A Brief History
Multiple Chemical Sensitivity is an intolerance of chemicals, cleaning products, pesticides, smells, odors, fragrances, etc. and exposure to such substances may cause physiological and psychological side effects that can resemble allergic reactions. Sufferers, sometimes fearing for their lives, are often forced to avoid social gatherings; many can no longer pursue employment as the workplace environment may not be safe; and most live isolated and lonely lives with others showing little understanding, consideration or sympathy for their predicament.
Deemed an environmental illness, MCS can also be described as a “mystery illness” such as fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, Lyme disease, electromagnetic sensitivity, Gulf War Syndrome and Fluoroquinolone Toxicity Syndrome. This term is appropriate as there is little knowledge of the causes of such illnesses and even less understanding of their treatment and hardly any experience to be able to say what chances the sufferer has to recover from them other than the outlook looks grim. It is also unknown what is causing the increase in the prevalence of such conditions. The onset can be either gradual or sudden.
In regard to MCS, some believe it is caused by toxic overload; others are certain it is the result of an impairment of the limbic system. Proponents of the former recommend detox regimens; proponents of the latter, such as Annie Hopper and Ashtok Gupta, refer to the new concept of neuroplasticity and have devised programs for brain retraining.*
At any rate, it is a traumatizing illness as first the sufferer reacts to his or her surroundings and later easily falls into a despondent state of fear, hopelessness and despair as their “worlds” become smaller and smaller and as their doctors and those closest to them do not recognize the illness to be a true medical condition and question the sufferer’s mental well being. Of further agony to sufferers is when people they have to interact with on a regular basis disregard their health needs by not stopping the use of offending products.
So, on this day, please set a moment aside to think about all the products you are using that contain chemicals. Is it really necessary for you, your clothes and your house to smell like a tropical rain forest? Perfumes, colognes, scented soaps and detergents and plug-in air fresheners are particularly obnoxious to those with MCS. Harsh and abrasive cleaning products can be replaced with natural alternatives that are better both for you and the environment. Even if you are “healthy,” this around-the-clock inundation of chemicals cannot be healthy in the long run. One thing is certain though, you do not fully understand the devastation caused by a mystery illness until you suffer from one yourself.
For now, please do not be angered when someone complains of a fragrance you use or the scented candles you have burning. Instead, show some compassion. Their suffering may be far greater than any inconvenience you might have.
Question for students (and subscribers): Do you know anyone who suffers from multiple chemical sensitivity? Please let us know in the comments section below this article.
Your readership is much appreciated!
*The author is not necessarily advocating these programs; she merely wants to introduce them so that sufferers can consider them as possible options on their path toward healing as these might suit their specific needs.
For more information, please see…
Hopper, Annie. Wired for Healing – Remapping the Brain to Recover from Chronic and Mysterious Illnesses. Friesens, 2014.