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Medical Perspectives on Environmental Sensitivities

Author(s): Margaret E. Sears (M.Eng., Ph.D.)
Date: May 2007
Publisher: Canadian Human Rights Commission

Abstract:
Approximately 3% of Canadians have been diagnosed with environmental sensitivities, and many more are somewhat sensitive to traces of chemicals and/or electromagnetic phenomena in the environment. People experience neurological and numerous other symptoms, and avoidance of triggers is an essential step to regaining health. The Canadian Human Rights Commission commissioned this report to summarize scientific information about environmental sensitivities. For those interested in the original scientific and technical literature, an annotated bibliography is available on request from environmentalhealthmed@gmail.com This report addresses issues such as the definition and prevalence of environmental sensitivities; recognition by medical authorities; education and training within the medical community; origins, triggers and symptoms of sensitivities; impact of environmental sensitivities in the workplace; government policies and standards for building codes, air quality and ventilation as they affect individuals with environmental sensitivities; and guidelines for accommodation within the workplace. For people with environmental sensitivities, their health and ability to work rests with the actions of others, including building managers, co-workers and clients. Accommodating people with environmental sensitivities presents an opportunity to improve workplace environmental quality and workers’ performance, and may help prevent the onset of sensitivities in others.

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