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'I Can't Go Anywhere': Chemical Sensitivities Complicate Canadian Woman's Search For Housing

Friday 15 February 2019


From Canadian newspaper the Alliston Herald (via


Marla Flear
Alliston resident Marla Flear lives between her apartment
and minivan due to a rare condition called Multiple
Chemical Sensitivity (MCS). She has tried many things
to make her apartment more livable, like using fans to
ventilate fresh air into her living room. But she can
only spend about two hours in the building before
her symptoms become unbearable.
(Photo: Brad Pritchard/Metroland)

‘I can’t go anywhere’: Chemical sensitivities complicate Alliston woman's search for housing

Marla Flear living between apartment and van to manage symptoms

By Brad Pritchard
Alliston Herald
15 February 2019
© 2019

There have been many nights when Marla Flear has been forced to flee her apartment and sleep in her van, even when it’s -30 C outside.

The 63-year-old Alliston resident doesn't have much choice in the matter. Either she toughs it out in her vehicle, or she gets severely ill and makes another trip to the emergency room.

For the past 25 years she has lived with multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS), a condition that affects about three per cent of Canadians or about one million people across the country.

Things like air fresheners, laundry soap, perfumes/colognes and essential oils make her extremely sick, causing her to vomit, have breathing problems and shake.

While she got the apartment at an affordable housing building in August, she couldn't move in right away due to the odours from the new floor and fresh paint.

While those scents have gotten somewhat better, she’s never been able to stay inside the apartment for more than three hours at a time due to other odours in the building, like air fresheners used by other tenants.

Flear runs fans constantly to circulate fresh air into her unit, and she also uses expensive air filters, but they have limited effect.


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