Manataka American Indian Council







Home Sick?

By Lauren Liori Lea Zack




Is your home making you sick? You may have multiple chemical sensitivity. 15% of the US population has sensitivity to chemicals commonly found in household products. Many of those with MCS are thrown into poverty and homelessness, unable to find housing that does not make them sick.


From: Homesick, a Video About Living With Multiple Chemical Sensitivities:


Coal miners used to send canaries into the mines ahead of them to check the level of lethal gases. If the canaries died, the gasses had reached deadly levels. If they lived, it was safe to mine…

Today, millions of people are made sick from the toxicity of their everyday environments. These “human canaries” suffer from a condition called Multiple Chemical Sensitivities (MCS). This condition overlaps with Fibromyalgia, Chronic Fatigue, Sick Building and Gulf War Syndromes. There is no known cure for MCS.

15% of the US population has "an increased allergic sensitivity to chemicals commonly found in household products.” (Estimate: The National Academy of Sciences)

"The population that is allergic to chemicals will grow to 60% by 2020.” (Business Week)

Homesick: Living with Multiple Chemical Sensitivities is an hour long video documentary produced and written by Susan Abod that is now in the process of completion. In Homesick, Susan goes on the road to find out how other people around the country are coping with MCS and dealing with the difficult problem of finding safe housing. She visits their homes and witnesses their daily struggles. They come from all walks of life and live in diverse dwellings that include tents, a house on stilts and a teepee.

Watch the trailer of "Homesick" the video:

What is MCS?

MCS is most easily described as a severe reaction to household and commercial products and other chemicals commonly found in the environment. These include pesticides, perfumes, paints, cleaning products, gas stoves, new carpeting and building materials, mold, tobacco smoke, vehicle exhaust, etc. The onset of MCS can often be traced to a specific chemical exposure, but just as often, its cause is unknown.

People who live with MCS often suffer debilitating chronic fatigue along with a multitude of other symptoms provoked by chemical exposures. These symptoms include asthma, migraines, nausea, aching joints and muscles, weakness, sleep disorders, memory loss, impaired balance, anaphylactic shock and seizures. It is also very common to have problems with memory and concentration, which is affectionately referred to as “brain fog” by those who are all too familiar with it.

Finding a home that isn’t toxic

Perhaps the biggest issue for sufferers of MCS is creating a safe home environment where chemical exposures are minimal. These environments must be non-toxic and can require the implementation of expensive technology.

Typically, people with MCS are forced to move from one place to the next as their homes are made unlivable, often by the activities of those around them. All too often they find themselves temporarily homeless. Others are forced to live in inaccessible, toxic spaces where their health deteriorates. Tragically, the desperate, overwhelming nature of this illness and the difficult process of locating safe housing has resulted in numerous suicides.

Are we listening to today’s human canaries?

People suffering with MCS serve to make us aware of the dire consequences living in a society where chemicals are used in virtually every area of our lives. One of the foremost questions of the 21st century is how do we create a healthy and sustainable environment? We can begin by taking heed of the plight of these human canaries.

MCS Resources:

Chemical Injury Information Network: The Chemical Injury Information Network (CIIN) is a support and advocacy organization dealing with Multiple Chemical Sensitivities (MCS). It is run by the chemically injured for the benefit of the chemically injured, and focuses primarily on education, credible research into MCS, and the empowerment of the chemically injured.

The Chemical Sensitivity Foundation raises public awareness about Multiple Chemical Sensitivity:

Related Blogs:
"Pollution, Poverty, and MCS":
"Reducing Toxins in Home"
"Creating Healthy Buildings"
"Healing Homes":