Multiple Chemical Sensitivity and Allergies

There is a long term given to a condition that has various symptoms but is based on exposure to a wide range of chemicals that can range from a chemical spill, to poor ventilation in an office environment; the term is, multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS).

You may also here this term referred to as, “environmental illness” or possibly “sick building syndrome”.

Many medical groups do not actually consider Multiple Chemical Sensitivity to be a recognized physical disorder because of lack of clinical evidence to support the physical symptoms. Individual who suffer from MCS also typically have high rates of mental health disorder, including anxiety, depression and other mental disorders that may express in physical symptoms which makes it difficult to determine whether the symptoms are physical or psychologically based.


People with MCS report having the following range of symptoms: fatigue, dizziness, nausea, irritability, headache, concentration problems, intolerance to cold or to heat, earaches, congestion of the nasal passages or a stuffy head feeling, itching, sneezing, chest pain, muscle pain, sore throat, memory problems, diarrhea, skin rashes or hives and also mood changes.

Many health care professionals do not recognize MCS, and will not give a diagnosis. This means that coming up with a statistic of how many suffer from MCS impossible.


The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reported that 1/3 of individuals working in sealed buildings have claimed to be sensitive to one or more chemicals. Females are more likely than males to complain of MCS. Studies show that MCS occurs more often in the 30 to 50 age group.

There is a theory that chemicals circulating in the air enter into the nasal passage and then affect the brain, can motivate behavior changes, and also have an impact on memory. Certain individuals are more sensitive to chemical odor than others. A second theory is that individual with MCS have an immune system that is somehow damaged.

Many products have been identified that are associated with those who claim they have MCS including the following chemical triggers: tobacco smoke, perfume, exhaust from traffic or gasoline fumes, nail polish remover, newspaper ink, hair spray or paint spray, insecticides, artificial food preservatives, artificial sweeteners and colors, adhesive tape, new carpeting, felt tip pens, chlorine in pools, and also flame retardants on clothing or furniture.

Doctors who believe in MCS make the diagnosis by conducting a complete medical examination, taking a medical history, and ordering diagnostic tests such as X-rays, and blood tests. Allergies are ruled out as well as other mental health disorders, physical ailments and other causes for symptoms.


MCS is treated by staying alert to symptoms and changes in symptoms having a reassuring and supportive network to give understanding and sympathy as well as treatment for the symptoms, such as treating headaches and other pain.

There is not much known about MCS, so avoiding any suspected triggers if possible is the only way to prevent future symptoms.