Multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS) has been described under various names since the 1940s. Referred to as Environmental Illness in the late 40’s, and Total Allergy Disease in the 21st century, multiple chemical sensitivity is a syndrome in which multiple symptoms reportedly occur with low-level chemical exposure. Several theories have been offered to explain the cause of MCS, including allergy, toxic effects and neurobiologic sensitization. There is insufficient scientific evidence to confirm a relationship between any of these possible causes and symptoms.
MCS syndrome has led to great controversy among clinicians, researchers, patients, lawyers, legislators and regulatory agencies. The absence of scientific agreement on MCS has contributed to the development of emotionally charged, extreme and entrenched positions.
Patients with multiple chemical sensitivity syndrome can have severe symptoms that interfere with daily life and work. Virtually any symptom has been attributed to the syndrome, but the symptoms generally occur in one of three categories: central nervous system, respiratory and mucosal irritation, or gastrointestinal problems.
Common symptoms include fatigue, difficulty concentrating, depressed mood, memory loss, weakness, dizziness, headaches, heat intolerance and arthralgias (joint pains). The typical individual with MCS feels very strongly that the symptoms result from chemical exposure.
Let’s say, you walk into the restroom of your office building, catch a whiff of the deodorizer and cleaning chemicals, and emerge a minute later, short of breath, shaking, and feeling like your brain is on vacation. You can barely put sentences together to describe what happened in there. Your friends visit the restroom, and don’t have any “trouble”. If this sort of thing happens to you, perhaps you are suffering from MCS.
The following list of chemicals could produce MCS symptoms: Aerosol air freshener; Aerosol deodorant; After-shave lotion; Asphalt pavement; Cigar smoke and Cigarette smoke; Colognes and perfumes; Diesel exhaust and Diesel fuel; Dry-cleaning fluid; Floor cleaner; Furniture polish; Garage fumes; Gasoline exhaust; Hair spray; Insect repellant; Insecticide spray; Laundry detergent; Marking pens; Nail polish and Nail polish remover; Oil-based paint; Paint thinner; Perfumes in cosmetics; Public restroom deodorizers; Shampoo; Tar fumes from roof or road; Tile cleaners; Varnish, shellac, and lacquer.
If you suspect you are suffering from MCS, it is important to obtain quality health care. Insist upon a careful initial history, physical examination and basic laboratory investigation. You deserve a compassionate evaluation and management from a clinician who is sympathetic to you, but who also will protect you from unwarranted, dangerous, expensive or unproven evaluation and management.
Educate yourself about the topic. Knowledge is power and you will discover there are not many physicians who are well informed about MCS. Many say it doesn’t exist, others do not understand it, nor do they do how to treat you. I highly recommend finding a practitioner who specializes in this field or seek out a certified nutrition counselor or alternative health care provider.
Listed below are sites which offer additional information, as well as conventional and alternative healing modalities.Treat yourself to a healthy dose of knowledge. Your body will reward you for it!