The Environmental Health Association of BC

Environmental Sensitivities

What are ES? | Related Conditions | Symptoms | Causes | Triggers | Related Conditions | Injury Scenarios | Risk Groups | Research

What are Environmental Sensitivities? brochure in PDF format

What are Environmental Sensitivities (ES)?

Environmental Sensitivities (ES) is when one experiences health impacts after exposure to foods, chemicals, pesticides, moulds, electromagnetic fields and radio frequencies from wireless technologies. May also be referred to as Environmental Illness (EI).

What are Environmental Sensitivities? (PDF 47 KB revised November 2017) gives a list of the many causes and symptoms of Environmental Sensitivities.

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Some of these are considered aspects of ES and some are related conditions. Others are connected to a toxic event such as those with Gulf War Syndrome.

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ES Symptoms

Symptoms may occur in any of the body systems and vary in severity from one case to another.

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Causes of ES

Sensitization may occur due to multiple exposures or from one large exposure.

ES may occur due to an exposure at home, school, the workplace or in a public place.

May be due to:

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ES Triggers

Some of the most common triggers are: paints, solvents, fragrances, perfumes, aromatherapy, fragranced personal care, air fresheners, laundry products, fabric softeners, cleaning products, pesticides, herbicides, fuels, exhausts, noise, electrical fields, radio frequencies, wireless equipment, fluorescent lights and moulds.

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Injury Scenarios — Risk & Prevention

No one plans to be ill with ES.

All of the scenarios briefly show how easy it is to acquire Environmental Sensitivity (ES) and how little it takes to prevent it.

Take action and prevent yourself or someone you know from being disabled by this condition.

Renovation in Home or Workplace

Workers, homeowners and their families are exposed to construction fumes during a build or renovation and the off-gassing of materials after.


There are many sources of pollutants including solvents in paints, glues and sealants. Toxins are also released from the carpets, cabinets, new furniture and building materials affecting multiple body systems.

The body's detoxification pathways can become overwhelmed, particularly if the one is already ill or has health challenges.


Select the least-toxic building materials for the situation and your personal health.

Renovate or build during summer months when the windows can be open the most.

Fragrance Exposure in Workplace

Personal use of and co-workers use of scented personal care products such as soap, hair products, deodorant, aftershaves, colognes and fragrances.

Worker may be slightly sensitive to start with or become sensitive as a result.


If there is no fragrance-free policy in place and an employee communicates their fragrance sensitivity problem to the offending party it is often not taken seriously.

Many of those that have become chemically injured as result, report that the fragrance problem is ignored or escalates as a result (external PDF 104 KB).

The person sensitized frequently tries to put up with the chemical assault to keep their job. The end result is that the employee frequently acquires ES and goes on disability. Recovery to pre-exposure is rare.


Create an indoor air quality and fragrance-free policy and a protocol to process complaints. Make workers health a priority.

Cleaners & Air Fresheners

Air freshener exposure includes plug-in fragrances, car fresheners, as well as solid and spray fresheners. Cleaners include chemical commercial cleaner products, scented cleaners and products marketed as natural with aromatherapy.

Many ES persons become sensitive to almost all fragrance sources. Exposure can occur at home, in public or the workplace.

Natural does not mean a fragrance is not a sensitizer, allergen or toxic to the person.


Fragrance are composed of a variety of chemicals to produce a smell attractive to the nose. They can include chemicals that are classified as neurotoxins, hormone disruptors and sensitizers.

Air freshener chemicals mask odors or fool the nose. They can access body systems by being absorbed through the skin and inhaled through the lungs.


Only use unscented, least-toxic cleaning products and introduce fresh air by ventilating.

If using an air purifying machine do not use one that produces ozone as it harmful to the lungs and can combine with some toxins to compose new ones.

Scented Laundry Products and Fabric Softeners

Products used are absorbed through the skin by being in contact with the fabric or clothes and allergic or neurotoxic reactions occur.

Laundry products can also impact others when they are exhausted through the dryer vent.


Neurotoxic chemicals can affect the balance and thought processes of ES persons.

When the chemicals or fragrance in products are inhaled they can bring on asthma attacks in sensitive people and sensitize the lungs in others.


Options are listed in our Fragrance-Free brochure.

Pesticide Fumigation

Used in homes, apartments and workplaces.


These are among the most dangerous chemicals and include neurotoxins, hormone disrupters (external PDF 449 KB) and cancer-causing ingredients. Pesticides place health and all life at risk.


Integrated pesticide management should be used. Each pest has what it prefers for a habitat. By removing the ideal conditions most will not thrive and move on. Use least toxic alternatives if needed.


Lawn Herbicides and Fertilizers

Can also be tracked into homes where children and pets frequent and ingestion can occur easily.


Theses are cancer-causing, hormone-disrupting neurotoxins that can be easily transferred from lawn to pet and then to child. Children and pets can lick objects and ingest.


Remove your shoes at the door.

Learn how to care for your lawn without chemicals. Have more tolerance for weeds in order to keep you and your neighbors safe.


WiFi networks and Wireless Technologies

Wireless technologies of all kinds including cordless phones, cell phones, cell towers, radio towers, wireless routers in homes. CFL light bulbs also emit radio frequencies.


Wireless networks broadcasts through walls of your home and can enter into others living spaces especially when living in apartment buildings. The frequencies have health impacts on the nervous system, which can affect other systems of the body.


Use technology prudently and practice prevention where possible and especially if symptoms occur.


Moulds and Black Mould

A problem so common that many do not take it seriously until they are ill.

Note: mould and mold refer to the same problem: mould is a Canadian spelling and mold is an American spelling.


Black mould can be found around windows, bathtubs, unfixed leaks or in walls due to leaks building or roof.

Moulds give off VOCs (gases) and impact both the body systems and the brain function.


Fix any wet or rotted wood and any leaks in the house or on the roof.

Open windows and use fans in bathroom and over stove on a regular basis to prevent moisture build up.


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Updated: April 9, 2018