Lourdes Salvador's Column
...Co-founder of MCS America discusses the latest Multiple Chemical Sensitivity issues.
Lourdes Salvador volunteers as a writer and social advocate for the recognition of multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS). She was a passionate advocate for the homeless and worked with her local governor to provide services to the homeless through a new approach she created to end homelessness. That passion soon turned to advocacy and activism for people with MCS and the medical professionals who serve them. She co-founded MCS Awareness in 2005 and went on to found MCS America in 2006. She serves as a partner for Environmental Education Week, a partner for the Collaborative on Health and the Environment (CHE), and a supporter for the American Cancer Society: Campaign for Smokefree Air.
Multiple Chemical Sensitivity Beleaguered - Part 3
by Lourdes Salvador
Over the past two months, a basic overview of the industry disinformation campaign against multiple chemical sensitivity was presented. Last month we examined the pharmaceutical industry’s influence. This month we will examine the chemical and insurance industry’s influence.
Thomas Orme, Ph.D., a proponent for the insurance industry, was seriously concerned about multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS) in 1994. However, his concern was not for those being injured by toxic chemicals, but rather that the injured were requesting that insurance companies cover the cost of treatment and were seeking payment through worker's compensation and Social Security Disability programs when they became disabled.1 He was also fearful of the injured pressing for workplace and housing accommodations under the American’s with Disabilities Act.1
Orme addressed the American Council on Science and Health saying, "The economic implications (of multiple chemical sensitivity) for many industries and insurance programs are potentially catastrophic. Unless the problem is properly addressed, the millions of dollars now changing hands through claims and lawsuits will become billions, wreaking havoc with many industries and insurance programs and ultimately raising costs to all consumers.” 1
Indeed, multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS) does have a financial impact, much like that of any other health condition. However, MCS is also a direct threat to the profits of the chemical industry because the products the industry sells are the very toxicants that cause chemical injury and lead to MCS. And that was Orme's biggest fear.
Rather than working on tighter chemical regulations to ensure public safety and reduce costs by reducing the numbers injured, Orme's idea of "properly addressing" MCS was to simply claim MCS was a "perceived" allergy, a somatization that was not real and therefore required no costly treatment or accommodations.1 Chemical companies continued to injure others in the name of corporate profits, a classical case of corporate crime. Corporate crime is the unethical and/or illegal harm to the public by private and public interests.
Claims for insurance were labeled as "false claims" and providers who treated MCS were to be labeled as "pseudoscientific practices that constitute a serious problem in our society.1 Unfortunately, industry has significant funds to spread this disinformation to protect their financial interests. Though fading into the truth, some of these ideas are still alive and well today.
On March 20, 2008, ABC Nightline covered the story of Dr. William Rea, who runs the Environmental Health Center in Dallas, Texas.2 Rea, who treats patients with multiple chemical sensitivity, was set up by an insurance company through a false complaint filed with the Texas Medical Board (TMB).3 The TMB is now attempting to strip him of his license.3
The Los Angeles Times covered a story on Deborah Rice, an award winning toxicologist who was terminated from an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) expert panel on fire retardants under pressure from the chemical industry.4 Rice’s research studied low doses of the flame retardant in question and found neurological effects in lab animals. Labeled as “biased”, Rice was dismissed from the panel for speaking out for public safety after the American Chemistry Council, a lobbying group for the chemical industry, complained to a top-ranking EPA official.4
The Environmental Working Group also uncovered pro-industry panelists, raising questions as to conflicts of interest.4 However, Rice has not been reinstated. A firm contracted to evaluate the reproductive hazards of chemicals for the National Toxicology program was fired when it was discovered that the firm had financial ties to over four dozen chemical companies.4
Those who speak out to protect the public and treat the injured in honest appraisal have been systematically quieted since 1990 when the American Chemistry Council (previously the Chemical Manufacturers Association) set out to prevent the recognition of MCS through physicians to avoid lost profits.5 The corporate crime that manufacturers of pesticides, textiles, fragrances, and other chemicals have engaged in has one sole purpose… to make MCS go away and protect their profits.
Slowly but surely the sheer numbers of people with MCS, and those who treat them, are making progress to generate awareness of the real cause of MCS… chemical toxicants that cause injury. With ever growing numbers, industry attempts to silence the truth is being uncovered. It is only a matter of time before intelligent citizens begin to wonder why all the biological studies on MCS are not mentioned or labeled as “unscientific”, while weak claims to psychological origin are made without supporting scientific evidence… the sincerest form of quackery.
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