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The health conditions of Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS) /Environmental Illness (EI)/ Electromagnetic Hypersensitivity (EHS) can be disabling enough that the patient may qualify for any of several forms of public assistance. This page will present some resources to enable you to research this area.
Environmental Illness is explicitly recognized by Social Security. Their diagnostic code as used in the Social Security Administration's current Program Operational Manual System, or "POMS Manual," for Environmental Illness is DI 24515.064.
A current summary of worldwide MCS and EHS recognitions is available from MCS-America on their MCS and EHS Recognition page -
Sections on this page -
The question of whether the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) applies to people with Multiple Chemical Sensitivities (MCS) comes up over and over with MCS sufferers.
Here are some considerations -
The ADA says very explicitly that proprietors of places of public accommodation shall not discriminate against disabled individuals.
As for what is a disabled individual, here is an excerpt from GASP of Colorado's web page on the ADA as far as it applies to people with health problems that require them to avoid second hand tobacco smoke -
Disability is defined as:
a physical ... impairment that substantially limits one or more of the major life activities of [an] individual;
a record of such an impairment; or
being regarded as having such an impairment.
The term physical impairment includes:
Any physical disorder, or condition, cosmetic disfigurement, or anatomical loss affecting one or more of the following bodily systems: neurological, musculoskeletal, special sense organs, respiratory (including speech organs), cardiovascular, reproductive, digestive...
The next definition is that of substantial limitation. Remember, not all conditions producing limitations of major life activities are disabling. There is no firm delineation of substantial and non-substantial limitations. Federal regulations used to enforce the ADA cite three factors which should be considered in addressing this issue. These are:
the nature and severity of the impairment;
the duration or expected duration of the impairment; and
the permanent or long term impact, or the expected permanent or long term impact of, or resulting from, the impairment.
The significant phrases are: "a record of such an impairment"; and "being regarded as having such an impairment."
A sad fact of life for many people with MCS is that they have often been to many, many doctors seeking support and treatment (sometimes just simple acceptance!) for the health condition. As such, there is very definitely "a record".
As for "being regarded...", the question is whether we accept the word of Board Certified doctors who have many perhaps years of experience with the health condition of MCS.
From this, there is a very strong case that the ADA does indeed apply for people with health conditions such as MCS that limit or deny their access to public amenities.
For more information about the The Americans with Disabilities Act, see -
The following organization is a national law and policy center dedicated to protecting and advancing the civil rights of people with disabilities.
The Disability Resource Project supports independent living for people with disabilities.
The health condition of Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS) or Environmental Illness (EI) is recognized as a handicap by many legal actions and several federal agencies. Here is a timeline of some of these actions -
This list has been assembled from various sources. The primary one has been - "Multiple Chemical Sensitivities (MCS): What It Is, What It Is Not." by Sheila Bastien.
Go to the web site, MCS-America; http://www.mcs-america.org/, and select the 'Proclamations' link, find your state and make a print of the proclamation signed by your governor recognizing MCS or EHS. Include a copy any time you are making contact where acceptance of MCS may be an issue. Such as whenever making new medical contacts.
An old source of the proclamations is -
Here is a web site that can give you an idea if any obvious benefits are available for you. It is managed by the National Council on Aging. To use this site, you need the following information beforehand -
Go to the following link for applying for Disability Benefits from Social Security -
A group that will file a disability claim for you, and claims they have a good track record of obtaining benefits is - Allsup Inc.; http://www.allsupinc.com/
Go to the the following link for applying for Disability Benefits from Federal Civil Service -
HUD regulations say very clearly that "it is unlawful for a housing provider to refuse to make reasonable accomodations in rules, policies, practices, or services, when such accomodation is necessary to afford a disabled person equal opportunity to use and enjoy a dwelling unit."
But - HUD made a survey back in the 1990's of available literature about MCS. Based on a shallow understanding of what literature was available, it was concluded that "the pattern of symptomology is too wide ranging, nonspecific, and variable to suggest a single pathogenetic mechanism. ... whereas no clinical or histopathologic evidence of inflammation has been demonstrated in patients with environmental illness." From that claim, any accomodations for people with the health condition of MCS are to be made on a subjective case by case basis.
The result has too often been, that anyone applying for whatever accomodation is assumed " Guilty unless Proven Otherwise. "
In the last couple decades, there have been immense advances in the research that explains MCS. HUD should update its procedures to recognize and accept that research.
Links to a variety of information about disability -
The Social Security and Disability Resource Center website (SSDRC.com) provides a detailed overview of how the federal disability system works (social security disability and SSI) and also provides answers to many questions that applicants typically have, but often have trouble finding answers to them.
For the most part, the site is based on the author's personal experience as a former disability-medicaid caseworker, and also as a former disability examiner for the social security administration.
Not available as of August 28, 2011 ???
This group provides free information, advice and advocacy services to patients with chronic illnesses nationwide in areas including health and disability appeals, Social Security disability, employment discrimination, family and medical leave, educational equity, and resource location. Their website is at
Many states have a Legal Services group that offers pro bono legal help to people on disability. See the following web site for more infomation, or referral to other states -
The Colorado Cross-Disability Coalition may be able to help deal with a variety of disability and legal hurdles. They regularly advocate for people who are concerned their rights have been violated regarding issues such as social services, social security, housing, education, transportation, and disabilities.
When necessary, they provide legal services at no charge, and they often make their voice heard in the state legislature. Keep in mind that their role is as advocates, not service providers.
Some of their members are familiar with MCS, and they have claimed they can help with issues such as pesticide spraying around your house, since that's a matter of reasonable accommodation.
Telephone - 303/442-3042
The The Housing and Urban Development Section 8 Housing of Choice Voucher Program (HCVP) has been a significant support for people with disabilities, especially people with Environmental Illnesses who too often do not have the option of just moving into just any available housing even if they could afford it.
Unfortunately, the proposed fiscal year 2005 Federal budget proposal for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) calls for either deep cuts in the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher program and replacing it with a new Flexible Voucher Program or eliminating it altogether.
See the following HUD web site page for more information on this subject -
See the following web sites for more information about this situation. In particular, the Technical Assistance site has estimates of how much of an impact there would be for every state.
See the following page for a draft of a letter to send to your congressperson about continuing Section 8 support -
A couple of MCS people are putting together a protocol for use by medical personnel.
Contact the following people if you are interested in helping -
A medical doctor who will verify your condition of chemical sensitivity is essential for a successful application for disability benefits. The following links give some resources -
Another resource is your local medical school, often associated with a local college or university. These people are often aware of local specialists. Ask for Environmental Medicine, or perhaps Occupational physicians. It is worth noting that the traditional Allergists typically deal with immune-system modulated allergies and are often not familiar with sensitivities.Return to the top of this page
Sensitivity to substances, especially petro-based chemicals that came into our environment in the last 150 years, is a hallmark of MCS/EI, but since that sensitivity isn't technically an allergy, it isn't well recognized as a health problem by many people, including medical and emergency personnel. As such, it is well worth having identification on you that indicates that you have a hypersensitivity to certain substances. Numerous companies sell bracelets that can be used for this purpose. On the bracelet, use terms such as "sensitivity" or "hypersensitivity," and name key classes of chemicals or other substances as inappropriate for you and as room allows. You can also say "allergy," but only if you also have classical allergy reactions that lead to altered levels of immunoglobulin, as measured by IgE and other medical labels.
Here is a possible wording - but of course name only materials that apply to you.
The following links take you to several manufacturers that have advertised that they supply medical alert bracelets with wording that you specify -
Please keep in mind that RMEHA does not endorse or recommend the product of any manufacturer.Return to the top of this page
An unfortunate reality in our society is the fact that some medical procedures, information and personnel are less than beneficial, even detrimental, to our health. This section will list web sites that *** may *** have useful information in this area.
Additional information covering this area is presented on the RMEHA Medical Chemicals and Drugs page -
The following site (by a former claims examiner for the Social Security Administration) answers a lot of basic questions about social security disability and SSI. But the site has grown a lot and now answers several hundred questions that claimants usually find it difficult to find answers for.
Many of the veterans of the first Gulf War developed various forms of MCS. Here are links to several Web sites with more information about that related area -
Here are several search engines in case you wish to do more research from this page -
Follow the links below to learn more about RMEHA and Environmental Illness.