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Health Library : Environmental Medicine

 

Multiple Chemical Sensitivity

It is known that chemicals cause many human diseases. Some of the chemicals that have been documented to be dangerous to human exposure include:

  • Tobacco smoke. This is the major cause of lung cancer.
  • Asbestos. This causes mesothelioma (an unusual tumor of the linings of the chest and abdominal cavity), lung cancer, asbestosis, and an increased risk of gastrointestinal cancer.
  • Kepone. An insecticide that can cause infertility in men and neurological disorders.
  • Dibromochloropropane. A pesticide that can cause infertility in men.

Exposure to certain chemicals may cause reactions similar to those experienced with allergies. Chemicals that may cause sensitivity include synthetic and natural substances found in:

  • Carpeting
  • Plastics
  • Perfumes
  • Plants
  • Paint
  • Cigarette smoke

There are many other chemicals under investigation, and the problem continues to grow because of the ever-increasing production of organic chemicals.

What is multiple chemical sensitivity?

Multiple chemical sensitivity, or MCS, as it is sometimes referred to, is under debate in the medical community at this time. Some doctors question whether it exists, while others acknowledge it as a medical disorder triggered by exposures to chemicals in the environment. This often begins with a short-term, severe chemical exposure, such as a chemical spill, or a longer-term exposure, such as a poorly ventilated office.

After the initial exposure, low levels of chemicals found in everyday materials such as soaps, detergents, cosmetics, and newspaper inks can trigger physical symptoms in persons with multiple chemical sensitivities.

What are the symptoms of multiple chemical sensitivity?

The following are the most common symptoms of multiple chemical sensitivity. However, each person experiences symptoms differently. Symptoms may include:

  • Headaches
  • Rashes
  • Asthma
  • Muscle and joint aches
  • Fatigue
  • Memory loss
  • Confusion

Symptoms of multiple chemical sensitivity may resemble other medical conditions. Always consult your doctor for a diagnosis.

Is this a recognized clinical diagnosis?

At this time, many in the medical community do not accept multiple chemical sensitivity as a genuine medical disorder. Credible sources, such as the CDC and the American Medical Association, do not recognize this as a medical diagnosis, nor is there any official medical definition because symptoms and chemical exposures are often unique and vary widely between individuals.

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