Stop the Human Rights Violations of Disabled British Columbians.
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An estimated 480,000 or, 1 in ten people, in BC live with an injury called Multiple Chemical Sensitivities.(1)
Multiple Chemical Sensitivities (MSC), also known as Environmental Illness (EI), or Mast Cell Activation Syndrome (MCAS), is now viewed to be a chemical injury. This injury can occur in the form of a one-time concentrated exposure to chemicals/toxicants/pollutants, such as seen in Gulf War Syndrome where soldiers were exposed to chemicals used during combat, and that which first responders at the World Trade Centre experienced during the 9/11 incident from building and airplane debris. Or, it can be an injury acquired as the result of repeated low concentration exposures, such that are experienced from the use of household cleaning products, solvents, laundry and body products, as well as the off gassing of chemicals used to make building materials for homes and office construction, such as particle board, carpeting, flooring, paint, etc. It is also known to researchers that physical trauma can result in MCS, regardless of toxicant exposure.
A matter of Human Rights, but not afforded to all.
The Canadian Charter of Human Rights, as well as a number of Provincial Charters, recognizes MCS as a disability, meaning that people with this illness must be afforded ‘Accommodation’ in work places, institutions, and housing. Not accommodating this disability constitutes a violation of Human Rights. Although Revenue Canada and the Federal Government recognize that home owners with MCS have the right to claim renovation costs replacing original toxic building materials in their homes with non-toxic ones, there is nothing being done to provide low income people suffering with this illness, safe, health supporting, affordable housing.(2) Health supporting housing means housing: located away from densely populated, more polluted urban areas; constructed with the least volatile of building materials and properly vented; and maintained using the least toxic products available.
An invisible disability affecting more people than you think.
Statistics Canada’s 2017 Health Sheet on Chronic Conditions (1) indicates that 7.9% of women and 4.4% of men surveyed, reported having a diagnosis of an allergy to some chemicals. Information linked to the Complex Chronic Disease Program (CCDP) at Women’s Hospital, in Vancouver, which is one of three such programs nationwide were MCS sufferers and their Physicians can access support and education, states, “Three studies into the proportions of population suffering multiple chemical sensitivity reported that between 16% and 33% are “unusually sensitive or allergic to chemicals” – with about 4% reporting that their illness was an everyday occurrence.”(3) A 2016 American survey reported, “Among the population, 12.8% report medically diagnosed MCS and 25.9% report chemical sensitivity. Of those with MCS, 86.2% experience health problems, such as migraine headaches, when exposed to fragranced consumer products; 71.0% are asthmatic; 70.3% cannot access places that use fragranced products such as air fresheners; and 60.7% lost workdays or a job in the past year due to fragranced products in the workplace”(4) Based on these surveys, approx 480,000 British Columbians experience allergic reactions to some chemicals, with more than 192,500 of them negatively impacted on a daily basis.
Eventually, no place is safe - MCS vandalizes quality of life.
The impact of MCS on a person can compromise their health on a daily basis. Once a person’s body has been sensitized by toxicants, future exposure can result in a wide range of reactions, such as asthma, burning, stinging eyes, wheezing, breathlessness, nausea, extreme fatigue/lethargy, headache/migraine/vertigo/dizziness, poor memory & concentration, sore throat, cough, sinus problems, skin rashes and/or itching skin, sensitivity to light & noise, sleeping problems, digestive upset, muscle & joint pain, to name a few. People with MCS experience reactions to “extremely low levels of irritants/toxicants, levels that are generally undetectable by other individuals present at the same time.”(3) For most MCS sufferers, repeated exposure exacerbates the condition, meaning they eventually become reactive to more and more chemicals, with the reactions becoming more severe. With ongoing exposure to ‘every day’ chemicals, the trajectory of the illness over time for many is complete isolation from family, friends, employment opportunities, support networks, and proper medical care. People with MCS are often not able to remain employed due to workplace exposure to toxicants. Some people end up homeless, not only due to lack of financial security, but because there is no safe indoor environment for them to live in.
Avoidance is currently the only the health preserving measure for MCS sufferers.
There is currently no known cure or successful treatment for MCS. Based on current research, the CCDP and related programs recommend avoidance of known triggering chemicals, as avoidance is the only known strategy to manage symptoms, to reduce the likelihood of the condition becoming worse, and to reduce the likelihood of an individual becoming negatively responsive to yet more chemicals.
Health supporting housing is needed for low income British Columbians living with MCS. Currently there is no safe, affordable housing in BC for people with this chronic illness. In fact, the housing that is available is making people with MCS more ill by exposing them to off gassing building materials, strong chemicals used in building maintenance, laundry venting, cigarette smoke, and toxicant containing household and body products used by fellow renters.
Your voice matters.
Defend the Rights of those of us living with MCS, who depend upon affordable rental options, in appealing to our Municipal Governments and British Columbia’s Provincial Government departments related to housing, to allocate funds towards building health supporting, toxicant reduced, affordable housing. The Canadian Charter of Human Rights acknowledges our right to have our disability Accommodated, and toxicant-free housing is the medically advised best strategy for doing so. Please sign this petition and share it with those you know living with MCS, and those you think will support this cause. Given that MCS can co-occur with Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Fibromyalgia, Electromagnetic hypersensitivity and symptoms attributed to Chronic Lyme Disease, there are many people who are much too ill be on social media or to access this petition online. Please make them aware of this petition by reaching out to them in the way that best supports them in adding their names and having their voices heard. Such as sending them a printed version of the petition that they can sign and return.
Thank you for your time, empathy and support.
1. Calculated from National stats found on, https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/pub/82-625-x/2018001/article/54983-eng.htm
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