You May Have Missed MCS Month, But You Will Not Miss the Scent

So, what IS that scent you are wearing? There are no laws requiring the manufacturers of perfumes and other scented products to inform you of their ingredients. When byproducts form by combining them, they don’t have to tell consumers that either.

In the US the word "fragrance" on your ingredients list can be up to 200 undisclosed chemicals, from a pool of 2000, that do not have to be tested for safety. In fact, many of them are known to cause health problems.

It is no wonder that 30% of Americans have reactions ranging from noticeable to debilitating to such products and other chemicals. An estimated 4-6% of these people are forced to change their daily lives dramatically due to severe sensitivity to chemicals. These people suffer an invisible illness, that recieves little recognition. Acknowledgement would point the finger at the big business of chemical production and use, and there are 80,000 chemicals in products used by Americans every day.

Multiple Chemical Sensitivity, or MCS, is a disability that causes individuals to react to even the lowest levels of toxics because of previous chemical exposure. New exposures do not "bother" but further "injure" those with prior chemical injury.

Inundated with pollutants and toxins it is impossible for those affected with MCS to carry on their lives as usual. This includes family and friends. If they want to assist in the better health and maintain a relationship with their loved one, they must make the neccessary changes of eliminating such products from their environment.

Those who develop this lowered tolerance are often industrial workers, occupants in "tight" buildings, residents from contaminated communities, war veterans and individuals with personal exposures to chemicals in a world growing more toxic.

My Story

When I was young my neighborhood was sprayed with organophosphate pesticides to control mosquitos. My health problems began in those early years although my awareness of MCS occurred only somewhat recently.

I began researching the pesticides that "fogged" the residential area in Michigan where I had lived. Among other health problems, I had sinus complications, digestive problems, earaches, leg and foot cramps, and migraine headaches.

I noticed my sensitivity when I began to remove chemicals from my environment. This state of constant existence within chemical environments can "mask" the condition. There’s no denying it now. I keep an airpurifier at home and wear a small one while working. There is no chemical free place so I wear a mask when I have to go out.A clinical detoxification called an "unmasking" would place the patient in a room completely chemical free down to the adhesives used to hold the room together. The patient would then be held for several days before their reactions to chemicals were tested.

What You Can Do

Currently there are no such facilities. Coupled with the fact that only a small percentage of doctors in the United States are familiar with environmental illnesses like MCS, patients often elude diagnosis or are treated with pharmaceuticals (chemicals) for their symptoms.Treatment should consist largely of avoidance of chemicals, immune system support and detoxification.Funding is needed on the federal and state levels for public awareness campaigns and support for individuals already suffering.

May was MCS Awareness Month, but anytime is a good time to start checking labels for harmful chemicals. Not everything is on the label, so some diligence is required. A study by the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics found that half of infant products contain carcinogens such as formaldehyde. It can be a challenge, but it's worth it. Healthy chemical free replacements are out there.

Consider using an organic fertilizer on your lawn next year, or go "fragrance free"—it is possible! These small changes promote a healthy life for you and your family, and they will make a world of difference to the "masked" MCS sufferers in your life.


zeets, What chronic illnesses

Were your 2 friends treated for? Could you share the names of docs they've seen? Or anything about their treatment? MCS is not really a catch-all, it's got pretty specific mechanisms. But it usually doesn't stand alone on the sufferers' list of conditions. I like your holistic way of thinking, I'm all for it, but I don't think MCS is neccessarily secondary to another treatable illness. I'd be thrilled if it was!

I'd perfer not to

Partly because one of them is not proud of how many years they spent living in pain and discomfort over a simple thing, partly because I cannot remember exactly what their eventual diagnosis was. In this case, it's almost as if their health providers put them in the MCS bin because they could not draw a connection between their symptoms and were uninterested in trying new tacks of investigation. The fact that their 'MCS' symptoms went away when the other disease was treated suggests that either their 'MCS' was something else entirely, or that it was the case of their system being pushed over the brink in some way. After all, even well-guided attempts at eliminating contamination in our personal environments really just only reduce it. When industry needs a genuinely contamination-free environment, such as for the production of semiconductors, creating a single room that is free of floating contaminants costs millions of dollars, for instance. The ambient air in a typical city contains 35,000,000 particles ≥0.5 µm per cubic meter. Reducing that costs cubic dollars. Even home HEPA filters barely knock that number down. They simply don't exchange enough air to effectively filter, and even modern home construction is relatively air-loose. So all of us are exposed to many, many substances, continuously. They represent a certain strain on everyone's system. That's what our immune system is for, no?

Pardon me for asking

But I'm incredibly curious about a 'chemical free' adhesive. Wouldn't all adhesives be some form of chemical? Isn't an organic fertilizer still a chemical, just once produced using a biological process?

Thanks for posting about MCS

I was introduced to the MCS syndrome (I know, bad pun) while at TESC, and while I was coincidentally working in the Library and Lab Stores. At that time, '89-94, the campus was undergoing remodeling as there was lots of stuff floating 'round in the Library building that was making folks sick, as well as lots of problems with the chemical inventory in Lab Stores.

Having been exposed at TESC, I was later very susceptible to similar pollution when I worked for Perstorp Xytec in Lakewood, WA. (a subsidiary of Perstorp AB), and was very sick after working there for just two weeks.

Thanks for the tips about cosmetics and house-hold chemicals, and my family already is trying to cut down on store-bought solvents by making our own organic solutions at home and using less toxic methods for keeping clean, as well as simple solutions for cosmetics, shampoo, and soap.




I have the same story as Chad

Oh, yes, I still have vivid memories of the end of that TESC remodel. Winter break 93/94. Getting carried out of the library building unconscious by Joe Pollock when we got gassed by the orange stuff in the basement... not giving the paramedics my right name because I didn't have insurance & was afraid they'd take me to the hospital... my husband's horrific headaches every night because he had to cover my computer center shifts while I recovered (he was the student manager & I was a $5/hr "green vest")...

After 15 years I have a few more minutes' tolerance of industrial petrochemicals than I used to. That means I can escape instead of blacking out & scaring everybody & causing a big humiliating scene. The chemicals that wipe me out are all stuff that, frankly, you shouldn't have to be breathing anyway. Still, I was unable to spend much time in the Procession of the Species studio during the peak season until we switched from paraffin batik wax to that wonderful soy wax.

I was working in the TV studio in the tesc bsement back then

inhaled the same nasty stuff and have not experienced the kind of illness toadlilly and chad speak of. I am not denying their experiences but this fellow came through it with not adverse reactions.

I was pretty blase about it back then...

I'm glad you didn't get sick/ill Laurian, it is no fun.

Compared to working at Lab Stores, the Library was mild, and I was blase then, but years later when I worked for the plastic manufacturer, the sensitivity really kicked in-

-I have associates that can't be downtown near the port much because of the sensitivity to toxins in the soil and I noticed a few plumes of haze when the excavation was going on next to the IT lot, but I do think that it is a good thing that the soil is being removed and replaced with cleaner fill.


Genetic Predisposition

Genetic Predisposition plays a big role. I am the only one of my siblings afflicted. I was also the youngest and got the most exposure.

As for adhesives, I learned from an MCS expert that 100% silicone (crazy as it sounds) can be tolerated after cured in place of caulking. I learn more about how to live with MCS each day, but by no means have all the answers.

I honestly do not understand the pathology

behind MCS. I can certainly understand acute reactions to exposure to specific toxicants and the possibility of chronic illnesses associated with that particular event. But I am baffled by the more general syndrome. Any good rigorous research out there?

It might be tough

The research I've seen has hardly been what I would call 'rigorous'. Unfortunately I believe MCS ends up as a catchall for difficult to diagnose, chronic illness. I have had two friends who initially received a MCS diagnosis, before having the real cause of their illness be located several years later. In each case, once the chronic illness was treated, nearly all of their MCS symptoms went away. It's a reminder that we are complete systems, and stress upon one part of the system can result in the inability of other parts of the system to act.

Thank you for posting this

I'm not sure if I'm a have an MCS, but I do have my smells.

Artificial vanilla and lilac give me a headache at the drop of a hat. There are a few other things, certain perfumes, colognes, a few of the "Axe" scents. I feel for you.

Claudia Miller and Nicholas Ashford wrote

 Chemical Exposures: Low Levels, High Stakes.  It is, so far as I know, the book foremost in the field.

Like I said I'm no expert , but when I looked into the organophosphates I was exposed to, I learned how they do their damage.  Sited by the US government as a contributing cause of so called "Gulf War syndrome", MCS is the ailment suffered most by those vets.  MCS is not however, recognized by the US government.   A growing number of pilots in the UK are  getting sick,  with organophosphates present in cockpits, they are again getting scrutinized as a possible cause.   

 I was exposed to 3 organophosphates for almost a decade through Michigan's mosquito abatement program. We had an open well, extensive food gardens and few restrictions on where or when I could go outside to play. If the mosquito truck drove through, we'd chase after it, a fresh layer of pesticide on the skin meant more play time. Funny, the mosquitoes kept biting me, apparently it doesn't work that way. It was intended that the poison cover areas where the lil critters breed.  Many have done this, I've found out, and not all of them get MCS.  Also, such an obvious (so it would seem) overexposure is not neccessary to become afflicted. 

 They used more than 1 poison so that the bug wouldn't build a tolerance to the 1.First used as nerve gas agent by US in WWII, organophosphates dissapate very slowly once introduced to the body, Malathion is one of them. It becomes 60 times more toxic above 77 degrees F. So once it enters the body, toxicity heightens, and Malaoxon forms. Binding irreversibly with cholinesterase, which is an enzyme produced in the liver that exists primarily in the pancreas and plasma,with small amounts in the blood and all body tissues and organs, the chemical interferes with the function of the nervous system.Neurosynaptic junctions (nerve firing) to muscles, glands, and other nerves, impairing all organs.

They still spray my mom's neighborhood back in Michigan, and the US applies more than 60 million lbs. of organophosphates to over 60 million acres annually for agriculture.

Thanks for the recommendation

I'll see if I can get my hands on the bibliography. I'm interested in the results of blind or double-blind experiments using odor-masking or other similar methods.

Thanks to All

For posting and beng interested!!

Norm, yes! Axe is BAD! Contains butane (cancer link), pesticide (tell-tale sign is outsourcing testing- usually done on animals), alcohol denatured (classified as toxic and causes birth defects), and untested chemicals, to name a few.


Guglielmo, that bibliography is 43 pages long!

That's okay

I've been mining bibliographies for along time.

I remember

In the book, I read that there is a need for such studies but without any EMU (environmental medical unit) facilities, they've yet to be done.