Multiple Chemical Sensitivity

by Andrew Mills


Multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS) is a broad term and a chronic condition that involves numerous troubling symptoms that are attributed to the environmental factors. Many patients believe that they have allergic reactions or are severely sensitive to the pollutants present in the environment that include perfumes, petrol, diesel, solvents, food additives, smoke, volatile organic compounds, chemical compound, pollens, house dust mites, dander or pet fur. Other synonyms of MCS are chemical sensitivity, chemical injury, toxic injury, environmental illness or 20th century syndrome. Multiple chemical sensitivity is generally regarded as idiopathic as the underlying mechanism of causation is not well understood.

There is no specific definition established for MCS, scientifically the possible mechanism for the sensitivity has not been proved as patients are affected by various triggers, diagnostic tests have not been established or any single case is not scientifically valid. Moreover the symptoms that the patients exhibit in MCS vary largely form one patient to another, thus the treatment and medications are often inappropriate or ineffective. Because of these factors MCS is not recognized as an organic disease by various health bodies like American Medical Association, American Academy of Allergy, American College of Physicians, California Medical Association, and the International Society of Regulatory Toxicology and Pharmacology.

Signs and symptoms of MCS

The signs and symptoms of MCSoften involves multiple organs that include running nose, itchy eyes, ear ache, scalp pain, scratchy throat, headache, sleepiness, mental confusion or mental health disorder, heart palpitation, heart burn, nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, stomach upset, abdominal cramps, lethargy, dizziness, severe skin rashes or itching and joint ache.

Many MCS proponents suggest that a single serious episode of stress infection or chemical exposure can trigger immune system dysregulation and trigger an allergic reaction to that particular allergen. A possible part of MCS that is well understood in conventional medicine can be based on the part called Sensitization. This is a true allergic reaction caused by the involvement of the body’s mast cells and IgE antibodies to a chemical or irritant. In this even an exposure to tiny amount of irritant can cause extreme allergic reactions. This sensitivity is unrelated to MCS as there are no known mechanisms where even low levels of chemicals can adversely interact with numerous organ systems.

Treatment of MCS

Treatment of MCS involves basically avoiding the triggers that cause the allergic reactions. Prevention is very important in this case as the diagnosis of MCS is difficult due to a wide range of symptoms with lack of consistency between individuals.

One should keep in mind that ‘clinical ecology’ is not a recognized medical specialty and most of the physicians who support this concept and are involved in the diagnosis of MCS identify themselves as ‘specialist in economical medicine’.


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