Multiple Chemical Sensitivity

People with Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS) experience a wide range of very unpleasant symptoms analogous to poisoning when healthy people are exposed to toxic doses of chemicals; however from exposures to very low doses of everyday chemicals – well below what is toxicologically deemed safe.

This is thought to be a consequence of enzyme depletion or defects; chemical injury; impaired liver detoxification and neural sensitisation according to Dr Grace Ziem and the MCS researchers from James Madison University [See MCS causes]. However, some people still hold the view that MCS is primarily psychogenic and that people with MCS can benefit from psychological or psychiatric interventions. This has been found to help a small percentage of people reporting MCS.

While MCS is recognised by doctors trained in Ecology and Nutrition and Environmental Medicine it is not a widely accepted diagnosis within the medical community at large. However, it is recognised by the World Health Organisation (WHO) referred to as Ideopathic Environmental Illness and is also a recognised disability. Many Hospitals also now have MCS guidelines for an example see ACT Hospital Guidelines; and there are also workplace guidelines for people with MCS – see Job Access Network (JAN) MCS Guidelines.

Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS) is also referred to as Toxicant Induced Loss of Tolerance (TILT) it is now thought to affect around 1% of the population [SA Health] [Caress] with symptoms ranging from less severe to very severe.

MCS is one of the more exquisite Central Sensitivity Syndromes (CSS) and is also considered to be a Time Dependent Sensitisation Illness.

Creating a safe home environment that is low in chemicals is thought to be one of the most effective treatment for people with MCS according to SA Health Dept; Dr Grace Ziem and MCS researcher Pamela Reed Gibson [See Study]. However, it is also important for people with MCS to also reduce all stressors being placed on the nervous system according to Biochemist Dr Martin Pall. This includes getting proper medical treatment for any other co-existing illness and ensuring interpretation of symptoms is correct as not all symptoms experienced by people with MCS can automatically be assumed to be a consequence of this.

As people with MCS also experience stimuli sensitivity, for example to noise, according to Dr Iris Bell reducing exposure to certain stimuli may also be helpful – see stimuli hypersensitivity.

If MCS is more severe it is important to get more REST, practise stress management techniques such as Mindfulness daily and PACE all treatments; change and reduction. If not PACED the “unmasking process” may be too intense and severe “withdrawal symptoms” and immune flare-ups may occur. This may be particularly problematic if the person with MCS is also experiencing hypocortisolism (very low levels of cortisol – affects 1 in 4 people with sensitivity related illness according to Fries); very impaired liver detoxification (FLDP Test not standard liver test) and nerve injury – peripheral neuropathy or ongoing chemical injury.

Sometimes; particularly in the earlier stages of MCS; getting treatment for any underlying health issues and reducing exposures to everyday chemicals and chemicals at work can completely reverse MCS.

1. .Pall M.L.(2007) Explaining “Unexplained Illnesses”: Disease Paradigm for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Multiple Chemical Sensitivity, Fibromylagia, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, Gulf War Syndrome and Others. Harrington Park (Haworth) Press, New York.
2. .Engaging with Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS)- London 2003 Malcolm Hooper PhD, B Pharm, C Chem, MRIC Chief Scientific Advisor to the Gulf War Veterans
3. ."Multiple Chemical Sensitivities (MCS): What It Is, What It Is Not, And How It Is Manifested – Sheila Bastien, Ph.D.":
4. What Causes Multiple Chemical Sensitivity – MCS Research from James Madison University
5. Public Health Fact Sheet Multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS) – SA Health Department
6. Canberra Hospital and Health Services Standard Operating Procedure
7. .WA Department of Health, Improve Access for People with Disabilities with in Public Hospitals and Community Health Services Discussion Paper by Harry Clark MCS Society of Australia
8. .Gibson, P.R., & Vogel, V.M. (2009). Sickness related dysfunction in persons with self reported multiple chemical sensitivity at four levels of severity. Journal of Clinical Nursing, 18, 72-81.
9. .Gibson, P. R., Elms, A. N. M., & Ruding, L. A. (2003). Perceived treatment efficacy for conventional and alternative therapies reported by persons with multiple chemical sensitivity. Environmental Health Perspectives, 111, 1498-1504.
10. Understanding Chemical Intolerance: Information Concerning Multiple Chemical Sensitivity, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, and Gulf War Illness
11. Understanding & Accommodating People with Multiple Chemical Sensitivity in Independent Living by ?Pamela Reed Gibson, Ph.D.?James Madison University
12. Toxicant-induced Loss of Tolerance-An emerging theory of disease Miller CS. Environ Health Perspect 1997 Mar;105 S:445-453.
13. Empirical approaches for the investigation of toxicant-induced loss of tolerance Miller CS, Ashford NA, Doty R, Lamielle M, Otto D, Rahill A, Wallace L. Environmental Health Perspectives 1997 Mar;105(2):515-519.
14. Chemical Sensitivity by Sherry A Rogers MD Prestige Printing
15. Grace Ziem, M.D.,DR. P.H. “Allergies and chemical reactions”
16. .Grace Ziem, M.D.,DR. P.H. (2003) Endocrine Changes in Patients with Chronic Illness Following Chemical Exposure.
17. .Grace Ziem, M.D.,DR. P.H. Environmental Control Plan for Chemically Injured Persons and Preventing Chemical Injury.
18. .Grace Ziem, M.D.,DR. P.H. Toxic Encephalopathy
19. .Martin L. Pall, Professor Emeritus of Biochemistry and Basic Medical Sciences,Washington State University and Research Director, The Tenth Paradigm Research
20. Allergy, Sensitivity & Environmental Health Association Qld Inc (ASEHA Qld Inc) - Multiple Chemical Sensitivity: A 1999 Consensus
21. M. R. Lavergne, D. C. Cole, K. Kerr, and L. M. Marshall Functional impairment in chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, and multiple chemical sensitivity Can Fam Physician, February1, 2010; 56(2): e57 - e65.
22. Bell, I., Baldwin, C., Fernandez, M., Schwartz, G. "Neural Sensitization Model for Multiple Chemical Sensitivity: Overview of Theory and Empirical Evidence." Toxicology and Industrial Health 15, nos. 3-4 (1999):295-304.
23. Bell, I., Rossi, J., Gilbert, M., Kobal, G., Morrow, L., Newlin, D., Sorg, B., Wood, R. "Testing the Neural Sensitization and Kindling Hypothesis for Illness from Low Levels of Environmental Chemicals." Environmental Health Perspectives 105, Suppl. 2 (1997):539-547.
24. Cone, J., Sult, T. "Acquired Intolerance to Solvents Following Pesticide/Solvent Exposure in a Building: A New Group of Workers at Risk for Multiple Chemical Sensitivity." Toxicology and Industrial Health 8, no. 4 (1992):29-39.
25. Cullen, M., Pace, P., Redlich, C. "The Experience of the Yale Occupational and Environmental Medicine Clinics with Multiple Chemical Sensitivities," 1986-1991. Toxicology and Industrial Health 8 (1992):15-19.
26. Cullen, M.R. “The Worker with Multiple Chemical Sensitivities: An Overview.” Occupational Medicine 2 (1987): 655-68.
27. Heuser, G., Mena, I., Alamous, F. "Neurospect Findings in Patients Exposed to Neurotoxic Chemicals." Toxicology and Industrial Health 10, nos. 4-5 (1994):461-571.
28. Heuser, G., Mena, I. "Neurospect in Neurotoxic Chemical Exposure. Demonstration of Long-Term Functional Abnormalities." Toxicology and Industrial Health 14, no. 6 (1998):813-827.
29. Meggs, W.J. "Neurogenic Switching: A Hypothesis for a Mechanism for Shifting the Site of Inflammation in Allergy and Chemical Sensitivity." Environmental Health Perspectives 103, no. 1 (January 1995):54-56.
30. Miller, C.S. "Possible Models for Multiple Chemical Sensitivity: Conceptual Issues and Role of the Limbic System. Advancing the Understanding of Multiple Chemical Sensitivity." Association of Occupational and Environmental Clinics. Toxicology and Industrial Health 8, no. 4 (1992):181-202.
31. Dr Sarah Myhill Chemical Poisoing – general principles of diagnosis and treatment
32. Chemical Sensitivity By William J. Rea Chemical Environment, Chemical Sensitivity, Allergic And Toxic Responses, Causes Of Chemical Sensitivity, Manifestation Of Chemical Sensitivity, Factors Influencing The Onset Of Chemical Sensitivity
33. The Search for Reliable Biomarkers of Disease in Multiple Chemical Sensitivity and Other Environmental Intolerances Chiara De Luca,1,* Desanka Raskovic,1 Valeria Pacifico,1 Jeffrey Chung Sheun Thai,2 and Liudmila Korkina1.

For full bibliography click here