There's no single chemical or group of chemicals that Dr. Katerndahl says is pegged to either chemical intolerance or multiple chemical sensitivity; both conditions are very specific to the individual patient. Thus, your best bet is to avoid potentially bothersome chemicals as much as possible so you aren't made miserable by a chemical intolerance later in life. "There's no medication that can help you with this," he says.
Here are three simple steps to rid your house of toxic products:
1. Go organic. Pesticides used in chemical farming, particularly organophosphates, have been shown to trigger gastrointestinal and heart problems in people with multiple chemical sensitivities. Even if you don't suffer from a chemical intolerance, you're protecting yourself from chemicals linked to hormone disruption, nervous system disorders, and learning problems in children.
2. Say no to plastic. Whether it's hormone-disrupting bisphenol A lining your soup can or that vinyl shower curtain in your bathroom, all plastics contain a huge array of dangerous materials, including brain-damaging flame retardants, cancer-causing UV stabilizers, hormone-disrupting antibacterial chemicals, and dozens of other chemicals that are protected as trade secrets that have never been studied for health impacts. All those chemicals can leach out of plastics into your food and water or into household dust that you inhale.
3. Learn how to make it yourself. The only way to know what's in (and is not) in a product is to make it yourself. Learn how to control pests with things like borax and white vinegar and to make your own homemade cleaning products. Personal care products are loaded with chemicals that have never been tested (and some that have, and have been shown wanting), and they're easy to replace with homemade organic beauty products. For tons of DIY recipes, check out the columns written on everything from homemade shampoo to homemade yogurt from our Nickel Pincher columnist.
You'll never be able to avoid every chemical out there, but these steps can help you cut down on the most pernicious exposures in your home.