Becoming homesick gains a new meaning in director Susan Abod’s film about the harmful effects of household products.
Abod said her 15-years-in-the-making documentary “Homesick” takes on the subject of Multiple Chemical Sensitivities, or MCS.
“The tour was filmed in ’97 and I did this all pretty much part-time with volunteers,” said Abod. “We had a rough cut in 2001.”
She had to stop to look for housing because she became extremely ill, she said.
“Then I had to get funding, and then I got sick again. So it really was languishing when I got connected with Dual Power Production,” Abod said. “I actually thought the film would never get done at that point. That was in 2011.”
After connecting with volunteers, she was able to send the drives to the production company and eventually put the film together, she said.
Now that the film is completed, she hopes to raise awareness to MCS and is expecting to help those struggling with chemical sensitivities by bringing them together.
The film helps people understand the difficulties and hardships of searching and living with MCS, said Abod.
“It’s easy for people to write it off, but when it affects someone they know it’s harder to ignore,” she said.
“People can spend six months to two years searching for a place that doesn’t affect them,” Abod said. “I know it takes a long time to find a place … you just make yourself available and see what transpires.”
Abod, who was diagnosed with MCS 20 years ago, first noticed her symptoms in her 30s, she said. She began having headaches from perfumes and gas stoves, which gradually turned into flu-like symptoms.
“I am not bedridden, I have to nap. I can’t really work a full-time job … I work part-time on the film,” said Abod.
Patrice Kerr, a registered nurse, said she recently recovered her health after dealing with MCS for decades.
“When I got sick I was working in a hospital situation, and they did some remodeling,” Kerr said. “Myself and two 14-year-old boys, who were very well, had heart attacks from the remodeling fumes.”
About 80 percent of the affected population is women, primarily because of women’s hormones, she said.
“I have found that the best thing is grounding. It’s very simple, it costs nothing — go outside and put your feet on the ground with no shoes,” Kerr said. “Do it 10 minutes a day at least, and you’ll lose a lot of stress; doing things that are more natural instead of sitting in front of a computer helps.”
Shortening exposure time to harsh or toxic environments can also help reduce stress and the effects, she said.
“The latest survey done shows that two percent of New Mexicans were saying that they have a diagnosis of chemical sensitivity, but 16 and a half percent said they had symptoms of chemical sensitivity,” Kerr said.
Individuals with MCS also make up a large portion of New Mexico’s homeless population, she said.
A film attendee who identified herself as Ellen R. said she first noticed her symptoms after she had her first child.
“I think it started when I was young. I think my grandmother sprayed her trees with DDTs,” Ellen said. “It is a cumulative effect that happens so often where people don’t show any symptoms and then they have one strong exposure to pesticides.”
She raised her child to protect herself from pesticides and other chemicals that can trigger MCS, she said.
Portable phones can also cause interference with the blood-brain barrier, and then the body becomes more susceptible to toxins, she said. Ellen now moves the phones out of the house when they sleep at night.
“I can only be in WIFI for a few minutes, I can’t live in it,” she said.