Multiple Chemical Sensitivity Overview

For more detailed information, please refer to MCS Overview-- free from Little Suzie

“Multiple chemical sensitivity can go by any one of a number of different names: MCS syndrome, environmental illness, idiopathic environmental intolerance, chemical AIDS, total allergy syndrome, TILT, and a few others not listed here. For this website, I use the term MCS.


MCS is real. In September 2015, the 5th Paris Appeal Congress formally requested the World Health Organization to recognize MCS and electromagnetic hypersensitivity (EHS) as “an escalating worldwide health problem, affecting industrialized as well as developing countries."


Environmental causes of illness are on the scale of an epidemic. Chemical pollution is pervasive. We have about 91 chemicals in our bodies on average. The CDC tracks 265 environmental chemicals for exposures, 65 of which were new in 2015 and 139 updated since August 2014. Children are experiencing increasing health problems, not the least of which are learning and behavior problems, which can be correlated to chemical intolerance (pollution, toxicants, etc.).


Approximately 13% of the populaiton currently experience reactions to chemicals.  


Exposure to chemicals can be experienced through smell (olfactory bulbs) and result in problems with memory formation, processing, and recall; alertness; learning; spatial navigation, including disorientation and vertigo; emotions, including motivation; and your central nervous system— vision, hearing, motor control, sleeping, waking, alertness, and temperature regulation. Chemical exposure affects your brain— aka your ability to think and since your brain controls your body, it affects how well your body works, too. Exposure can also occur through eating and/or drinking chemicals in food, water or soil; breathing them in the air; touching them in food, water, or soil; or through medical procedures and pharmaceuticals, even antibiotics. 


Exposures resulting in sensitivity can be small over a long period of time or high over a short period of time, in the home, workplace, or in public. 


Factors that influence sensitivity include the type of contaminant, how much entered your body, your developmental stage when exposure occurred, how long you were exposed, how many times you were exposed, and your individual health and how your body reacts to exposure.


Common symptoms are headache, fatigue, weakness, difficulty concentrating, short-term memory loss, dizziness, irritability and depression, itching, numbness, burning sensation, congestion, sore throat, hoarseness, shortness of breath, coughing, and stomach pains.


The most common symptoms are tiredness/lethargy, difficulty in concentrating, muscle aches, memory problems and long term (chronic) fatigue (CFS).


Another common symptom is a heightened sensitivity to odors, including a stronger emotional reaction to them.


Less discussed or well-know symptoms include suicide ideation, depression, despair, apathy, etc.


Any organ can be affected: respiratory, digestive, neurological, endocrine, urinary, cardiovascular, or immune system.


MCS is difficult to diagnose. Of the people identified with chemical sensitivity, only 3.1% have been diagnosed by a medical doctor. This is due to being unable to draw a direct line from an initial chemical exposure to the beginning of symptoms or a health impairment; chemical exposure being multi-dimensional; people being exposured to a multitude of chemcial compounds daily; people reacting differently to the same type, level, and length of exposure based on their unique genetic makeup and history. In addition, MCS presents no consistent or measurable set of symptoms and has no single diagnostic test or marker. PET scans of MCS patients do not show significant functional changes in brain tissues. Physicians are unaware of MCS, refuse to accept that MCS exists, or are uninformed of the symptoms. And finally, physicians either can’t diagnose, misdiagnose it as another degenerative disease or label symptoms as psychosomatic.


According to a 1999 consensus statement published in the Archives of Environmental Health, there are six criteria for MCS diagnosis: 

The MCS symptoms are chronic.

The symptoms are reproducible with repeated chemical exposure. 

Low levels of chemical exposure trigger symptoms.

Symptoms occur with multiple, unrelated chemicals. 

Symptoms improve when the chemicals are removed. 

Symptoms involve multiple organ systems.


Treatment is complicated. As discussed, our bodies are all overloaded. It goes without saying that most, if not all of us, have been exposed to car exhaust, PCB’s, herbicides, and pesticides, lead, etc. Avoidance is the first step, but almost impossible. In some cases, antihistamines, analgesics and other medications can help combat symptoms. These remedies do not resolve the problem of being over-exposed, but temporarily mask the symptoms and/or make them manageable. Taking over-the-counter or even prescription drugs can provoke a reaction in some MCS patients. 


​​A number of herbs treat the symptoms of MCS, help detoxify, and promote healing.

Gentle exercise and sauna can induce sweating and have been reported by some to be helpful.

A naturopath may suggest chelation of heavy metals, which you should only do under his/her guidance.

Acupuncture, reflexology, yoga, massage, and aromatherapy provide added support, can relieve symptoms, and may encourage your body to release toxins and heal.

Food-allergy testing and/or testing for accumulated pesticides can be helpful.

Healthful, natural sleep is mandatory for your body to release toxins accumulated through the day and for your body and brain to heal.

Avoidance strategies include:

Replacing all cleansers with natural products— vinegar, water, and a little essential oil work for most cleaning.

Turning one room into an environmentally safe haven. This may be a short-term solution for extreme avoidance or could be a long-term situation if a person is disabled by his/her sensitivities.

Removing all known chemical irritants and finishings, and replacing them with 100% natural materials. Costly, but possibly necessary.


Every place you can eliminate chemicals means you are less likely to become sensitive, to be as sensitive, or become debilitated by your sensitivities. 


Make no mistake— MCS is real. It is a global health epidemic. It is challenging. However, it doesn’t have to be or become a disability. Knowledge is power and the mission of this website is to give you the information you need to be a powerful force for your health and the health of your family and friends. Most importantly, you aren’t alone in this. There are millions of others going through it with you. So please, never give up. Never give in. Whatever you are facing, you can get through it.