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Multiple Chemical Sensitivity: What you should know

Indoor Air Quality and Multiple Chemical Sensitivity: What you should know

Many Canadians are becoming increasingly aware of the potential health issues related to indoor air quality. For example, Suzuki et al.1 (2019) noted reports that newly built homes often have high concentrations of various volatile organic compounds (VOCs) emitted by building materials and products.

Health Canada tells us that, “…Building materials, furnishings and products such as paints and solvents can all release chemicals into the air. These chemicals can negatively affect your indoor air quality and potentially your health…” (Retrieved from the Health Canada website May 3, 2023).

A range of health concerns can come from exposure to these various chemicals. The difference between new and old buildings is the level of exposure. Chemicals from building materials can be found in the indoor environment for many years and contribute to the long-term effects of pollution exposure on health.

What is Multiple Chemical Sensitivity Syndrome (MCSS)? “…a chronic condition, which is initiated or started following exposure to substances commonly used in our living spaces. These exposures can be from chemicals contained in products that are used in daily life, such as fragrances, personal care and cleaning products, renovation and construction materials, pesticides, solvents, and even biological contaminants such as mould” (Environmental Health Association of Quebec website, May 4, 2023).

Research recommends that it’s important to select low-emission building materials to reduce residents’ exposure to indoor chemicals 1(Suzuki et al. 2019). There is no legislation in Canada governing VOCs in building materials and products.

What can buyers of newly built homes do? Discuss with the builder whether low VOC building materials and products can be used in the construction of their homes. The time for these discussions is before signing the Agreement of Purchase and Sale. If the builder agrees to low VOC construction products, this is a topic for home buyers to discuss with their lawyer, again, before signing the Agreement.

There are a number of sources of information about this issue on the web, including the Environmental Health Association of Quebec: and Health Canada .


1: Suzuki N, Nakaoka H, Hanazato M, Nakayama Y, Tsumura K, Takaya K, Todaka E, Mori C. Indoor Air Quality Analysis of Newly Built Houses. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. 2019; 16(21):4142. .