RMEHA Home page> > MCS Resources page> > MCS Disability Resources>
Local Sections of Interest -
This section addresses resources available for a person with the health condition of an extreme sensitivity, such as multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS), or environmental illness (EI), or any of the many other problems such as heart disease, lung cancer, brain tumor, that require comprehensively avoiding secondhand tobacco smoke, also called environmental tobacco smoke (ETS), to protect their well-being.
To establish some understandings - this section is NOT about smoking which is defined by the U.S. Surgeon General as "engaging in the self-destructive behavior of being addicted to a drug with the mental and physical distortions of cocaine or heroin" - per the Surgeon General's definition. This section is about the consequences of that behavior as if impacts other people in our society, and especially those with medical reason to totally avoid all exposure to it, even at the level from an air condtioning system.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) classifies environmental tobacco smoke as a Class A carcinogen, the most hazardous classification, supposedly a material that must be comprehensively abated in public places.
Secondhand tobacco smoke kills more people - estimated at some 50,000 a year
by several federal agencies plus the California Environmental Protection
Agency - than all the other carcinogens currently regulated by the EPA
combined, including asbestos, arsenic, benzene, radon, and radionuclides.
CalEPA lists 46,000 premature cardiac deaths due to ETS; it lists 3,400
premature lung cancer deaths due to secondhand tobacco smoke.
Similar results are being reported from independent research in the European Union and Australia.
The American Cancer Society estimates that secondhand tobacco smoke causes about 3,000 lung cancer deaths among nonsmokers every year. And that "numerous studies have documented increased risk of lung cancer among nonsmokers exposed to secondhand smoke at work and at home."
Yet, tragically, our public social and health policies have ignored the fact that this horrendous death toll from secondhand tobacco smoke is equivalent of terrorists shooting down a loaded passenger plane every day for the entire year!
See the following page - "Secondhand Smoke is Toxic and Poisonous" at the Surgeon General's web site.
For example, a television special by Dr. Nancy Snyderman on an ABC News Special on July 5, 2001, presented coverage about the unique problems women have when it comes to health problems caused by or aggravated by tobacco smoke.
For a summary of the TV presentation is at -
An online survey asked the question "should smoking be banned in all public places" gave the following result -
The Nampa Housing Authority, in Idaho, has had a totally smoke-free housing policy since January 1, 2008 that applies to 142 units in several sites around the Boise area. It has been awarded a 2009 Award of Merit by the National Association of Housing and Redevelopment Officials (NAHRO) for being the the first 100% smoke-free housing authority in the entire Northwest U.S.
The State of Oregon is implementing a Landlord Disclosure of Smoking Policy Law (HB 2135) that requires the rental agreement for all dwelling units to includes a disclosure of the smoking policy for the premises on which the dwelling is located. The law takes effect on January 1, 2010.
A Canadian study in 2001 found that a non-smoking woman who lives with a smoker has a 21-per-cent higher risk of developing lung cancer over her adult lifetime. But if the woman lived with a smoking parent as a child, her risk jumps 63 per cent, above that of someone who has always lived in a smoke-free home. A woman who has always lived in a smoke-free home but works where smoking is permitted sees her risk of developing lung cancer jump by 27 per cent. That risk climbs steadily over time, and increases based on the number of smokers in the workplace.
Secondhand tobacco smoke is recognized as increasing a nonsmoking woman's chances of getting breast cancer by some 24 percent if they live with a smoker. Their risk is increased to 39 percent when they work with people who smoke, and on up to 50 percent if they associate out with smokers is social settings such as bars and restaurants. Again, this applies to normal people - above and beyond someone with a health condition directly and immediately aggravated by the smoke.
"Since the 1970's, scientific evidence has accumulated proving that exposure to sidestream tobacco smoke and nonmainstream environmental tobacco smoke (ETS) is a serious health hazard."
"Though genetics and early diagnosis [of breast cancer] are stressed by the cancer industry, the truth is that 85 to 90 percent of breast cancers cannot be explained by inherited genetic disposition."
Per the American Cancer Society - "perhaps the most pervasive and offensive environmental carcinogen is secondhand tobacco smoke, which is especially harmful to children. Active smoking produces 50 different known carcinogens. ... It is estimated that secondhand tobacco smoke is responsible for about 3,000 lung cancer deaths among nonsmokers every year, and further that that 'numerous studies have documented increased risk of lung cancer among nonsmokers exposed to secondhand tobacco smoke at work and home.'"
"Secondhand tobacco smoke is a known risk factor for lung cancer. Experts believe that secondhand smoke is to blame for about 3,400 deaths from lung cancer in adult nonsmokers each year in the United States. Secondhand smoke is also linked to cancer of the nasal sinuses." "Secondhand smoke harms the cardiovascular system of nonsmokers in many ways. ... It is estimated that some 35,000 nonsmokers die of secondhand smoke related heart disease in the United States every year. "Chronic lung ailments, such as bronchitis and asthma, have been associated with secondhand smoke.
Research is now showing significant health effects in children who are exposed to thirdhand tobacco smoke, i.e., residue on walls.
Colorado has gotten a less than glowing rating from the American Lung Association with an "F" rating for its tobacco policies.
The reality is that anyone smoking in an air conditioned building has contaminated it with a significant - and needless - health hazard to all innocent bystanders.
A paper, "Exposure to Secondhand Smoke and Cognitive Impairment in Non-smokers" published in the British Medical Journal concludes that secondhand tobacco smoke exposure leads to increased risk of dementia and other neurological problems in adults.
Here it is the year 2009. What has been done? Some No Smoking signs have been installed. We have a widespread belief that the presence of the signs makes tobacco smoke magically vanish. It doesn't!
Perhaps some of the reluctance to protect nonsmokers from the smoke comes from the tobacco users throwing temper tantrums about their "rights." We need to keep in mind that tobacco - per the U.S. Surgeon General's office - is as physically and mentally addictive as heroin or cocaine. There is no excuse in continuing to allow anyone's drug addiction to justify causing direct and immediate harm to innocent bystanders.
A distracting bit of propaganda a few years ago claimed that there is no "allergy" to tobacco. (Carefully avoiding any distinction between tobacco leaf and tobacco smoke.) It turns out that, medically, a true allergy, as defined by the IsubGE immune reaction, is apparently rare. But the public message that came out of that "information campaign" was that tobacco smoke is not a problem for bystanders. But MCS is not an allergy.
The following is a web site maintained by a pro-smoking group that has done research into this allergy - but not sensitivity - situation -
For the record, the following is the owner of the Forces.org site -
A very specious claim is made that the tobacco users have no alternatives. It turns out that the treatment that has been used for many years in treating people with schizophrenia has been used very successfully to replace tobacco - direct injection of nicotine. Reports say that after a couple weeks, some smokers actually preferred the nicotine injection.
We also have a very unfortunate problem with much "tobacco control" legislation - it talks only about "No Smoking." These laws are commendable as a general public health measure - encouraging the tobacco users to stop and perhaps take responsibility for their actions which are in actuality a serious financial burden on everyone. But too often the blunt "No Smoking" sign is too often more of an insult to a tobacco user and just leads to the naive attitude "if a No Smoking sign is installed, the problem goes away." it doesn't!
In practice, these "tobacco control" laws have been a disaster for persons with health conditions aggravated by the smoke. Too often we get told the "No Smoking" sign is installed (sometimes in a cloud of smoke) so therefore we don't have anything to complain about.
We also notice that the tobacco industry is regarded as a 100 billion dollar a year international drug cartel. One hopes that this vast amount of financial potential is not a factor at all this ongoing flagrant defensiveness about defending smoking where and when bystanders are injured.
There are still many pressures to allow 'just a little' tobacco smoke. The following medical and scientific agencies are open on public record stating that 'there is no safe level of tobacco smoke' - for anyone.
The evidence is very clear - second hand tobacco smoke is a significant - and needless - toxic hazard to everyone. And especially to people with health conditions severely aggravated by it, such as MCS. For people with severe sensitivities to the smoke, we must address the concept of a truly and comprehensive smokefree environments to accommodate their health needs.
A basic fact to start with - there is no constitutional right to engage in an activity that injures others. Tobacco smoke has been recognized as a Class A carcinogen by the EPA for many years. It is in the same hazard class as asbestos, which we put so much effort into totally removing from all our living spaces. Supposedly, the Fair Housing Act applies to protecting disabled persons who are affected by tobacco smoke. Supposedly, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) applies to disabled persons affected by tobacco smoke. Perhaps the following contacts can help you obtain smoke free accommodations and/or living situation. Also contact your local city or county health department. Or see if there is a trial lawyers association in your state. Or check with the Law School at your local University.
A survey of over 600 residents in Santa Monica, California, reported that some 46.2 percent said they have or that they live with someone who has a medical condition that is aggravated by tobacco smoke.
Environmental Tobacco Smoke can be a very severe, direct and immediate health aggravant, even life threatening, for people with some forms of Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS) or Environmental Illness (EI). This illness was first documented in the 1890's. The lessons from our "miner's canaries" are continuing to be ignored to the detriment of our society.
MCS is a debilitating chronic condition characterized by an extreme sensitivity to chemicals. The condition is often medically described as an injury or deficiency in the blood brain barrier or the voronasal organ whereby materials that are not a problem for most people cause a disruption of the acetylcholine and cholinesterase cycle in the brain which in turn results in a neural injury vicious cycle reaction that can take hours or days to recover from.
Further, it has been shown with DNA testing that many people with MCS are genetically deficient in some bodily detoxification capabilities that would otherwise remove the injury toxins. The etiology of this health condition is known. In practice, people with this health condition have as much as one thousand times the sensitivity to aggravants than most people. Many people with this condition developed it from exposure to various pesticides. And even the smallest amount of pesticide exposure now continue to cause problems. There is no medical cure for the condition. There are supportive (expensive) treatments that may help some people. The only realistic treatment is to totally avoid the aggravating chemicals, such as pesticides, tobacco smoke, petro-based fragrances, building chemicals, VOC's.
A reality for people with MCS is that the health condition is claimed "too controversial." But we have physicians who are Board certified and with many years experience with the health condition saying people with MCS are disabled. The social appropriateness of the health condition should not be an issue. In reality, it too often is.
A recent book , "Explaining 'Unexplained Illnesses'", by Dr. Martin Pall, that came out a couple years ago. He pulls together a lot of research previously scattered throughout the medical literature to present a detailed physiological explanation for MCS, Gulf War Syndrome, Fibromyalgia, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, and other "edge of medicine" health conditions. The mechanism Dr. Pall presents is a neural injury vicious cycle where by toxins from the injury are not properly detoxified and cycle around to compound the injury. Portions of the brain are committing suicide. The external manifestation varies from region to region, so one doctor sees MCS, another sees FM, and on. Dr. Pall's presentation explains the heretofore mysteries of MCS. Especially the thousandfold increase in sensitivity. It is pertinent that aggravants, or stressors as he calls them, include the usual pesticides, formaldehyde building chemicals, petro based fragrances that bedevil people with MCS. Tobacco smoke is also on that list. Another pertinent stressor is the Sarin nerve gas. The symptoms many people with MCS suffer from exposures are right down the list the same as a "normal" person would suffer from a very weak exposure, such as a five percent LD50, to Sarin nerve gas. There is no longer any excuse to dismiss people with MCS as "controversial."
Another important detail is coming to light, which perhaps Dr. Pall was not aware of when he wrote his book. Spectrochromatic laboratory testing by a Dr. Voorhees at the School of Mines in Golden, Colorado, has identified that several of the "most dangerous pesticides in use in our society" - per the Government Accounting Office (GAO) - are actually present in tobacco smoke.
Some of those pesticides that were found in the smoke are recognized as toxic to the human endocrine system. Tobacco is regarded as one of the most heavily pesticided crops in the world. With some ten percent of the 25 million pounds of pesticides used annually appearing in the smoke, everyone breathing the smoke is getting pesticided. The presence of those pesticides again can explain the extreme MCS sensitivity to tobacco smoke. For some people with MCS, breathing tobacco smoke amounts to someone blowing pesticides in their face.
The following pesticides were identified -
Note that the above research did not attempt to identify possible breakdown, or pyrolization (partial combustion) byproducts of these pesticides or examine the toxicity of those materials for normal people nor for people with the hypersensitivity of MCS.
Further information is available at -
Of course, for completeness, tobacco smoke also contains acetone, acetyldehyde, ammonia, benzene, butyraldehyde, carbon monoxide, formaldehyde, hydrogen cyanide, nitric oxide, nitrogen dioxide, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon, toluene, and many "e;secret"e; manufacturer's additives. Formaldehyde is recognized as an MCS aggravant, but apparently nothing is known about the pyrolization or oxidation byproducts of these materials or how they affect the person with MCS. More realistic science based research is needed!
It is significant fact that many of the symptoms of MCS are duplicated by a very weak exposure to some of the military nerve gases, such as the Sarin that became infamous from the Gulf War. The action of those nerve gases is, first of all, they are materials that are not blocked by the blood brain barrier system of the body, and second, they are not detected by the immune system and then, upon destroying critical neurological transmitters, such as acetylcholine, start a cascade of body damages. And then the immune system appears to realize something is awry and kicks in with many of the autoimmune conditions, such as lupus, various forms of arthritis that are so common with MCS suffers.
Thus tobacco smoke amounts to a subtle, but significant source of pesticides which are a severe health aggravation for people who need to avoid them. Plus some of the compounds from burning some pesticides appear to come close to the chemical compounds of some of the military nerve gases, such as the Sarin that made history in the Gulf War I misadventure.
The altogether too-common attitude, "you can ask the smoker to stop smoking" is just not the least bit realistic. Aside from total avoidance (very difficult in our modern and crowded society), are there any effective legal or otherwise remedies?
A common flip response from governmental contacts is "you can move somewhere else." There is usually no comprehension that the "somewhere else" must be smokefree. But also, that assumption is not at all realistic. There is apparently no really smokefree Section 8 housing in the Denver (Colorado) area per Denver Housing Commission. A website for smokefree housing lists several Denver places. Calling them - "we discourage smokers" or "yes, there are tobacco users in the building" ... ASHRAE (American Society of Heating, Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Engineers) has several position papers that say any person smoking in an air conditioned building contaminates it for everyone.
Sad to say, there is a lot of emotionalism about defending the act of smoking, no matter who else is injured by the consequent smoke in the process. We also need to keep in mind that tobacco/nicotine is regarded psychologically and physically as being addictive as morphine or codeine; one would hope that such a severe addiction does not influence the callousness we too often see where any controls on public use of tobacco are discussed.
Regarding the health condition of MCS, HUD made a survey back in the 1990's of available literature about it. Based on a partial survey 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 accommodations for people with the health condition are to be made on a subjective case by case basis.
That case by case basis for accommodations also means that any ADA protection is applied only upon the concurrence of HUD.
We have the unfortunate situation that given a lack of specific explanation, the interpretation becomes the psychiatric "somatoform disorder" label. While such a diagnosis may be appropriate in the hands of a well-trained psychiatric professional, in the minds of the layman, it becomes "socially inappropriate social behavior." And thus there is no obligation to accommodate the person's request for accommodation.
This has been illustrated by HUD's responses to requests for smokefree living space accommodations.
For a recent example - the case of a woman in Denver, is recognized as a lifetime disabled and handicapped person who suffers from MCS caused by pesticide exposure in 1980's. Among the aggravants that severely affect her is secondhand tobacco smoke. An understandable health problem with tobacco being one of the most heavily pesticided crops in the world and as much as ten percent of the pesticide appearing in the smoke.
Three Board-certified doctors independently wrote statements that any tobacco smoke in her living space is life threatening, and it must be abated. The statements were presented to her management. The response was "residents have the right to smoke as part of the quiet enjoyment of their unit" (Actual quote!)
A Request for Accommodation was made to HUD, asking for smoke free living space. The request was not answered within the legally required time. A followup reported the request had been delayed for "administrative purposes."
The Governor of Colorado, Bill Ritter, was asked to intervene to obtain smokefree housing for this woman. The letter was never answered. Followup telephone calls were passed to a State office that effectively said "we can't do anything."
A request was made to Senator Mark Udall (Democrat, Colorado) to intervene and require HUD to enforce its housing regulations. Again, the letter was never answered; it was sent to HUD for "comments." A letter from John K. Carson, HUD Regional Director in Denver, said "there are no federal statutory or regulator provisions governing smoking in assisted housing." (Actual quote!)
The request was for the accommodation of a smokefree living space. The request had nothing to do with smoking!
Mr. Carson was presented the medical statements from the several Board certified doctors that cited any tobacco smoke in this woman's living space as life threatening. Perhaps he did not read those statements or he did not comprehend what "life threatening" means. This woman's request for the accommodation of a smokefree living space was rejected because of HUD's long-standing "no rules against smoking" policy.
And what the eighty-year old woman asking for the accommodation of smokefree housing heard was "ADA be damned, go away and die."
There is a body of legal opinion that which explicitly exempts the tobacco users from claiming their addiction as a disability. i.e., they are not a "protected class." Mr. Carson's refusing to accommodate this woman amounted to promoting the tobacco users in her building to a "superprotected class."
Mr. Carson's letter went on to refer this woman to Colorado's Clean Indoor Air Act (CIAA). The CIAA does not address providing access to common areas for people who are injured by tobacco smoke. The CIAA does not address tobacco smoke crossing common areas and infiltrating the living spaces of people who are injured by tobacco smoke. Further, the CIAA ignores the real problem by talking about about "non-smoking" whereas the issue is innocent bystanders being injured by tobacco smoke.
Mr. Carson sent this woman on another guaranteed to fail wild goose chase. Worse, she was told by a representative of HUD that other tenants in her building are explicitly granted permission to continue engaging in an activity that her doctors say is life threatening to her.
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.
HUD regulations say very clearly that "it is unlawful for a housing provider to refuse to make reasonable accommodations in rules, policies, practices, or services, when such accommodation is necessary to afford a disabled person equal opportunity to use and enjoy a dwelling unit."
HUD regulations about the quality of living spaces say very clearly that non-injurious accommodations will be provided. Tobacco smoke is defined as a class A carcinogen - equivalent to asbestos - which means there is no safe level of exposure even for "normal" persons. There is no excuse in continuing this situation. The high sounding HUD regulations about non injurious accommodations should be immediately respected and enforced.
There are provisions to file a request for accommodation with HUD for smokefree living space. Sadly, this is typically answered with a nonresponsive "there are no rules against smoking," request denied. That dismissal is actually an emphatic rule about smoking. And it is a horribly insensitive response that trivializes the health condition that brought on the accommodation request; it sets the stage for disregard, even outright harassment, of people who need to really avoid tobacco smoke. HUD refuses to enforce its high sounding regulations about providing quality of life living for the disabled and elderly people it is responsible for. And it wastes a lot of taxpayer money giving by giving pro bono legal service to the tobacco industry.
Pushing things further, one gets referred to the Fair Housing Act, which is yet another federal agency to start from scratch with again. (But Fair Housing uses HUD letterheads ...???) Then one gets told that HUD defers to local state control about health related housing matters. HUD has impressive rules that are meaningless. Those statements should be completely removed from its regulations, or else preface them with an honest and open disclaimer that the regulations and management are really under states' implementation.
Reviewing HUD's archives, there is an extensive log of requests for smokefree housing from people with severe MCS reactions to tobacco smoke going back at least ten years. But - in response to those requests for smokefree accommodation, the responses only talk about smoking - which is not at all what was requested. It is an appalling bureaucratic bait and switch game which has victimized and revictimized a lot of people. We should not have to expect this behavior from a federal agency we should be able to trust and is responsible for the care and well being of many of our elderly, disabled, and handicapped citizens.
HUD does have legal opinions that housing managements may declare a premise "No Smoking," but with an extensive disclaimer that any existing tobacco users must be "grandfathered" so they can continue smoking in situations where they are injuring bystanders. Modern buildings, with their extensive air circulation systems, guarantee that one person smoking anywhere in the building contaminates the building for everyone, especially for people who need to avoid the smoke. Given the emotionalism about smoking, the message to managers considering making their premises smokefree is that the tobacco users have a privileged status that is more important than honoring disability accommodation laws such as the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
More information is available on this decision at the Michigan Smokefree Apartments site -
But, except for this bureaucratic opinion, tobacco users do not have any privileged status, especially within the language of the ADA, which explicitly exempts the tobacco users from claiming their addiction as a disability. i.e., they are not a "protected class." But the result of this grandfathering and other opinions has been that the tobacco users have really been given a "superprotected class" that takes precedence over protecting bystanders, especially people who have medical cause to totally avoid the smoke. It amounts to a backdoor exemption to the ADA, which Congress very probably never intended.
To accommodate a person with MCS who needs smokefree air, smokefree air must be provided. There are a number of ways that could be accomplished. (Used space suit, 'bubble boy' tent, ultraclean room technology used by the semiconductor companies, even a vacuum cleaner hood over the smokers' heads, for some quick examples.) If the management of HUD assisted housing is not able to figure that out, yes, then - in extreme - talking about no smoking is in order, but only after other options have been realistically examined. And that would bypass much of the emotionalism about smoking and allow truly accommodating people with health conditions aggravated by the tobacco smoke.
Instead of condoning and arguably aiding and abetting people injuring tenants in housing that HUD is responsible for, HUD should promptly and comprehensively enforce their high-sounding regulations and provide housing for America's elderly, disabled and handicapped citizens that is comprehensively free from all Class A carcinogens.
Organizations offering Section 8 supported housing for disabled persons should examine very carefully why they should NOT offer comprehensively and totally smokefree housing. Given what we now know about the needless hazards of tobacco smoke to everyone, there is no excuse for not providing comprehensively smokefree housing, especially for elderly, handicapped, and disabled persons. Smokefree housing would be much more pleasant and healthy for everyone; it would accommodate people who have health conditions that require they avoid the smoke; and it just might encourage the few remaining tobacco users to take responsibility for their tobacco usage which would be an economic benefit for our entire society. Plus it usually results in lower maintenance costs.
The definition of "Disability" includes "a physical ... impairment that substantially limits one or more of the major life activities of such individual" (sec. 3(2)(A)). "Physical impairments" include conditions which affect the respiratory or cardiovascular systems; "major life activities" include breathing and working (29 CFR sec. 1630.2).
The primary web site for the ADA is -
For more information about the ADA at the Department of Justice, see -
In 2008, a major update to the ADA act was signed into law. The text is some 215,000 words. The intent is to give more disabled Americans access to public amenities and to more accurately support the needs of an aging population and growing numbers of disabled war veterans. More information is at the above web site.
A newspaper writeup is the following article is the Seattle Times dated June 16, 2008 -
Further information about the ADA is at -
The Fair Housing Act does allow a request for an emergency injunction if a person has reason to believe irreparable harm would otherwise be incurred. Requests have been made in good faith under that provision. Verbal assurance was given "we can get an injunction next week." It then turns out that there are "administrative adjustments" then that turns into a 30 day waiting period. That then turns out to be extended to 100 days because "we reserve the emergency injunction for things like color of skin discrimination." After this woman finally received a copy of the injunction that was actually served, she found out that there is really a 270 day waiting period.
The "administrative adjustment" turned out to be a rewriting of the doctor's statement that that justified the complaint from the tobacco smoke being life threatening to "she may collapse." Perhaps that rewording will get this woman a full hearing on her accommodation request. But changing a doctor statement seriously contaminates the federal record about the seriousness of secondhand tobacco smoke in housing for the elderly, disabled and handicapped people in our society.
An independent discussion of the Fair Housing Act is at -
Colorado does have a "Clean Indoor Air Act." (CIAA) In practice, it is not respected; attempts to file complaints are dismissed "Oh, you are bothered by smokers, " click. It does not address providing access to common areas for people who are injured by tobacco smoke. It does not address tobacco smoke crossing common areas and infiltrating the living spaces of people who are injured by tobacco smoke. It fosters a very naive attitude that posting a No Smoking sign accommodates people who need to totally avoid tobacco smoke. Further, it ignores the real problem by talking about about "non-smoking" whereas the issue is the Class A carcinogen tobacco smoke.
But the CIAA does require no less than 75 percent of commercial motel or hotel sleeping quarters to be "non-smoking." That requirement supports people who are occasional, short term, transient, visitors to those premises. But elderly, disabled, handicapped people are required to live in apartments 24 hours a day, seven days a week, that are contaminated with a Class A carcinogen that kills more bystanders than all the other carcinogens regulated by the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency). These people should be provided totally smokefree housing 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Modern research shows secondhand tobacco smoke to be a significant - and needless - hazard to everyone; nobody should be required to live in situations where they are exposed to it 24 hours a day. It is time for out society to provide truly healthy living conditions for all of our elderly, handicapped and disabled citizens.
And, further, it is time to address the far bigger problem by requiring all public housing for the elderly, disabled, and handicapped to be totally smokefree - and not just some cosmetic "bureaucratic smokefree." Any tobacco users can be accommodated with medical treatments to cure their addiction, or be given lifetime nicotine injections to pamper their cravings. They must not be allowed to continue harming innocent bystanders who - per the wording of the ADA - must be protected and accommodated. That action would accommodate many other people who have medical reason to avoid tobacco smoke, such as those with breast cancer, kidney cancer, bladder cancer, liver cancer, heart disease, lung disease, brain tumors, and especially the veterans with Gulf War Syndrome, some of whom have variations of MCS.
To address this urgent need, the Colorado Clean Indoor Act must to be upgraded to require all housing for elderly, disabled and handicapped people to be totally free from any material the U. S. EPA has designated a Class A carcinogen. Further, it must also be upgraded to require all housing for elderly, disabled and handicapped people be totally free from any material the U. S. Surgeon General has recognized as having no safe level of exposure.
If you are faced with a situation where tobacco smoke is invading your living space, you have asked management to accommodate you by providing smokefree housing, you have supplied statements from your doctors that say the smoke is life threatening, you have contacted every public support group that claims to help elderly and disabled persons; they try to trivialize you with "we have people in the building with that health condition and they are not "bothered" by smokers," or they try to wear you down with filing complaint after complaint, and they still end up walking away when tobacco smoke turns out to be the problem, what do you do?
A basic fact to start with - there is no constitutional right to engage in any activity that harms others.
MCS is recognized as a deficiency in the blood brain barrier coupled with a neural injury cycle where the toxic products of the injury are not removed by another deficiency in the body detoxification systems. The neural injury process explains people having as much as one hundred to one thousand times the sensitivity to materials, such as pesticides, as normal people. The medical etiology is known.
Tobacco smoke has been recognized as a Class A carcinogen with no safe level of exposure for anyone by the U. S. Surgeon General and the EPA for many years. Which means that it unconditionally causes cancer in humans. It is in the same hazard class as asbestos, which we put so much effort into totally removing from all our living spaces. Further, the tobacco crop is regarded as one of the most heavily pesticided crops in the world. Current research has demonstrated that some ten percent of the pesticide actually appears in the tobacco smoke. The result for a person extremely sensitive to pesticide amounts to someone blowing pesticide in their face.
Regarding asbestos, it is worth noting - if any evidence of asbestos is detected wherever, a hazmat team can be expected to be on the scene immediately. If a complaint was received about neighbors dumping asbestos onto someone's property, or a landlord was pumping asbestos into the privacy of someone's living room, we can expect an immediate response, and without any quibbling about "we don't have jurisdiction" or "we can't do anything."
The U. S. Surgeon General has stated "The debate is over. The science is clear. Secondhand smoke is not a mere annoyance, there is no safe level of exposure to tobacco smoke."
Note that the Surgeon General's statement referred to "normal" people; it does not account for people who are perhaps more than one thousand times more sensitive to the smoke than normal people.
ASHRAE (The American Society of Heating, Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Engineers) has position papers recognizing the EPA and Surgeon General statements and goes on to state " Currently, the only way to protect people is to totally prohibit smoking in air conditioned buildings." There are no reservations nor qualifications. That is a position of the organization that is responsible for many of the architectural standards of this country.
The American Lung Association recognizes the EPA and Surgeon General statements on its web site saying " "there is no safe level of exposure to tobacco smoke. None." There are no reservations nor qualifications. That is apparently a position of that organization.
HUD's mission is to provide affordable housing where the occupants are supposed to be free of discrimination. Living spaces that are not free of what Board certified doctors have stated are life threatening Class A carcinogens, when other premises within the HUD system are free of such hazards becomes a severe discrimination.
The ADA is a mandate to eliminate discrimination against people with diaabilities. People who are limited in some major life activity because of exposure to tobacco smoke should be covered by the ADA. Housing is available within the HUD system that is smokefree. Refusal to provide smokefree housing upon medical need is discrimination.
File an ADA complaint! You may get a lot of resistance, such as "we can't do anything," or "we don't have jurisdiction" and so on. Keep a copy of all correspondence. Complaints have been received that ADA case workers have rewritten doctor statments from "life threatening" to something innocuous like "she doesn't like the smoke."
The Nampa Housing Authority, in Idaho, has had a totally smoke-free housing policy since January 1, 2008. It has been awarded a 2009 Award of Merit by the National Association of Housing and Redevelopment Officials for being the the first 100% smoke-free housing authority in the entire Northwest U.S.
Unfortunately, in Denver, a HUD official, when presented with a request for smoke free accomodation and accompanied with medical documentation that any tobacco smoke within that person's living space is life threatening and must be abated, has effectively said "ADA be damned, go away and die!"
Supposedly, the Fair Housing Act applies to protecting disabled persons who are affected by tobacco smoke. Unfortunately, Fair Housing has a record of considering descrimination on skin color much more important than discrimination because of living spaces that are declared life threatening by Board-certified doctors.
Perhaps the following contacts can help you obtain smoke free accommodations and/or living situation. Also contact your local city or county health department. Or see if there is a trial lawyers association in your state. Or check with the Law School at your local University.
A discussion of the problem with possible legal solutions is the following paper - "Smoke Knows No Boundaries: Legal Strategies for Environmental Tobacco Smoke Incursions into Home within Multi-unit Residential Dwellings" at The Center for Social Gerontology's Smoke Free Environments Law Project -
Another discussion of this area is the following, "The Americans with Disabilities Act: Effective Legal Protection Against Secondhand Smoke Exposure" available at
Get medical documentation, including a diagnosis of disability, from your doctor(s) that explicitly say you must avoid all exposure to tobacco smoke, or that it is life threatening, or whatever is appropriate. Present copies to your immediate building management, with a cover letter requesting smokefree accommodation in your entire living space. Use certified mail so you have a record that the letter was presented. If possible, ensure that the doctor includes a statement about being board-certified in your state.
Whether a doctor is board certified in the State of Colorado can be found at -
Do not use the red flag words "smoking", "non-smoking" or "smokers." It is the responsibility of the agency to figure out how to accommodate your request for smoke-free housing.
You may get memos that say - "residents have the right to smoke as part of the quiet enjoyment of their unit" (Actual quote!)
If you are in HUD-subsidized housing, file a Request for Accommodation with HUD, asking for smokefree living space. If you get the infamous and nonresponsive "We have No Rules about Smoking" answer, write your congressperson.
The HUD housing discrimination complaints site is -
Another web site for filing a complaint is - http:://www5.hud.gov:1025/netdynamics/ndNSAPI.nd/HUD903/pagHUDPrivacy
A complaint form can be downloaded at -
The Fair Housing Act (FHA) is supposed to handle situations in HUD assisted housing where the ADA is not being enforced. File a complaint with them. In Colorado, the telephone number is 303/534-1948.
Another resource if you have difficulty in filing complaints is the state Attorney General. In Colorado, the telephone number is 303/866-4500.
The following federal agencies have been involved in disability recognition and accommodation for people with MCS -
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.
Some Selected International Resources -
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.