Have a personal blog? Write about your allergy to isothiazolinone – how it impacts your life, how it has affected you, and how you have to be constantly on your guard against inadvertent exposure – including in unfamiliar buildings and via unusual means (eg air freshener). Don’t have your own blog? I will gladly accept guest blogs of personal stories and experiences. If you’re willing to contribute, just drop me an email.
2/ Sign a petition
With so many petitions these days, I’m not sure how often and well they might work, and I’m also not sure calling for a blanket ban on all isothiazolinones is necessarily the best move …. HOWEVER, if you feel strongly about it, there’s this one at 38 Degrees, and this one at The Petition Site. You may also like to consider starting your own. A personal view: calling for compulsory labelling might be a more achievable goal to aim for, at least in the first instance, but I do understand the ‘ban MI’ point of view too.
3/ Report your reaction
The Dermatitis Academy advise reporting your MI-allergic reaction to the FDA, if you’re in the US. Putting an unexpected reaction on record – especially if severe – is important, but bear in mind that a reaction may be due to a compound other than an isothiazolinone, to which you may be sensitive and have not yet been diagnosed. Find the Medwatch Voluntary Reporting form here.
4/ Ask the NHS to research MI allergy
In the UK, the National Health Service welcomes suggestions on “how to improve the health of the nation through research”. Why not suggest they look at dermatitis, eczema and skin allergies – including to MCI / MI? Drop them a line here.
5/ Advocate well among those you know
Know friends with intractable skin problems? Do family members regularly get rashes? Do you see a lot of troublesome eczema among work colleagues? Have they had patch testing? Encourage them to. Never encourage anyone to self-diagnose or experiment in any way. Skin allergies are hugely complex, and they need the attention of trained orthodox doctors and dermatologists. The more we properly diagnose the undiagnosed out there, the greater the ‘official’ figures will be, and the more likely action will be taken to help those with isothiazolinone allergy – and prevent further sensitisations taking place.
6/ Call and write to manufacturers
Cosmetic companies must declare their use of isothiazolinone preservatives, but manufacturers of other household products aren’t always obliged to. Paint manufacturers rarely declare, for example, and MI-free paints are few and far between (see our dedicated MI-free paint directory to see for yourself). The more we ask about MI-free products, the more manufacturers will consider that this may be something they ought to consider supplying. Be polite. Explain. Request, but don’t demand. We want to engage with manufacturers – not scare them off.
7/ Support MI-free brands
Although we do list MI-free products on this blog by brands who use isothiazolinone preservatives in other products, you may consider it worthwhile only buying products from brands who operate an isothiazolinone-free policy across the board. This support will help them to grow, and develop more products, broadening choice for all. Find some exclusively MI-free brands here (Cosmetics) and here (Household).
8/ Be aware of other ‘free from’ concerns
It’s important, for many reasons, to always bear in mind that there are many other ingredients people want to avoid, for all kinds of reasons. There are other allergies (to other preservatives, to foods, to fragrances), religious sensibilities (eg alcohol, pork derivatives), ethical concerns (petroleum derived ingredients, ingredients derived from endangered plants, animal ingredients) and so on. The campaign for greater transparency in ingredient usage and restriction in the use of certain materials is much wider than just MI / MCI etc. Understand and support these movements if you can – and we’re more likely to see understanding and support for issues concerning MI and related isothiazolinones.
As a journalist, I know that volunteer case studies are vital to tell a story – be it online, in print, on camera or in other media. If you have a story to tell and are willing to speak to a journalist, let the allergy charities know of your availability. It’s even better if you can join the allergy charities, to help support their work. Check out Allergy UK here, for example. Here’s how to get involved with the National Eczema Association in the US. Journalists like ‘triumph over adversity’ stories. Was your undiagnosed MI allergy holding you back – and did diagnosis give you your life back and enable you to succeed in your chosen field? That kind of story can be gold dust to us hacks!
10/ Give constructive feedback
Has a hotel you stayed in been perfect – except for the MI-containing shower gel samples in the en-suite? Tell them how great they are – but politely recommend that a lower-allergen cosmetics option might be friendlier to all. Do likewise at restaurants. Hand soap with methylisothiazolinone in the rest rooms? Perhaps suggest they include an ‘allergy friendly’ option too? Bear point 8 in mind too, to help others – perhaps suggest a product free from fragrance and food allergens / nut oils?
What else can we do to boost awareness? Let me know your ideas and I’ll share them on social media!