Nova Scotia

Wendy Kearley, severe chemical sensitivity sufferer, fights eviction notice

A 63-year-old woman from New Glasgow is fighting an eviction notice from the Eastern Mainland Housing Authority at the province's Supreme Court in Pictou today.

63-year-old challenging move by Eastern Mainland Housing Authority in Nova Scotia Supreme Court

The Eastern Mainland Housing Authority wants to move Wendy Kearley from a house into an apartment. She is fighting that move because she worries about the effect on her multiple chemical sensitivity. (Adam MacInnis/The News)

A 63-year-old New Glasgow woman with a severe case of multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS) will be in Nova Scotia Supreme Court in Pictou Thursday as she fights an eviction notice from her local housing authority.

Eastern Mainland Housing Authority claims Wendy Kearley is over-housed for her unit and says it must free the home for a family in need. They have offered her an apartment, but Kearley says the move could dangerously worsen her condition.

She says she gets sick from low-level exposure to every day chemicals such as tobacco, perfume and pesticides, but also from natural chemicals like grass and plants.  

Unlike most people, her body isn't able to detox from even the smallest exposures, and it affects nearly every organ in her body. According to her doctor, the damage is accumulative and permanent.

''I have overall body pain and fatigue," Kearley says. "I get 15 chronic migraines a month, stomach upsets, nasal problems, breathing problems, ligament problems, hearing problems.

"If you were to look out a window with heavy rain coming down on it ... that's how my vision looks at times." 

The only known treatment is to avoid chemicals. Kearley's home has been scent free for 10 years, and she says it's the only place where she can be safe. All her visitors must detox their body and clothes for three days and wear a Hazmat suit before entering the home. 

''I just can't live so close to people, it makes me very sick,'' she says. 

Kearley's eviction was set for March 31, but is been pushed back until a judge rules on the case. More than 150 people have sent letters of support on her behalf to Community Services Minister Joanne Bernard. 

Environmental sensitivities are recognized by Health Canada, but more research still needs to be done to fully understand the condition.

Lori Errington, media relations advisor for Community Services, says she can't comment on Kearley's specific case because the situation is before the courts. She says that more than 1,000 families are on the waiting list for a home in Nova Scotia. 

A Nova Scotia Supreme Court judge is expected to set a date for the appeal at Thursday's court hearing and give direction for submitting court briefs.


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