Barb Wilkie's EHN Website
Last updated 2008

EHN Board President Barb Wilkie was very ill from chemically-induced kidney disease for several years. She passed away May 31, 2011. EHN presents this site both as a tribute and as valuable information. Many links and references will be out of date but Barb's research holds up over time. We will be transferring the site page by page, with updated details, to EHN's main site. If you would like to reach an EHN staff person, please contact us directly.

Definition of Disabling MCS/EI used by Ecology House, Inc.
San Rafael, California

Multiple Chemical sensitivity is an acquired disorder, characterized by recurrent symptoms, usually referable to multiple organ systems, most often including the central nervous system.

MCS symptoms occur in response to demonstrable exposure to many chemically unrelated compounds at doses far below those established in the general population to cause harmful effects. Symptoms may occur long after the exposure.

For the purpose of leasing Ecology House, disabling Multiple Chemical Sensitivity is a disability:

  • substantially impairing physical and/or cognitive functioning,

  • substantially limiting one or more or the individual's major life activities (such as caring for oneself, performing manual tasks, walking, seeing, hearing, speaking breathing, learning or working).

Motor skills and memory may be impaired. Mild reactions alone, such as headaches, are not considered MCS. MCS/EI is expected to be of indefinite but long-continued duration.

Reactions to common types of allergens alone, do not constitute MCS/EI. Persons with MCS must have symptoms or signs related to chemical exposures at levels tolerated by the populution at large. Ordinary allergies are not considered MCS. However, MCS is often characterized by extreme sensitivity to common allergens, such as animal hair, dander and excrement.

Signs and symptoms of disabling MCS/EI occur in response to common indoor environments. Symptoms wax and wane in response to the presence or absence of the chemical exposures. Persons with disabling MCS/EI cannot live or work in an uncontrolled environment, i.e. to maintain functioning requires separation from or elimination, filtration, or ventilation of chemicals. MCS/EI has forced the applicant to radically alter his/her lifestyle and living space to minimize exposures. Persons with MCS/EI generally face a very limited choice in the general housing market.

Ecology House's Evaluation and List of Building Materials

Question and Answer, Ecology House

If you have questions or comments, please email:


A note from barb ...

Repeated low-level exposures to commonly and unwittingly used consumer products such as scented household and janitorial cleaning and maintenance products, which includes pesticides, and/or personal care products whether used by self or by OTHERS, can lead one down the path to the largely PREVENTABLE disabling effects of MCS.

If you use scented products: Switch to environmentally friendlier, fragrance- and dye-free household, janitorial and personal care products. Look for paints that have low-emitting VOCs (volatile organic compounds). The carpet industry has developed a "green & white tag" to help consumers identify low-emitting VOC carpets and adhesives ... look for it! Switch to least toxic or zero pesticide methods of controling "pests." You'll find these products will be friendlier to your body and the bodies of your children and elderly parents, your pets, and to our planet as well.

If, however, you do not use scented products, and you use only low-emittig VOC paints, carpets, adheseives, and you practice zero or least toxic control of pests, but are living with the early symptoms of MCS, while trying to remain in school, gainfully employed, or in an apartment house, etc., you WILL require the cooperation of others, including management. To help you gain that cooperation, please use the information provided on EHN's page, Take Heart! at

Because our modern products, including many paints, carpets, adhesives, disinfectants (classified as pesticides by the EPA), cleaning and personal care products are volatile organic compounds, the chemicals leave the user, or the product used, to pollute the air for all, regardless of underlying health conditions. Synthetic scents and pesticides are recognized as "Common Indoor Air Pollutants" by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. See

It only takes one person who continues to wear scents in a workplace, school, healthcare facility, place of worship ... to put the already-chemically injured individual in harm's way. Sadly, those of us who have tried to remain gainfully employed, or in school, have access to healthcare, etc., have had to deal with not only the habitual users of scented products, but their hate crimes perpetrated against us.

I consider it a hateful act to:

  • parade in the office space of the already chemically injured person while wearing scents, just to laden the air with superfluous toxins -- the "visit" had not been with the chemically injured individual and had nothing to do with work of other staff;


  • spray perfumes, air fresheners, pesticides, cigarette smoke, ... , on or around the desk, the office space, the door, just outside the door, or in the vents leading to the area occupied by the already chemically injured;


  • have these acts -- and many others -- ignored by management, by school administrations, by our healthcare facilities, by the EEOC, by one's state Department of Fair Employment and Housing.


And, I consider it an especially harmful act to:
  • wear and/or use scented products if one works in a healthcare setting of any description. Your "personal choice" to wear scented products adversely affects the health of untold others, thereby automatically making it a PUBLIC choice, not a personal one.

  • wear and/or use scented products in a childcare or school setting. There is no reason for anyone to contribute to air pollution by using scented products. The chemicals used to concoct scents include known irritants and sensitizers and known or suspected carcinogens, neurotoxins (adversely affecting brain and central nervous system) and teratogens (adversely affecting embryonic and fetal development).


Sooner or later, we are driven from school, from gainful employment, from healthcare, from housing . . . from our place of worship.

True, we all have to die sometime. But the goal for most folks is quality of life AND not dying prematurely! In the interest of living as healthy a life as possible, we must separate ourselves from those choosing to express their sense of "personal right" by continuing their use of products that contain superfluous toxins. No one is depriving anyone in their very own home of the right to use as many scented products as they care to . . . I'd just hasten to caution that the use of said products be ONLY among consenting, non-pregnant, adults.

Lest you are too quick to dub me an alarmist as I speak to prevention, check out the statistics on our infants and children. ADD, Autism, Asthma, Cancers, SIDS . . . our children and grandchildren are not due these debilitating, life-taking illnesses. WE can do something about it. WE can make sound, ecologically-friendly purchases. WE can do our best to inform ourselves, despite industry hype and public relations campaigns. It's "WE the people" like never before, in my opinion. And, CAVEAT EMPTOR!

In public venues, I fervently hope people begin to recognize the polluting effects of the various types of scented products -- as well as other highly volatile products in common use -- and make it their business to seek least toxic products for use in public places. Be it construction, re-hab, maintenance, cleaning, or pest control, use safer, less volatile, less toxic products.

By all means, use least-toxic products for your personal care. Remember, the chemicals in your laundry products continue to volatilize long after you've used them in the laundry, and they are next to your skin to be absorbed by your body. Synthetic scents in personal care products are also absorbed and inhaled into your body. Check the chemicals found in synthetic scents, then think what you may be doing to your body regarding long-term use. See

Ecology House, Inc., is the one safe shelter where people forced by the above circumstances into living a life on a low-income budget can go to live, and even begin to regain some semblance of health. Sadly, the waiting list for Ecology House could fill several Ecology Houses . . . and there aren't any others. Yet.

-- barb (strictly my own opinion)


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