Monthly Archives: May 2012

Not so Equal Access to Health Care in Ontario or Systemic Barriers to Access for People with MCS/ES

Some places like Ontario, where I live, have disability access laws that state service providers, including those in healthcare, must accommodate people who are disabled.

On a government website, it states:

Barriers to accessibility are obstacles that make it difficult — sometimes impossible — for people with disabilities to do the things most of us take for granted — things like going shopping, working, or taking public transit… 

(or receiving health care services)

When we think of barriers to accessibility, most of us think of physical barriers — like a person who uses a wheelchair not being able to enter a public building because there is no ramp.

The fact is there are many kinds of barriers. Some are visible. Many are invisible:

•    Attitudinal barriers are those that discriminate against people with disabilities.

•    Organizational barriers are an organization’s policies, practices or procedures that discriminate against people with disabilities.

•    Architectural and physical barriers are features of buildings or spaces that cause problems for people with disabilities.
Chemical or “environmental” barriers prevent people like myself who have disabling medical conditions from breathing and functioning properly when exposed to these invisible, toxic and disabling barriers, resulting in both short and long term impacts.

How many of us do not have safe access to healthcare in Ontario?
How many of us do not have safe access to healthcare in Ontario?

In the ” Guide to the Accessibility Standards for Customer Service, Ontario Regulation 429/07″,  it says that Hospitals and health services provide goods or services  and as  designated public sector organizations should have been in Compliance by January 1, 2010…

It also states:
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Chemical Industry Blocks Attempts to Create Healthier Buildings and Materials

Hot on the heels of several eye-popping reports about how toxic chemicals and industry bought politics are  impacting our health, including the Chicago Tribune’s expose of  how the chemical industry has succeeded in getting toxic flame retardants added to home furnishings in amounts that harm us but do nothing to prevent fires,  indeed making fires more toxic too, from Bill Walsh at the Healthy Building Network comes news of how the chemical industry is blocking efforts to create healthier buildings.

No wonder healthy housing is so hard to find!

Chemical Giants Target the USGBC: Part 1

Bill Walsh
Bill Walsh

By Bill Walsh, Executive Director
Healthy Building Network

May 22, 2012

The credibility of the US chemical industry has taken a beating in the press this month. But instead of apologizing, pledging to reform its ways, or disciplining a “few bad apples,” for being caught lying red handed, the industry has doubled down and launched an all out attack on the US Green Building Council.[1] The focus of the attack – modest amendments to the LEED Rating System, two voluntary credits that address the presence of endocrine-disrupting chemicals and other toxins in LEED-rated buildings.

continue reading at : Healthy Building Network



Air Quality and Accessibility in Health Care; Why Aren’t All Health Care Providers Fragrance-Free?

Can you smoke in a hospital or doctor’s office? No. Why not? Because smoke adversely impacts air quality and our health (despite what the tobacco industry has tried to claim).

So why then are fragrance chemicals still allowed in these environments?

One would think that with so much information about how harmful most fragranced items are, and how easy it is to find fragrance free substitutes, that the health care profession would be the first to embrace fragrance-free, low to no VOC indoor environments for both themselves and all the sick and vulnerable people they serve. This includes children, people with asthma, autism, heart and respiratory diseases, migraines, chemical and environmental “sensitivities”, and others who are prone to having symptoms greatly exacerbated by fragrance chemicals and poor indoor air quality.

We know some fragrance ingredients cause cancer. We know some are endocrine disruptors. Some are even neuro-toxic.  Fragrance chemicals trigger asthma, allergies, migraines, and mild to life threatening symptoms in people. Some of the chemicals have been linked to early puberty in girls, reduced sperm counts in men, reproductive defects in the developing male fetus (when the mother is exposed during pregnancy),  and hormone disruption which leads to some cancers, thyroid disease, obesity, and diabetes. There is also evidence suggesting that exposure to one of the ingredients that make fragrances last longer and stick to everything may cause liver and kidney failure in young children. What more are we waiting for?

Graphics by Roslyn Rodgers, health effects text by Linda Sepp.

Continue reading

Letter to health food store regarding incense


Regarding incense…

I started shopping full time at health food stores because of the unhealthy indoor air in regular stores, and food that tasted like laundry products as a result. More recently, I decided to look up what incense is made of after buying food that tasted like incense from sitting on the store shelf in a store that sold incense, and found some disturbing information.

” A typical composition of stick incense consists of 21% (by weight) of herbal and wood powder, 35% of fragrance material, 11% of adhesive powder, and 33% of bamboo stick. Incense smoke (fumes) contains particulate matter (PM), gas products and many organic compounds. On average, incense burning produces particulates greater than 45 mg/g burned as compared to 10 mg/g burned for cigarettes. The gas products from burning incense include CO, CO2, NO2, SO2, and others. Incense burning also produces volatile organic compounds, such as benzene, toluene, and xylenes, as well as aldehydes and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs)….”

Additionally “In India, (and possibly elsewhere since it is such a common ingredient in fragrance chemistry) diethylphthalate is used extensively in the incense stick industry as a binder of perfumes. It can be emitted into the air during incense burning.”

Diethylphthalate (DEP), used as a plasticizer and a detergent base (and in many other fragranced consumer products), is a suspect carcinogen.

Like second hand smoke, pollutants emitted from incense burning in a close environment are harmful to human health. As mentioned above, particulate matters, and some of volatile organic compounds, musk ketones, musk xylenes, and musk ambrette, aldehydes, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, diethylphthalate (DEP) are toxic to the lung and allergenic to the skin and eyes.

Read the full study at:

I’m not sure what other kinds of fragranced products you carry, but hope that if you do, they’d be enclosed in glass cabinets, as they are also known to emit all kinds of health hazardous VOC’s.

see: INDOOR AIR QUALITY: Scented Products Emit a Bouquet of VOCs including some that are classified as toxic or hazardous by federal laws. /

Incense and other fragranced products are often unwrapped, or sold in flimsy plastic bags which do nothing to keep the VOCs  from migrating into other foods and products in the store.

I would love to be able to purchase a wide array of foods from you but I cannot, because everything that isn’t in glass or thick cellophane tastes like incense after being in the store for a while. Even those will emit incense VOCs because the labels are absorbent.

I have asked for and received some accommodation, like ordering cases of certain things, and trying to have them picked up as soon as possible to avoid cross-contamination, but since I don’t have a variety of people who can shop for me, this isn’t working out as a very effective solution. It would be much better if the foods you sold did not end up with  fragrance chemicals attached to them in the first place.

My main concern however isn’t just for myself, but for everyone who gets exposed, especially to burning incense, which might be more harmful that cigarette smoke, as the above research indicates.

I therefore believe that any store that wants to claim it is a “health” food store, should not be selling incense or any other fragranced products (that aren’t 100% certified organic).

I’m pretty sure that you’d agree after reading the research.

Please let me know if and when you can make your store a healthy incense and fragrance-free indoor environment, so that I and others will know the foods you sell have not been contaminated by harmful VOCs and are truly good for us to eat.

Kind regards,

(I’ll let you know what kind of responses I receive. Please let me know what kind of responses you receive if you use this letter as a template)

Toronto: ME/CFS, Fm and MCS Awareness Day‏ May 12, 2012.

City of Toronto Proclamation
Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Fibromyalgia and Multiple Chemical Sensitivities Awareness Day
May 12, 2012

WHEREAS the Myalgic Encephalomyelitis Association of Ontario is a non-profit organization that has served our community since 1991, to support individuals living with Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Fibromyalgia and Multiple Chemical Sensitivities.

Over 568,000 Ontarians are afflicted by these three chronic illnesses. Once diagnosed, one is often ill for years and as many as 70 per cent are disabled for life. These illnesses affect men, women and children of all backgrounds and presently the cause is unknown.

Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME), commonly known as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (ME/CFS), is a neurological and autoimmune disease characterized by overwhelming fatigue, pain, headaches, cardiac symptoms, immune disorders, dizziness and balance problems.

Fibromyalgia (FM) is characterized by severe musculoskeletal pain and tenderness in many areas of the body, along with fatigue and sleep dysfunction, generalized or regional stiffness and in some cases neurological and cognitive symptoms. This pain can become strong enough to prevent people from working or engaging in physical activities for months and even years.

Multiple Chemical Sensitivities (MCS), also called Environmental Sensitivities or Intolerance, is characterized by an unusually severe sensitivity or allergy-like reaction to many different kinds of pollutants such as chemicals, perfumes and other environmental triggers.

NOW THEREFORE, I, Mayor Rob Ford, on behalf of Toronto City Council, do hereby proclaim May 12, 2012 as “Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Fibromyalgia and Multiple Chemical Sensitivities Awareness Day” in the City of Toronto.

Mayor Rob Ford

Scared or sacred?

When you encounter suffering, either your own or others’, do you close your heart in discomfort or fear and do whatever you can to distract yourself from feeling whatever comes up?

Or do you open your heart wide and approach whatever arises with compassion and kindness?

“Scared Sacred” is the 1st in a series of three films by Velcrow Ripper. It shows people who have been opening their hearts in the face of enormous suffering.

I am grateful to have run across this film now, available to view for free online via the National Film Board. (I hope the link embeds properly, I’ll also share the page link below in case it doesn’t)

Scared Sacred

In case the film did not embed above, you can find it here:


Some may wonder what MCS/ES has to do with the film, and although the connection isn’t direct, most of us who live with MCS/ES will relate. MCS/ES doesn’t exist in a vacuum… it’s all interconnected. All too often, we see and feel how people close their hearts and minds to us, choosing to use toxic and harmful products instead of changing to safer ones that would make our lives so much easier, and are also better for everyone’s health and the environment. I know of many people who are still struggling to access safe housing and health-care, all over the world, while being assaulted by toxic exposures from everyday products and materials, and by people who find it easier to ridicule than help, although fortunately, this is slowly changing as more and more people understand how their own health is also threatened by the harmful ingredients we are all exposed to.

Some very difficult personal memories of events from the past few years have been surfacing lately too, fragmented memories that I don’t know how to process yet, and the brain injury is making more difficult… Some are of human kindness, some of indifference, and others are of cruelty…

I’ve also learned that my dear 101 year old grand-mother whom I haven’t been able to see in years, is preparing to leave her body soon. It fills me with sadness that I can’t be with her, although I am grateful that for months I was able to talk with her more or less weekly until her birthday in March, it’s not at all the same as being there for her in person.

These are some of the things that are challenging me these days, and I often want to retreat from the pain, but there’s no-where to go. I try to open my heart, but it’s not always easy, yet I know my only real option is to find the love within, and to open my heart to the suffering of others, and to practice tonglen (as seen in the film) when I’m able. I also know that if we want more kindness in the world, we have to be kind with ourselves too, and that we are all in this together. I’m very fortunate to have a supportive online community, so I don’t have to feel alone during these difficult times, and I hope for a kinder, more caring world for all.

I’d like to say more, or to have said it better, but my brain isn’t co-operating. The HRV broke down almost 2 months ago and  there’s been a dearth of fresh, unpolluted, smoke-, pesticide-, fragrance- and laundry chemical free outdoor air here so my brain isn’t functioning very well. I have a jumble of thoughts, all connected in my life, without the ability to put them together now, but I can appreciate a good film when I see it.

I hope you find Scared Sacred and Velcrow’s other work as inspiring as I do.

Here’s the website where you can read more about the film:

Velcrow Ripper’s second film “Fierce Light” is here:

He is currently editing his 3rd film, “Occupy Love”