In recent months a number of books on the subject of multiple chemical sensitivity have been published by the very people whose lives have been turned upside down by the illness.
Despite epidemiological studies estimating that more than 3% of the population are severely affected by multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS) and 12% moderately affected, there is still little recognition of the disease or support for those affected. This, in spite of the fact that MCS can literally destroy a person's life or at the very least severely restrict their lifestyle.
In MCS even amounts of everyday chemicals so small they may not be detectable through smell cause sufferers to experience a wide range of symptoms affecting multiple bodily systems, particularly the nervous and respiratory systems. Typical triggers include perfume and any fragranced personal care or domestic cleaning products, gas stoves, cigarette smoke, vehicle exhaust and chemicals such as formaldehyde given off by home furnishings such as carpets and fitted furniture constructed from manufactured wood panels.
With the scarcity of information available from official sources many inspirational and brave sufferers have taken it upon themselves to write books on the subject themselves in an effort to offer information and support to fellow sufferers and educate their families, friends and anyone with an open mind willing to see MCS for what it really is, a physical disease. All too often, those affected are either sent home as suspected hypochondriacs by their doctors or referred to a psychiatrist under the diagnosis of some form of mental illness.
In September Soanish MCS sufferer Eva Caballé had her book Una vida rota por la sensibilidad química múltiple (Missing: A life broken by Multiple Chemical Sensitivities) published by El Viejo Topo, Barcelona, Spain. Eva is a 37 year-old economist in Barcelona. Before becoming ill she was a bank employee and was a member of a rock group called Lefthanded. Besides writing her book see also maintains the blog NO FUN. She says: NO FUN is a blog about Multiple Chemical Sensitivities, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome/Myalgic Encephelitis and Fibromyalgia with information and advice for people who are sick and for anyone who wants to live a healthier life free of toxics.
In an interview published in Rebelión following the publication of her book Eva explained that "[MCS] is an illness which has been known since the 1950s, but it has yet to be recognized by the World Health Organization (WHO), despite that there are more than 100 research articles that support the organic basis of MCS, that the number of people affected is increasing rapidly, at a younger age, and that the European Parliament includes MCS in the growing number of illnesses related to environmental factors."
She attributes the lack of recognition of MCS to pressure from the chemical and pharmaceutical industries who have a vested interest in presenting MCS at a psychological disorder since it is their products that are making people ill. Of course there are now an increasing number of companies offering environmental and health friendly natural alternatives but even these are often a problem for those with MCS.
One of the reasons Eva wrote her book is that the authorities in her home country of Spain look the other way when it comes to MCS and she has received no help or support. In contrast an increasing number of countries such as Germany, Austria and Japan have recently officially recognised the illness.
Another MCS sufferer to recently have a book on the subject published is Dutch author Els Valkenburg. Her book was the first on MCS to be published in the Netherlands and an English-language edition, Understanding Multiple Chemical Sensitivity: Causes, Effects, Personal Experiences and Resources, was recently published by McFarland. Els also operates the website http://www.the-abc-of-mcs-.com/.
In this comprehensive book Els looks at the scientific evidence for MCS but more extensively at the personal aspects such as how it affects daily life, relationships and social life. Also included are protective measures sufferers can take to avoid triggering symptoms, suggestions for treatment and a very useful A-Z chapter of important factors that influence the lives of sufferers.
In addition, a very personal touch is given to this book as Els includes the experiences of many MCS sufferers who have established websites and other organisations to offer support to others as well as the experiences of individual MCS sufferers from the Netherlands.
Finally, there is an extensive reference section with links to websites and other sources of information, products and services from which those from MCS could surely benefit.
One is left feeling that the message that MCS is a real and severely debilitating illness and one that needs to be taken seriously right now is given extra weight when it is those who themselves are suffering put their limited energy resources into writing such accomplished books for the benefit of those who are as unfortunate as themselves in having to deal with what is fast becoming a modern epidemic.