EHN [of California]
P.O. Box 1155
Larkspur, California, 94977-0074

Support and Information Line
(SAIL) 415.541.5075
A 501 (c) (3) non profit agency.

ATBCB Testimony
Monday, January 31, 2000
Los Angeles, CA

MCS affects people who are
already living with recognized disabilities

Scheduled 1:50 P.M. via speaker phone entered also via fax: 202.272.5447

Good afternoon Board Members and Ladies and Gentlemen of the audience...

I am Barbara Wilkie, board member of the Environmental Health Network, Larkspur, CA.

I wish to thank the board, and particularly Kathy Roy Johnson and Dave Yanchulis who networked to arrange for me to speak with you via phone today.

There are millions of people with the "hidden" disability of chemical injury who are adversely affected by indoor air pollution, which results in their being denied access to housing, jobs, education, participation in civic duties, recreational activities, travel ... to healthcare, for goodness sakes.

But MCS knows no boundaries. It affects people of all ages, races, both sexes AND it also affects people who are already living with recognized disabilities. I'll try to give examples of how folks with acknowledged disabilities -- who otherwise would be protected by your board -- are not.

What good does it do to build ramps to a building that has a properly opening wheelchair-accessible door, and once inside, just the right depth and texture of carpet for wheelchairs ... but the carpet's adhesives and the paint on the walls are high-emitting volatile organic compounds? These products immediately and adversely affect the health -- and therefore the access -- of our friend who uses a wheelchair.

The very person for whom ramps were built, the door was hung, the floor was covered to code, cannot enter the building that was made "accessible" for people who use wheelchairs.

Why? Because although one canNOT shake the air out of a building when said building is theoretically turned upside down and shaken, the US Access Board has not yet thought to deal with air as an integral part of any building's or public transit conveyance's architectural structure.

A person who is blind, can enter a building because the lobby floor is a hard surface, the paint was a low-emiting VOC product, he or she can find his/her way to the restroom because there is proper signage, all to code. The door opens ... and air "freshener" rushes out immediately, "smacking" the individual in the face, nay, it more feels like one had just been bludgeoned with a sledge hammer; the chest feels as though a truck just ploughed into it, breathing is immediately impaired, the need to use the restroom is suddenly and dramatically increased because incontinence -- bladder and/or bowel -- is one of the reactions to toxic chemical fragrances.

The very person for whom the signage was placed cannot enter the restroom that was made "accessible" for people who are blind. And the person NEEDS the restroom. We've added a large dose of cruelty to inaccessibility.

What if a person is deaf? There are special warning lights attached to all fire alarms, and there are special telephone hook-ups for the deaf and hearing impaired. Under clean-air circumstances, this individual could work! But his/her workplace uses monthly pesticide services instead of implementing Integrated Pest Management (IPM) strategies and the workplace encourages its staff to use fragrance products for everything from personal care to cleaning and maintenance projects.

This person cannot hold a job because the toxic chemicals in fragrances and pesticides -- which are also fragranced so people do not object to inhaling them -- affect his/her ability to think clearly. Our worker -- who has his/her acknowledged accessible needs met according to code -- cannot work because of the indoor air pollution. This person does not have full accessibility.

These scenarios are played out in workplaces, schools, healthcare facilities, government buildings, restaurants, theaters, as well as in public transit conveyances ... played out wherever there is indoor air to become polluted by superfluous toxic chemical products such as fragrances and pesticides.

The issue of pesticides is now considered serious enough that Marin County, California, is building upon its 1998 IPM ordinance with its schools campaign. Their work is sanctioned as a planning model by CAL-EPA. Marin Beyond Pesticides stresses a ban on category 1 and 2 pesticides and signs to be put up before spraying. This is very, very important.

Dishearteningly, the Access Board, heretofore, has not considered temporary signage for such air-polluting projects as fresh paint, wax, carpet installation, pesticide applications, etc. Yet even temporary signage is affixed to walls and/or doors, so with just a little stretch of the mind, one could assume the board could broaden its scope and develop guidelines for temporary signage, too. I can guarantee you, based on my own experience, that had temporary signs been posted in my former workplace, I would have been spared several at least breath-, if not fully life-threatening, exposures. Yet, because it is written no where that my workplace had to post temporary alert signage, they refused to do it.

While indoor air pollution has NOT been a focus of the Access Board to date, to discount it in the presence of all of the recent information available on how environmental toxins are contributing to Learning Disabilities, ADD and Behavior Disorders in our children, as well as various Environmental Illnesses such as Asthma, Migraines, Parkinson's, MCS, Sick Building, Gulf War and Chronic Fatigue syndromes) AND cancers ... to discount the horrible effects of these products now, is a dereliction of duty toward ALL people. Including those currently living with disabilities. Hidden or observable.

Clean air is a matter of health and access for all. The board should make IAQ access a high priority. Sooner is better than later!

Thank you for allowing me to join you via phone.
[-- barb wilkie]

Environmental Health Network
P.O. Box 1155
Larkspur, CA 94977-1155
EHN at

Additional reference information:

See "Perfume and Fragrance Exposure During Pregnancy: Links to Learning Disabilities, ADD and Behavior Disorders"

The California Air Resources Board states in "Consumer Products and Smog"

"In 1990, consumer products emitted about 265 tons of smog-forming pollution into California's air every day-more than all the refineries and gas stations in the state. Until 1990, the amount of VOCs in these products wasn't regulated."
[10 long years ago -- I'm seeking more up-to-date figures.]

For more information, please visit the web site of Betty Bridges, RN
Fragranced Products Information Network

Support EHN's FDA Petition. WRITE to the FDA today!

Comments? (Barb's email is no longer valid, please contact EHN). Please put WWW in subject line. Thanks.

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The Environmental Health Network (EHN) [of California] is a 501 (c) (3) non profit agency and offers support and information for the chemically injured. HomePage is