What is MCS


Imagine not being able to leave your home because your neighbors laundry softer makes you have migraines, vomiting, tachycardia and muscle weakness just to name a few symptoms. Imagine not being able to hug or be near people with perfume because your lungs react so severely that you have to be hospitalized and treated for weeks or months on end.
Just think for a moment that you are in need of urgent medical/dental attention but you are unable to visit a doctors office because they use air fresheners in patient rooms, hallways and waiting areas. This is the misery that is faced each and every day by MSC sufferers. This is the outward expression of MCS.

People suffering from MSC can also be diagnosed with TILT, fibromyalgia, cancer, Chronic Fatigue, CIRS, Neuro-Immune Illnesses and Autoimmune disorders.

MCS can be brought on after toxic mold exposure, chemical injury and a weakening of the immune system. In the case of prolonged toxic mold exposure and chemical injury a persons liver function is seriously affected and detoxification pathways are blocked.
These people are also dealing with oxidative stress due to their exposure which makes them more susceptible to an MCS diagnosis.

“MCS affects the central nervous system, but may also cause malfunctions in other systems such as respiratory, gastrointestinal or heart.” Source

“People with multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS) are made sick by exposures to low levels of many common chemicals — such as perfume, paint, pesticides, solvents, new building materials, vehicle exhaust, and smoke. Common symptoms include headache, fatigue, body aches, asthma, rash, dizziness, nausea, and tremors. Symptoms can range from mild to life threatening. People with MCS also often react to foods, drugs, mold, pollen, and electromagnetic fields.

Developing severe multiple chemical sensitivity alters every aspect of a person’s life and can make it almost impossible to work, find safe housing, obtain health care, socialize or pursue hobbies. Relations with family, friends, and co-workers often become strained, because many do not believe this is a “real” illness.” Dr. Ann McCampbell

“Multiple Chemical Sensitivities (MCS) was identified in a 1989 multidisciplinary survey of 89 clinicians and researchers, and modified in 1999.  Top consensus criteria (Multiple chemical sensitivity: a 1999 consensus, 1999) for MCS define the condition by these criteria:

A chronic condition.
Symptoms recur reproducibly.
Symptoms recur in response to low levels of chemical exposure.
Symptoms occur when exposed to multiple unrelated chemicals.
Symptoms improve or resolve when trigger chemicals are removed.
Multiple organ systems are affected.

Toxic substances that people with MCS become disabled by include any quantity of exposures to pesticides, secondhand smoke, alcohol, fresh paint, scented products and perfumes, candles, fragrances, food preservatives, flavor enhancers, aerosols, tap water, cosmetics, personal care products, new carpets, petroleum products, formaldehyde, outdoor pollutants, newspaper ink, cleaning compounds, printing and office products, and other synthetically derived chemicals.

Some also become ill from natural products that are highly concentrated such as natural orange cleaners due to high volatile organic compound and pesticide concentration.  Symptoms can range from minor annoyances (headache, runny nose) to life-threatening reactions (seizures, anaphalaxis).” Source 

Learn about Environmental Sensitivities discussed by John Molot MD in the video below.

Hear patients discuss their struggles in the video below.

“This film covers not only fragrance issues but also presents an overview of multiple chemical sensitivity. It features Dr. L. Christine Oliver, an Associate Clinical Professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and former Co-Director of Occupational and Environmental Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital. The film also contains footage of an interview with the former Commander of Walter Reed Army Medical Center, Dr. Ronald R. Blanck. People with MCS in the film include Gulf War veterans and survivors of the 9/11 WTC attacks, as well as people from all walks of life.”

Below is a video about the Legal Aspects of Environmental Sensitivities. Although this video is from Canada in the USA and in many other countries individuals with MCS are treated as individuals with disability.

The Chemical Sensitivity Foundation

Below is a General Database of MCS & Related Scientific Study Abstracts (Last Updated 5/2007) from mcs-america.org/

Download Studies (PDF File)

Download Studies (MS Word File)

Research on Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS) Compiled by Professor Anne C. Steinemann and Amy L. Davis

University of Washington Seattle, WA 98195-2700

This document lists citations for peer-reviewed journal articles that support a physiological basis for MCS.

Organization Specific Research

Multiple Chemical Sensitivity Research (James Madison University)

Free Full Text Studies:

Baines CJ, McKeown-Eyssen GE, Riley N, Cole DEC, Marshall L , Loescher B, Jazmaji V (2004) Occup Med (Lond) 54: 408-418

Case-control study of multiple chemical sensitivity, comparing haematology, biochemistry, vitamins and serum volatile organic compound measures

Block ML, Calderón-Garcidueñas L.  Trends Neurosci. 2009 Sep;32(9):506-16. Epub 2009 Aug 26.

Air pollution: mechanisms of neuroinflammation and CNS disease.

Brotman, KW.  2008;April 5. (not peer reviewed)

Challenges Faced by Students with MCS (Multiple Chemical Sensitivities) In a Traditional School Environment

Caress SM, Steinemann AC.  Environ Health Perspect. 2003 Sep;111(12):1490-7.

A review of a two-phase population study of multiple chemical sensitivities

Cecil KM, Brubaker CJ, Adler CM, Dietrich KN, Altaye M, et al. (2008) PLoS Med5(5): e112.

Decreased Brain Volume in Adults with Childhood Lead Exposure.

Crow,J.  Oxygen Society Educational Program. 2002.

Peroxynitrite (ONOO-): Scavenging for survival

Chiara De Luca,1* Desanka Raskovic,1 Valeria Pacifico,1 Jeffrey Chung Sheun Thai,2 and Liudmila Korkinal. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2011 July; 8(7): 2770–2797.

The Search for Reliable Biomarkers of Disease in Multiple Chemical Sensitivity and Other Environmental Intolerances

Eltiti S, Wallace D, Ridgewell A, Zougkou K, Russo Rz, Sepulveda F, Mirshekar-Syahkal D, Rasor P, Deeble R, & Fox E.  Environmental Health Perspectives.  24 July 2007.

Does Short-Term Exosure to Mobile Phone Base Station Signals Increase Symptoms in Individuals who Report Sensitivity to Electromagnetic Fields?  A Double-Blind Randomized Provocation Study.

Fitzgerald, J.  Environmental Health.  2009.  8(3).

Studies on Self-Reported MCS in South Australia

Frances J. Storrs. Dermatitis.  2007;18(1):3-7.

Allergen of the Year: Fragrance

Gibson, P.R. (in press). Care for Women International.

Of the world but not in it: Barriers to community access and education for persons with environmental sensitivities.

Gibson, P.R. (2009). Disability & Society, 24(2), 187-199. Author posting. (c) Taulor & Francis, 2007.

Chemical and electromagnetic exposures as disability barriers: Environmental sensitivity.

Gibson, P.R., & Vogel, V.M. (2009).  Journal of Clinical Nursing, 18, 72-81

Sickness related dysfunction in persons with self reported multiple chemical sensitivity at four levels of severity.

Gibson PR, Cheavens J, Warren M.  James Madison University. 1996.

Chemical Sensitivity/Chemical Injury and Life Disruption

Gibson PR, Placek E, Lane J, Brohimer SO, Lovelace AC. Qual Health Res. 2005 Apr;15(4):502-24.

Disability induced identity changes in persons with multiple chemical sensitivity

Gibson PR.  No Date.  James Madison University

Multiple chemical sensitivity, culture and delegitimization: A feminist analysis

Gibson PR, Cheavens J, Warren ML.  Res Nurs Health. 1998 Apr;21(2):103-15.

Social support in persons with self-reported sensitivity to chemicals

Gibson PR, Elms AN, Ruding LA.  Environ Health Perspect. 2003 Sep;111(12):1498-504.

Perceived treatment efficacy for conventional and alternative therapies reported by persons with multiple chemical sensitivity

Gross L.  PLoS Biol. 2007 Jun 26;5(7):e193

The Toxic Origins of Disease

Heuser G, Axelrod P, Heuser S.  IPPH. 2000 13:1-16.

Defining Chemical Injury:  A Diagnostic Protocol and Profile of Chemically Injured Civilains, Industrial Workers and Gulf War.

Hocking B.  World Health Organization Seminar on EMF Hyerpsensitivity.  2007.

A physicians approach to EMF sensitive patients.

Hooper M PhD, B Pharm, C Chem, MRIC. Chief Scientific Advisor to the Gulf War Veterans 2003 (Paper Only)

Engaging with Multiple Chemical Sensitivity


Heuberger E, Hongratanaworakit T, Böhm C, Weber R, Buchbauer G.  Chem Senses. 2001 Mar;26(3):281-92.

Effects of chiral fragrances on human autonomic nervous system parameters and self-evaluation.

Koch, L.  2004 Kent State University Center for Disability Studies

Multiple Chemical Sensitivity & Rehabilitation Planning Implications

Lin TC, Krishnaswamy G, Chi DS.  Clin Mol Allergy. 2008 Apr 25;6(1):3

Incense smoke: clinical, structural and molecular effects on airway disease. 

LoPachin RM, DeCaprio AP.  Toxicological Sciences 2005 86(2):214-225.

Protein Adduct Formation as a Molecular Mechanism in Neurtoxicity

Louis, GB (2006).  World Health Organization.  Environmental Health Criteria 237.

Principals for Evaluating Health Risks in Children Associated with Exposure to Chemicals.

McKeown-Eyssen G, Baines C, Cole DE, Riley N, Tyndale RF, Marshall L, Jazmaji V.Int J Epidemiol. 2004 Oct;33(5):971-8. Epub 2004 Jul 15.

Case-control study of genotypes in multiple chemical sensitivity: CYP2D6, NAT1, NAT2, PON1, PON2 and MTHFR

McKeown, D.  Toronto Public Health.  2005.

Environmental Threats to Children:  Understanding the Risks, Enabling Prevention

Miller CS, Ashford N, Doty R, Lamielle M, Otto D, Rahill A, Wallace L.  Environ Health Perspect. 1997 Mar;105 Suppl 2:515-9.

Empirical approaches for the investigation of toxicant-induced loss of tolerance

Miller CS.  Environ Health Perspect. 1997 Mar;105 Suppl 2:445-53. Review.

Toxicant-induced loss of tolerance–an emerging theory of disease?

Miller CS.  Addiction.  2000 96(1):115-139.

Toxicant Induced Loss of Tolerance

Morello-Frosch R, Brody JG, Brown P, Altman RG, Rudel RA, and Pérez C. Environmental Health 2009, 8.

Toxic ignorance and right-to-know in biomonitoring results communication: a survey of scientists and study participants

Nakazawa H, Ikeda H, Yamashita T, Hara I, Kumai Y, Endo G, Endo Y.  (2005)  Ind Health. 2005 Apr;43(2):341-5.

A case of sick building syndrome in a Japanese office worker.

National Center for Environmental Health (2000)

CDC Summary of Public Comments Received for the MCS Sensitivity Report

No Authors Listed.  Arch Environ Health. 1999 May-Jun;54(3):147-9

Multiple Chemical Sensitivity:  A 1999 Consensus

Nussbaumer LL.  2005.  South Dakota State University.

Multiple Chemical Sensitivity:  The Controversy and Relation to Interior Design

Pall ML.  Washington State University School of Molecular Biosciences.  2006,

The NO/ONOO- Cycle as the Cause of Fibromyalgia and Related Illnesses:  Etiology, Explanation, and Effective Therapy

Pall ML.  Environ Health Perspect. 2003 Sep;111(12):1461-4.

Elevated nitric oxide/peroxynitrite theory of multiple chemical sensitivity: central role of N-methyl-D-aspartate receptors in the sensitivity mechanism

Pall ML.  Br J Gen Pract. 2002 Sep;52(482):762; author reply 763-4.

NMDA sensitization and stimulation by peroxynitrite, nitric oxide, and organic solvents as the mechanism of chemical sensitivity in multiple chemical sensitivity

Poppa V, Teulescu, D, Stanescu, D & Gavrilescu, N.  Chest.  1969;56:395-404.

Bronchial Asthma and Asthmatic Bronchitis Determined by Simple Chemicals

Rea WJ.  Ear, Nose, and Throat Journal, Vol 67, No 1, January 1988

Chemical Hypersensitivity and the Allergic Response

Saito M, Kumano H, Yoshiuchi K, Kokubo N, Ohashi K, Yamamoto Y, Shinohara N, Yanagisawa Y, Sakabe K, Miyata M, Ishikawa S, Kuboki T.   Psychosom Med. 2005 Mar-Apr;67(2):318-25.

Symptom profile of multiple chemical sensitivity in actual life

Schnakenberg E, Fabig KR, Stanulla M, Strobl N, Lustig M, Fabig N, Schloot W.  Environ Health. 2007 Feb 10;6:6

A cross-sectional study of self-reported chemical-related sensitivity is associated with gene variants of drug-metabolizing enzymes

Sears, M. Canadian Human Rights Commission. 2007

The Medical Perspective on Environmental Sensitivities.

Silkworth JB, & Loose LD.  Environmental Health Perspectives.  1981.  39:105-28.

Assessment of environmental contaminant-induced lymphocyte dysfunction.

Silberschmidt, M.  Danish Ministry of the Environment:  Environmental Protection Agency. Environmental Project no. 988, 2005.

Multiple Chemical Sensitivity.

Steinemann, AC et all.  Air Quality, Atmosphere and Health (2011).

Chemical Emissions from Residential Dryer Vents During Use of Fragranced Laundry Products

Steinemann AC. Environ Impact ##### Rev (2008), doi:10.1016/j.eiar.2008.05.002.

Fragranced consumer products and undisclosed ingredients

Steinemann AC. 2008.  Environ Impact ##### Rev  REVISED 8/2010

Toxic Chemicals in Fragranced Laundry Products and Health Effects REVISED8-2010

Steinemann AC. 2008.  Environ Impact ##### Rev REVISED 8/2010

Toxic Chemicals in Air Fresheners and Health Effects REVISED8-2010

Steinbrook, R.  January 22, 2009.  360:4,325-327.

Online Disclosure of Physician-Industry Relationships.

VonThieman, G, Spec, T. Tijdschrift voor toegepaste Arbowetenschap. 2008;nr:1.

Health Effects of Construction Materials and Construction Projects

Wilkie, C & Baker, D. Canadian Human Rights Commission. 2007

Accommodation for Environmental Sensitivities: Legal Perspective.

World Heath Organization. 2006.

Principles for evaluating Health Risks in Children Associated with Exposure to Chemicals

Ziem G, McTamney J.  Environ Health Perspect. 1997 Mar;105 Suppl 2:417-36.

Profile of Patients with Chemical Injury and Sensitivity

Yanick Jr. P,  Towsend Letter. 2005.

Hypoadrenia: a causative factor in MCS and impaired enzymatic detoxification

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