Info on Multiple Chemical Sensitivities (MCS)?

Discussion in 'Fibromyalgia Main Forum' started by JLH, Oct 31, 2005.

  1. JLH

    JLH New Member

    What is Multiple Chemical Sensitivities (MCS)?

    From Apply Now,
    Your Guide to Chronic Fatigue Syndrome/Fibromyalgia.

    Whether you call it Multiple Chemical Sensitivities (MCS), Environmental Illness, 20th century disease, Total Allergy Syndrome, Idiopathic Environmental Illness, or Chemical AIDS, or if you suffer chemical sensitivities along with the devastation of Gulf War Illness (GWI), Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS), or Fibromyalgia (FMS), those who share my diagnoses are allergic or overly sensitive to many substances most of the world takes for granted.

    The American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine's Position and Policies on Multiple Chemical Sensitivities: Idiopathic Environmental Intolerance states that the condition is referred to by more than 20 different names, which in itself is a challenge.

    Adding to the confusion is the fact that the "terms refer to complaints of patients who report recurrent non-specific symptoms referable to multiple organ systems that the sufferers believe are provoked by exposure to low-levels of chemical, biological, or physical agents" and that "no consistent physical findings or laboratory abnormalities have yet been found to differentiate MCS patients from the remainder of the population."

    According to the U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Safety and Health Administration, "Multiple Chemical Sensitivities (MCS) is a highly controversial issue" because not everyone accepts that adverse reactions to chemicals "is classifiable as an illness."

    Chemicals are everywhere! In her photo essay No Safe Haven, Rhonda Zwillinger reports that between 1940 and 1980, the production of synthetic organic chemicals increased from less than 10 billion pounds per year to more than 350 billion. (Those figures are much higher than that now; while the United States and most European countries have improved emission standards since that time, the additives used to comply with new environmental regulations often cause problems for those with chemical sensitivities, which makes any exhaust fumes that much more problematic. It's impossible to do away with all such emissions or exhaust in modern society. Therein lies the problem....)

    Chemicals are not always a bad thing. Chemicals have improved the quality of life for many because of the resulting increased food production and improved sanitary conditions. However, for a growing segment of the population -- 2% with severe symptoms and as many as 20% with some sensitivity, chemicals in their various forms (preservatives, insecticides, perfumes, etc.) moderately to drastically decrease the quality of life.

    Because of sensitivities to synthetic scents and/or preservatives, some perfumes often smell like insecticide to someone with Multiple Chemical Sensitivity. Perfumes and other chemical agents can trigger the auras that precede a migraine, cause laryngitis, or cause vomiting. Even something as commonly used as chlorine in tap water can cause skin irritation or swollen ankles following every shower, not to mention increased dizziness while in the shower. Forget about drinking the stuff! Contending with Multiple Chemical Sensitivity means that food that others take for granted might trigger a reaction (hives, boils, or a rash or digestive problems) because of a problem preservative, additive, nitrites and nitrates in meats, or artificial flavoring.

    [This Message was Edited on 11/01/2005]
  2. fairydust39

    fairydust39 New Member

    Special Concerns for Women
    Multiple Chemical Sensitivities
    As the environments in which we live and work have become more polluted, increasing numbers of people report developing a condition referred to as multiple chemical sensitivity or multiple chemical sensitivities (MCS); other terms for MCS include environmental illness and chemical intolerance.

    MCS is almost always expressed as symptoms that wax and wane--depending on current environmental exposure--typically affecting multiple organ systems (for example, respiratory, neurological, cardiovascular, musculoskeletal, immune, and digestive), either simultaneously or sequentially, in a particular person.

    Health care practitioners are beginning to recognize that MCS is a real physiological problem, although much remains to be learned about its various causes and treatments.

    There has been insufficient scientifically sound research on this perplexing condition. Nevertheless, evidence from around the globe suggests that a wide variety of chemical exposures, including indoor and outdoor air pollutants, as well as a severe viral illness, can make those of us who are susceptible feel sick.

    Subsequently, we find that we can no longer tolerate everyday substances--those that don’t bother most people and never bothered us before. Over time, our sensitivities seem to spread to common cleaning and remodeling products, foods, medications, alcoholic beverages, and caffeine, a process that has been called toxicant-induced loss of tolerance, or TILT.33 Most of us suffer from long-term disabilities and lead restricted lives.

    Once the condition develops, symptoms may be triggered by a wide variety of everyday exposures, including: pesticides, mothballs, and air fresheners; new construction and renovation materials, such as carpeting, plastics, fresh paint, particleboard, formaldehyde, and adhesives; release of chemicals from office equipment and supplies such as correction fluid, felt-tip markers, new computers, printers, and photocopy toners; incomplete combustion products from fuels such as gasoline, oil, and wood; scented cleaning and laundry products; fabric softeners; cosmetics containing fragrances; and hair spray, nail polish, and nail polish remover.

    These toxicants are ubiquitous, present in most indoor environments, where 90 percent of Americans spend 90 percent of each day. Different individuals describe being affected in different ways and to a different degree, depending upon genetic makeup and the extent to which we have been exposed to harmful substances in the past.

    It appears that MCS is not simply an allergic response. Common symptoms include irritated eyes, nose, and throat; respiratory difficulties; fast or irregular heartbeat; digestive disturbances and adverse food reactions; joint pain; incapacitating exhaustion; drowsiness; headaches; dizziness; disorientation; impaired concentration and memory; and seizures.

    Hormonal differences may explain why more women than men report suffering from MCS, although both sexes are affected. Also, women and children may be more vulnerable to toxic exposures because of lower body weight or a higher proportion of body fat (certain toxic chemicals accumulate in fat).

    Most health care providers know little about MCS and may not yet recognize it as a legitimate physical illness. Hence, troubling multi-organ symptoms may go undiagnosed, and patients may be referred to psychiatrists as a last resort.

    It is important for health care providers to remain open-minded and respectful of a patient’s ability to cope, and to offer healthier alternatives. Just because a woman reports so-called psychological symptoms--such as fatigue, depression, irritability, anxiety, or cognitive difficulties--does not mean that these symptoms are caused by her mind and emotions.

    At the present time, no laboratory test is available for clearly diagnosing MCS, and there is no generally agreed-upon case definition used by doctors or researchers.

    However, those of us who suffer from MCS feel far different than we did before the toxic exposure--usually hyper-reactive to substances we might ingest, breathe, or touch, often with the following response pattern: cognitive changes (sometimes experienced as “brain fog,” brain fatigue, or a feeling of being drunk or spacey); heightened senses of taste and smell that trigger adverse reactions; irritation or burning of the mucous membranes of the eyes, nose, and throat; swelling or inflammation of tissue; and being hypersensitive to physical agents, such as light, sound, and touch.

    Avoiding chemicals that trigger adverse reactions is the first line of defense for chemically sensitive individuals. Lifestyle changes (for example, moving to a different home or job, changing heating systems, or removing carpeting) can reduce exposure and lead to improved health and regaining of tolerance.

    On the other hand, these interventions can be costly and may not always have the desired effect. MCS can be draining physically, emotionally, and financially for all of us who experience it or are close to someone who has it. Both professional and self-help groups may serve as good sources of support and information .

    Studies worldwide suggest that the number of people who report chemical intolerances is large--about 15 percent in the United States34--making this potentially one of the most prevalent environmentally induced illnesses.

    The problem appears to have grown rapidly since World War II, as exposures to synthetic chemicals have increased. New construction practices since the mid-1970s have led to tightly enclosed, energy-efficient homes, schools, and other buildings containing new materials that off-gas low levels of chemicals without sufficient dilution from outside (fresh) air. Reducing our exposures to toxic chemicals may well be the best way to reverse the rise of MCS.

    This will require widespread education of health care providers and the public; major political and grassroots efforts; and enormous shifts in personal, community, and industry practices regarding chemical use--changes that involve every sphere of our lives.

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  3. JLH

    JLH New Member

  4. fivesue

    fivesue New Member

    Very informative and it gives me something else to think about. I guess I had heard this term before, but I had never had it explained. These articles did a great job.

    Thanks agin for posting them.


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