While most Western countries closed their lunatic asylums years ago, throwing the patients out on the street to live in cardboard boxes and beg for pennies, the Swiss have just opened a new one, giving each patient her own comfy apartment.
Leimbach (Switzerland) (AFP) – No smoking, no perfume, no mobile phone use — the list of rules at a newly opened apartment building on the outskirts of Zurich is long.
For a reason: the structure has been purpose built for people who say exposure to everyday products like perfume, hand lotion or wireless devices make them so sick they cannot function.
“I have been suffering since I was a child. This will really move my life in another direction,” said Christian Schifferle, the 59-year-old head of the Healthy Life and Living Foundation (www.stiftung-glw.com), the prime driver behind the project.
Schifferle and the other residents suffer from Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS), a chronic condition not broadly recognised by the medical community. Those afflicted, however, believe it is sparked by low-level exposure to chemicals in things such as cigarette smoke, pesticides, scented products and paint fumes.
Twelve of the 15 apartments in the earth-coloured building in a remote part of Leimbach, on the outskirts of Switzerland’s largest city, have already been rented since it opened in December.
Many occupants also suffer from electromagnetic hypersensitivity, in which electrical circuits and radiation from wireless equipment make them equally ill.
With a mask covering his nose and mouth, [Mr. Wackadoodle] Schifferle proudly shows off the 0.0 reading on a handheld electricity-measuring instrument with a triangular, green antenna.
“This room is very good, because we have almost no electricity,” he said, nodding around a large common area equipped with a big carbon filter to purify the air.
The floor plan is layered like an onion “so that the deeper you enter the apartment, the cleaner the rooms get,” he said.
The building’s most “contaminated” parts are the common areas, main hallway, stairwell and elevator in the centre.
From there, residents enter their apartments, moving through a hallway where they can remove “polluted” clothing, the bathroom and kitchen or other technically equipped rooms, before getting to the “cleanest” rooms: the living room and bedroom.
A special “net” has also been built into the facade and roof to protect inhabitants from electromagnetic or electrostatic waves or fields, Zimmermann said.
Despite all the efforts, Schifferle still only spends a few days a week in his new apartment. More ventilation is needed, he said, until all traces and scents of the builders are gone.