Barb's Story  
by Barbara Harris
UPdate Fall 2001

     Barb Harris is severely chemically sensitive and approaches home renovations with extreme caution.

Barbara Harris:
     I've learned never to assume anything when it comes to home renovation or repair, especially if I'm doing something which can't be easily undone. My worst experience was with a clear coat product for floors, which claimed to be specifically for people with chemical sensitivities.  I had used another clear coat product from the same company successfully and assumed they would be basically the same. Wrong! The consequences of that mistake were serious.  My health, which was already bad, got much worse.  And it took three years before I could use the room I had renovated. 
     I've learned to test absolutely everything which I bring into my house.  Some things which are problematic to me can be made tolerable by washing them with TSP and rinsing them. This removes oily coatings and other residues.
This year I got up my nerve to renovate my kitchen.  It took a tremendous amount of time and energy to plan for it. I found that I could tolerate Pratt and Lambert Accolade paint but not most of the tints.  A friend suggested I use Liquitex Artist's Acrylics (which I tested colour by colour) and tint the paint myself.  For crack-filling I used Murco joint compound, which has no additives or preservatives which I ordered from the US. I used Waterworks acrylic based clearcoat for the floor. I sealed the room off from the rest of the house, opened windows and set up a fan to insure that air circulated well and didn't leak into the rest of the house.  I hired someone who didn't smoke or use scented products. I left the house while work was being done and for a week after to reduce the risk of becoming more sensitive to the products.  Then I kept the room sealed off and the fan going for several weeks more.  This renovation was a success. I did not get sicker.  By the end of a month I could use the kitchen a bit, and after two months I was able to use it normally.  For me this is almost a miracle. And finally I have some colour in my house again.