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May 2010 Multiple Chemical Sensitivity Awareness Month

by  Carolyn Cooper, MPH, RN

Multiple Chemical Sensitivity awareness is one of the health observances for the month of May.  MCS is also variously known as Environmental Illness, Idiopathic Environmental Intolerance, and 20th Century Disease.  Over the course of the last 8 years I have become acquainted with a number of individuals who are afflicted with this often misunderstood condition.  MCS causes many of those who are severely affected to isolate themselves in order to take refuge from the synthetic fragrances and fumes that are ubiquitous in industrialized nations. 

My interest in MCS resulted from experience caring for one of my hospital patients who is severely afflicted.  (Read about my patient's experience with MCS in my blog post from May of 2009).  Recognizing the lack of scholarly published literature to inform health care providers about the specific needs of the chemically sensitive in the health care setting, I eventually wrote a feature article published by the American Journal of Nursing (AJN) in 2007, Multiple_Chemical_Sensitivity_in_the_Clinical Setting. (At times this article can be read free of charge on the AJN website, but I've noticed sometimes they charge a fee to read it).

Another of my MCS acquaintances is Toni Temple, President of the Ohio Network for the Chemically Injured.  As an severe MCS-sufferer, Toni has written widely about this condition.  Her published work includes the book, Healthier Hospitals, a publication with a wealth of suggestions for accommodating the chemically sensitive in the hospital setting.  Toni is president of the Ohio Network for the Chemically Injured and in this capacity she advocates and lobbies on behalf of the chemically sensitive. 

In recognition of MCS month, I'm including the latest press release issued by Toni Temple on behalf of the Ohio Network for the Chemically Injured:

Ohio Network for the Chemically Injured (ONFCI) Urges Adoption of CDC Fragrance-Free Policy to Protect Health

"The U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) is on record affirming that some building conditions have the "potential to adversely impact the health of building occupants. Potential hazards include chemicals, biological agents, fragrant products, and physical conditions that may cause irritation, illness, or exacerbate existing health conditions."

"The CDC's June 2009 internal Indoor Environmental Quality Policy protects employees from many harmful health effects by: controlling VOC emissions that are found in many buildings and commercial products; using integrated pest management to ensure the least possible hazard to people, property, and the environment; utilizing a safety official with qualifications to assess indoor air quality; using biodegradable, low toxicity, fragrance-free cleaning products; and other preventive measures.

"In conjunction with Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS) Awareness and Education Month during May, the Ohio Network for the Chemically Injured (ONFCI), a not-for-profit corporation that educates about and advocates on behalf of those who have been harmed by toxic chemicals in our everyday environment, urges all employers, businesses, and homeowners to review and adopt the CDC policy in order to reduce illness, disease, and disability.

"Readily achievable policies include prohibiting the use of any air fresheners, air wicks, plug-ins, incense, candles, reed diffusers, fragrance-emitting devices of any kind, plug-in or spray air fresheners, and toilet blocks. Encourage fragrance-free personal care and laundry products and request employees to be as fragrance-free as possible. The CDC Policy prohibits applying personal care scented products on any CDC premises. The use of "green" cleaning chemicals and building materials along with monitoring for appropriate ventilation will not only reduce indoor air contamination, but will reduce employee absenteeism as well.

"In a letter to Governor Strickland, Senator Dale Miller asked for the Governor's "...consideration to develop and put forward an Indoor Environmental Quality Policy for use in all state facilities. The model proposed by the Centers for Disease Control would be an excellent starting place for development of this policy. We need to make every effort to provide work environments that are clean, comfortable, and safe. We also should pay particular attention to protecting those who are particularly sensitive to chemical irritants."

"Cuyahoga County Public Library's 28 branches and their administrative office building will participate in MCS Awareness Month. Some branches will display related books and provide other information. A copy of the CDC Policy will be available for copying. The Downtown branch of Cleveland Public Library will again have an MCS Awareness Month display in the Science and Technology Department.

"Many mayors including Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson, Berea Mayor Cyril Kleem, and Strongsville Mayor Thomas Perciak, will again issue Proclamations supporting MCS Awareness and Education Month in May.

"An MCS article appears in the 2010 Environmental Briefing Book on the Ohio Environmental Council's website. . For further information about MCS and the ONFCI visit our website at or contact ONFCI at (440) 845-1888.

"For Further Information Contact:  Toni Temple, ONFCI President (440) 845-1888."


Editors note: Many thanks to Carol for allowing me to publish her blog post here. Carol is a seasoned nurse and public health advocate with a passion to help individuals find and understand the health information they are seeking. Read more of her posts on her Promoting Health and Patient Education blog.