Fighting multiple chemical sensitivity and searching for a safe home


For Lou Anne Cottingham, finding the right home is more complicated than just finding the right neighborhood or number of bedrooms.

Cottingham has searched for a home in Hamilton County since at least last year to no avail. Cottingham has a disorder called multiple chemical sensitivity, adding a whole new level of difficulty to house hunting.

Cottingham started her fight with the disorder 26-and-a-half years ago and wants the community to know it impacts many people, including those who are educated.

“There are so many people who are homeless with this illness,” Cottingham said, “and it’s not known because they don’t go through the normal circa of homeless people.”

Multiple chemical sensitivity is a disorder that is activated by exposures to toxic materials or irritants, such as mold. As a person is exposed multiple times, he becomes more and more sensitive to the source, spreading to foods, medications and more, according to informational documents provided by Cottingham.

Multiple chemical sensitivity makes it difficult for those in need to visit shelters or use food pantries.

The sensitivities can lead to a long list of reactions that impact multiple parts of the human body. According to Cottingham and Troy Halsell, executive director at the Noblesville Housing Authority, finding housing in Hamilton County can be challenging because of environmental factors. Building a new home on an empty field could be futile if it was previously sprayed with pesticides or other chemicals.

Searching for housing in Hamilton County can be tough for those with multiple chemical sensitivity considering standard protocols in rental housing.

If a landlord cleans the carpet in a rental and throws a batch of new paint on the walls, the rental is more or less contaminated for Cottingham.

“Before we can even get there, they’ve already contaminated a place,” Halsell said.

Fresh paint and carpets can cause reactions for Cottingham, sometimes days later. Reactions can mean hours of rest and attempting to get back to equilibrium.

Cottingham put ads on Craig’s List and local newspapers, to no avail.

Cottingham would like to find clean, untouched land to build safe housing for people with multiple chemical sensitivity.

Halsell said the immediate goal is to find suitable housing, even if it is for a temporary stay.

Some conditions Cottingham, and possibly others with the condition, need include no carpeting, clean central air and heat, washer and dryer hook-ups, no new construction, no new paint, no new insulation and distance from traffic, fields, cell phone towers and high voltage power lines.

To contact Halsell and Cottingham with leads on suitable housing or land to build on for people with multiple chemical sensitivity, or if you have multiple chemical sensitivity and would like to reach-out, e-mail or

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