Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Safe housing for people with chemical sensitivities

This is an issue near and dear to my heart, having just spent three years looking for a safe place to live. Chemical products are not good for anyone, but especially not for those with MCS or with autism. You will notice from the biomedical approach to autism that the biomed treatments for autism are nearly identical to those for MCS: detoxification, oxygen therapy, sauna, vitamins, nutrition and so on. The reason is that *some* (I'm not saying all) varieties of autism are caused or made worse by chemicals in the environment. Now, I know this is a controversial issue and I am not trying to start a fight between biomed and non biomed people. I recognize there are many different theories on causes and treatment of autism. I personally think we should take a little from each theory and not put all our eggs in any one bucket. Biomed is just one of many theories.

But enough of that. Whether or not you believe chemicals affect those with autism, they definitely do for those with multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS). I wrote the following for a friend who is trying to build safe housing for those with MCS and wanted to post it here to raise some awareness among my autism readers. Thank you for reading.

Imagine the following scenario. Everywhere you go, the smell of common, every day objects disables you. Perfume, cigarettes, body lotion, someone's shampoo. New paint, air fresheners, pesticides, new carpet. Windex and Comet, and other commercial cleaners.

Perfectly normal parts of modern life, right? Not for some people. For people with multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS), exposure to these fragrances can range anywhere from mild physical symptoms to life-threatening debilitation. People with MCS have adverse health effects to chemicals: difficulty breathing, abdominal pain, chronic fatigue, muscle and joint pain, decline of mental function, memory impairment, asthma and so on. People who are sensitive to chemicals cannot live in most traditional apartment buildings, which are built with toxic materials and often have fragrances left from previous tenants. They cannot easily share housing with others, either.

So where does that leave them? Often, nowhere. The search for chemical-free housing becomes so desperate that many end up living out of their cars. Many move to warmer climates where they can camp out. Many end up homeless. These are people who had lives, careers and families before they got sick with chemical sensitivity. MCS robbed them of their lives. Must it rob them of a place to call home as well?

Many of us take "a place to live" for granted. A safe place to live that we can look forward to coming home to every day. But for millions with MCS, this is just a dream.

James Van Raden wants to change this. He is a general contractor who lives in Minnesota. He has started online groups for people with MCS to gather and has seen the need. He want to build safe, healthy, toxin-free housing for these people and anyone who needs it - and he wants to make it affordable, too. This will not just benefit people with MCS. It will benefit anyone who wants to live in a healthy environment. People with asthma or lung related impairments, or people with a family member with autism looking for a clean environment will particularly benefit.

But, this housing is for all of us. Because after all, we spend the biggest chunk of our lives in our homes. Shouldn't they be safe and healthy for us to breathe in? Shouldn't that be a right everyone has - safe, healthy and affordable housing?

Most people with MCS are on disability and can't afford healthy housing. That's why a cornerstone of this project will be not only that it's healthy, but it's affordable, too. But we can't do it without you. You reading this now. You have the power to help these people - to help a whole lot of people. Won't you help us change the face of healthy, affordable housing and make a pact? A pact to come back here and vote for us once a day throughout the month of April?

People all over the country will thank you when they finally have a place they can live. Your children will thank you, someday, for helping to pave the way to more accepted models of non-toxic building. You can help start a revolution.

All it takes is one click.

Please vote every day, or as much as you can, at


It only takes two minutes to sign up and vote.

Thank you.

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