ASEQ-EHAQ

L'Association pour la santé environnementale du Québec / Environmental Health Association of Québec

Support someone with environmental sensitivities

Environmental sensitivity (ES) is a disabling, chronic condition which is always life changing and devastating for the person who is affected by it. This is probably one condition, where the daily management and the good state of health of the person with ES, are strongly dependant on the choices and actions of people around them and also those that they encounter in their daily lives.

Therefore, your role as a professional, caregiver, parent, spouse, child or friend of the ES sufferer is vital in order to have a positive outcome, or not !

You have the power to reduce or eliminate the disability and make the ES sufferer’s life bearable and even productive, or you can also increase the disability which ultimately can lead to distressing conditions such as isolation and poverty.

That should be an easy choice for anyone to make!

However, from our past experience addressing people suffering from environmental sensitivities, we can say with confidence, that there can be road blocks to providing adequate help and care. Often there is the belief of ‘personal choices’, wanting to carry on with old patterns and behaviours, needing to be like others who are well, identifying healthy changes as being ‘out there’ and ‘not with it’… and you know, this list could be endless if you are convinced you should not have to help your friend, loved one or a person seeking your help.

It is with sadness that we see traumatic events such as parents shunning their children and labeling them – because they feel that they are ‘wasting‘ their lives ‘pretending’ to be ill. That is heart breaking for us to watch. We have even witnessed grown-up children putting their parent on the street all because the parent had severe symptoms on exposure to perfumes and cigarette smoke. The effects of misdiagnosing this illness as a psychological condition can be devastating for the sufferer, since this results in loss of support within the family, the workplace and society.

Stop and think! We are talking about someone’s life here. Just because you do not react to substances and you do not feel the effects of the symptoms that follow, should not lead you to automatically assume that it is not real.

Here is what a person with environmental sensitivities needs to be able to function and thrive:

  • Recognition of this medical condition
  • A diagnosis from a medical professional
  • Appropriate medical care
  • Adequate accommodation in the workplace, at home and in the community
  • Benefits when jobs are lost – insurance and or other government benefits
  • Support, help, understanding from everyone including and especially family members
  • Go fragrance-free and eliminate anything that is reported to make the person have symptoms
  • Be kind, caring and inclusive of people suffering from environmental sensitivities. Just like any other illness, it is not their fault that they are ill.

Let us bring to you two real stories of two young women. Both developed ES after pesticide exposures. You can see for yourself the positive outcomes when there is support, and the downward spiral when there is no support.

ASEQ-EHAQ Members’ Stories
Illustrating Environmental Sensitivities Issues
“Marie”

29-year-old financial management student
At age 14 – sudden onset of many symptoms in multiple body systems
Parents and brother also had some similar, some different symptoms
« Sophie »

26-year-old disabled former physiotherapist
At age 22, sudden onset of severe symptoms after a game of golf
Subsequent chronic symptoms:
Fatigue, lethargy
Heightened sense of smell
Difficulty concentrating and remembering
Sinus irritation
Bloating, constipation, diarrhea
Cold extremities, low blood pressure
Muscle/joint pain
Subsequent chronic symptoms:
Severe fatigue
Dizziness
Skin rashes, burning sensation
Burning red eyes with dark circles
Dyspepsia, bloating, diarrhea
Low blood pressure
Symptoms worse on exposure to many petrochemicals, including perfumed products
After 3 years, blood tests showed elevated chlorinated pesticides and heavy metals
Neighbour frequently sprayed lindane and other pesticides on lawn and garden
Parents researched and found appropriate, timely medical help
Symptoms worse on exposure to many petrochemicals, including perfumed products
Later learned golf course had been sprayed with two fungicides that day
Doctors could not agree on diagnosis
Told it was “all in her head”
Referred for psychiatric care, which did not help
Health Care
Medical/Nutritional Help Included:
Advice to avoid pesticides and petrochemical products at home, and to reduce airborne exposure to other common incitants such as dust, mould
Neighbours were asked (with help of physician) to stop using pesticides and agreed
Organic food
Vitamins and minerals orally and intravenously
Chelation of heavy metals
Detoxification assisted with sauna and exercise
Individualized immunotherapy
No Medical/Nutritional Help:
Parents asked, but neighbours refused to stop using pesticides
Became homeless and still cannot find a safe place to live
Was not accommodated in her workplace
Hence was forced to leave her job
Battled unsuccessfully with authorities regarding diagnosis, insurance and disability
Parents are extremely worried and have used most of their energy trying to help her on their own
Workplace Accommodations
Perfume-free environment (did not extend to visitors)
Air purifier
“Eco”-cleaning products
Organic plants (no pesticides)
Worked from home if unwell and when office was renovated
All “eco”- renovations
All requests were refused
She was ridiculed and ganged up on
Excessive perfume was used on purpose
People were angry and told her it was “all in her head”
Current Health Status
Was disabled for two years, unable to study or leave the house without getting very ill
Symptoms gradually improved
Now able to study, work and travel, but needs a safe place to live so as to maintain her health by avoiding exposure to known and suspected symptom-triggering agents
Returned to school, graduating in financial management (career path changed due to her illness)
Symptoms are worsening
Triggering substances (sensitivities) have spread from petrochemicals to multiple foods, moulds, and electromagnetic radiation
She remains disabled, unable to practice her loved profession for which she studied many years
Very low morale, living from day to day, unable to see her life into the future
Financial Issues
None of her treatment was covered under any health plan
Her bills had to be paid by her parents
Federal income tax refused deductions for nutritional therapy
However, after graduation, she is able to work and support herself, and to live independently, having found safe housing
Her savings are long gone
Her parents can no longer support her financially
She survives on welfare
She remains homeless

You can see how Marie is doing well in life now. She is not a burden to the social system and is a productive tax-paying citizen. On the other hand, Sophie still remains in a sad situation and has to be on social assistance to survive.

If you are in need of help to resolve issues surrounding environmental sensitivities, kindly contact us and we will do our best to help you.