the germs she might encounter, while admittedly gross, will be much more harmful to her than breathing that crap.

She's a cleaning freak...

YOu couldn't pay me to spray that shit in my house. I won't even use Windex. When I clean, my house smells like a salad. Or stinky vinegar

Lou said...

My mother-in-law has pretty terrible allergies. To solve this problem while visiting my house, she absolutely DOUSES everything with Febreeze anit-allergy whatever. As IF that stuff really gets rid of allergies...

Lost said...

I just wanted to say I think your couch looks fantastic, and maybe a few essential oils wil help with the smell

Bliss said...

yeah, we've been trying to get my grandma to stop with the bug spray, the Clorox, the oven cleaner, the Comet, etc. for years now. at 77, she has a persistent hacking cough and i can't stay in her house for longer than a few minutes without getting a headache. :-(

Anonymous said...

WOW! I was searching for sites on allergic reactions to Renuzit Odor Neutralizer and came upon this site. I came into my office today and went spray crazy because it smelled like a rat died over the week-end. I starting sneezing, my eyes starting watering and my sinuses went crazy, along with a horrible headache. And, that was 6 hours ago and I feel miserable.

Anonymous said...

We are throwing our Renuzit Odor Neutrilizer away! I Had developed a sinus headache the day we bought it, but I blamed the headache on the roses my husband got me for Valentine's Day (he knows I'm allergic to them but oh well...) We left the spray by the couch where I was nursing my headache. Then the dog let off a stinker, my daughter sprayed the Renuzit, some of it got on the blanket she was using and five minutes later she had a rash developing on her leg where the blanket was touching her skin. She has very delicate skin, and is currently being treated for excema. Wow! What is in that stuff?

Anonymous said...

I've been researching tonight on Renuzit air freshners causing rashes. Glad I saw this. I purchased the new Renuzit freshner (decorative jar-like with crystals inside)about 8-10 weeks ago. I placed 3 in my home. About that time I started developing a severe rash. I had no idea it was the air freshner. I've been to the doctor twice, as well as a dermatologist. I've spent way too much money, been on steriods (which I hate), and still have this rash. It's the most horrible thing I've ever had in my life. I'm covered with the rash. It itches incontrollably to the point that my legs have bled and I've bruised myself scratching. It's bad through the day, but almost unbearable at night and I cannot sleep. I've followed everything the dermatologist told me to do. He said it was a chemical reaction to something and he suggested I start with using no fabric softner, using Dove unscented soap only and no lotions at all. My body has been in too bad of shape for him to do allergy testing. Tonight - it just occurred to me that it was about the same length of time when I purchased my first several Renuzit air freshners. Just last week I bought more, and put the new ones around my house. I have convinced myself it's the Renuzit. I put gloves on and put all of them in a plastic bag and took to my trash. I'm praying this is the problem because I can't take this rash any longer. I seriously think I'm scarred from the rash/itching. I go back to the dermatologist in 2 days. If it seems to be better and he feels this is it - I will certainly be contacting Renuzit. I would not wish what I've been going through on my worst enemy. It's truly been a nightmare. I'll keep everyone posted. In the meantime, if you have any Renuzit around, I'd highly recommend getting rid of it - especially if you have children. If it's done this to me (middle aged), I can't imagine how harmful it can be to a child. Thanks for your comments.


GreenDaddy said...

Brenda, I hope you feel better soon. Sounds like a truly awful experience. How can we get this stuff banned?

MaGreen said...

How horrid!

I hope you've figured out the get back to us and let us know!

Anonymous said...

I'll certainly let everyone know how it goes. Today was a better day for me. I'm truly convinced it's the Renuzit. Although it's not too warm yet, I opened my windows a few hours last night and tonight and turned on all the ceiling fans - trying to rid my house of these chemical(s) odors. I'm anxious to see what the dermatologist has to say tomorrow. If this is it, I will definitely be contacting Renuzit.