EHN [of California]
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ATBCB Testimony
Monday, January 31, 2000
Los Angeles, CA

MCSers routinely discriminated against


Good morning, Ladies and Gentlemen...

I wish to first thank the Access Board for the opportunity to share my concerns and ideas in this forum...

Also, thank you to Dave Yanchulis for allowing me to have my testimony read by proxy...

And I would also like to thank Susan Molloy (or Sheera Bleckman), for reading this letter in my place. I wanted VERY MUCH to be present at the hearing in person, but my health does not permit me to travel at this time.

I became legally disabled at age 30 with Multiple Chemical Sensitivities (MCS). I, and my family, were made seriously ill after long-term exposure to a combination of chemicals, including solvents used in printing, lawncare pesticides, and a series of natural gas leaks in our home that occurred over a period of several years. One of the leaks turned out to be a 20% leak from the main line.

MCS is a silent epidemic in our society today. Depending on the study, between 37and 75 percent of the American population is chemically sensitive, to varying degrees. 13 million Americans are disabled by this condition. We, in the MCS disabled community, have waited a decade for access and accommodation guidelines to be established and implemented. It is imperative that new guidelines for ADA not be issued until specific MCS environmental health guidelines for access and accommodation are included.

I, and my family, understand firsthand, what it's like to try and gain access and accommodation in public buildings and housing. We have been routinely discriminated against with regards to employment, education, recreation and especially housing; resulting in our living homeless 9 times in 4 years spanning 3 states.

In the last situation, we refused to leave our apartment and tried, in earnest, to work out an agreement with the managers and owners about accommodation with regards to remodeling, lawncare and pest control. HUD ended up having to interven and initiated a lawsuit on our behalf. Later, the Department of Justice (DOJ) did the same (United States vs. Tibbetts) and our case became the first of its kind in the nation.

The owners and managers of Castle Rock Apartments in Castle Rock, Colorado, were charged with 26 counts of discrimination. The case eventually settled out of court and we were granted our requests for access and accommodation, and more. Based on what I have experienced and learned after 12 years of living with this disability and facing discrimination in these kinds of situations again and again (with regards to construction, alteration, policies and practices in public buildings), I respectfully recommend to the Access Board the following guidelines for consideration:

    1. That public buildings be required to remove all attached automatic/timed air freshener and pesticide spraying devices. This includes air fresheners which are built into ventilation systems and used in stores, restaurants, hospitals, schools, libraries, offices and other public buildings. Such products can contain neurotoxic and carcinogenic chemicals, such as the pesticide, paradichlorobenzene.

    2. That the entrances and exits of all public buildings be constructed in such a way as to provide an adequate buffer zone to protect the chemically sensitive from exposure to employee and client/patrons smoking outside, near the doors (or any opened windows) on lunch or during breaks.

    3. That buildings be designed or altered so that employees may open windows.

    4. That better ventilation systems with attached HEPA and charcoal filters are installed throughout new buildings and in pre-existing ones. Also, every public building should install a fan system that exchanges the inside air with outside air (passing through the above-mentioned filtered ventilation system) several times per hour. These techniques not only help for the obvious reasons, but they will also help prevent the need for certain maintenance practices which may require pest control and strong cleaning tactics (bacteria), both of which can deny a chemically sensitive patron/employee access and accommodation in public buildings. It is a fact that insects, molds and bacteria are not likely to be a problem in an area where there is adequate natural light and airflow.

    5. In order to further prevent pest control problems, new and pre-existing buildings such as stores, schools, government buildings, and hospitals should not be constructed or remodeled to include a restaurant, or other kind of eating establishment inside. Such establishments should be constructed separate from the main building so as to prevent insect infestations from spreading into non-food areas, when they do occur (i.e., here in Colorado, the State House has been remodeled to include a restaurant on the first floor. As a result, the first floor and basement are now routinely treated with chemical pesticides for insect control and the chemically sensitive disabled cannot get into the building to attend hearings).

    6. New buildings should be primarily constructed using (and furnished with) untreated or naturally treated wood, steel, tile, stone and glass. If carpeting is desired, it should be environmentally-safe carpet; not treated with pesticides, formaldehyde, glues, etc., and tacked down to the floor or by way of a non-toxic adhesive.

    7. Multi-unit housing should be constructed with large wall space between units, separate ventilation and heating, electric or hot water heating (with the heating source in a building separated from the apartments/townhomes/condominiums).

    Electric boxes should not be placed near the units as well, as some chemically sensitive citizens are also electromagnetically sensitive. It is much preferred that such units also be constructed to NOT share common hallways. This prevents exposure to offending chemicals by way of cleaning, remodeling, painting and pest control, later on. Constructing new buildings this way also gives much more protection to the chemically sensitive tenant from chemicals used in other tenants' apartments. Multi-level apartment complexes should allow bottom levels of the building to be non-smoking and also, to include an elevator in the building for non-smokers only.

I plead with the members of the Access Board today, to not postpone the writing of MCS-specific access and accommodation guidelines again, so that the MCS disabled may not have to continue to subsist in improverished, even subhuman conditions living in their cars or tents; to have to endure living isolated from society like modern-day lepers; to not have to continue to face discrimination in any sector of our society; to no longer be expected to continue to have to suffer from the stigma imposed on the MCS disabled at the hands of media mockery and powerful chemical industry influence.

MCS-specific ADA guidelines will help us to gain the help we need to become productive members of society again, and not remain ostracized. The environmental health guidelines we request will also benefit all members of society to be protected from "sick building syndrome" and "sick school syndrome." The incidence of chemical sensitivity among the population is rising dramatically and will NOT improve if we continue to act or not act, as we have, collectively. Swift action is needed now before more new toxic buildings are constructed and more sick building cases crop up. MCS is a disability that can be prevented.

In closing, I avail myself to the Access Board in this endeavor. I offer my help as a person disabled with MCS to you. Please know that I am willing to do whatever and all that I can to assist you in establishing and implementing access and accommodation guidelines for the chemically sensitive everywhere.


Micki Davi

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