Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS)
Multiple Chemical Sensitivity – also referred to as MCS – is also known as Chemical Injury, Chemical Sensitivity, Environmental Illness (E.I.), and Multiple Allergy.
Multiple Chemical Sensitivity; means an unusually severe sensitivity or allergy-like reaction to many different kinds of pollutants such as solvents, smoke, pollen, house dust mites, and pet fur & dander or a combination of different VOCs..
Other reported chemical triggers include:
· Petroleum-based products, including petroleum jelly, tar, asphalt
· Pesticides, herbicides, fertilizers, and other agricultural chemicals
· Industrial cleaning chemicals, such as dry cleaning fluid
· Formaldehyde and aldehyde
· Glues, varnishes, polishes, paints, paint-thinners, and volatile organic compounds (VOC’s)
· Bleach, fabric softeners, wool-wash, and laundry detergents
· Perfumes, lotion, after-shave lotion, nail polish, or skin care products
· Air-fresheners, deodorizers and scented candles
· Shampoos, hairsprays and hair care products
· Dishwashing liquid and dishwasher detergent and
· Marking pens, such as highlighters
· Gasoline (petrol) or diesel fuel.
In a review of a two-phase population study it was reported that respondents with MCS indicated that cleaning agents (88.4%), pesticides (81.2%), perfumes (81.2%), vehicle exhaust (72.5%), the products utilized in barber shops and beauty salons (60.9%), new carpeting (53.6%), new furniture (39.1%), chlorine in drinking water (29.1%), and fresh ink (26.1%) were the products that most often triggered reactions in the respondents. Respondents in the study also indicated that smoke from a fireplace, wood stove, or barbecue grill, and secondhand tobacco smoke were triggers for reactions as well.
The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (a division of the NIH) defines MCS as a “chronic, recurring disease caused by a person’s inability to tolerate an environmental chemical or class of foreign chemicals”. MCS has also been described as a group of “sensitivities to extraordinarily low levels of environmental chemicals” appearing “to develop de novo in some individuals following acute or chronic exposure to a wide variety of environmental agents including various pesticides, solvents, drugs, and air contaminants” including those found in sick buildings.
Certain VOCs have been implicated in major single exposures for people who then subsequently became MCS sufferers and which are known to be Immune System disruptors; these include organochlorines, formaldehyde, pesticides, herbicides, organophosphates & others.
Multiple chemical sensitivity unlike true allergies – where the underlying mechanisms of the problem are relatively well understood and widely accepted, is generally regarded as “idiopathic” – meaning that it has no known mechanism of causation & it’s processes are not fully understood.
When one has multiple chemical sensitivity the patient exhibits problems – often an allergy-like reaction – to both large – and often extremely low levels of irritants/toxicants/triggers which other individuals present at the same time may be unable to detect. For these individuals, the problem is ongoing, i.e. chronic, and not a “one-off” event. The same symptoms are reproducible with repeated exposure to the same triggers and is affected by many different triggers. Plus that individual improves when these triggers are absent.
Most sufferers of MCS complain of at least several of the following:
· burning, stinging eyes
· wheezing, breathlessness nausea
· extreme fatigue/lethargy
· poor memory & concentration
· runny nose (rhinitis)
· sore throat, cough
· sinus problems
· skin rashes and/or itching skin
· sensitivity to light & noise
· sleeping problems
· digestive upset
· muscle & joint pain.
A partial list of other symptoms patients have attributed to MCS include difficulty breathing, pains in the throat, chest, or abdominal region, asthma, skin irritation, contact dermatitis, and hives or other forms of skin rash, headaches, neurological symptoms (nerve pain, pins and needles feelings, weakness, trembling, restless leg syndrome, etc.), tendonitis, seizures, visual disturbances (blurring, halo effect, inability to focus), extreme anxiety, panic and/or anger, sleep disturbance, suppression of immune system, digestive difficulties, nausea, indigestion/heartburn, vomiting, diarrhea, joint pains, vertigo/dizziness, abnormally acute sense of smell, sensitivity to natural plant fragrance or natural pine terpenes, insomnia, dry mouth, dry eyes, and an overactive bladder.
Symptoms of MCS may be mild to disabling. Symptoms may be physical or psychological in nature and are essentially those that are disruptive to the individuals’ mental or physical wellness and that the individual attributes to exposure to a chemical or scent.
One might wonder how a person really can be affected by such a miniscule dose of a toxicant even if such a toxicant is present? Surprisingly, perhaps, this is one aspect of Multiple Chemical Sensitivity that is very well understood in conventional medicine and it is called Sensitization.
Sensitization is a true allergic reaction to one chemical or irritant and is caused by involvement within the body of mast cells and IgE antibodies. (What happen is low molecular weight chemicals bind to chemoresceptors on sensory nerve C-fibres and lead to the release of inflammatory mediators).
Once sensitized to a particular irritant, a subsequent exposure to even a tiny amount of the same irritant (even parts per million – ppm – or parts per billion – ppb) can cause an extreme allergic reaction.
Note: one ppm = 0.0001 percent.
These very low levels of irritant will often be totally undetectable to the average person and to them be totally harmless.
Some researchers are of the opinion that Multiple Chemical Sensitivity is due to immune system damage or malfunction, which could give rise to a sensitivity to all sorts of triggers rather than a specific reaction to one toxicant.
Environmental Medicine Specialists claim that MCS causes negative health effects in multiple organ systems, and that respiratory distress, seizures, cognitive dysfunction, heart arrhythmia, nausea, headache, and fatigue can result from exposure to levels of common chemicals that are normally deemed as safe.
This type of disorder is a consequence of the body’s inability to convert toxins in to harmless by-products fast enough. Toxic exposures can and do trigger autoimmune responses which MCS sufferers must deal with on a regular basis. Being chemically sensitive makes a person more vulnerable to all the possible health consequences associated with chemical exposures — only for MCS sufferers these toxic responses are occurring at extremely low (thought to be safe) levels.
Most patients (85 to 90 percent) complaining of MCS syndrome are women, usually 30 to 50 years of age.
Some of the health complaints and symptoms that have been reported by veterans of the Gulf War that were attributed to Gulf War Syndrome are similar to those reported for MCS, including headache, fatigue, muscle stiffness, joint pain, inability to concentrate, sleep problems, and gastrointestinal issues. In fact the odds of reporting MCS or chronic multi-symptom illness was 3.5 times greater for Gulf War veterans than non-Gulf veterans.
Once a person is sensitized to one chemical, the sensitivity can spread to include other unrelated compounds. Once that happens, repeat exposures reduce the body’s tolerance level by an as yet unknown mechanism so the body becomes more easily reactive to more and more chemicals at lower and lower levels until it finally reaches the point where the person is sick all the time. If this illness reaches that point, the person can kiss a life of casual convenience good-bye.
The reason we have gone into such dept in this business plan on MCS is because according to Dr. Claudia S Miller, professor of environmental medicine at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, that while there is no reliable data which shows how many cases there actually are in this country of MCS, she estimates that the number who report having multiple intolerances that they recognize and that cause them to rearrange their lives ranges from 3-6% of the population and this disease has no known cure. Also practitioners are reporting more of these cases rather than less.
Plant air purifiers provide welcome relief to suffers of MCS.