Chemical Sensitivity and the Monolithic Dome

Can a Monolithic Dome cure chemical sensitivity? No. But it can certainly help people who have it.

Note: This article was first presented in February 2005.

Because it’s so diverse and hard to identify, the sickness called chemical sensitivity or CS has several other names. Those include multiple chemical sensitivity or MCS, environmental illness, atmospheric allergies, etc. But we’ll simply call it CS.

CS: The Illness

As diseases go, CS is a new-comer. In fact, some physicians and scientists still refuse to acknowledge it. But the majority does recognize it as a physical, rather than psychological or emotional, condition. On its website, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) states that CS is different from allergies and defines it as a condition in which a person reports sensitivity or intolerance to even a low concentration of a number of chemicals or irritants.

The EPA lists the most frequently reported symptoms of CS as dizziness, eye and throat irritation, chest tightness and nasal congestion. Other lists, however, are a little longer. They include headaches, body and joint aches, flu-like stomach upsets and extreme fatigue.

The causes of these symptoms are equally diverse. According to the EPA, chemicals, irritants and pollutants that dirty or pollute the air inside a home or building are the primary cause. These include, but are certainly not limited to, oil, gas, kerosene, coal, building materials, insulating products, and furnishings. The two other most frequently cited CS causes are inadequate ventilation and trapped moisture. Bad ventilation prevents clean outside air from coming in and diluting the dirty inside air, and trapped moisture promotes mold growth.

A Monolithic Dome: The Help

A Monolithic Dome has only two construction materials that might be suspected as contributors to CS: the concrete on the dome’s interior and the polyurethane foam insulation between the Airform and the concrete.

The Concrete

Generally, concrete itself is inert. There has been talk about cement and concrete outgassing. Some people have theorized that concrete, during the curing process, traps chemicals other than carbon dioxide and water, that over time outgas or come out of the concrete. To date, this has not been proved. And even if true, I believe it’s extremely minimal. Concrete is like a two-component epoxy. When it sets up, it locks up. There is very little movement of anything going in or out of it, even on a theoretical level. But as an added precaution against CS, the Monolithic Dome’s interior concrete walls can be coated. Any one of several products that help prevent allergic reactions and chemical sensitivity, such as milk-base paint, can be used. Obviously, the dome’s concrete floor is very hypoallergenic, but ceramic tile over it makes it even cleaner.

The Polyurethane Foam

Polyurethane foam provides the insulation in a Monolithic Dome. In our construction process, we spray the polyurethane foam in several layers onto the inside of the Airform. Then, after rebar is attached, we spray the foam’s interior with layers of shotcrete. Thus, both sides of the polyurethane foam get covered. But even if it were not covered, this foam is a solid insulation that, unlike loose fiber insulation, does not harbor bacteria spores or mold.


When it comes to breathable air, sometimes we see very unusual solutions for dealing with CS, such as a porcelain house coated with steel. Another solution suggests locking the CS sufferer in a windowless, leak-proof room equipped with an air filter that will continually keep the inside air clean. But that will not work because the CO2 will build up and cause distress. We all need air that is fresh and clean. So how do we get it?

A system that filters the air coming into a structure, as well as the air already in it, is a good idea for any home. But for people with CS, such a system is a must-have. Many such systems are available for purchase. Monolithic has tested several and we now recommend the Ultimate Air ERV, a serious filtering system. It’s designed to remove virtually everything harmful from the incoming air and the interior air. The Ultimate Air ERV provides the clean, fresh air a person with CS needs.

Other Factors

A heat source, such as gas, propane, coal or wood can stimulate CS. Even for people without CS, those are never recommended for use in a Monolithic Dome. Instead, depending on the area, we suggest electric heating and/or a radiant floor heat system.

Other recognized contributors to CS include trapped moisture that attracts mold and bacteria spores. Such moisture often results in water-stained ceiling tiles and/or roofs with leaky, loose shingles. That cannot happen in a Monolithic Dome because its ceiling and roof are simply the uppermost, solid concrete part of the shell.

In fact, there is far more danger of a CS reaction from the furnishings, bedding, clothes and all the other paraphernalia brought into a Monolithic Dome than from the dome itself.

What my wife, Judy Lynn South, has to say on this subject

In 1979 we moved into our first dome home. It was such a wonderful experience. However, we made a mistake and put all gas appliances in our super efficient, well insulated home. From 1980 until 1985 my daughters (4 of them) and I suffered from carbon monoxide poisoning. We were in much trouble. With that problem, we became sensitive to almost every chemical and smell. If someone washed their clothes with Tide or gassed their car, it was so hard on me, especially. I was the one always home, washing and cleaning and doing laundry.

As soon as my wonderful husband recognized the problem, he threw out the gas appliances and installed all electric. It began to make a big difference, however it took many years to recover.

Here are my suggestions:

  1. Never use gas in a dome.
  2. If you already have enviornmental disease, get the help of a homeopathic doc who can deal with chemical poisonings. Ours really made a difference.
  3. Eat right. It will make a huge difference.
  4. No smoking by anyone in a dome.
  5. Use only fragrance free products, from washing liquids to make up. Leave the scented candles in the store and the room fresheners there also.
  6. Forget the carpet. Unless you find one that is “green” and unpolluted with chemicals you are better off with tile, hardwood, marble, etc.
  7. Remember that you do not need to use expensive items. Sun Detergent works for all of us, and it is very affordable.
  8. Being “green” is most always a good idea.
  9. Leave the newspaper on the stand.
  10. Paint and finishes are best without the harmful chemicals and are readily available now. And you are not limited to milk-based paints. We looked for affordable steel cabinets, but they were not affordable for us.
  11. Leave pressedboard and other formaldehyde filled woods out of your house. OR seal them with a good quality, nontoxic, sealer before installing them.
  12. Exercise outside, not inside… or at the gym.
  13. Get an ERV; then inside exercise is very good.
  14. Use the least amount of plastic that is possible. Soft plastic.
  15. Sleep in cotton, organic if you can afford it. Wear cotton as much as possible.

There are obviously many areas of attack that will limit chemical exposure. These are some things I have done, or tried to do when possible.