Specific Needs of People Suffering from Environmental Sensitivities
- Official Recognition of Environmental Sensitivities (ES)
- Official recognition of treatment for and training of medical personnel about ES
- Home care services
- Disability and Insurance
- Research and Data
- Human and Labour Rights
- Timely assistance
Given that according to Statistics Canada (2007) up to 3% of Canadians have reported a diagnosis of environmental sensitivities/multiple chemical sensitivities from a medical doctor.
Given that Statistics Canada, The Canadian Community Health Survey (CCHS) 2005, found that just over 170,000 Quebecers reported MCS (Environmental Sensitivities) when asked about ‘long term health conditions that have lasted or are expected to last six months or more and that have been diagnosed by a health professional.’
Given that the World Health Organization ("WHO") sets global standards for assessing and classifying health problems. It is the most important reference for physicians, governments and courts alike around the world. Under its International Classification of Diseases- 10 ("ICD-10") the WHO classifies hypersensitivity (also known in Canada as Environmental Sensitivities or Multiple Chemical Sensitivities) under Chapter 19 “(injuries, poisonings and certain other consequences of toxic causes).”
Given that Japan, Germany and Austria have officially recognized Environmental Sensitivities.
Given that the provincially funded and mandated, academically-affiliated Environmental Health Clinic, Women’s College Hospital, Toronto, provide diagnosis, support and help for people suffering from Environmental Sensitivities. In addition to conducting research, holding workshops and teaching in Medical Schools.
Given that the Nova Scotia Environmental Health Centre (NSEHC), a Government funded Health Clinic, conducts research, and provides treatment support and help for people suffering from Environmental Sensitivities.
Given that available evidence from the NSEHC revealed healthcare utilization for referred patients diagnosed with Environmental Sensitivities/ Multiple Chemical Sensitivities (MCS) was almost twice the provincial average, but decreased to normal after treatment in the NSEHC, which utilizes a holistic, multidisciplinary model of care (Fox et al, 2007).
Given that the medical conditionEnvironmental Sensitivities, is examined in reports commissioned by the Canadian Human Rights Commission which hears complaints under the Canadian Human Rights Act.
Given that the Policy from the Canadian Human Rights Commission states “This medical condition is a disability and those living with Environmental Sensitivities are entitled to the protection of the Canadian Human Rights Act, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability.”
The following are the most urgent needs of the population suffering from ES.
1. Official Recognition of Environmental Sensitivities (ES)
- Official recognition:
- of the physical nature and origin of the medical problem experienced by patients suffering from ES,
- of this condition as a disability.
- of the fact that, due to these medical problems, a large portion of these patients are unable to perform remunerated work.
- A billing code number must be established to make diagnosis and treatment of ES insurable by the Régie de l’assurance maladie du Québec along the lines of what is being done in Japan, Austria and Germany.
2. Official recognition of treatment for and training of medical personnel about ES
- A wide information campaign must take place, aimed at doctors of all specialties, but more specifically at GP's and internists, to inform them of the reality of these problems and the TRUE nature of the PHYSICAL cause of these symptoms, in order to eliminate the all too-prevalent belief that these patients suffer from psychological disease.
- Quebec must establish environmental clinics staffed by adequately trained physicians and personnel. These doctors and nurses should have access to appropriate training.
- Doctors practicing in these environmental clinics must be allowed to apply treatments, such as IV vitamin treatments, which are approved and recognized elsewhere, but not yet allowed in Quebec. Patients cannot be helped by doctors who simply recognize the problem but have no ability to treat it. The rules of the College des Médecins will have to be amended.
- These treatments must be recognized by health authorities so that they are covered by the Régie de l’assurance maladie du Québec and their cost does not add to the economic burden imposed by the illness.
3. Home care services
- Community care/home care must be made available as it is for other disabilities, to lighten the load and improve recovery time.
- Emergency funds must be provided immediately to ASEQ-EHAQ for this purpose for people in life-threatening crises.
- Funds must be provided to ASEQ-EHAQ to help train CLSCs so that they can provide appropriate, basic services.
- Build affordable, healthy housing, including emergency shelters, for people of all ages including seniors, in order to stabilize patients and in many cases, return them to being contributing members of society. This type of housing will serve as a model of sustainability for the health of future generations and the environment. ES is a disease and this type of housing should be understood as long-term care housing, therefore falling under the Ministry of Health.
- Fund ASEQ-EHAQ affordable, healthy housing projects
- Build on the success of research and resources from the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation on housing for people with ES.
- Create healthy hospitals. Ensure at least one ‘clean, healthy room’, without use of toxic products, in every community, and establish up-to-date ‘environment-sensitive care’ protocols in hospitals.
- Ensure that the rights of patients suffering from ES to accommodation and safe treatments are respected.
- Design and retrofit ambulances to minimize exposure to exhaust fumes.
- Establish perfume-free policies and their enforcement in hospitals, clinics and all other medical facilities. Extend these policies to ambulance personnel and first responders.
6. Disability and Insurance
- Disability insurance companies and the Regie des Rentes du Québec (RRQ) , must recognize patients’ occupational limitations and compensate them, WITHOUT placing an undue burden of proof on these already-ill patients.
- Guidelines must be modified to assist with medical needs, as well as pharmacological and nutritional supports, clean water, organic food and air purifying devices.
7. Research and Data
- Gather data on the 170, 000 people with ES/Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS) in Québec and the services and programs required to meet their needs.
- On a priority basis, conduct research into the Environmental Health Clinic, Women’s College Hospital, Toronto and the Nova Scotia Environmental Health Centre’s programs and publications. Also into Germany, Austria and Japan’s integration of diagnosis and treatment into the public health system.
- Establish registries for disease reporting that require physicians to report all cases of ES/MCS. The incidence and prevalence of ES /MCS must be investigated and reported in all populations, including minority, low income, and First Nations communities. There must also be tracking of communities, especially those profoundly affected by pollutants.
- Medical schools must develop a curriculum on environmental illnesses, and include ES/MCS in their larger programs. This should incorporate the development of continuing education modules for physicians, based on models of best practice already established in Environmental Health divisions in medical schools and other jurisdictions.
- Educational campaigns targeting all health (including mental health) professionals must be conducted on the relationship between chemical overload and toxicity, on depression and other neurological/emotional symptoms, on appropriate and inappropriate prescribing and on best-practice treatment.
- Educational and medical campaigns must be developed aimed at parents, teachers, and paediatric health professionals. They should include education on the causes and early symptoms of ES/MCS in children and the need for early detection and intervention. A public education campaign must be developed on the creation of chemically safe home and school environments.
- Increase recognition of the diversity of people’s tolerance to various environmental exposures by conducting a well-funded, multi-pronged and far reaching educational campaign in collaboration with ASEQ-EHAQ. Educate on the causes and symptoms of environmental sensitivities, and on the social, political, health and medical needs and rights of persons with this illness.
9. Human and Labour Rights
- Make guidelines available for employees, employers and building managers to accommodate people with environmental sensitivities/MCS, and to optimize the working environment for healthy employees.
- Introduce education and regulation to encourage compliance and preventive practices.
- Legislate a ‘healthy schools’ policy to ensure that chemicals used in schools are not harmful to children. Make healthy schools accessible to every child.
10. Timely assistance
- Provide timely monetary assistance for the unemployed and those living below the poverty line, to assist in the cost of renovations for living accommodations, to help patients afford adequate medical help, nutritional supplements, organic food, and detoxification aid.
- Make expenses engendered by this illness tax-deductible for those living above the poverty line. These expenses may include, but are not limited to, renovations required to maintain health, medical expenses (including naturopathy, homeopathy, etc), supplements, detoxification aids and organic food.
- Provide assistance for environmental modifications and special diets for people on a limited income.