MCS Housing

Go Straight to Safe Housing Listings

 

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

Urbanfengshui @ hotmail.com

 

Special thanks to AEHA/EHAO, AEHA's Toronto members, Stephen Collette, Jan Bangle,

Lourdes Salvador, and the entire MCS/ES community

 

Download a PDF Copy

Permission granted to modify, share, or otherwise use any or all of this housing proposal provided that Linda Sepp is notified at urbanfengshui @ hotmail.com so that future proposals may be enhanced.  (remove spaces on either side of the @)

 

 

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 (i.e. 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, i.e. 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

 

7 units designed for the environmentally sensitive

Barrhaven Environmentally Sensitive Units, Nepean, Ontario

http://ehaontario.ca/barrhaven-housing.htm 

 

A healthy home (one that incorporates healthy design elements, non-toxic building materials, and proper

construction techniques. It "breathes", emits no toxic gasses, and is resistant to mold).

http://www.architecturalhouseplans.com/healthy_homes

 

Addressing Indoor Air Quality in Toronto

http://www.toronto.ca/health/hphe/pdf/air_hip_report.pdf

http://www.toronto.ca/health/hphe/pdf/air_hip_report_part_d.pdf

 

Building Biology

http://www.buildingbiology.net/

 

Dr. Grace Ziem

Environmental Control Plan for Chemically Injured Persons and Preventing Chemical Injury

http://www.chemicalinjury.net/EC/2%20Environmental%20Control%20Plan.doc

 

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

 

Healthy Construction Guidelines and Healthy Construction or Remodel Kit

http://www.architecturalhouseplans.com/products

 

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)

http://ieq.nibs.org/ieq_project.pdf

 

LEED for Homes (a rating system that promotes the design and construction of high-performance green

homes. A green home uses less energy, water and natural resources; creates less waste; and is healthier and more comfortable for the occupants. Benefits of a LEED home include lower energy and water bills; reduced greenhouse gas emissions; and less exposure to mold, mildew and other indoor toxins. The net cost of owning a LEED home is comparable to that of owning a conventional home).

http://www.cagbc.org/leed/systems/index.htm

 

Report on a failed attempt to create a safe unit in a regular apartment building in Vancouver BC.

http://mcs-america.org/IAQforanEIOccupant.pdf

 

Research House for the Environmentally Hypersensitive

-note that safer alternatives are now available for some of the materials used

http://www.cmhc-schl.gc.ca/en/inpr/bude/heho/upload/Research-House-for-the-Environmentally-Hypersensitive.pdf

 

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.

http://www.cmhc-schl.gc.ca/en/co/prfinas/prfinas_003.cfm

 

“The Medical Perspective on Environmental Sensitivities”

http://www.chrc-ccdp.ca/research_program_recherche/esensitivities_hypersensibilitee/toc_tdm-en.asp

 

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?page=PolicyDisAccom21_.html#Heading84

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."

 

 

Footnotes

 

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.

http://www.equalityrights.org/cher/index.cfm?nav=tools&sub=duty8

 

2 CHRC. The Medical Perspective of Environmental Sensitivities.

http://www.chrc-ccdp.ca/research_program_recherche/esensitivities_hypersensibilitee/toc_tdm-en.asp

 

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.

 

 

Other Resources

 

Heating and Cooling Options for the Environmentally Sensitive

    
Homebuyer’s Questionnaire                                          

                         

MCSA News:  Exclusive Housing Edition

 

Links

 

1992 - HUD - MCS Disorder and Environmental Illness as Handicaps

 

Achieving Healthy Indoor Air

 

Air Quality - What is the local government responsibility?

 

Air-Tech International Indoor Air Testing

 

America's Best Eco-Neighborhoods

 

Amicus Green Building Center

 

Assessment of the Indoor Air Quality of a Suite for an Environmentally Hypersensitive Occupant

 

Barrhaven Non-Profit Housing

 

BioSheild Paint

 

Building Materials

 

Carpet: A Haven For Unwanted Guests

 

CERA - Creating Healthy Apartments: What You Need to Know

 

CERA – Creating Healthy Housing:  Guidelines for Multi-Unit Housing Providers

 

CERA – Creating Healthy Multi-Unit Housing:  A Resource Guide

 

Chemical Free Furniture

 

Chemical Free Furniture 2

 

Cleaning for Health:  Products and Practices for a Safer Indoor Air Environment

 

Cleaner Indoor Air Campaign

 

The Consumer Action Guide to Chemicals in Home Improvement Products

Create Your Healthy Home Indoor Air Test

 

EcoNest

 

Ecology House

 

Environmental Sensors Indoor Air Testing

 

Environmentally Clean Living Unit

 

EWG Action Fund’s Healthy Home Checklist

Green Communities

 

Green Purchasing Tool Kit

 

Health Goods Indoor Air Home Test Kit

 

Healthy Buildings, Inc.

 

Heal Your Home Center

 

Homebuyer’s Questionnaire

 

Homesight.org

 

IEQ Indoor Environmental Quality

 

Indoor Air Pollution for Health Care Professionals

 

Indoor Air Quality in Office Buildings: A Technical Guide

 

Indoor Environment Notebook

 

Indoor Air Facts No. 4 (revised): Sick Building Syndrome (SBS)

 

Journal of Indoor Air in Schools

 

Lustron Homes

 

MCS & Interior Design

 

Moving house - things for look for if you suffer from MCS

 

Natural Homes

 

NIBS Indoor Environment Quality Project

 

Non-Toxic Paints

 

Northwest Eco Building Guild

 

Organic Cashmere Mattress Pad

 

Organic Mattresses: Lifekind

 

Prescription Beds (chemical free)

 

Pro House Doctor Indoor Air Testing
   

Providing Shelter for People with Multiple Chemical Sensitivity

 

Pure Air Controls Indoor Air Test

 

Research House for the Environmentally Hypersensitive

 

ReShelter MCS Housing Listings

 

Safe Homes Consultants

 

Safer Remodeling

 

Tad Taylor's Healthy Homes

 

Taylor Design Healthy Homes

 

Ten Simple Ways to Clean Green

 

The Healthy Housing Coalition

 

What You Need to Know about Managing PCBs in Construction Materials – An Emerging Environmental Issue

 

Yellow Canary

 

Your Healthy House: Indoor Environmental Testing and Building Consulting

 

Disclaimer

 

This site is for informational purposes and is not intended to replace the examination, diagnosis and treatment of a licensed physician and no such claims are inferred.  MCS America will not be responsible for misuse of this information or the misuse of any information provided by it’s member organizations.  Articles, citations, links and information are not necessarily the opinion of MCS America and printing does not constitute endorsement.

 

 

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Website: http://www.mcs-america.org

Email: admin@mcs-america.org

 

Copyrighted © 2006-2013  MCS America

 

 

Multiple Chemical Sensitivities (MCS), Environmental Sensitivities (ES),

Electrical Hyper-Sensitivities (EHS) and Housing