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Multiple Chemical Sensitivity

It is known that chemicals cause many human diseases. Some of the chemicals that have been documented to be dangerous to human exposure include:

  • Tobacco smoke. This is the major cause of lung cancer.

  • Asbestos. This causes mesothelioma (an unusual tumor of the linings of the chest and abdominal cavity), lung cancer, asbestosis, and an increased risk of gastrointestinal cancer.

  • Kepone. An insecticide that can cause infertility in men and neurological disorders.

  • Dibromochloropropane. A pesticide that can cause infertility in men.

Exposure to certain chemicals may cause reactions similar to those experienced with allergies. Chemicals that may cause sensitivity include synthetic and natural substances found in:

  • Carpeting

  • Plastics

  • Perfumes

  • Plants

  • Paint

  • Cigarette smoke

There are many other chemicals under investigation, and the problem continues to grow because of the ever-increasing production of organic chemicals.

What is multiple chemical sensitivity?

Multiple chemical sensitivity is under debate in the medical community at this time. Some healthcare providers question whether it exists. Others acknowledge it as a medical disorder triggered by exposures to chemicals in the environment. This often begins with a short-term, severe chemical exposure, such as a chemical spill, or a longer-term exposure, such as a poorly ventilated office.

Once exposed, low levels of chemicals found in everyday materials, such as soaps, detergents, cosmetics, and newspaper inks, can trigger physical symptoms in people with multiple chemical sensitivities.

What are the symptoms of multiple chemical sensitivity?

The following are the most common symptoms of multiple chemical sensitivity. However, each person experiences symptoms differently. Symptoms may include:

  • Headaches

  • Rashes

  • Asthma

  • Muscle and joint aches

  • Fatigue

  • Memory loss

  • Confusion

Symptoms of multiple chemical sensitivity may resemble other medical conditions. Always consult your healthcare provider for a diagnosis.

Is this a recognized clinical diagnosis?

At this time, many in the medical community along with medical organizations agree that multiple chemical sensitivity is a negative physical reaction to certain chemicals. There is debate as to whether multiple chemical sensitivity should be classified and diagnosed as an illness. 

Online Medical Reviewer: Perez, Eric, MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Sather, Rita, RN
Date Last Reviewed: 11/9/2015
© 2000-2016 The StayWell Company, LLC. 780 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.
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