Lourdes Salvador's Column
...Co-founder of MCS America discusses the latest Multiple Chemical Sensitivity issues.
Lourdes Salvador is the founder of MCS America, a science writer, and a social advocate for the greater awareness of environmental contamination, human toxicology, and propagation of multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS) as a disorder of organic biological origin induced by toxic environmental insults.
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Perfume and Fragrance Intolerance Under-diagnosed
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by Lourdes Salvador
Have you ever felt annoyed or overwhelmed by an overly perfumed person, someone’s smoke filled clothing, or the air freshener in a public restroom? You are not alone.
For most people, fragrance is a mere annoyance. Others experience debilitating illnesses related to the toxic chemicals contained in perfumes, fragranced products, and air fresheners.
Dr. David Katerndahl, a professor of family and community medicine at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio says, "Some people have tremendously adverse reactions to very low levels of chemicals—chemicals most of us can't even smell,"
According to the study, the number of people who suffer from fragrance chemical intolerance is higher than most doctors suspect. “Findings suggest that chemical intolerance is a common problem in primary care settings,” says Katerndahl, “but also that it often goes unrecognized and requires active investigation by the primary care physician.”
Approximately 2% of people in the United States are diagnosed with chemical intolerance, sometimes referred to as multiple chemical sensitivity. People who are chemically intolerant experience great difficulty functioning in public places which expose them to various chemicals used in cleaning chemicals, fragrances, pesticides, and plastics.
The study suggests that because those with chemical intolerance are more intolerant of many medications and medical materials, that nonpharmacologic treatments such as nutritional supplementation and avoidance are preferable.
Katerndahl asserts that 1 in 5, or 20% percent, of the 400 adults he surveyed qualified as chemically intolerant, leading him to believe that chemical intolerances are grossly underdiagnosed by physicians.
According to Katerndahl, people who are chemically intolerant are at increased risk of heart problems, bronchitis, asthma, pneumonia, sinusitis, hypothyroidism, autoimmune diseases, irritable bowel syndrome, and migraine headaches.
New evidence published in the Annals of Family Medicine now shows that eliminating fragrance exposure may reverse depression. Katerndahl asserts that “chemical intolerance offers an etiologic explanation. Symptoms may resolve or improve with the avoidance of salient chemical, dietary (including caffeine and alcohol), and drug triggers.
Katerndahl discusses the Quick Environmental Exposure and Sensitivity Inventory (QEESI and concludes, “The QEESI is a self-report tool for busy clinicians to use in recognizing chemical intolerance symptoms and developing a more effective treatment plan. This instrument may help pinpoint potential environmental chemical, food, and drug contributors to the clinical picture and lead to improved nonpharmacologic intervention strategies. The implications for the primary care physician are that chemical intolerance is prevalent in low-income, primary care settings but must be actively sought. Patients’ occupational and environmental exposures may have contributed to their condition. The presence of chemical intolerance among relatives, a history of medication intolerances/adverse drug reactions, and multisystem symptoms including psychiatric symptoms (depression, cognitive difficulties, anxiety, panic attacks) should raise the index of suspicion for further chemical intolerance screening using the QEESI or a similar tool.”
The cause of rapidly spreading chemical intolerances may be genetic or it could be a result of constant exposure to chemicals in the environment that results in intolerance over time similar to the way a constant dripping faucet leaking into a cup and causing it to eventually overflow.
The best way to avoid intolerance and the many toxicological illnesses that may result from commonplace, everyday exposures is to avoid chemical exposure as much as possible. Eliminating fragrances, antibacterial products, plastics, and insecticides from home and work is a good place to start.
Katerndahl et al. Chemical Intolerance in Primary Care Settings: Prevalence, Comorbidity, and Outcomes. Ann Fam Med 2012;10:357-365. doi:10.1370/afm.1346.
For more articles on this topic, see: MCSA News.
Copyrighted 2012 Lourdes Salvador & MCS America