You may suffer from, or have heard the term, Environmental Illness (EI) or Chemical Sensitivity. The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (a division of the NIH) defines MCS as a “chronic, recurring disease caused by a person’s inability to tolerate an environmental chemical or class of foreign chemicals.” According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA), chemical sensitivity is related to exposure to pollution, either outdoors or indoors; natural or man-made. This can include pesticides, plastics, synthetic fabrics, scented products, petroleum products, and paint fumes. Additional pollutants that may cause respiratory illness include sulfur dioxide, ozone, nitrogen dioxide, cigarette smoke, wood burning stoves and building-related illness.
Anyone exposed to a large amount chemicals or mold toxins, may become intolerant of other chemicals or fragrant scents. This is the phenomenon of Chemical Sensitivity also referred to as Chemical Intolerance, Environmental Intolerance, Environmental Sensitivity, Environmental Illness, MCS, TILT or Toxic Induced Loss of Tolerance.
DID YOU KNOW?
- 3 to 5% of the population is disabled by Chemical Sensitivity in studies conducted by governments across the globe.
- 15% of the population is Chemically Sensitive according to national department of health polls.
- 30% of the elderly are sensitive to chemicals.
- 40% of the general population may be affected, although they do not realize that their symptoms are related to “toxic” exposures in the home, school or work environments. After a long period of exposure to these toxins, individuals become much less tolerant to environmental exposures.
- 60% of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome patients, Fibromyalgia patients and Gulf War Syndrome patients are Chemically Sensitive.
- Studies show that children are increasingly affected by fragrance allergy.
- Fragrance allergy affects 2 to 11% of the general population.
Although a common condition, most people do not recognize the symptoms of Multiple Chemical Sensitivity as the beginning of a syndrome that can progress to neurological disease, autoimmunity and many other health problems.
It is important to remember that no patient will possess every single symptom. Here are some common patient complaints characteristic of Environmental Illness (both early and severe). NOTE: If symptoms are still ‘masked,’ the patient may be wearing too much perfume or fabric softener (read Heather Collins’ story HERE) and be unaware that they are developing sensitivity at all. Yet patients may have several or few of the following symptoms:
- Waking up with sore throat from too many VOC’s in bedroom. Morning headaches (mold in bedroom). Feels better when sleeps with the window open. Asthma, shortness of breath in stores.
- Clothing tags are extremely irritating to the skin and must be cut out.
- Increased sensitivity to smells, chemicals, sounds, spaciness, cannot read.
- Muscle weakness (cannot wash hair), neurologic problems, difficulty standing with legs apart and talking without leaning or crossing legs (mild dysautonomia is in 85% of patients). Feel like lying down in stores (VOC induced dysautonomia).
- Difficulty reading and remembering what is read, blurry vision while driving at night, ‘Second wind’ late at night, hypo-manic, OCD, ADD, Depression (mold), extreme tearfulness (low cortisol), anxiety (low DHEA), lower I.Q., hormone (adrenal, thyroid, testosterone, HGH) deficiency syndromes.
- Bras are too tight, Bp cuff hurts to blow up, rolling up shirt sleeves is painful (tissue ischemia).
- Allergies increasing to cats, down, latex gloves, newspapers and mail – red itchy hands and headaches.
- Early hangovers (poor methanol metabolism), intolerance to alcohol. Alcoholism (low cortisol).
- Belligerence (men) from low growth hormone and testosterone. Heat intolerance, post exertional exhaustion. Too cold in the grocery store, arrythmias, seizures, asthma, irritable bowel.
- Inability to get up in the morning, weight loss, motion sickness, new fear of heights, bridges (adrenal).
- Cannot tolerate airplanes, jet fuel, magazines on plane. Fall asleep at wheel due to diesel.
- Cell phones heat up in your hand, computers, phones, refrigerators; florescent lights are annoying or give fatigue, headache, and anxiety. The cordless phone triggers the autonomic nervous system to make you want to urinate.
ARE YOU EXPERIENCING ANY OF THESE SYMPTOMS of Chemical Sensitivity?
- Are you intolerant of perfume, diesel exhaust, or the detergent isle of the grocery store? Do you get headaches after having a glass of wine, reading the newspaper or smelling cigarette smoke? Do you smell overwhelming odor of rubber and chemicals when you walk into a tire store. Does shopping at the mall make you exhausted? (P.S. Tell Glad to stop Tell Glade to stop keeping toxic secrets and list all fragrance ingredients here).
- Are you fatigued, have ADD or anxiety? Are you waking up with a sore throat? Do the clothing tags drive you crazy on the back of your neck?
- Is your memory suffering or are you having difficulty reading books, retaining information or remembering names?
- Men — Is your face bright red, but you do not drink alcohol? Are you becoming belligerent? You may have a musty basement leading to these problems from mold and mycotoxin exposure.
- Women — Are you too exhausted to have sex? Are your arms tired when washing your hair? Are you requiring psychiatric medication for functional demise of your mind? Does your husband call you wacky? Does eating peanuts, the smell antique wood, down pillows, fresh paint or cat dander result in a headache?
- Children — Do your kids have food allergies or behavioral problems triggered by foods and additives? Is the exposure to new carpeting in the library or mold in your children’s classroom causing your child problems? Are your children massively depressed or have morning headaches, which are common symptoms of toxic mold exposure in the home.
- Do you have trouble standing up for long periods of time, which then may lead to a panic attack? This is a condition known as dysautonomia and arises in individuals who are experiencing ‘toxic overload’. Do you have to “pretzel” your legs when sitting to maintain blood pressure? When you are driving at night, do you see stars and halos? Are you exhausted after eating meals and want to lie down? Are you using caffeine and chocolate (or worse cigarettes and cocaine) to counter act these symptoms and get through the day?
- Does your cell phone heat up in your hand or do florescent lights bother you? This is Electrical Sensitivity and occurs commonly in those affected by mold and occurs in 30% of the Chemically Sensitive.
- Are you affected by allergens such as pollens, molds, dander and dust?
If you believe you are extremely affected by an Environmental Illness, you may consult with my office at Vineyard Personalized Medicine (508.693.1300) for advice. I also recommend considering The Environmental Health Center in Dallas, Texas operated by William Rea M.D. (214.368.4132).
You can also locate a physician in your area by visiting The American Academy of Environmental Medicine’s website HERE. The AAEM was founded in 1965, and is an international association of physicians and other professionals interested in the clinical aspects of humans and their environment.