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Meet The Team: Netherlands

Mirjam Ruijter: Country Coordinator

Mirjam Ruijter, Country Coordinator for the Netherlands.The Chemical Connection:  Hello everyone! My father was an artist painter with his studio (where I even slept for a period) at home: With solvents, formaline (fluid kind of formaldehyde) and also much cigarette smoke.

Researches at Radboud University, Nijmegen 2005, proved that painters' children have more congenital deviations than carpenters' offspring...( Hooiveld M, Haveman W, Roskes K, Bretveld R, Burstyn I, Roeleveld N. Radboud University Nijmegen Medical Centre, Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, Nijmegen, Netherlands: m.hooiveld@epib.umcn.nl )...in me possibly shown by a congenital liver cyst and sensitivities at an early age.

I became an artist myself, specialized in xylography. Although I had complaints I continued working in my studio among many other working places with many other "smells". In 1986 I painted a floor (with gasmask on) with a 2 component polyurethane layer containing isocyanates, which caused three months of tightness in my chest, sickness, infected respiratory tracts and possibly a pre stadium of cancer.

By continuing to do what I wanted and "had" to do resulted in CFS (chronic fatigue syndrome) in 1989 and increasing sensitivities for all kinds of and more and more chemicals. My reactions on chemicals became more severe, accumulating in "nice" sunny 2003, when air pollution in Europe and especially in Holland was higher than ever. I got disabled: I often hardly could move by suffocation but this did not get diagnosed by doctors: my lungs' condition was perfect.

Later I read about lack of oxygen in the cells provoked by exposure to gasses (Cheney). Then a companion in distress and I decided to fly to a country with clean air, at least for the next summers. I bought a "helmet" with mobile air filter to be able to travel and we spent three months on Vancouver Island, Canada. The air quality there, most of the time was rather good, until the misty period came, which worsened my condition, also caused by our stay in a moldy house too near a main road and a fuel station.

Returned in Holland my physician noted my liver was in a rather bad shape; he said to protect myself better which I do since then. In Holland since spring 2005 constantly wearing my "helmet" and sleeping with my head in a PP (polypropylene) bag, connected to my mobile filter and later in a tent of Tyvek (PE, polyeth(yl)ene) blown up by an air cleaner with Purafil CP blend and carbon.

August 2005 my companion and I went to Thailand which resulted for me to be able most of the time to do without my breath protection device. Still smoke of burning wood(s) caused constant problems because of Thailand being a "hotspot" as you may see here. And of course I needed my device in/near traffic as well as to protect myself against nasty chemicals. Sometimes the air is rather bad even in Thailand; noted by us and also by (amazingly) many other people getting sick or having all kind of troubles.

Background Information:  Being an artist (born in Amsterdam 1946) I like to express myself and because wearing a "helmet" with mobile air cleaner I'm able to participate in all kind of actions and demonstrations. This resulted in "performances" to show I'm a MCS/CI patient, which got documented in papers, on television, on internet sites and is in a booklet of photo postcards named GONE BANANAS? GONE BANANAS!

The Wider Context:  I like to think about finding and working on solutions for practical problems and I wish to contribute in my way to get MCS/CI recognized as the severe ailments they are; at the same time making clear by what they, like other diseases too, are caused.

I intend to learn from other people who got ill from pollution, to help where I can and to collaborate for a future with fewer toxins.

By living in Thailand for almost a year I learned that living toxin free is impossible. Because of the humidity causing molds and fires causing poisonous fumes.

A thing to work on for everybody ('s health!): try to avoid letting grow mold, using unnecessary chemicals and making all kinds of smoke causing fires. Thanks!

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