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

Your Voice Matters

Housing Crisis for People with MCS


I would like to share with politicians and decision makers in various government departments and businesses/service organizations about the difficulty that people with multiple chemical sensitivities have in finding a place to live that is free of second-hand smoke and fragrances/perfumes. Severely bothered by second-hand smoke from my neighbors in the building where I live, I first tried unsuccessfully to get a “smoke-free” bylaw for our building. After more than 6 months of exhausting efforts to inform and convince the occupants of the building, not only have I been defeated, but I am in a major “crash” and must now find a place to move. I must move because the second-hand smoke and the scents and fragrances of my neighbors migrate into my home, mostly through the kitchen hood and bathroom fan and through the windows and patio door. The cleaning products used to clean the entrances and corridors are harmful to my health because they are very strong with fragrances that suffocate me – no matter how hard I try to hold my breath when I have to leave my home, the corridor is too long.

As a result, I can’t open my windows or my patio door without risking that a cigarette or cannabis smoker goes out to smoke on their balcony and that their second-hand smoke penetrates in large quantities, quickly into my dwelling. The smell remains for hours, sometimes from morning to evening until the middle of the night causing various symptoms including strong nausea to the point of not being able to eat. You will understand that trying to freshen the air in my home is unthinkable and unhealthy at the same time. Not only do second hand smoke and perfumes/fragrances migrate into my home, but I cannot rely on my 2 windows and my patio door to ventilate my home…nonsense!

This situation is unbearable and disabling for me. It is destroying my health and my quality of life. After months of searching, I can’t find a place to live at a reasonable price. Living on a disability pension, I am very limited in my choices due to the fragility of my budget and after several months of searching, I have yet to find anything that would suit my severe medical condition of multiple chemical sensitivities.

I dream of winning the lottery, not to travel or to buy a luxury car, but to allow me to live in a small “healthy” house far away from immediate neighbors who could harm my health by smoking on their balcony, their terrace or their yard or by receiving the polluted air from their dryer outlet from which the very fragrant odour of laundry products would seep into my dwelling, whether it is an apartment or a small house.

I want to simply live in a place where I can breathe without being affected by my neighbors’ smoking habits or their personal perfumes/products that contain fragrances…but such a place doesn’t seem to exist for people who are in the lower middle class or below the poverty line…instead the air I breathe tastes increasingly bitter and nauseating as if someone opened my mouth to send a “push” of perfume onto my tongue and down my throat! Close your eyes and try to imagine opening your mouth and having a push of perfume on your tongue…trust me, it doesn’t taste like it smells. It is the “taste” of chemicals that perfumes and fragrances actually are made of that makes me nauseous and when I breathe them in, it is like taking a “bite” out of them.

In 2021, you have to be rich to afford a house that is far enough from your neighbors and not deep in the woods away from all life and many miles away from essential services such as grocery stores, banks, health care…or, extremely lucky – like those who get a royal flush or those who win a million dollars in the Saturday lottery – to get such an affordable place in the middle of town.

Please, dear politicians and decision-makers, take the time to listen to the life stories of people who suffer from multiple chemical sensitivities and ask the people in charge of the ASEQ-EHAQ…we would like to have the opportunity to better inform you about the subject and our reality. Then, you will try to put yourself in our shoes for a few hours or days and I am convinced that you will understand the urgency to regulate the use of perfume and products with fragrances in public and residential areas and to get us healthy housing at reasonable costs.