What is Chemical Sensitivity?

Multiple Chemical Sensitivity, or MCS, is known by many names: Environmental Illness (EI), Gulf War Syndrome, Sick House (or Building) Syndrome, Toxic-Induced Loss of Tolerance (TILT), Post 911 Syndrome, Toxic Mold Syndrome and Silicone Breast Implant Intolerance.

Many specialists believe that Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Fibromyalgia are a form of MCS. Some experts estimate that 10% of the US population is affected by chemical sensitivity to one degree or another while other experts say over 60%.

So those are the names, but what is MCS?
MCS is an invisible illness that causes sufferers to have allergic-type reactions to “acceptable” levels of toxic chemicals in our everyday products. Common triggers for MCS sufferers are household air fresheners & cleaners, shampoos & coditioners, perfumes & colognes, laundry detergents & softeners, paints & glues, fertilizers & pesticides, cigarette smoke & vehicle exhaust… many sufferers are also sensitive to chemicals and additives in foods and medicines.

What are the reactions?
MCS can cause a variety of symptoms such as dizziness, headache, nausea, migraine, confusion, memory loss, seizures, breathing problems, tinnitis, tremors, mood changes, fatigue, muscle pains, heart arrhythmias, blood pressure drops/spikes or loss of consciousness. Reactions vary from person to person and can be delayed or occur immediately with a duration lasting from minutes to days.

What causes MCS?
MCS is caused by the body being unable to rid itself of accumulated toxins. It can develop quickly from a large exposure to pesticides, slowly from a newly redecorated office or very gradually from long term exposure to multiple low level toxins… much like the reactions, development also varies from person to person. Once sensitized, sufferers can become ill from minute traces of chemicals that are far below levels considered harmful.

MCS affects relationships with family, friends and coworkers, careers, and even simple things like showering, shopping or reading a book. Many with severe MCS become homeless, no longer able to live or work indoors. Although people have been suffering from MCS for more than 50 years there is little research dedicated to the problem and much misinformation propagated by those with monetary interests in petrochemicals.

It is typically said that MCS sufferers are the “canaries in the coal mine”, becoming ill from “safe amounts” of toxins, and are the warning sign. Let’s all heed this warning and do what we can to reduce the toxins that are making all of us sick.