There was a time not so long ago when nobody had even heard of Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS). In fact, when I first developed the condition only 7 years ago I didn't meet anybody who had heard of it, apart from others who were suffering like I was.
This lack of awareness only adds to the considerable suffering and feelings of isolation that come with being affected by MCS. As any MCS sufferer will tell you it's one thing to have a disabling illness and quite another to have nobody believe you have a disabling illness!
Thankfully awareness of MCS now seems to be spreading thanks to a steady stream of coverage in the mainstream media. To stay on top of things I receive daily email updates from the Google News website (Google Alerts) on all topics relating to what we cover here at The Environmental Illness Resource. Not long ago there were rarely any stories published about the chemically sensitive but now I receive such stories at least once a week but usually more often.
Articles on multiple chemical sensitivity are now being published in newspapers around the world on a regular basis. In the news this week:
The Sydney Morning Herald
Down Under The Sydney Morning Herald carried a story entitled 'Trouble beneath the bubbles' by Nick Galvin which addressed the growing concerns over the safety of chemicals used in personal care products such as shampoos and deodorants. The article takes quite a detailed look at the cocktail of chemicals that these products contain as well as potential health risks they pose and the poor state of chemical industry regulation in Australia (which could apply to most countries - although the EU's REACH legislation is a step in the right direction). In addition, the author speaks to Dorothy Bowes, President of the Allergy, Sensitivity and Environmental Health Association, Queensland Inc (ASEHA). Dorothy, 61, spends most of her time in her own home due to the severity of her MCS symptoms. She says: "I have to try to avoid all fragrances. If they don't trip a migraine they will trip an allergic reaction. It's a nightmare - and it's been a problem all my life." She also explains how hard it is for MCS sufferers to find products which won't trigger symptoms due to poor labelling of chemical ingredients on many product packages.
To read the story click here
The Boston Herald this week ran an excellent article entitled 'Effects of controversial chemical sensitivity disorder all too real' by Renee Nadeau. The article gives a great account of MCS from the perspective of someone suffering from the condition. It is based on an interview with Mary Schaefer who in 2004 developed MCS after the buildings at the engineering publishing firm where she worked were renovated. She was eventually forced to leave her job after the symptoms became too severe. She now works as a PA for another MCS sufferer and also shares a home with someone else affected by the condition. Mary explains that she has lost many friends because of her illness as people simply don't understand. Ironically she admits that if roles were reversed she wouldn't believe everyday chemicals were making someone ill either. This is true for many people with MCS, including myself, and goes against a common view that MCS sufferers are just seeking attention or have a psychological aversion to odours.
To read the story click here
ASEHA is a voluntary community organisation giving support to people with allergy, food intolerance, multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS), attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS)/Fibromyalgia.
I highly recommend anybody affected by any of these conditions visit the ASEHA website as it has a wealth of useful information
American Chemistry Council
Of course not all reference to MCS in the media is drawing attention to the suffering of those affected by it. The American Chemistry Council website quotes the Boston Herald article but focuses on a paragraph stating that MCS is a controversial diagnosis. To their credit they do however link to the full article so the quote can be seen in context.
So awareness of MCS seems to be growing which can only be a good thing. It does seem that whether people have been affected by MCS in some way or not there is an increasing distrust of chemical products and the realisation that the safety of products we use every day as a society is in many cases unproven. The burdgeoning market in natural and organic products is further indication of this.
About: Matthew Hogg ("Maff")
Diagnosed with M.E./chronic fatigue syndrome aged only 11 years old and subsequently associated illnesses including irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS). Despite his own struggles he has constantly sought to educate and support others suffering from such "invisible illnesses" through his website, The Environmental Illness Resource. He fully recovered from MCS using his own approach and holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in Nutritional Health.