Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Reflections After Receiving Guests with Chemical Sensitivities

Perhaps these tourists are out on the Wellfleet dunes because of the good outdoor air? Staying at a bed & breakfast or motel can be problematic for some folks. More and more people are developing chemical sensitivities. Sven gets asthma if he touches animals, and red splotches appear on his chest if his clothing is washed with detergent. In France, I was once treated for an allergic reaction to perfume and also react to harsh washing powder. Our hope with the bed & breakfast was to create a space that could be allergen-free. This has proved impossible. One cannot post signs, “No spraying of perfume or cologne, please, and go lightly on the deodorant!” and expect guests to return. Since we are running a business, open year round, the exclusion of all allergens is not a reasonable assumption. Some guests smoke inside, although I have posted a no-smoking sign in Seagull Cottage. Others bring candles for romantic ambiance, despite the fact that I provide fragrance-free on demand. What we can promise, however, is that we are aware of the problem, sympathize with allergy-sufferers, provide 100% natural amenities, and do not use toxic chemicals ourselves.

This September we had a guest with extreme chemical sensitivities who spent four nights in Seagull Cottage. (She had developed the condition when her workplace was sprayed with pesticides years ago.) Her search for accommodation includes detective work, a vigorous background check of the premises prior to booking, and much hopeful anticipation. Here at Chez Sven, she did all right, although the bed linens, washed in Seventh Generation and then air-dried, proved problematic for some reason. After departure, she sent me a brochure with information on the Hidden Dangers of Fragrance, distributed by The Environmental Health Coalition of Western Massachusetts. I plan to try one of the washing powders listed. For more information, go to this Web site.