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



Why is the image of a canary used to represent people with environmental sensitivities/multiple chemical sensitivity (ES/MCS)?

Until the advancement of modern technology, coal miners would work underground accompanied by canaries because they are particularly sensitive to carbon monoxide. Any sign of distress from the canary was a clear signal warning to the otherwise unaware miners that the environmental conditions in the mine were unsafe and that they should be evacuated.

People with ES/MCS are like the canaries in the coal mine. They are sensitive and have reactions to substances or phenomena in our environment at levels that are tolerated by people who do not have ES/MCS.

Their condition may be invisible, but it is real, and they are warning others that common environmental exposures can negatively impact many chronic medical conditions and pregnancy outcomes.

People with ES/MCS can identify the effects of these exposures immediately, but you don’t have to have ES/MCS to still be harmed.

The human canaries are warning that the environment is pushing us along a continuum leading to the emergence of more and more cases of common chronic diseases, starting at birth.