Archive for the ‘France toxique’ Category

New building, same outrageousness

March 23, 2010

Horrid stale tobacco combined with bizarre cleaning product smells wafting up from downstairs neighbors this week, through the windows, and today could barely exit my apartment because my same-level neighbor’s turbo-fragranced laundry detergent (at least I believe that to be the source) passes through her front door to contaminate the closed, unventilated landing that leads to stairs and elevator doors. At first I believed the smell to come from the floor cleaning products used by the cleaning people, but I’ve come to realize that it comes instead from my neighbor’s flat. Amazing. How can anyone possibly survive breathing that stuff full force day in, day out without developping acute asthma? Kudos to their immune system! As for the purely aesthetic aspect, I gather they have zero sense of smell, because their oven smokes out MY kitchen every time they use it, and occassionally they cook this god awful rotten meat, just putrid smelling stuff, unimaginably putrid. (I’m trying to seal off my kitchen from theirs to avoid having to deal with these odors–but the landing laundry fragrance problem, no way of escaping that).

Oh, by the way, these are very white French people. In fact almost all of the smell and odor problems in France that I’ve had over the years are with white French, “de souche” as they like to say here. Why do I mention this fact? Well, see my next post please!


Careful when you take your car to the shop!

January 29, 2010

Incredible but true: you take your car to the Renault shop in Grenoble for some work  (in this case rear bumper), you pick it up, it looks great on outside, but inside it smells like somebody poured out a can of solvent!!! My god, you say, what is it? Your wife didn’t think to ask at the shop, so you search around under the seats and what not thinking maybe a solvent rag was left behind, then you notice that the child seats smell quite strongly, so the only explanation has to be air freshener. First of all, wtf would they spray air freshener in the first place, and secondly air freshener that smells like triclorethylene or some other sort of highly toxic solvent??? Are they completely MAD? And of course it’s the middle of winter, with temperatures below 0° C, and you have to drive around town with your windows wide open in order not to be intoxicated. And the smell lasts for several days, with windows widely-cracked open 24 hours a day.

So next time you take your car to a shop in France, be sure to tape a note on the dashboard saying:

 “Pas de parfum d’ambiance, pas de neutralizateur d’odeur, aucun produit de nettoyage, AUCUN produit à l’intérieur de l’habitacle de la voiture. SVP !!!!”

(By the way, beware of their windshield spray products too. Outrageously perfumed of course, so I have to use plain water with vineager or rubbing alcohol. You may want to put a note under hood saying “N’ajouter aucun produit de lavage de parebrise, SVP !!!”)

Fragrance equals clean, but of course!

January 17, 2010

I heard this argument yet again in my new building, from the cleaning guy, as he was mopping the entrance floor today:

(paraphasing) “Yes, I understand the smell (fragrance) bothers you, but most people like it, because when they smell that smell they know that we’ve been by to clean the floors.”

I’ve heard this at least 4 times now, in four different locations.

This is typical French marketing/sales BS. In other words, the cleaning product makers tell potential customers, “Oh, you need a strong smelling, long lasting smell cleaner, because otherwise people will think you didn’t clean the floors”. (And of course ours smells stronger and lasts longer than the competition’s!) And the French are absolute suckers for any such BS sales argument. (It’s really unbelievable how gullible French can be, but that’s another story.)

And you can easily imagine the nod and wink about how, well, sometimes you miss a day of cleaning here or there, for reasons beyond your control, of course, and well, what they don’t know won’t hurt them, and after all the fragrance will still be there 5 days later…

Hideous Madeleine Fragrance of the Paris Metro

October 13, 2009

I don’t know if the obnoxious fragrance “Madeleine” (made by Quest International) is still in use in the Paris Metro. I had the misfortune of being in Paris when it was introduced in 1998. I wrote to the communications director of the Metro to tell her that I had asthma and that their fragrance was quite irritating and causing me distress. She wrote back saying that 4 out of 5 persons tested liked the scent (as compared to what I wondered, but never pursued the matter).  Anyway, the fragrance continued unabated until I left Paris sometime around 2000.

I just came across an old BBC report saying that the same crap was tested in the London underground in 2001. Not BBC but another source indicates it was pulled after 1 day because it was making people ill!


Picture worth 1000 words

July 30, 2009

Here’s a map of oral cavity and pharynx cancer in Europe, from the IARC’s 2008 report,, page 171

Red is highest, green the lowest cancer rates. Description talks about smoking and drinking, but I really don’t think that’s sufficient to explain what you see. I’m convinced that it’s the French love affair with toxic chemicals! France is number 3 in Europe for incidence of all cancers in males, while only 13th, thankfully, for women. I would suggest this relates to professional exposures and/or the very toxic “bricolage” (DIY) techniques.

See this excellent site for all Europe data:,en

Europe oral cavity and pharynx cancer map

Europe oral cavity and pharynx cancer map_legend

Merci Deco 38

July 28, 2009

Incroyable, un mois de paix dans mon nouveau immeuble, et qui débarque ? Deco38 ou Deco 38. Ils refont le halle de l’immeuble à côté, et puisque c’est la même copropriété, ils ont le droit de stocker leur peinture et outils dans notre “local à poussettes”. Très bien, sauf qu’ils laissent leur seaux ouverts, et notamment leur seaux de white spirits pour tremper leurs outils, et les odeurs de solvent rendent le local inutilisable, à ne pas parler du risque d’incendie, et bien sûr les odeurs qui montent dans la cage d’escalier. Très agréable et sain. Merci les gars. Après mainte appels et méls, même auprès de Qualibat, dont Deco 38 porte le label, ça continue. Impossible de faire en sorte qu’ils ferment, après leur journée de travail, les seaux avec des couvercles ; on entend “on n’a plus les couvercles d’origine” et on est censé croire qu’une boîte qui fait essentiellement de la peinture ne peut pas en trouver.  Pire, ça dure et ça dure. Je ne peux pas croire que repeindre les murs d’un halle pas très grand peut prendre un mois et demi !

On a quand même eu un peu de chance, car les travaux du halle à côté ont dégagé et dégagent encore des odeurs toxique pas possible. A priori cela n’est pas leur faute, mais il souligne un grand problème en France, le fait que beaucoup de gens s’en foutent complètement de la toxicité des produits qu’ils utilisent. Ils veulent juste que les résultats soient “jolis”. Comme mon ex voisin m’a dit, “on ne peux pas arrêter de vivre”. Justement…

For every season, a toxicity

March 4, 2009

The toxicity here has continued more less unabated since my Winter of Disbelief post. These people are amazing: My daughter’s room has been rendered unusable these past weeks due to an undescribable sweet solvent/heavy fuel type smell from the neighbors below that doesn’t completely disappear even with the window wide open. In another unusable room as well as the living room, transient blasts of solvent or paint smell appear mysteriously and then disappear, usually rather quickly, thankfully. And in my toddler son’s room, we’ve gotten used to almost daily smokey/perfumey smells rising from below, invariably just after we here someone arriving home in the late afternoon. The mother insists that they use no aromatizers or incense, so we’ve come to believe that it’s her teenage daughters that are using either papier d’arménie or a “Lampe Berger” to cover up cigarette and/or hasish odors that we sometimes smell, just prior to the smokey scent smell (pour couvrir la fumée de cigarette et/ou de shit qu’on croit sentir aussi de temps en temps). I wonder also if the ocassional solvent smell is also a means of odor elimination employed by these young ladies. (Je me demande aussi si les solvent sont aussi parfois un moyen d’éliminer ou de “neutraliser” la fumée de tabac et de shit.)

And it gets better. Last week there were several days of spring-like weather, and I noticed that some bugs were starting to come out (spiders, bees, small flies). Well, it wasn’t long before I was gassed out in the stairwell by Raid, and then also noticed the beloved insecticide rising into my son’s bedroom. At times, we’ve been sleeping all four of us in the living room. There really should be a Toxics Anonymous for people like this.

Luckily for us we will be out of here at the end of the month. Yes, we’re moving to try to save our lives, and crossing our fingers and toes that the new place will be better built (more vapor-proof) and have less toxic neighbors. A BIG ASK, I know. As for the toxic family below, I plan to provide them with documentation on the risks they’re taking, but I don’t think it will do a damn bit of good. If three rare cancers all within 20 or so feet of them doesn’t make them stop and wonder, what will? Poor things. More details on this horrid architecture and my hypotheses on these cancers at some later date.

Winter of My Disbelief

January 28, 2009

It’s mid-winter. Temperatures in Grenoble have varied between -5 and +5 over the last 2 weeks. The only problem is that my downstairs neighbors decided to start redoing their bathroom 2 weeks ago, including paint and wood varnish, and of course tons of vapors are rising through the floors to give me headaches and other symptoms (prior to moving here, I have no recollection of ever suffering from severe migraine type headaches; the only time I remember headaches like this is when I had a bad sinus infection). The vapor situation is surely aggravated by the fact that my neighbors refuse to air out their own appartment because… guess what? It’s too cold outside. Who knew? Haven’t they ever heard about toxic indoor air prior to my mentionning it? And instead of thinking, hey maybe this guy is some sort of canary and could help save us from some terrible disease, they seem to think I just want to prevent them from having a beautiful appartment. The cherry on the cake was the comment that they’ve lived here for 14 years and no one has ever had a problem with odors from their DIY work, including the original owner who was sick with cancer (and subsequently died from it). These are the same people who break out the Raid at the sight of an itsy bitsy spider or a couple of ants. And who of course are eating more and more organic foods, because well, all those pesticides you know! We are of course actively looking for another appartment before we become the next cancer statistics here. In addition to the original owner of this appartment, 2 other relatively young persons (40s and 50s) have died within meters of here, from rare cancers (pancreatic, stomach and liver). With toxic neighbors and pathetic construction like this, I’m not at all suprised.

What get’s me is that if the odors are even perceptible in my appartment, they have to be absolutely outrageous in theirs, and they don’t seem to mind, although they apparently abhor the smell of cigarettes. Go figure.

Such people are surely not rare in France; my stepfather is one of them. His basement garage is an abominal pit of toxicity (see photos), yet he eats mainly organic foods now (the organic potatoes stored in the garage smell of gasoline and myriad VOCs), and dreams of building an eco-friendly home. When I pointed out that all the organic stuff was pointless if he breathed his garage air 10 minutes a day or more, I got an angry reply to the effect that he makes an absolute distinction between what he breathes and what he ingests. Interesting philosophy.

One of these days I post some stats on French cancer statistics. My hunch is that they are rising faster than most other places.

There’s a consumer magazine in France called “Que choisir” that regularly warns people about indoor-air toxicitiy, but apparently people are more interest in plasma TVs and washing machines. Too bad.

Cave à Vin, ou stockage de déchets dangereux?

Every true Frenchman has a wine cellar...

Breath this!

and an arsenal of hazardous materials