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

What we need in Quebec

Education and awareness among the population

The health of people with environmental sensitivities depends on healthy environments in many different places.

It is very important to raise awareness within the population in order to ensure that people suffering from environmental sensitivities are recognized, supported and treated more effectively. Here are some recommendations:

  1. An official recognition of the physical nature of the medical problem experienced by the patients suffering from environmental sensitivities and to recognize it as a disability.
  2. An official recognition that due to these medical problems, a large portion of these patients may be unable to perform remunerated work.
  3. As a result of the above 2, disability insurance companies and Regie des Rentes, should recognize the work limitations and compensate the patients, WITHOUT undue burden of proof on the patients who are already sick enough.
  4. A wide information campaign to doctors of all specialties (and mostly GP’s and internists) to inform them of the reality of these problems and the TRUE nature of the PHYSICAL cause of these symptoms, to eliminate the all too prevalent belief that these patients suffer from psychological disease.
  5. The establishment of environmental clinics in Quebec, with adequately trained physicians and personnel (these doctors and nurses may go for training in centers where treatments are already recognized).
  6. The doctors practicing in these environmental clinics should be allowed to apply treatments approved and recognized elsewhere, yet at present forbidden in Quebec (ex: IV vitamin treatments). We don’t need doctors who will simply recognize the problem but have no ability to treat it…this doesn’t help anybody. The rules of the College des Médecins will have to be amended.
  7. Recognition of these treatments by health authorities so that patients can obtain them, despite the economic hardships imposed by the illness.
  8. The creation of safe housing for patients needing it.
  9. Perfume free policies and enforcement in hospitals, clinics and all other medical facilities.
  10. To provide, at the earliest possible time, workplace and medical accommodation, access to buildings and other public areas, social support systems and adequate monetary assistance by establishing the following:
    1. When setting standards and/or establishing regulations, environmental sensitivities/MCS must be included as a factor particularly with regard to multiple exposures and cumulative effects from chemicals, such as in foods, consumer products, industrial processes, pesticides and in the environment.
    2. Existing laws must be examined so that appropriate revision or addition of standards are made to guarantee protection from chemicals that cause initial sensitization and those that trigger sensitivities that already exist.
    3. When communicating with people with environmental sensitivities/MCS, listen to their personal experiences with respect and compassion. Individuals must assist with the determination of accommodations for their particular sensitivities.
    4. In determining guidelines for notices, restrictions, regulatory and voluntary actions taken by government and non-government bodies for the protection of people suffering from environmental sensitivities/MCS it is imperative that a designated group of people who suffer from this illness are involved in the decisions being made.
    5. Guidelines should be available for employees, employers and building managers to accommodate people with environmental sensitivities/MCS, and to optimise the working environment for healthy employees.
    6. Establish fragrance-free, smoke-free and pesticide-free policies.
    7. Non-toxic building materials, cleaning agents and pest control measures (non-toxic pesticides used inside and outside buildings and on all green spaces in keeping with techniques, strategies and products allowed for organic agriculture).
    8. Environmental sensitivities/MCS should be considered in daycare, schools and all places of learning.
    9. Materials, chemicals, ingredients and mixtures of ingredients should be assessed for toxicity, at least to the standards in Europe’s REACH program.
    10. Adoption of mandatory complete labelling of ingredients on all products used in homes, schools, cities and places of work, including genetically engineered foods.
    11. Adoption of an expeditious plan to stop the use of hormones, antibiotics, rendered animal remains, pesticides and genetically engineered organisms in our food supply.
    12. Development of best-practices for construction, finishing and maintenance of indoor spaces, as well as management of work spaces.
    13. Financial support and programs to support better understanding, education, research and testing the effects of toxic exposures on the human body in order to improve the diagnosis, treatment, accommodation and prevention of MCS.
    14. Registries for disease reporting must be established that require physicians to report all cases of MCS. The incidence and prevalence of MCS must be investigated and reported in all populations, including minority, low income, and First Nations communities, and with tracking of communities, especially those profoundly affected by pollutants.
    15. Medical practitioners should be educated regarding health and the environment in medical schools and with continuing medical education. Early recognition of environmental factors contributing to ill health, outcomes may be improved.
    16. Research is needed to investigate the characteristics of people with environmental sensitivities/MCS, and causal hypotheses and utility of treatments.
    17. Health care funders should support:
      1. tests for toxins, for diagnosis and following of environmental sensitivities and associated conditions, and for population-based monitoring of toxin levels;
      2. basic, low-cost tests and treatments for environmental sensitivities (e.g. vitamin infusions or sauna therapy are extremely inexpensive compared to medications such as chemotherapy that are funded); and
      3. research to investigate the utility of tests and treatments for environmental sensitivities.
    18. Hospitals should be accessible to people with environmental sensitivities, including children.
    19. Ambulances should be designed and fitted to minimise exposure to exhaust fumes.
    20. Community care/home care should be available as it is for other disabilities, to lighten the load and improve recovery time.
    21. Assistance for environmental modifications and special diets should be available for people with limited income.
    22. Affordable, environmentally-safe housing and safe emergency shelters for people with environmental sensitivities/MCS.
    23. Funding for MCS support groups and for education on the links between human health and chemicals or other incitants in the environment.
    24. Timely monetary assistance for the unemployed and those who live below the poverty line, to: assist in the costs of renovations for living accommodation, afford adequate medical help, afford nutritional supplements, aid in the detoxification process and organic food. For people who can work and are above the poverty line, expenses because of this illness should be allowed as tax deductions. Expenses can include renovations required to maintain health, medical expenses (including naturopathy, homeopathy, etc), supplements and detoxifications aids including organic food.
    25. All governmental policies must reflect the need to minimize health risks in our communities:
      1. The Substitution Principle, that least-toxic options should supplant more toxic products and methods, must be incorporated and implemented in decision-making for chemical registrations.
      2. Toxic chemicals including pesticides should be assessed comprehensively for diverse health effects of acute and chronic exposures, over all life stages.
      3. Combined effects of multiple toxins should be recognised and incorporated into chemical assessments.
      4. Products that do not meet strict environmental and health criteria should be banned expeditiously.
      5. Protective indoor air quality guidelines should be established for a larger range of chemical pollutants, and these pollutants should be monitored.
      6. Nanotechnology should be assessed and monitored for health and environmental effects.
    26. People cannot always determine what is bothering them or avoid chemicals that are not identified on labels.
      1. Personal care and cleaning products, for both home and commercial use, should be labelled with the ingredients, including information about scents.
      2. Food ingredients should be more comprehensively labelled, including colours, flavours and genetically modified organisms.
      3. Canada should implement certification and inspection of organic agriculture.
      4. Industries and manufacturers should take advantage of a growing demand for least-toxic and minimum-ingredient products, such as cleaning and personal care products without dyes and fragrances, foods without artificial flavours and colours, etc.

Public Education and Advocacy

Recovery and on-going health of people with environmental sensitivities is dependant upon safe indoor environments. Education of the public, politicians and medical community is needed to ensure that people with sensitivities are identified, supported and treated most effectively, and to bring about the recommendations identified above.