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

Your Voice Matters

Existing (NOT “Living”) With Multiple Chemical Sensitivities

Ruth Woitowitz

Part 1

Now I lay me down to sleep, praying I could just breathe deep;

But as my bedroom fills with smoke – each inhalation makes me choke!

I’ve tried to seal up all the cracks to stop the smoke in its tracks.

Closed the windows, sealed the door – now the smoke comes through the floor.

My furniture and carpet reek – “Stale Smoke Odour”:  the new chic.

I’ve tried to stand up for my rights – all I got were sleepless nights.

I’m a prisoner in my home while smoky neighbours freely roam.

Eyes, nose, throat all feel on fire – “a smoke-free home” my one desire.

Big Tobacco brings in dough – can’t disrupt their huge cash flow.

Governments turn their heads away as each non-smoker they betray.

Landlords will not take a stand – Smokers’ Rights are their command.

Can’t afford to move away – in a smoky haze I’ll have to stay.

May 16, 2014

After moving from a mold-filled basement apartment in 1997, to an apartment building where, for 20+ years to the present, I inhaled/absorbed my neighbours’ cigarette smoke, scented personal care/laundry/cleaning products, and later marijuana smoke against my will; where my landlord ignored my health complaints due to the smoke and scents; where repeated requests to my landlord for Accommodation for my Disability were either ignored or dismissed; and where I was screamed at by another tenant for politely asking that he keep his cigarette smoke out of the hallway; I was diagnosed with Environmental Sensitivities (ES)/Multiple Chemical Sensitivities (MCS) in January 2017.

Part 2

MCS – a life-changing disability. Not one you’d wish on your worst enemy.

It’s stolen my freedom, sanity, and health. Robbed me of dignity, happiness, and wealth.

Governments don’t care, they cast us aside. They vowed to help us, but, as always, they lied.

Promise of safe health care stored in a heap, while we’re ignored – we’re the “black sheep”.

There’s no SAFE housing free of smoke and scents. Not when you’re poor and can’t afford the rent.

Trapped in a MUD, where chemicals freely flow, no hope of escape, no safe place to go.

I took my landlord to the HRTO: got a mediated settlement, but man was it slow.

Renovations were completed, but made the air WORSE! My nightmare continues . . . I feel like I’m cursed.

He doesn’t care that the air is substandard, that the smoke and scents flow through unhampered.

He “did his duty”, refuses to do more. I’m trapped in a dungeon, sealed behind a plastic door.

You’re just too sensitive, There’s no smoke in the air, You’re faking your symptoms,

We don’t really care.

Accommodations – few and far between at best, MCS isn’t real, You just need a Psych test.

My MCS Symptoms


  • Respiratory System (shortness of breath, coughing, wheezing);
  • Neurological Function (dizziness, mobility, balance, concentration, inability to speak or speak clearly, sleep difficulties, headaches, migraines, “unresponsive episodes” – where I can hear everything but cannot move/function/speak);
  • Cardiovascular System (heart palpitations, blood pressure alterations);
  • Muscles and Joints (aches and pains); and
  • Gastrointestinal System (nausea, vomiting, diarrhea).

Part 3

Can’t vacate the enclosure my contractor created to keep me safe from chemicals while he renovated.

All my possessions are crammed in with me, in a 200-square-foot “dungeon” I’m dying to flee.

Surrounded by boxes – piled ceiling to floor – can‘t find what I need or want anymore.

There’s no room in here for me to unpack, so the boxes stay filled, side by side, and stacked.

Cigarette and pot smoke, perfume, and scents, destroying my health and my home’s meager contents.

Prisoners have safer housing than me, but MCS brings out the inequality.

Permeated with smoke, my furniture is long gone, except for a storage unit and the bed I sleep on.

I’ve lost so much due to others’ scents and smoke, but still some think MCS is a joke.

I don’t have SAFE access to fresh air or sunlight – solitary confinement: my never-ending plight.

The window’s sealed up to block out the smoke, no fresh air or sunshine, but at least I don’t choke.

No SAFE access to heat or the summer’s A/C: sealed vents help keep smoke and scents away from me.

No SAFE access to an oven or stove to cook meals, it’s either raw food . . . or what my microwave reveals.

The bathroom is home to so many chores: meal prep, dishwashing, laundry, and more.

The bedroom is no longer just where I sleep – but also watch TV, send emails, cook, and eat.

No litter box or scratching post, no kitty to love: Holly’s now living with Jesus, above.

I’ve got her pictures and ashes all displayed . . . but kisses and hugs would be much better aid.

COVID swooped in and caused even more stress, keeping me quarantined, and even more depressed.

Can’t get SAFE health care if I get COVID, so I’ve stayed home, alone, while my sanity eroded.

Can’t enter public buildings for groceries, or health care: chemicals are too strong, poisoning the air.

No-one here to help me, I’m all alone. I connect to people by OTN, emails, and phone.

I only leave my dungeon to open the door – deliveries of groceries, medications, and more.

Every two weeks I go down to the mailbox (halls are clear each morning between twelve and one-o’clock).

The other side of my dungeon reeks of chemicals galore – nights are worst for cigarette and drug smoke I abhor.

I hate this prison, and I hate MCS – but I’m stuck with both: the government ignored my SOS.

April 16, 2021