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

Your Voice Matters

The story of a teacher


I had been a teacher doing special education for many years. I had a successful career and was competent and skilled in my work. In the late 1970’s my husband and I started remodelling and renovating homes for resale. We used the products that were available on the market at that time with no knowledge about their toxicity. In the late 1980’s my husband and I left Quebec and moved to Nova Scotia. After repainting and re varnishing a home in winter, I developed severe reactions to many things all of a sudden. My life started to change and not for the better. I had problems with cognitive functions. I could no longer drive a car and I drove straight through red lights and placed my foot on the accelerator instead of the brakes and went through the garage door. I knew I was in serious trouble, but I had no idea what had happened.

A doctor suggested I go to Mexico to a clinic. We left for the Clinic. Three weeks later I was so much better that I returned home.

We both enrolled in a Real Estate Course and began a new career and a new life. I loved every bit of it and enjoyed the smaller companies we worked for. Into my fourth year, I once again noticed a problem with my cognitive function. I was now reacting with many symptoms to different things such as cigarette smoke, perfume, wood smoke and mould in the homes of clients, and other chemicals. It seemed to be getting worse. I had to stop working and seek help.

The next 16 years was spent on a discouraging journey, going from doctor to doctor who could not diagnose or help me. I tried all kinds of natural treatments and nothing worked. I was forced to return to the doctors and heard the same story from them. By this time, I had an awful burning on my skin all over. It was as if I was burning while alive. I managed to find a person who came to my home and did acupuncture to relieve the burning. With this treatment and sleeping pills, I found some respite and managed some sleep at night.

Needless to say, life was hell. I lost a lot of weight in a very short time. My body was wracked with pain, the loss of cognitive function was worse, the reactions to different substances were increasing to new things and they were bad. I spent my time running outside in the wild of the country side and soaking my face in ice cold water in lakes and rivers.

Sadly, the house of my neighbour burned down one night. This made me even worse for about six months. The exposures from all the chemicals burning in the house next door, the diesel from the firetrucks, the rebuilding and dynamiting were too much for my body. I could not open the windows and doors due to the above-mentioned odours from outside. It seemed that no matter how hard I tried, I could not get enough air into my lungs. Life was intolerable and unbearable.

I then came across someone who handed me a newspaper article about a woman who tried to end her life since she could not tolerate anything. Because of this intolerance she could not find a suitable house or apartment to live in. She was ‘allergic’ or ‘intolerant’ to all soaps, cigarette smoke, carpets, perfumes, exhaust fumes from the neighbours. She had moved so many times and was in a desperate situation. I realised that I had the same thing as this lady. At the end of the article, was the phone number of the Environmental Health Association of Quebec (ASEQ-EHAQ). I phoned the Association immediately and was answered at once. I was directed to several medical doctors who dealt with this condition (Environmental Sensitivities).

I was then helped and taught about how to detoxify myself, my clothes, my home. How to choose healthy products for various uses such as personal, cleaning, maintenance, etc. They helped with information on mould and how I could get the house tested and safely cleaned. How to be aware of food intolerances and avoid these foods. And much more… My long, slow process of healing began, thanks to ASEQ-EHAQ.I was grateful to know that this affliction was not in my head. I learned from them that many were suffering from Environmental Sensitivities in Quebec and even more in Canada, according to Statistics Canada.

Without the Association, I would not be alive. It is still a difficult life, but I have more support. I have even met others like me and I don’t feel so isolated and excluded. ASEQ-EHAQ is the main hope for all who suffer from this debilitating illness caused by exposures to commonly used chemicals and mould. They have created online conferences and workshops which are also given in person. The workshops teach people with Environmental Sensitivities how to best manage their condition and they cover the biological, social and legal aspect of the condition. There is a support phone line where information and comfort are provided. Websites with important information are available. And they do much more. ASEQ-EHAQ has been a life saver for many. I am one of the grateful ones! Thank you ASEQ-EHAQ