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

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A 501 (c) (3) non profit agency.

It can be done!


May 10, 2000

Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board
1331 F Street, NW, #1000
Washington, DC 20004 - 1111

Dear Board Members:

As Property Manager and one of the Directors of Ecology House, Inc., the first and only publicly sponsored housing in the nation (a HUD PRAC-811 property) for persons with MCS (Multiple Chemical Sensitivities), we are writing to urge your Access Board to update regulations implementing the Americans With Disabilities Act so as to provide and protect access for persons with chronically disabling conditions, acute episodes of which can be caused or exacerbated by exposure to problematic indoor air quality. This includes, but is not limited to, people with asthma, emphysema, severe allergies, COPD, Fibromyalgia, allergic toxemia, cacosmia, chronic fatigue syndrome, immune system dysregulation, multiple chemical sensitivities, porphyria, toxic encephalopathy, and Gulf War Syndrome.

As you know, under provisions of the ADA, disabilities are not strictly determined by medical diagnosis, but by limitations in major life activities. These include caring for oneself, performing manual tasks, walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, breathing, learning, and working (56.FED.REG., 35549, July 26, 1991). Persons with the above-mentioned disabilities often experience limitations of one or more of these major life activities when exposed to indoor air containing chemicals such as VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds), formaldehyde, and pesticides. These limitations (which in rare cases can be severe enough to be life-threatening, as in the case of severe asthma attack or anaphylactic shock, for example), create de facto barriers to access which, while not physical, are nonetheless just as real as the physical barriers usually considered for mitigation by ADA regulations.

We feel we are in a unique position to advocate for removal of these barriers not only because of our individual personal experiences with these disabilities in public access situations, but also because of our experience in building and managing a successful residential project which has provided access and protection for individuals with these disabilities.

Our experience at Ecology House has shown that giving people adequate notice and information upon their request regarding scheduled building maintenance, cleaning and spraying has led to a less confrontational and adversarial environment. This procedure gives individuals the information they need to make quality and informed decisions about avoiding possible risks to their health from exposures to substances which may cause them harm. A similar model of "local control," if adopted by the Access Board, has the potential not only to result in a less adversarial process, but also to result in a broadening of dialogue among groups with health concerns, building managers, and government officials, leading to mutually beneficial changes in building management policies, and possibly to design and construction practices to allow better (and safer) access for all in buildings as yet unbuilt.

Therefore, we recommend that the regulations be changed to require record keeping for all building maintenance and pest control products in use, signage (under the "right to know" provisions of the ADA) posted visibly and legibly at all building entrances when building maintenance, spraying or cleaning are in progress, and the provision of notification upon request for persons wishing to know the scheduling and details of maintenance and pest control activities.

We would appreciate a response and to be placed on the mailing list for further meetings and impending actions at the address on the letterhead.

Very sincerely yours,

Roy Smith,

Property Manager
Ecology House, Inc.
Connie Barker

Member, Board of Directors
Ecology House, Inc.

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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