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Safe housing for people with MCS to be built outside Zurich

Saturday 30 October 2010

The Canary ReportFrom The Canary Report:

Safe housing for people with Multiple Chemical Sensitivity to be built outside Zurich

Posted on Oct 25, 2010 by Susie Collins in BlogMCSSafe HousingSusie Collins

The good news is that an architect is planning a housing project near Zurich designed for people with Multiple Chemical Sensitivity. The bad news is the report on the project perpetuates misinformation about the illness.

MCS-safe housing
Rendering of the MCS-safe housing designed by Andreas Zimmerman Architects (Andreas Zimmermann Architekten).

Swiss Info reports about housing being built near Zurich for people with Multiple Chemical Sensitivity. I think this is an incredible project, as long as it’s done properly. The architect Andreas Zimmermann is to be commended. I hope that a panel of people with MCS are being consulted on materials and layout.

I do have some problems with the way Swiss info reported the project:

A new type of accommodation is going to appear near Zurich: flats made to measure for people suffering from a rare allergy.

People who are affected by Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS) can hope for a better life now that a unique project in Europe is proposing to create special homes for them.

“I have spent thousands of nights in a camper. At the moment I’m sleeping in the woods, where the temperatures are lower”.

Christian Schifferle has no choice. “I cannot stay in an office or a flat for too long,” says the man who is president of the building cooperative “MCS health habitations” and is himself an MCS sufferer.

People with the allergy react to chemical environments or to a range of chemical substances. They may have strong reactions to paint, synthetic materials, cosmetics, perfumes or deodorants.

MCS is a little known illness and is the subject of many debates. Several doctors refuse to recognise it as an organic pathology and consider it to be the consequence of psychological problems.

As I point out in the comment section of the report: Multiple Chemical Sensitivity is not an allergy. As Dr. Grace Ziem, MD, an expert on MCS points out: “Allergies have been defined by physicians as reactions to substances by formation of rapid-acting antibodies known as IgE. There are also certain chemicals that induce the production of IgE antibodies and these are considered chemical allergens. Many chemical reactions however, do not involve the production of IgE antibodies and therefore are not strictly speaking an allergy.” For people with MCS, chemicals are irritants that cause a chemical reaction of illness symptoms, which is not an allergy because it does not involve the production of antibodies.

Further, it is so tiring having report after report always including a sentence or two like this: “MCS is a little known illness and is the subject of many debates. Several doctors refuse to recognise it as an organic pathology and consider it to be the consequence of psychological problems.” MCS is a serious physiological condition, well documented in the literature, which can leave individuals completely disabled, unable to work or fully function in a public setting due to ubiquitous toxic chemicals in the air and environment. Any “debate” is kept alive by those who seek to discredit our illness, including the chemical industry and certain elements in the psychiatric industry. Anyone bothering to take the time to do some research would know this: There is now a substantial body of literature that supports a physiological basis for MCS, and the old, outdated studies that asserted a psychological basis have long been discredited.

This Swiss housing is a great idea if done right with the proper nontoxic materials. If done right it could serve as a model for other projects throughout the world. In addition to having people with MCS provide input on materials, I hope the government of Switzerland is prepared to subsidize this housing for those who are disabled by their MCS and unable to work. Otherwise this project, even if done right, is useless to those who are resource poor and the most in need of safe housing.

Photo credit from architect’s website: Andreas Zimmermann Architekten.

The above originally appeared here.


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