At AllerAir, we often get questions about environmental illnesses and chemical sensitivities.
Those not affected by everyday chemicals may dismiss the notion of a chemical sensitivity disorder altogether. Others need more evidence or research.
In the medical community, there have been many published studies, theories and treatment suggestions, but to date, there is no officially recognized definition of multiple chemical sensitivity or “idiopathic environmental intolerance,” as it is known in some organizations.
It could be because symptoms can vary from person to person, or because there are many different triggers and each case may be different from another.
But for those suffering from MCS, chemical sensitivities are very real. And often debilitating.
MCS is a chronic condition that can lead to fatigue, headaches, nausea, mood disturbances, gastrointestinal problems, muscle and joint pain, flu-like illness, breathing problems and rashes, to name a few symptoms. It is also often accompanied by other conditions, including Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Fibromyalgia, according to the Environmental Illness Resource.
As we have noted on our web page on MCS, triggers vary from one person to the next, but they often include perfume, diesel fumes, cleaning products, pesticides, new products like carpets, furniture or electronics, and many more.
This makes everyday living difficult. Running into a store to get a few things? No thanks. Updating the home to make it more stylish? Better not. Drinking a glass of water? The chlorine in it could cause a reaction. Even small amounts of offensive chemicals or fumes may start an adverse reaction, which can last long after the end of the exposure. Avoidance is key - but not always possible.
MCS affects about 3 percent of Canadians and about 12.6% of Americans, according to a 2004 study. Because MCS is not a recognized condition, support and acceptance may be difficult to get, as the following news reports show. These came up after a simple news search about MCS.
Evidence seems to be all around us. It could be in a local community centre, where posters proclaim “Be mindful, no perfume, please” or in an obvious push towards more fragrance-free and natural products on store shelves.
If you are one of the lucky ones not affected by chemical exposures (yet), be open to those who are and offer your support. Avoid fragrance-laden products, and opt for toxic-free options. Reduce your own exposure to chemicals as much as possible, since the chronic condition has been known to develop due to minimal exposures over a long time.
Spread the word.
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