We all know the feeling… wearing strong perfumes makes you sneeze or using fragranced detergents gives you a rash. Fortunately, these symptoms can usually be managed by avoiding the problematic products. But, for people with Multiple Chemical Sensitivities, these reactions are more than just bothersome, they’re life altering.
What exactly is Multiple Chemical Sensitivity?
Multiple Chemical Sensitivity, or MCS, is an illness in which low level chemical exposure causes a person to experience multiple symptoms. MCS most often affects women between 30 to 50 years old.
Patients with MCS report experiencing headaches, rashes, asthma, muscle and joint aches, fatigue, memory loss, anxiety and depression.
The most common chemical irritants blamed for causing sensitivity reactions are formaldehyde, cleaning products, perfumes, paint fumes, gas fumes, and smoke; however, people may also blame common environmental substances such as ink, sugar, aspirin, and tap water for their symptoms.
While there is some speculation in the medical community whether MCS should be an clinical diagnosis, both the Environmental protection Agency (EPA) and the American Disability Act (ADA) have recognized MCS as an illness. Countries like Germany, Denmark, Spain, Austria, Switzerland, even provide sufferers of MCS with access to appropriate medical treatment, housing and social support.
To the people that experience MCS, there is no question of its legitimacy. Many report that their MCS began with a a short-term, severe chemical exposure, such as a chemical spill, or longer-term, consistent exposure
How common is MCS?
In 2003, research indicated over 12% of the US population was affected with severe MCS – over 36.5 million people – and statistics have continued to rise. Even for those who have not been officially diagnosed with MCS, chemical sensitivity can be an issue. In fact, 12%-16% of the U.S. population has some level of chemical sensitivity.
Whether someone is experiencing actual MCS or just a heightened sensitivity to household chemicals, there are ways to alleviate the symptoms.
How can MCS be treated?
While there is no known cure for MCS, those who suffer from it can often find some relief.
Eliminate environmental toxins whenever possible
Many of the common odors that make up our day-to-day life are actually airborne chemicals that arise from volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Some VOCs, such as formaldehyde, can cause a range of adverse health effects. Unfortunately, while most outdoor pollutants are regulated in the United States, indoor ones are not, leaving us on our own to protect ourselves.
While anyone can be affected by VOCs, those with increased sensitivities are more likely to have a severe reaction. The MCS awareness organization provides a detailed description of which products are safe and which to avoid.
It’s also probably best to avoid jobs that involve harsh chemicals such as hairdressing or farming.
Be mindful of what you eat and drink
Often chemicals contained in food or drinks can aggravate MCS. Talk to a doctor or nutritionist about how to determine which aspects of your diet are affecting you.
Improve your overall health
improving one aspect of your health will generally help you overall. Correcting leaky gut and candida for example can both make a big difference to chemical sensitivities.
Boost your immune system
Because each person’s sensitivities and symptoms may differ, it’s best to consult with a doctor and/or nutritional therapist to craft a treatment plan. If illness or allergies run in your family then a DNA test may help to discover the root cause. You can then work with a practitioner to compensate for any issues with nutritional supplements.
Use an air purifier
For those with chemical sensitivities, an air purifier is essential.No matter how careful you are about avoiding problematic products, pollution will still seep into your home. An air purifier with a combination of a True HEPA filter and an activated carbon filter will remove both particle pollutants and gasses from your indoor air, easing your symptoms and allowing you to live a healthier, happier life.