Interview of Steve Chalmers
Interviewed for the UCLA Center for the Study of Women’s Chemical Entanglements: Oral Histories of Environmental Illness series. A man living in Sacramento, California, and a retired technology strategist. Chalmers is living with MCS and considers himself “an armchair activist.”
- Chemical Entanglements: Oral Histories of Environmental Illness
- Social MovementsEnvironmental Illness
- Biographical Note:
- Interviewed for the UCLA Center for the Study of Women’s Chemical Entanglements: Oral Histories of Environmental Illness series. A man living in Sacramento, California, and a retired technology strategist. Chalmers is living with MCS and considers himself “an armchair activist.”
- Chalmers, Steve
- Persons Present:
- Chalmers and Yiu
- Place Conducted:
- The interview was conducted using the Zoom video conferencing platform.
- Supporting Documents:
- Records relating to the interview are located in the office of the UCLA Library’s Center for Oral History Research.
- Interviewer Background and Preparation:
- This interview was conducted by Wei Si Nic Yiu, a graduate student researcher, for the Center for the Study of Women in cooperation with UCLA Center for Oral History Research; PhD student in Gender Studies, UCLA. Yiu’s dissertation focuses on queerness and archives of Asia.
- Processing of Interview:
- The interviewer prepared for the interview by reading a pre-interview questionnaire completed by the narrator.
- 2 hrs
- Regents of the University of California, UCLA Library.
- Series Statement:
- Chemical Entanglements: Oral Histories of Environmental Illness is a collection of interviews with over seventy individuals living in the U.S. and Canada whose family history, occupation, art practice, or activism have brought them into direct contact with illness experience and disability related to chronic, low-dose exposure to toxicant chemicals. The procurement of this collection (from March 2019 through September 2020) was sponsored by the UCLA Center for the Study of Women under the directorship of Rachel C. Lee, with interviews conducted by six undergraduates, five graduate students, two career staff, and two faculty members at CSW.
Personal background and suburban upbringing – childhood exposure to pesticides, fertilizers, elemental mercury contributing to later MCS – family members begin exhibiting symptoms after purchase of new home – hiring industrial hygienists to conduct testing on house – wife’s pre-existing MCS symptoms and intuition of needing to vacate house – lab tests failing to detect presence of toxins in house – evacuating house after multiple incidents of exposure triggering extreme symptoms in family members – consultations with physician toxicologists who deny illness – “prepare and protect” strategy for seeking accommodations for children in school – history of prosecution and delicensing of physicians in California for diagnosing MCS – history and politics around trajectory of clinical ecology and environmental medicine – lobbying efforts in Washington, DC to silence references to MCS – engaging in decades of personal research to understand politics around MCS – seeking accommodations from employer and taking early retirement – impact of MCS on productivity level at work – demands of managing an MCS household – challenges of finding products from non-fragranced facilities – challenges with traveling due to MCS – playing MMO games as a family in lieu of vacations – engaging in armchair activism and providing support in online communities – repeating three core messages regarding MCS – “Rosetta Stone” moment of disparate reactions to single exposure – heretical hypothesis regarding MCS – navigating day-to-day life with MCS – significant financial impact and factor of socioeconomic status in managing MCS – family support in navigating MCS – pattern of dismissal by mainstream medical doctors – functions of different online groups for people with MCS – need for change in basic theory underlying medicine