Isabella Z–Many of us experience health symptoms and don’t give them much thought. It’s easy to chalk irritability up to not getting enough sleep the night before or to blame your sneezing on pollen, even if you can’t actually see any. However, if unexplained symptoms are happening to you regularly, it’s possible that you could be one of a growing number of people who are coming down with multiple chemical sensitivity, a tricky-to-diagnose illness caused by the chemicals and toxins in our environment.
Sadly, chemicals are everywhere in our daily lives in modern times, and even those of us who try to avoid them can’t be 100 percent successful all of the time. A recent survey found that one out of every four people are sensitive to the everyday chemicals in products such as air fresheners and deodorants. Experts say that people often don’t realize they are being harmed by such chemicals until it is too late, and by then the chemical sensitivity has already set in.
Part of the problem is that multiple chemical sensitivity shows up as a combination of symptoms that are related to low-level exposures to chemicals and pollutants such as cleaning supplies, fragrances, paint, pesticides, beauty products, insect spray, preservatives in food, carpets, flame retardants on clothes and furniture, and fumes from petrochemicals, to name just a few. In other words, it’s caused by the very things you encounter in your everyday life, and the growing use of such chemicals around the world is likely behind the rise in people dealing with the condition.
The occurrence of this illness has climbed by 300 percent in just the last decade alone, according to research from the University of Melbourne.
Professor Anne Steinemann estimates that 55 million Americans are suffering from a chemical sensitivity or multiple chemical sensitivity. In her research, 76 percent of people who have the sensitivity have suffered effects that can be considered disabling, and 60 percent have lost their job or missed work because of exposure to chemicals in their workplace.
“Once people have chemical sensitivity then they have adverse reaction to a range of chemical products at exceedingly low levels,” she said.
Although these people may react more strongly to chemicals in products than other people do, it is important to keep in mind that these chemicals are dangerous to everyone. She added: “So in a way, they’re a warning system and we would do well to listen to people with MCS.”
Symptoms of multiple chemical sensitivity wide-ranging
Symptoms might include fatigue, nausea, confusion, irritability, trouble concentrating, headache, dizziness, itching, congestion, earache, intolerance to cold or heat, a sore throat, sneezing, breathing problems, memory problems, mood changes, bloating, or a skin rash. As you can imagine, it’s very difficult to identify the illness as many of these are symptoms of other problems as well. In addition, the biological mechanisms that cause these sensitives are not known, so treating it is complicated.
The best thing you can do if you suspect you have this problem is to keep a record of when you experience symptoms as well as what chemicals you might have been exposed to at those times. Then it’s simply a matter of avoiding exposure as best you can – which is easier said than done in a world where, according to the EPA, 1.2 billion pounds of chemicals that could be harmful to humans were released into water and air across the U.S. in just one year alone.