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Health Topics Multiple Chemical Sensitivity

Multiple Chemical Sensitivity

Multiple Chemical Sensitivity is also called MCS. When someone has an unusually severe sensitivity or allergy-like reaction to many different kinds of pollutants, they have MCS. These pollutants include solvents, VOC’s (Volatile Organic Compounds), perfumes, petrol, diesel, and smoke. MCS can also be referred to as Chemical Injury, Chemical Sensitivity, Environmental Illness, and Sick Building Syndrome.

Similar to many illnesses, children are more exposed to various triggers than adults. This is because children are constantly exposed to a variety of common chemicals, playing on the floors or carpet, or outside. They are thus exposed to numerous chemicals and residue, which may trigger MCS.

What are the symptoms of MCS?

  • Burning, stinging eyes
  • Wheezing or breathlessness
  • Nausea
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Headache/Migraine/Dizziness
  • Poor memory and concentration
  • Runny nose
  • Skin rashes, itchy skin
  • Sensitivity to light and noise
  • Problems with sleeping
  • Muscle and joint problems

How do I know if I have MCS or just Allergies?

  • You exhibit problems similar to an allergy-like reaction to both large and low levels of triggers. Other people who are also exposed to the same triggers are unable to detect anything at all and do not show any symptoms
  • The problem is ongoing, chronic - not just a one-time event
  • The same symptoms occur with repeated exposure to the same triggers

What Causes MCS?

The causes of MCS are unknown, therefore making it hard to diagnose and treat. One theory is that chemicals traveling in the air enter through the nose and affect an area of the brain, the limbic system, which controls our emotions, behavior, and memory.

Another theory, the toxic-induced loss of tolerance, (TILT) says that acute or chronic exposure to chemicals causes some people to lose their tolerance for chemicals over time, thus developing MCS.

What are some chemical triggers causing MCS?

  • Tobacco smoke
  • Perfume
  • Traffic exhaust or gas fumes
  • Nail polish removers
  • Newspaper ink
  • Hairsprays
  • Paint or paint thinner
  • Insecticides or pesticides
  • Artificial colors, sweeteners, and preservatives in food
  • Adhesive tape
  • New carpets
  • Flame retardants on clothes and furniture (such as mattresses)
  • Felt-tip pens
  • Chlorine in pools

How is MCS Treated?

Because the symptoms of MCS and levels of reactions are different for everyone, there is no one medical treatment that works on all patients. Therefore, one solution is to avoid triggers altogether. Another way to "treat" MCS is to buy organic products that do not contain chemicals.

Are there cleaners, medicines, or food that control MCS?

  • Choose goods that contain the words, “natural”, “organic”, or “eco-friendly” to avoid MCS symptoms

What are some indicators of co-workers with Sick Building Syndrome at my workplace?

  • Building occupants complain of symptoms associated with discomfort
  • Many employees cough, or complain of chest tightness, chills, dizziness and nausea, fatigue, sensitivity to odors, and muscle aches

What are some ways to avoid triggers in the workplace?

  • Explain your problems to your employer (if you have MCS)
  • Request that colleagues be aware of and sensitive to your problems
  • Ask that people avoid smoking and the use of perfumes near you
  • Request working in an area away from common sources of pollution such as photocopiers, fax machines, and printers