The Challenge of Multiple Chemical Sensitivity

By Spencer, Taylor R.; Schur, Paul M. | Journal of Environmental Health, June 2008 | Go to article overview

The Challenge of Multiple Chemical Sensitivity


Spencer, Taylor R., Schur, Paul M., Journal of Environmental Health


Introduction

In the 1950s, under the banner of his "clinical ecology" movement, Chicago allergist Theron Randolph proposed what has come to be known as "multiple chemical sensitivity" or MCS (AAAAI Board of Directors, 1999; Whited, 2004). This condition is "an acquired disorder characterized by recurrent symptoms, referable to multiple organ systems, occurring in response to demonstrable exposure to many chemically unrelated compounds at doses far below those established in the general population to cause harmful effects (Cullen, 1987)." Pesticides, cigarette smoke, paint fumes, wood preservatives, office photocopier fumes, perfumes, and epoxy are among the chemically unrelated compounds that commonly trigger MCS (Multiplechemicalsensitivity.org). These in turn produce vague and multisystemic responses which might include any collection of symptoms, such as rapid heart rate, shortness of breath, fatigue, flushing, dizziness, nausea, coughing, or difficulty concentrating (Beers, 2003). As the diversity of causes and manifestations might indicate, MCS is probably best considered not as a single disease but as a class of disorders parallel to infectious or immunologic conditions (Miller, 1997).

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

MCS has significant psychosocial and economic costs. According to one study, chemical hypersensitivity results in job loss in 13.5% of cases, representing 1.8% of the general population (Caress & Steinemann, 2003). Limited specific information is available on the economic costs of MCS, and it is difficult to quantify objectively and compare the morbidity of many of the symptoms--headaches versus dizziness, for example (The Interagency Workgroup on Multiple Chemical Sensitivity, 1998; Steinemann, 2000). It is difficult, furthermore, to quantify the magnitude of the psychological sequelae that develop (in possibly a third of affected individuals) after onset of physical symptoms (Caress & Steinemann, 2003). The abundant--and at least superficially diverse--effects attributed to chemical sensitivity incorporate significant morbidity and mortality, and economic, healthcare, and social burdens (Gibson, 2005).

A Vague Entity

The study of MCS has shown some evolution over time towards a cohesive and consistent (at least internally) understanding of the disorder. As a social phenomenon, independent of any physiological basis, MCS may be understood in part through the lens of the reactionary response to modern chemicals and hazards (Whited, 2004). Significant difficulty persists, however, in resolving the diverse manifestations and associations into a unifying, underlying disease process. Intensive efforts are ongoing to resolve the inconsistencies of MCS as a class of disorders with the current understanding of disease pathogenesis, encompassing "a profound but little-recognized scientific debate concerning the origins of disease (Miller, 1997)." The history of MCS consists of attempts to address this inconsistency. The resulting conflict, between those who argue that the disease process has an illusive organic basis and those who claim it is entirely psychological or fictitious, remains unresolved.

Given the diverse manifestations and unknown pathogenesis of MCS, no accepted diagnostic physiologic test has been developed, such as complete blood count or antibody levels, which correlates with symptoms (AAAAI Board of Directors, 1999; Beers, 2003). Diagnosis is primarily based on a patient's subjective reports, leading to wide variation in clinicians' assessments (AAAAI Board of Directors, 1999). Diagnosis is further complicated by "masking"--the background of routine exposures which obscures effects of specific chemicals. Even when an MCS-like response is recognized, a specific initiating trigger may not be identified and linked to the patient's ensuing sensitivities. Theoretically, precise diagnosis might require an intensive process in an "environmental medical unit": a controlled setting devoid of triggers, even drinking water. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • A full archive of books and articles related to this one
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

The Challenge of Multiple Chemical Sensitivity
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

    Already a member? Log in now.