MCS and Housing

Multiple Chemical Sensitivities (MCS), Environmental Sensitivities (ES), Electrical Hyper-Sensitivities (EHS) and Housing

Contents
Section One: Background
Section Two: Recommended transitional housing supports for people living with MCS/ES/EHS
Section Three: Recommendations for safe new developments or retrofits
Section Four: Individual Unit recommendations
Section Five:Recommendations for creating the ideal inclusive community environment
References and Resources

Compiled by Linda Sepp
Canada

Special thanks to AEHA/EHAO, AEHA’s Toronto members, Stephen Collette, Jan Bangle, Lourdes Salvador, and the entire MCS/ES community.

Copyright © 2009 Linda Sepp. All rights reserved.

Background

Safe, healthy housing is the number one health-care need of people with Multiple Chemical Sensitivities (MCS), Environmental Sensitivities (ES), and Electrical Hyper-Sensitivities (EHS).

The failure of housing providers to adequately accommodate the unique needs of tenants with environmental or multiple chemical sensitivities is a human rights issue that is becoming increasingly significant. For people with environmental sensitivities, their health and ability rests with the actions of others, such as building managers, neighbours and other tenants. According to a study headed by the CMHC, 86% of people with Environmental Sensitivities improved significantly after access to safe housing. Some who had a bleak prognosis almost completely recovered.

Almost 3% (over 1 million) of Canadians are disabled by MCS/ ES/ EHS, (even though most doctors are unable to correctly diagnose the conditions) while 58,000 have AIDS. People with MCS/ES must practice chemical avoidance like people with peanut allergies practice peanut avoidance. The ability to control one’s environment is the only way to practice the level of chemical avoidance that is necessary to maintain one’s health and ability.

Fragrance chemicals, tobacco smoke, and other volatile organic compounds (VOC’s) from building materials and cleaning products do not recognize air-space boundaries, as was demonstrated with smoking sections in restaurants. Smoking has now been banned in indoor public spaces, and while some scent-free workplaces exist, there are no protections for people with environmental and chemical sensitivities in their homes and apartments.

Second hand exposures to the above mentioned VOC’s occur everywhere. Fumes from BBQ’s, wood smoke, asphalt, tar, dryer vents, pesticides, fertilizers, vehicle exhaust, etc. occur outdoors, and easily migrate indoors without adequate measures. Electro Magnetic Fields and Radiation (EMF/EMR) from cell towers, WiFi zones, DECT phones, transmission lines and transformers travel through walls and affect people with EHS. Some suffer adverse effects from both MCS/ES and EHS, restricting their lives even more in effort to avoid exposures.

MCS/ES and EHS affect every aspect of life. Every single activity or purchase has a cost/benefit analysis attached to it. Ordinary excursions and purchases can be exercises in moving from one assault (exposure) to the next. Attempting avoidance of triggering substances is near impossible away from home; therefore the quality of the home environment is critical to one’s quality of life.

Affordable housing is often situated near industrial sites with high chemical emissions, highways with heavy diesel traffic, garbage dumps, manufacturing, agricultural or golf course fertilizers and pesticides, high voltage power lines or cell towers, etc, or it is mouldy, not well maintained, with  repairs done using the cheapest (and usually most toxic) materials available. In other words, places that people with chemical and environmental or electrical sensitivities must avoid.

They need to be away from major sources of emissions and pollution, including businesses that deal with volatile organic compounds (VOC’s), like hair salons and public laundromats. In urban areas, this is very difficult, so the safety of the indoor environment becomes even more important.

When one develops MCS/ES/EHS and needs to find a safer place to live, there is no organized help. There are no registries of safer places, no agents who know what to look for, few landlords who understand that even a small repair or touch up with problem materials could result in months of ill health. Rare are the places with safe tenants (who don’t pollute the air) or buildings with safe maintenance plans. Too many people become very ill searching for a safe home, as each subsequent exposure adds to a cumulative toxic load. Many become homeless, and more than a few commit suicide as a direct result of not having access to safe housing.

People with chemical injury and MCS or EHS currently face obstacles at virtually every turn in life. The severity of MCS/ES/EHS range from mildly disabling to severe and life threatening. Part of the debilitating disability is cognitive, with major fatigue, so that something as simple as making phone calls can become over-whelming. Word recall is difficult, and asking potential landlords questions about maintenance practices and other tenants’ habits, when suffering from exposures, is a sure fire way to be rejected, and not be taken seriously, or risking a visit to an unsafe environment from other’s belief or attitude that it wouldn’t make a difference.

The cumulative effects of these exposures, especially when occurring long-term, are debilitating. The longer one remains in an environment with triggering substances, the more disabling and difficult life becomes. One cannot recover unless exposures are avoided. The sooner one is able to avoid exposures, the more likely one is to avoid complete disability. Early solutions are easy and cost effective, compared to the difficulties encountered once one has severe MCS/ES/EHS.

Clean air, water and food are crucial elements of life. Prevention is the best, most cost effective way of dealing with MCS/ES and EHS. Timely access to safe housing allows people to regain control of their health and abilities. Complete control and separation of air space is required in the homes of people with MCS/ES. Ways to ensure no wireless and cell or transmission tower EMF/EMR encroach into one’s living space are necessary. Plans to minimize harm from exposures must also be made for all shared spaces like hallways and elevators.

Safe housing at the earliest opportunity after injury and diagnosis, along with safe shelters to avoid periodic events like renovations and repairs, road paving, pesticide, etc., prevents the deterioration of health and allows the injured an opportunity to recover, as well as the possibility of returning to a productive life. Without these, people can become completely incapacitated and fully dependent on government and other supports. Until environmentally safe housing is developed, assistance needs to be made available for those diagnosed with these illnesses and disabilities.

Safe Housing is critical. Safe housing is the primary medical need of people with MCS, ES, and EHS. The number of lives affected is growing, and so far nothing has been done to address the needs of the people who are being injured by common everyday chemical and electrical exposures. It is time for this to change.

Recommended transitional housing supports for people living with MCS/ES, and EHS

  • Safe emergency shelters for both short and medium term durations since ordinary shelters are not accessible. Short term refuge is required during neighbourhood events like road paving, pesticide use, renovations or repairs, heat waves, or loss of housing and health.
  • Housing subsidies attached to the individual instead of a location, to aid in affording safer environments wherever one may be found, since they are currently few and far between and the search often transcends municipal boundaries.
  • Specialized housing workers and case managers are desperately needed, as the search is tremendously difficult. People are forced to try to advocate for themselves now, with ill health, and reduced cognitive abilities, and are usually exposed to more harm than good when seeking help. This also leads to many doing without basic necessities like food, clothing, housing and healthcare.
  • Transitional safe housing for the time between when emergency shelter is required and permanent housing can be found.
  • Safe storage facilities (to avoid contamination and loss of belongings due to facility or other user pesticides and “air-fresheners” ) when between housing.
  • Safe and knowledgeable scent-free home-care is needed, when people become too physically or cognitively ill to take care of themselves after exposures (long term or infrequent/occasional).
  • Financial assistance* and expertise to make appropriate retrofits can help people stay in their own homes, if at all possible (some places cannot be made safe enough).
  • Small multi-unit buildings could be renovated to accommodate the needs of mildly to moderately disabled members of this group, and small private bungalows for the more severely impacted.
  • Education is necessary for landlords, contractors, real estate agents, service providers and the public about MCS/ES, chemical contaminants, safe alternatives and the need to follow strict protocols.

*CMHC does have a program called RRAP which recognizes the needs of people with MCS/ES, but landlord co-operation, funding and expertise are not always available.

Recommendations for MCS/ES/EHS safe new developments or retrofits

  • Mixed income, affordable and subsidized when necessary, housing complexes, built beyond green (ie. using LEED Platinum + and Building Biology guidelines), with non-toxic, no-VOC materials, excellent mould elimination strategies, no shared air, excellent air-filtration, radiant floor or radiator heat, no WiFi or cell towers, low Electro Magnetic Field (EMF) building practices, (no fluorescent lighting) with individual laundries and vented storage areas in each unit.
  • Shared areas (halls, stairs) need to have special air controls and full house air filtration and ventilation to prevent cross contamination and air mixing between areas. All spaces must be individually vented, with private HVAC in units
  • Ground floor units need to be accessible from the outdoors, for people with severe MCS/ES who cannot share hallways, while others with moderate MCS can be housed in upper level units with strict written agreements about what can and can’t be done where air-quality and EMF/EMR are concerned.
  • Whole building water filtration to purify water and remove chlorine and pollutants.
  • Personal vented laundry closets (Washer/Dryer) are also required. Individuals with MCS/ES rarely tolerate the same laundry products as others, and cross contamination of clothing can be catastrophic when one is already struggling to survive, so personal use machines are necessary.
  • Within each unit, a private locker type space with ventilation to allow storage and offgassing of problem materials and medical equipment as required, ie new items brought into the home, like mail, supplies, occasional-use items that are rarely tolerated but necessary for sustaining some manner of life, and many need to stock up in advance to allow the offgassing of items before use, so extra safe storage space becomes crucial.
  • Low EMF/EMR appliances with proper shielding between rooms and units.
  • Building should be sound-proofed as sound sensitivity is also common.
  • Units to be wheelchair accessible, as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS), Fibromyalgia (FM), and other health issues may develop or are already co-occurring.
  • Some residents have no human contact and have pets. Others are allergic to animals, and need separated space to be safe. Separated building wings can accommodate this.
  • The site should have a secure shared use specially vented off-gassing area for larger or more toxic things like appliances, so that stoves, fridges, computers etc. can be offgassed, sometimes for months before being safe to use. Possibly combined with a unit to bake off VOC’s or bedbugs/pests.
  • Delivery system / area that does not send exhaust fumes into units.
  • Units should be well protected from garbage and disposal areas.

Individual Unit recommendations for people with MCS/ES/EHS

  • Solid wood, ceramic tile, or polished concrete floors, no carpeting.
  • Many people will need an extra room to house the computer and home office, since they are confined to working from home, if at all, or computers are the only social access possible. Special venting for computers and televisions, and EMF reduction strategies need to be considered in the design.
  • Bedrooms should be empty of most everything but the bed, so size can be reduced. Clothing is best stored elsewhere. Vented closets may be necessary for the more severely affected.
  • *Subsidies usually cover one bedroom per person, considering more space to be “over-housing”, yet without safe access to other places such as libraries, parks, theatres, malls, restaurants, due to levels of exposures – many people are housebound, making the home the entire world experience. Most can agree that providing an extra room and larger living area to people without safe access elsewhere does not constitute “over-housing”. However, it must also be said, that if appropriate safe housing is accessible early enough, the decline in health is usually prevented so this would eventually become unnecessary.
  • Enclosed private Washer and Dryer or drying closet.
  • Private vented storage area.
  • Bathrooms with FIR sauna technology to aid in detox (easy to incorporate during build).
  • Filtered Heat Recovery Ventilators (HRVs) and A/C’s with individual controls.
  • Enclosed, not open concept kitchens, with extra counter space and storage, as most meals are made from scratch and need more preparation space. At least one counter should be lower so prep can be done while seated. Non porous materials to prevent mould and offgassing. Extra storage space for cooking materials and foods, including larger fridges for fresh vegetables etc. Extra outlets for equipment, and good venting for fumes.
  • Windows that open, with good natural light, and safe shutter system to block out light when necessary (window covering textiles can be problematic).
  • Home office and other areas need to be properly shielded from EMF/EMR and have possibility to vent computer when necessary (off-gassing can be an issue for years).
  • Remote control of all electronics at switch if required by those with more severe EHS.
  • Upper levels should have balconies to inner courtyard for safe, easy access to outdoors. Ground level units should have easy access to patio area in the courtyard space. Wind breaks are advisable.

Recommendations for creating the ideal inclusive community environment

  • Basic needs should be available within or near the community/complex. Lack of safe transport, and toxicity of most retail and medical environments make access difficult.
  • Specially vented visiting rooms, with outdoor access for visitors, (social workers, and delivery people) who could risk resident health if not suitably detoxed, one with glass wall partition and separate access to protect the most vulnerable residents.
  • Community space to hold chemical free functions: meetings, concerts, classes, performances, exhibits, parties, etc.
  • A business incubator space for residents to develop and put into practice business plans.
  • An interior courtyard and garden space surrounded by the buildings, to protect the out-door area from neighbouring winds, creating safer spaces to sit outside.
  • Community garden space to grow organic vegetables.
  • Retail store that sells chemical free basic needs: organic foods and produce, supplements, personal care, clothing, etc.
  • Specialized medical and dental offices, or in-home visitations.
  • Gym, sauna, chemical free pool for fitness on site – as public space is rarely accessible.
  • Resource center on the premises which could provide information and supports to GTA/province on invisible disabilities. May be staffed by residents on a rotational or wellness basis.
  • Many of these ideas have been successfully implemented in Community Living projects.

Agreements

  • Signed agreements with all tenants, owners, maintenance managers, etc… about acceptable protocols for furnishings, cleaning, maintenance, repairs, as well as general product use for all residents, interior visitors and property management. Tenants should be consulted as to most appropriate methods for repairs in their units when necessary.
  • Application screening process about level of individual sensitivity, to determine awareness of problem materials and acceptable approaches to living in proximity to others with MCS/ES/EHS is necessary.
  • Educational sessions and contracts about acceptable products and procedures.
  • People with MCS/ES/EHS often need longer time to accomplish things than regular people, any advance notification requirements may need to be longer than usual.

References and Resources section
Update 2023
A  new resource section follows after the references section,  as many of the links for the original resources no longer worked.


[1] The Centre for Equality Rights in Accommodation (CERA) is an Ontario-based non-profit human rights organization that promotes human rights in housing and challenges discrimination. The purpose of the Guide is to provide housing workers, social service providers and community advocates with tools to help them effectively challenge discrimination in housing.

[2] CHRC. The Medical Perspective of Environmental Sensitivities.

[3] Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC)

[4] Statistics Canada, AIDS Committee of Toronto (ACT).

[5] Environmental Illness Society of Canada (EISC). Socio-Economic Impacts of Environmental Illness in Canada.

 

Copyright © 2009 Linda Sepp

All rights reserved.

When sharing or using excerpts on the Web, please provide a link back to this Web page. No changes should be made to this document without first consulting the author.


BUILDING SIGN - BEFORE AND AFTER COPY

NOTE:

I have NO idea why some of the following links turned into previews, and others didn’t, so apologies for the inconsistencies.This is one of the reasons why I have not been adding new info to this site, as wordpress has made things unnecessarily difficult.

Apologies for the resulting formatting mess.

Also note that the links will not open in a new tab or window unless you right click on them and choose that option.

RESOURCES Revised 2023

(an extensive assortment of MCS/ES housing and related info)

Environmental Sensitivities/Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (ES/MCS)

ABOUT MCS (Multiple Chemical Sensitivity) 

http://recognitioninclusionandequity.org/about-the-conditions/environmental-sensitivitiesmultiple-chemical-sensitivities-esmcs/

STATISTICS

Prevalence of diagnosed MCS has increased over 300%, and self-reported chemical sensitivity over 200%.

https://journals.lww.com/joem/Fulltext/2018/03000/National_Prevalence_and_Effects_of_Multiple.17.aspx

International prevalence of chemical sensitivity and fragrance sensitivity.

https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11869-019-00672-1

Canadian Statistics for Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS)

statistics

HOUSING

MCS and Housing

Some practical details regarding issues in housing (word document download):

MCS Issues and Pre-Existing Dwellings

https://seriouslysensitivetopollution.files.wordpress.com/2023/01/2023-update-1-mcs-and-dwellings.doc

This checklist has questions for RE agents (and others) to ask landlords and vendors for details on specifics that can affect the health and abilities of people with MCS/ES (and others), so that informed decisions can be made about the potential of a place: can it work or not?

The questionnaire can be modified to reflect a person’s needs:

House Hunting Questions

House Hunting Questions

A wealth of other, practical information regarding housing for people with MCS/ES/EI

from EI Wellspring:

https://www.eiwellspring.org/saferhousing.html

A safe housing community project in the works in Quebec, which has been delayed by opposition:

ECOASIS, a project by the Environmental Health Association of Québec (EHAQ)

http://ecoasisquebec.ca/?page_id=10&lang=en

Air quality in “green” housing affected by toxic chemicals in building materials

https://silentspring.org/news/air-quality-green-housing-affected-toxic-chemicals-building-materials

Green public housing may reduce health risks from environmental pollutants
by Harvard School of Public Health

https://medicalxpress.com/news/2015-10-green-housing-health-environmental-pollutants.html

https://ajph.aphapublications.org/doi/full/10.2105/AJPH.2015.302793

Barrhaven Environmentally Sensitive Units

Evaluation of the Barrhaven multi-unit (7 units) housing for the environmentally hypersensitive / prepared for: Research Division, Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation; prepared by: The Flett Consulting Group

https://publications.gc.ca/site/eng/9.907664/publication.html
(2023 link)

Ecology House, San Rafael, California (built in 1994)

  • To provide safer affordable housing for eleven disabled, low income individuals with Environmental Illness and/or Multiple Chemical Sensitivity
  • http://www.tikvah.com/cc/eh (Ecology House)

Template Letter Applying For Low Allergy Housing 

Letter for Doctors and other support people to assist people into the right kind of housing

https://web.archive.org/web/20190302033254/http://asehaqld.org.au/index.php/housing-application-letter

CERA (2023 update):

CERA has changed their name and has only one MCS/ES document left on their new website.

Environmental sensitivities and rental housing in Ontario: A self-advocacy toolkit
(this toolkit is good if you can already get in the door. It doesn’t help if the place is too toxic to enter):

Environmental sensitivities and rental housing in Ontario: A self-advocacy toolkit

CERA (2010) via the web archive:

Environmental Sensitivities and Housing

https://web.archive.org/web/20120321233836/http://www.equalityrights.org/cera/?page_id=674

Access these very useful brochures and resource guide from the above link too:

Creating Healthy Apartments: What You Need to Know” pamphlet. PDF

https://web.archive.org/web/20120321233836/http://www.equalityrights.org/cera//wp-content/uploads/2010/06/CERA_HH_pamphlet_eng.pdf

Creating Healthy Housing: Guidelines for Multi-Unit Housing Providers“. PDF

https://web.archive.org/web/20120321233836/http://www.equalityrights.org/cera//wp-content/uploads/2010/06/Healthy-Housing-Guidelines.pdf

Creating Healthy Multi-Unit Housing: A Resource Guide“. PDF

Click to access Healthy-Housing-Resource-Guide-Final.pdf

Housing as a Medical Necessity

https://web.archive.org/web/20181130174052/http://www.equalityrights.org/cera/housing-as-a-medical-necessity/

IEQ Indoor Environmental Quality

A project of the National Institute of Building Sciences (NIBS) with funding support from The Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board (Access Board)

https://www.access-board.gov/research/building/indoor-environmental-quality/  (2023 link)

Canada Housing and Mortgage Corporation (CMHC)

 

The CMHC did a lot of good research in the 80s and 90s, and have had great documents available in the past, but the links and availability keep changing.

 

Assessment of the Indoor Air Quality of a Suite for an Environmentally Hypersensitive Occupant (in a regular apartment building in BC)

  • A failed attempt
  • In particular, read Chapter 5: interviews, pages 33 onwards

https://publications.gc.ca/collections/collection_2011/schl-cmhc/nh18-1/NH18-1-88-1997-eng.pdf   (2023 link)

 

An example of what is possible from many years ago. There is a wider range of safer building materials available now.
This includes details of a safer HRV that was designed for people with MCS/ES.

*** CMHC Research House for the Environmentally Sensitive (direct PDF)

How to Reduce Chemical Contaminants in Your Home  (2023 link)

Click to access NH18-24-38-2009-eng.pdf

1995 CMHC BUILDING MATERIALS For the Environmentally Hypersensitive (compressed file):

Click to access 61089_2005-compressed-2.pdf

1996 A survey of problem homes of the environmentally hypersensitive (CMHC)

https://publications.gc.ca/site/eng/9.907662/publication.html

1997  Housing needs of the environmentally hypersensitive : socio-economic and health factors : final report  (CMHC)

https://publications.gc.ca/site/eng/9.907665/publication.html

RRAP – Residential Rehabilitation Assistance Program for Persons with Disabilities

  • CMHC offers financial assistance to allow homeowners and landlords to pay for modifications to make their property more accessible to persons with disabilities. These modifications are intended to eliminate physical barriers, imminent safety risks and improve the ability to meet the demands of daily living within the home.

(* no longer exists and I’m not aware of a similar program)

Transport of third-hand tobacco smoke and fragrance

A prominent source of hazardous air pollutants into indoor nonsmoking environments

Science Advances 04 Mar 2020:
Vol. 6, no. 10, eaay4109
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aay4109

Second and third hand fragrance works the same way as second (SHS) and third hand smoke (THS)

Abstract

The contamination of indoor nonsmoking environments with thirdhand smoke (THS) is an important, poorly understood public health concern. Real-time THS off-gassing from smokers into a nonsmoking movie theater was observed with online and offline high-resolution mass spectrometry. Prominent emission events of THS tracers (e.g., 2,5-dimethylfuran, 2-methylfuran, and acetonitrile) and other tobacco-related volatile organic compounds (VOCs) coincided with the arrival of certain moviegoers and left residual contamination.

These VOC emission events exposed occupants to the equivalent of 1 to 10 cigarettes of secondhand smoke, including multiple hazardous air pollutants (e.g., benzene and formaldehyde) at parts-per-billion concentrations. Nicotine and related intermediate-volatility nitrogen-containing compounds, which vaporized from clothes/bodies and recondensed onto aerosol, comprised 34% of observed functionalized organic aerosol abundance. Exposure to THS VOC emission events will be considerably enhanced in poorly ventilated or smaller spaces in contrast with a large, well-ventilated theater—amplifying concentrations and potential impacts on health and indoor chemistry.

THS originates from the direct contamination of surfaces (e.g., smokers’ bodies and clothes, indoor furnishings and surfaces, and building materials) with hazardous organic compounds from tobacco combustion but does not include airborne primary particles.

When VOCs and larger intermediate- or semi-volatile compounds (I/SVOCs; e.g., nicotine) sorb to these surfaces, they can accumulate in a persistent organic layer (1, 7, 8). From the organic layer, they can dynamically repartition to the gas phase and then condense onto aerosols (9, 10), dust (11), or other surfaces (12).

Surface-deposited THS can also participate in chemistry with common oxidants (e.g., ozone, nitrous acid) to form oxidation by-products, such as highly carcinogenic tobacco smoke nitrosamines (TSNAs) (11, 13).

THS exposure can occur via inhalation of evaporated gases (6), resuspended dusts (14), or I/SVOCs condensed onto aerosols (9, 10), along with ingestion (1) or dermal exposure (1, 15) via surfaces or dust.

https://advances.sciencemag.org/content/6/10/eaay4109

A STUDY ON THE VOCS EMISSION RATES OF HOME ELECTRICAL APPLIANCES

Click to access nozaki.pdf

Emission Study
Poor design practices – Gaseous emissions from complex products (everyday appliances and materials)

http://www.hamburger-umweltinst.org/en/content/emission-study

25 Guiding Principles of Building Biology

25 Guiding Principles of Building Biology

Find An Expert

The following sources for products and environmentally-focused services are alumni of our certification programs. Their products and services are their own responsibilities, and are in no way provided, sold, endorsed, or guaranteed by the Building Biology Institute.

Find An Expert

Stellar Environmental ~ Building Biology Environmental Consultant

https://stellarenvironmental.ca/

NCIL Resolutions

Support of Healthy and Nontoxic Housing

Support of Healthy and Nontoxic Housing

HUMAN RIGHTS

Canadian Human Rights Commission

What you need to know
What is environmental sensitivity?

People who have allergies or sensitivity to certain products may have a bad reaction to a much lower level of chemicals, perfumes or environmental triggers than the average person.

Their reaction is a medical condition. It is a recognized disability.

People with allergies or environmental sensitivity are entitled to protection from its cause.

The Canadian Human Right Act protects people with allergies or environmental sensitivities, like any other disability.

Employees or clients with environmental sensitivities can ask employers or service providers for accommodation.

Employers and service providers must ensure that their facilities are accessible and safe.

In the case of environmental sensitivities, this means:

– reducing the use of chemicals;

– having a scent-free policy;

– purchasing less toxic products;

These measures can prevent injuries and illnesses and reduce health and safety risks.

~ Environmental sensitivity and scent-free policies (2019)

Canadian Human Rights Commission
Policy on Environmental Sensitivities (original)

Click to access policy_sensitivity_0.pdf

The Canadian Human Rights Commission
Environmental sensitivity and scent-free policies 2019 Document

https://www.chrc-ccdp.gc.ca/en/resources/publications/policy-environmental-sensitivities

Ontario Human Rights Code :
Policy and Guidelines on Disability and the Duty to Accommodate

(1.3 Non-Evident Disabilities)

The nature or degree of certain disabilities might render them “non-evident” to others. Chronic fatigue syndrome and back pain, for example, are not apparent conditions. Other disabilities might remain
hidden because they are episodic. Epilepsy is one example. Similarly, environmental sensitivities can flare up from one day to the next, resulting in significant impairment to a person’s health and capacity
to function, while at other times, this disability may be entirely non-evident.

http://www.ohrc.on.ca/en/resources/Policies/PolicyDisAccom2/pdf
(Policy and Guidelines on Disability and the Duty to Accommodate)

Accommodating Persons with Disabilities

Under the Code, persons with disabilities have the right to full integration and participation in society. They should be able to access services, employment, and housing, and face the same duties and responsibilities as everyone else.

Employers, landlords, service providers, and others have a duty to consider the needs of persons with disabilities up-front. This means designing for buildings, processes, programs or services inclusively.

If existing physical structures, systems, or attitudes create barriers, they must be removed. Where it is impossible to remove barriers without undue hardship, special arrangements must be made so that persons with disabilities can fully participate. This is what is called “accommodation.”

http://www.ohrc.on.ca/en/resources/factsheets/disability2

Ontario Policy on ableism and discrimination based on disability

“inconvenience, morale, and preferences are not valid considerations in assessing whether an accommodation would cause undue hardship”.

Policy on ableism and discrimination based on disability
http://www.ohrc.on.ca/en/policy-ableism-and-discrimination-based-disability

The Honourable David C. Onley, the 28th Lieutenant Governor of Ontario (2007-2014) was appointed to lead the
Third Review of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA).

He found that
“For most disabled persons, Ontario is not a place of opportunity but one of countless, dispiriting, soul-crushing barriers”

Several mentions of ES, and a specific recommendation on pg 80:

7. Ensure that accessibility standards respond to the needs of people with environmental sensitivities.

https://www.ontario.ca/page/2019-legislative-review-accessibility-ontarians-disabilities-act-2005

Are you “sensitive” to chemicals or other factors in our environments?

Chemical Intolerance Self Assessment (QEESI)

Find out if you are chemically intolerant:

Chemical Intolerance Self Assessment (QEESI)

Ontario’s Environmental Health Clinic in Women’s College Hospital

Environmental Health Clinic

The Medical Perspective on Environmental Sensitivities” 2007
Canadian Human Rights Commission

https://www.chrc-ccdp.gc.ca/en/resources/publications/the-medical-perspective-environmental-sensitivities (2023 link)

MCS/ES, Housing, and MAiD

Woman with chemical sensitivities chose medically-assisted death after failed bid to get better housing
(after a livable choice was not made available to her)

“Four Toronto doctors were aware of Sophia’s case and they also wrote to federal housing and disability government officials on her behalf. In that letter the doctors confirmed that her symptoms improved in cleaner air environments and asked for help to find or build a chemical-free residence.

“We physicians find it UNCONSCIONABLE that no other solution is proposed to this situation other than medical assistance in dying,” they wrote.”

The underlying problem is that there is no government agency that is assigned to help people with environmental sensitivities get housing free from chemicals.”

https://www.ctvnews.ca/health/woman-with-chemical-sensitivities-chose-medically-assisted-death-after-failed-bid-to-get-better-housing-1.5860579

“Denise” was the 2nd woman *in the media* for MAiD with MCS severe enough to make finding medically safe housing (that is affordable) impossible (there have been others, but the sensitivities were either not mentioned, or listed offhand)

Denise has been living out of a safer hotel room from the GFM, trying to find housing & surgery Ont doesn’t do, but the funds are almost gone. Safe, affordable  housing has not been found, yet. Where is it?

https://www.gofundme.com/f/housing-not-MAID

The CTV article link can be accessed in the Go Fund Me

***

Our dear friend Susy is currently in this process too, details have not been made available to the public at the time of this writing.

A GoFundMe is in the works. Links will be added here when available.

‘I don’t want to die’ — New revelations on how Canada ushers the vulnerable to medically aided death

Documents show how MAID helps the poor and disabled to a “beautiful” death

No Other Options

includes this example from Canada’s leading organization of MAiD providers and assessors:

Nancy, former physician, 68 yrs old, multiple sensitivities

No affordable housing options available, no additional funding available, all options explored

Screenshot here:

Living with Dignity

News Clippings Archive

https://living-with-dignity.ca/home/current-articles-of-interest/clippings-archive/

News  2023

https://living-with-dignity.ca/home/current-articles-of-interest/

ARTICLES about MCS and Housing

 

OLD but still totally relevant
(things are no better in 2023, in fact they are often worse)

Multiple Chemical Sensitivities can drive sufferers into poverty as well as ill health (Grist 2006)

https://grist.org/article/hymas/ 

Safe Houses: Only for the affluent?
People with MCS who have few resources end up as housing refugees

http://www.raggededgemagazine.com/0303/0303ft5.html

see also (from the same Mar./Apr. 2003 edition)

The New Refugees

I am a disabled woman traveling alone, camping out in isolated places and everyday campgrounds

http://www.raggededgemagazine.com/0303/0303ft4.html

Chapter 2, “The Elusive Search for a Place to Live,” of Alison Johnson’s book Amputated Lives: Coping with Chemical Sensitivity, which gives a moving overview of the immense problems faced by the chemically sensitive with regard to housing.

Click to access amputated-lives-ch2.pdf

More from the book Amputated Lives: Coping with Chemical Sensitivity

http://www.alisonjohnsonmcs.com/amputated-lives-excerpts.htm

Video documentary:

Homesick: Living with Multiple Chemical Sensitivities

Learn about the innovative solutions that people living with Multiple Chemical Sensitivities (MCS) devise in their search for a home that doesn’t make them sick.

https://homesick-video.com/

The comment section for this old article is insightful

Note: this was before essential oils and other natural fragranced products became a widespread problem. They are not a benign substitute for artificial fragrances.

(via the internet archive way back machine)

Why Scents May Not Make Cents When Selling Your Home

https://web.archive.org/web/20080516055145/https://valleymarket.com/2007/02/24/why-scents-may-not-make-cents-when-trying-to-sell-your-home/

MISCELLANEOUS

Household products make surprisingly large contributions to air pollution

Household products make surprisingly large contributions to air pollution

Fragranced consumer products: exposures and effects from emissions.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27867426/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5093181/ (full text)

Air fresheners and indoor built environments:
why air fresheners impair rather than improve indoor air quality, and pose health risks

“As a consideration, after air fresheners are disconnected or removed from a location, the air pollutants may not immediately go away.

Air freshener compounds can be adsorbed on walls, furnishings, and surfaces, and be reemitted into the indoor air environment.”

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0360132316304334

Using Ozone to Kill and Denature Mold
The Effectiveness of Ozone Generators on Mold, Mycotoxins, Fragrance, and Smoke

… “Ozone kills and denatures mold on surfaces, and breaks down many VOCs and odors such as perfume. It can also remediate smoke smell in certain materials.

Ozone has also caused a lot of damage, not just to the breakdown of certain materials in a home, but it seems to exasperate some toxins, causing many people to not be able to return to their house for a long time, or ever.”

Using Ozone to Kill and Denature Mold

Some helpful resources from the now defunct MCS Canadian Sources page  (available via the internet archive)

https://web.archive.org/web/20080207020219/http://www.mcscanadian.org/howto.html

The Safe Canary Nest also had a great wealth of useful information for human canaries.
Here’s the web archive link to the site:

https://web.archive.org/web/20150407133303/http://safecanarynest.com/

Clothing

(can become a major challenge when safe housing and personal laundry equipment are not available, here’s one reason why it’s so difficult for many people ):

Research Shows Harmful Chemicals Can Remain In Clothing Even After Washing

“Exposure to these chemicals increases the risk of allergic dermatitis, but more severe health effect for humans as well as the environment could possibly be related to these chemicals. Some of them are suspected or proved carcinogens and some have aquatic toxicity,”

Research Shows Harmful Chemicals Can Remain In Clothing Even After Washing

Hormone receptor activities of complex mixtures of known and suspect chemicals  in personal silicone wristband samplers worn in office buildings

  • We observed 1044 chemical signatures in wristband samples via suspect screening.
  • Every wristband extract was hormonally active in human hormone receptor cell assays.
  • The chemical mixtures disrupted estrogen, androgen, and thyroid hormone receptors.
  • Exposures were influenced by personal care products, buildings, gender disparities.

… Several targeted and suspect chemicals were important co-drivers of overall mixture effects, including chemicals used as plasticizers, fragrance, sunscreen, pesticides, and from other or unknown sources.

This study highlights the role of personal care products and building microenvironments in hormone-disrupting exposures, and the substantial contribution of chemicals not often identifiable or well-understood to those exposures.”

“Fragrances were the most common primary functional use of the suspect chemical signatures (34% of those with known functional uses),

followed by emollients (14%), masking agents (10%), and UV absorbers (7%), among the 168 commonly detected suspect chemicals

A large portion (65% total) of the 168 features did not have known functional uses in the EPA database (Table 2) (K. A. Phillips et al., 2017).”

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0045653522041984

…”Consequently, the use of essential-oil-based cleaning products might generate a long-term increase in the indoor formaldehyde concentration, and the maximum levels might be sustained for several hours after cleaning.
Thus, essential-oil-based cleaners should be seriously considered as versatile and significant sources of fragrance molecules and formaldehyde.”

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S1352231020307925

“The IFRA Transparency List also contains many examples of fragrance chemicals that are restricted or banned in products by government agencies and/or retailers, or are otherwise included on authoritative lists of chemicals of concern, including the following:

Fragrance Chemicals of Concern Present on the IFRA List 2015

Emissions from essential oils (both regular and organic).

All essential oils tested emitted chemicals classified as hazardous (such as toluene), with no significant difference between the regular and “organic” essential oils.

https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11869-018-0606-0

Q: How can people modify—or limit—their exposure to these chemicals?

“Well, even if you lived in a bubble, it’d still be really hard to completely avoid them.
There are things people can do to help decrease their exposure:

Check labels and choose products that are free of phthalates and parabens;
get a filter for drinking water;
eat organic food to avoid pesticides that contain these chemicals;
and vacuum your house with a HEPA vacuum.

But there are two problems with this individual approach:

It puts the burden on consumers instead of the polluters, which isn’t fair or effective.
It also creates an equity issue because people with money and privilege,
on average, are going to have more time, energy and resources to devote
to researching and avoiding these chemicals and making different,
likely more expensive choices.
Lately we’ve been looking at other ways that we can sustainably reduce exposure
using scalable interventions.”

https://medicalxpress.com/news/2022-07-epidemiologist-chemicals-health-effects.html

Relevant to everyone:

UMass Amherst research compares sensitivity of all genes to chemical exposure

…”When we identified all the sensitive genes, we were very much surprised that almost every well-known molecular pathway is sensitive to chemicals to a certain degree,”…

https://www.eurekalert.org/news-releases/661557

May all human beings have safe, accessible, affordable housing.

22 responses to “MCS and Housing

  1. Congratulation on your website. It is marvellous.
    May I tell people about it on my MCS News Australia network? There are many here in Australia that would benefit from your page.
    I do wish and hope you get better assistance.
    Harry

  2. Linda,

    Just discovered your blog.

    Thanks for all the useful links, and thorough research! I know people with severe MCS. I will send them a link to your site.

    Networking is critical!

    I do hope you find a safe house very soon.

    With all my best wishes,

    Michel

  3. Hi Linda

    you may recall we met in person a few times around 1999 to maybe 2003. We spoke at the time about the need to develop housing for people with MCS

    I see you’ve done a lot on this issue – under unfortunate circumstances.

    I’m working on a project to get some MCS housing built, and I would apreciate it if you could get in touch so we could discuss this. The finished units are a way off still, but the ground work has begun, and if you’re able to be part of it, that’d be great!

    Greg

  4. I understand and wish Linda all the best in finding housing ASAP!

    I am continuing my work developing this project and when she is ready, I would invite her to get in touch.

    Also if anyone else is interested, they can contact me about the project…

    Greg

    • Greg,
      I have MCS and EMS. I am in need of safe housing. I have been like this for years, living in rental places where I am non-functional, on the floors and couches of friends and acquaintances, in a park, shelter and other government run housing, places where they take credit cards. I am, once again in a motel. I am on ODSP and I won’t be able to stay here much longer. Do you know of any emergency housing in Ontario? Long term would be good but I do need somewhere right now.
      Thank you for any help you can give,
      Kayla

  5. Here are the links to 4 old (early 90s) research studies that CMHC did on MCS/ES and housing:

    A Survey of Problem Homes of the Environmentally Hypersensitive

    Click to access 96-202.pdf

    Housing for the Environmentally Hypersensitive: A Survey and Examples of Clean-air Housing in Canada

    Click to access 90-208.pdf

    Survey of the Medical Impact on Environmentally Hypersensitive People of a Change in Habitat

    Click to access 90-210.pdf

    Housing Needs of the Environmentally Hypersensitive Socio-economic / Health Factors

    Click to access 96-201.pdf

  6. FOR RENT/LEASE – UPDATED BSMT APT – BATHURST/FINCH – NORTH YORK

    FANTASTIC FRAGRANCE FREE OPPORTUNITY IN PRIME LOCATION IN NORTH YORK

    Property Address: Mold-Free Basement Apartment with Natural Sunlight and Heated Floors in Toronto ON M2R 1T1

    Lease For: $1,400

    Property Description:

    Do Not Miss Out On This Fantastic Opportunity To Live In A Sought After Neighbourhood! Meticulously Maintained and VERY SPACIOUS 1 Bedroom BSMT Apartment On Low-Traffic Street! Desired Layout With Tonnes Of Natural Lighting & Hardwood Flooring Throughout! Full Kitchen & Appliances! Almost Fully Furnished (Only Bed Frame & Mattress Is Missing)! (All Furniture has been offgased from harmful VOCs). Pot Lights Throughout Entire Apartment! Updated Bathroom! Private Separate Entrance!

    NOTE: The owner is looking for a non-smoking, fragrance-free tenant who does not use personal care products, cleaning products, or laundry detergent containing fragrances (artificial or natural), as upper tenant has Multiple Chemical Sensitivities and Laundry facilities are shared.

    Property Features:

    1 Bedroom
    1 Washrooms
    1 Kitchen
    Prime Location – One Of The Best Neighbourhoods In North York!
    Hardwood Flooring Through-Out Majority of Basement Apartment!
    Desired Layout!
    Lots Of Natural Lighting Through-Out Entire Home!
    Pot Lights Through-Out Entire Home!
    Private, Separate Entrance!
    Home Is Located On Very Low-Traffic Street!
    Moments From Highway (401), Public Transit (GO & TTC), Schools, Parks, & Exciting Yonge Street Amenities!

    Extras:

    Fridge
    Stove
    Range Hood
    Washer (Shared)
    Dryer (Shared)
    All Window Coverings
    All Light Fixtures
    All Furnishings

    Amenities:

    Close to:
    Parks
    Schools
    Place(s) of Worship
    Library
    Public Transit
    Recreation Centre

    Please note: non-smoking & fragrance fee tenants (for medical reasons) only.
    Please note: tenant(s) responsible to pay 1/3 of all utilities.

    Please do not hesitate to contact should your require any further information, would like to schedule a showing, and/or have any further questions regarding this property.

    Terry Kulaga, Broker of Record
    Re/Max Realtron Terry Kulaga Inc., Brokerage
    http://www.Top1Agent.com
    Office – 416.224.2888
    Email – Top1Agent@gmail.com

    • Thanks Terry.
      I’m sharing this elsewhere too.
      Letting you know though, that $1400 + 1/3 utilities is really expensive for many people with MCS since getting fragrance-free employment accommodations is still resisted in most places, or if a policy is developed, it’s seldom enforced.

  7. Image of some multi-unit housing accessibility barriers (the mask is not enough to deal with these for most people)

  8. New resources for community and front-line workers supporting clients with environmental sensitivities

    Environmental Sensitivities and Rental Housing – Webinar

    Environmental Sensitivities and Rental Housing – Toolkit

    FAQ Video – What are Environmental Sensitivities?

    FAQ Video -What is the Housing Providers’ Obligation to Accommodate Renters with Disabilities?

    FAQ Video -What are Common Requests for Accommodation for Environmental Sensitivities?

    http://www.equalityrights.org/our-publications/

  9. Eco friendly MCS safe home for sale – private location by the ocean in Nova Scotia.
    https://www.ecoproperty.ca/a/eco-home-for-sale-59993

  10. Like ur website.

    • Thank you.
      I tried to add as much useful information as possible when I was able to.
      Some things are no longer up to date because the link websites have changed, but I’d need help to check them and find alternatives.
      That said, a lot of things haven’t changed much at all, so the older info can still be helpful.

  11. Wow, I am so happy to have found this website🙏🏽😥 I came down with MCS after Covid, although I had a lot of illness beforehand as well, and this information is incredible. Thank you so so much, Linda.

    We are considering moving we’re above a suite where the chemical products are venting up. Does anyone know of the best location for air quality near Vancouver? We need to stay close to the city for work, but I hear the levels of FRAT from the wild fires is very bad here. If anyone could advise, I’d be more than grateful.

  12. I am 67 year old woman. MCS has fast forwarded that number. I might as well be 100. 15 years ago a Dr asked “Why does your spine look like that of a 100 year old woman?”.

    I have NEVER lived in a safe environment. I believe I’ve had MCS since birth but absolutely since my 20s.

    I don’t have an organ system that isn’t failing. To add to that I have sensory overload in every possible way.

    For 8 years I’ve lived in an apartment that was mold contaminated… and had plastic Ikea cupboards that I finally just stopped using the last 4 years there because to open them made my struggles to cope even harder.

    The mold became so bad I couldn’t stay. Now I’m homeless with what’s left of my things in a garage on the property where my daughter rents an apartment. I have to pay her for the garage as well as rent while being emotionally and verbally abused because I will never ever not owe her for being sick all of her life as well as not being a better mother.

    I am at the edge of the cliff. On the verge of falling into such darkness. After all I’ve suffered …all the dismissal and disregard…. I have nothing and nowhere to turn.

    In a world so filled with selfishness selfies and hatefulness…. A world where I can’t just have a safe place to live….i only wish at this late stage that I could be awarded and offered an assisted death.

    I found someone with MCS to live with. She’s 3 hours away and having issues with her landlord. We are similar and feel a strong pull to share a home…but we may never get the chance. Because nothing in our world offers just basic understanding or even minimal support for the needs of people with environmental illness ….a disabling and most unforgiving condition.

    I have no help…can barely walk…. with GI and neurological issues that are incapacitating. I have fatigue that isn’t to be believed with every possible other symptom associated with thyroid disease and yet my labs are basically normal and the dismissal just becomes a loop. A never ending loop of heartache and misery. No one …not the doctor not my friends (what few I still have) not even my daughter seems to want to bother nor do they even really believe me.

    I’m hopeless… and so are many others like me.

    • Jaye, how are you doing now?

      I’m sorry I couldn’t reply earlier, I wasn’t doing well myself.

      Your story is heartbreaking.

      What area are you in?

      Can we try to put the word out on social media to see if there’s anyone in your area who could help?

      • Hi …I understand. I hope you’re feeling better.

        I don’t know if I’m able to handle social media right now. I was on FB in one of the MCS groups… actually 4 different similar private groups…. when I had to unexpectedly move a couple of months ago. There was only one ‘potential’ place / situation that showed up. Looking back ….since it didn’t pan out …I see how really blessed I was to have had that fall through. The starting rent would have been near my highest budget for rent. I know the rent will go up and after that where would I be. I also learned more first hand just how different we all are with regard to compatible sensitivities. Things are very different when you’re in the middle of living it. It becomes much more real.

        If living in a shared environment with another chemically sensitive person might be a challenge….it still has the potential to be far better than living with someone who is not chemically sensitive. And still ….there are going to be some things a sensitive person can’t make compromises on.

        I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t beyond overwhelmed and barely holding it together. But I know that only I can control what I do with that…. or about it. I just find I’m struggling to stay positive. This whole event / situation has really stressed my body and health even more.

        My age ….the number of years I’ve been so unwell….my lack of resources. I’m needing a miracle.

        Sending you well wishes and better days.

  13. hello, i have severe MCS and live with family who smoke cigarettes. my home has mold issues all over and im the only one who can fix it, but too tired and dont have the money to do so. now most of my stuff is mold contaminated. neighbors laundry tortures me on the outside (coming inside as well) and mold/cigs torture me on the inside. surprisingly i can tolerate new building materials and furniture and things, so just a BRAND new tiny home on a property by itself would be my life savior, but $$$ money is the answer there, which i do not have. i cannot go near apartments buildings at all and used homes ALWAYS have scented laundry/plug in/candle/febreeze/lysol residue that DOES not come out. so again, BRAND NEW home of some kind is my only answer. which in turn means $$$ money to do it right. even if i can i find such a place, getting repair people over for ANYTHING (plumbing, electric, cable/internet, etc) is still a challenge due to scented products that EVERYONE in the world seems to use. BUT if thats my only issue, i could make it. i have protocols for that like a outside shower w/unscented products and new clothes to put on for repair people. BUT i still need this tiny home away from others (at least a mile away) to make it. i feel if im not worth the money to find such a place/help id take the euthanization option as well, but that is not allowed in the US for just MCS. they wont help me live or die, just allow me to suffer. MCS is so awesome to live with :)

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