Multiple Chemical Sensitivities
The publishers of this directory recognize that a segment of the communities movement is concerned about multiple chemical sensitivities (MCS), and so asked Susan Molloy to write this short informational piece about it. In addition, please see the extensive resource list on the following page.
Multiple chemical sensitivities (MCS) affect some individuals who are unable to withstand exposure to synthetic products common to our environment. MCS can result from a specific high-level chemical exposure, for example exposure to pest control chemicals, noxious smoke, or the wrong medication. It can also result from chronic, low-level exposure to chemicals. A percentage of the population is susceptible to MCS because of inborn genetic traits.
The diagnosis of MCS is still problematic within the medical and insurance industries for a number of reasons: MCS affects multiple organ systems; symptoms vary in type and severity from person to person; the precipitating toxic exposure cannot always be identified; and there is not yet a common, simple diagnostic protocol designed for profitable use by conventional physicians. As is the case with many autoimmune illnesses, women are somewhat more commonly affected than are men. Symptoms affect the brain, nervous system, and inflammatory processes, impairing endocrine, digestive, and respiratory function. Raging allergic-type reactions to formerly tolerated foods and natural substances are commonly triggered. People with MCS commonly have painful reactions to various electromagnetic and radio fields as well.
MCS symptoms range from annoying to extremely debilitating. If exposures cannot be controlled or avoided, for people with acute MCS the result is disability to the point of isolation and dependence on others for daily care. There exist no homeless or women’s shelters, no nursing homes, no convalescent hospitals, and no accessible apartments in clean air that were constructed and maintained for people whose primary effective means of pain management is avoidance of modern synthetic products. So, people with MCS fortify their own homes themselves or find new places to live as best they can to meet their needs. It usually means a drastic lifestyle change. Contact with other people with MCS is a vital affirmation for many, and there are long distance communities of MCS people, linked by telephone, email, and support-group newsletters.
Once someone has MCS it is typically a lifelong disorder, but careful, diligent progress can lessen the severity. There are now helpful replacement products used by some people with MCS in lessening the effects within their own homes: fragrance-, chlorine-, and phenol-free cleaning and personal care products; organic or pressure-cooked cotton or silk clothing; and furniture of steel or even organic wood. Some people benefit from room or car air filters or charcoal-filled masks, and from use of some brands of industrial or military respirators to withstand brief exposures. Some therapies are designed to halt the current poisoning and rebuild the body’s ability to process ‘ordinary’ exposure to chemicals on its own. One is a program of vitamins, exercise, and saunas, although results vary. This treatment helps some people with MCS but can be very detrimental to others, so proceed cautiously, and only under careful supervision. The only surefire ‘therapy,’ for now, is identification of trigger exposures by each person, to clarify what materials, foods, electromagnetic fields, noises, or other stimuli must be minimized in their environment.
The number of people with MCS is growing, and public awareness is rising. The Chemical Manufacturers Association, pest control applicators, cosmetic companies, and Department of Defense wish people with MCS would ‘stop it’ or at least be quiet, but this is impossible as the sensitized population inevitably grows more numerous. Exposure to synthetic chemical products, and coping with the disabling conditions caused by the exposures, are inescapable in the public, commercial, and military life of modern culture.
- American Environmental Health Foundation, a ‘nonprofit organization founded to provide research and education into chemical sensitivity.’ Dallas TX, USA. Tel: 214-361-9515, fax: 214-361-2534. Email: [email protected], http://www.aehf.com/
- California Council on Wireless Technology Impacts, 936-B 7th St #206, Novato CA 94945, USA. Tel: 415-892-1863.
- Chemical Injury Information Network, a ‘nonprofit support and advocacy organization for people with MCS and other chemical injuries that provides medical, scientific, and government information to empower the chemically injured.’ Publishers of the monthly newsletter ‘Our Toxic Times.’ PO Box 301, White Sulphur Springs MT 59645, USA. Tel: 406-547-2255, fax: 406-547-2455. http://biz-comm.com/CIIN/
- Chemical Sensitivities Disorders Association (CSDA). ‘CSDA was established to provide information and support to chemically sensitive people; to disseminate information to physicians, scientists and other interested persons; and to encourage research on chemical sensitivity disorders and minimizing hazards to human health.’ PO Box 24061, Arbutus MD 21227, USA. Tel: 703-560-6855.
- Ecological Health Organization (ECHO). ‘Founded in 1992, ECHO is a statewide nonprofit, advocacy, support, education, and referral organization for people in Connecticut with MCS and those who care about its prevention.’ PO Box 0119, Hebron CT 06248, USA. Tel: 860-228-2693. Email: [email protected], http://members.aol.com/ECHOMCSCT/home.html
- Electrical Sensitivity Network, PO Box 4146, Prescott AZ 86302, USA. Tel: 520-778-4637. http://www.northlink.com/~lgrant/
- Environmental Health Association (EHA). ‘EHA is a nonprofit volunteer organization offering support, information, and advocacy for people who have been injured by chemicals in the environment. They also make referrals to health practitioners in southern California, and to the American Academy of Environmental Medicine nationwide.’ 1800 S Robertson Blvd, Suite 380, Los Angeles CA 90035, USA. Tel: 310-837-2048. Email: [email protected]
- Environmental Health Network of California, PO Box 1155, Larkspur CA 94977, USA. Tel: 415-541-5075. http://users.lanminds.com/~wilworks/ehnindex.htm
- Human Ecology Action League, Inc. (HEAL), PO Box 29629, Atlanta GA 30359, USA. Tel: 404-248-1898, fax: 404-248-0162. http://members.aol.com/HEALNatnl/index.html
- MCS: Health & Environment. ‘This group is organized to provide support, education, advocacy, and collaboration for the chemically sensitive. They publish a bimonthly newsletter, ÔCanary News,’ hold meetings, and have an extensive lending library of audiotapes, videotapes, and books.’ 1404 Judson Ave, Evanston IL 60201, USA. Tel: 847-866-9630, fax: 847-733-0665.
- MCS Information Exchange, 2 Oakland St, Brunswick ME 04011, USA.
- MCS Referral and Resources, Inc., c/o Support USA, 508 Westgate Rd, Baltimore MD 21229, USA. Tel: 410-362-6400. http://www.mcsrr.org/ and http://www.cosupport.org/
- National Coalition for the Chemically Injured (NCCI). ‘A national coalition of support groups and nonprofit service and advocacy organizations that address the needs of people with chemical sensitivity disorders. NCCI’s mission is to promote and facilitate efforts among these organizations to educate the public, media, elected officials, and medical professionals about the need for greater recognition, treatment, accommodation, research, and prevention of chemical injury and chemical sensitivity disorders, especially Multiple Chemicicl Sensitivity (MCS).’ 2400 Virginia Ave NW, Suite C-501, Washington DC 20037, USA. Tel: 301-897-9614; 703-533-7864; 941-756-1606; 847-746-7792. http://ncchem.com/ncci.htm/
- National Center for Environmental Health Strategies, Inc. (NCEHS). Publishers of ‘The Delicate Balance.’ Mary Lamielle, Executive Director, 1100 Rural Ave, Voorhees NJ 08043, USA. Tel: 609-429-5358. Email: [email protected]
- North Carolina Chemical Injury Network (NCCIN), 6442 Hwy 42, Bear Creek NC 27207, USA. Tel: 336-581-3471. http://ncchem.com/
- Rocky Mountain Environmental Health Association, PO Box 611, Indian Hills CO 80454, USA. Tel: 303-697-9346.
- Rural Disabled Assistance Foundation, Inc. (RDAF). ‘RDAF is a nonprofit, tax-exempt, all-volunteer organization endeavoring to assist individuals who: (1) are seriously disabled and unable to work as determined by the Social Security Administration (other determination as needed); (2) receive very low (poverty-level) government income (or less); (3) live outside the city because their medical conditions are exacerbated by urban environmental pollution; (4) have used all other allowable financial resources available; and (5) have basic living expenses that still exceed their incomes.’ 1647 E Prince Rd, Tucson AZ 85719, USA. Tel: 520-795-3150. Email: [email protected]
- Safe Schools. ‘Irene Wilkenfeld, president, is a former high school teacher who was chemically injured in a contaminated classroom, and now works as an environmental health consultant to school districts.’ 205 Paddington Dr, Lafayette LA 70508, USA. Tel: 318-984-2766, fax: 318-984-3342. http://www.head-gear.com/SafeSchools/
- Share, Care, and Prayer, Inc. ‘Serves 3,400 people with Multiple Chemical Sensitivity, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Fibromyalgia, and Gulf War Syndrome, with a Ônewcomer packet’ of basic information, occasional newsletters (Christian oriented), a tape and book library, a pen pal directory for interested members, the sponsorship of an international prayer day, and information packets for churches.’ PO Box 2080, Frazier Park CA 93225, USA. Fax: 661-245-6614. http://www.sharecareprayer.org/
- Ashford, A. and C. Miller. Chemical Exposures: Low Levels and High Stakes. Second Edition. New York: John Wiley and Sons, 1998.
- Berkson, J.B. A Canary’s Tale. Baltimore, MD: Jacob Berkson, 1996. (Available from PO Box 2041, Hagerstown MD 21742, USA.)
- Colborn, T., Dumanoski, D., and J.P. Myers. Our Stolen Future: Are We Threatening our Fertility, Intelligence, and Survival? A Scientific Detective Story. NY: Penguin, 1997.
- Duehring, C. and C. Wilson. The Human Consequences of the Chemical Problem. White Sulphur Springs, MT: TT Publishing, 1994. (Available from the Chemical Injury Information Network, PO Box 301, White Sulphur Springs MT 59645, USA. Tel: 406-547-2255.)
- Gibson, P.R. Multiple Chemical Sensitivity: A Survival Guide. Oakland, CA: New Harbinger Publications, 1999.
- Lawson, L. Staying Well in a Toxic World: Understanding Environmental Illness, Multiple Chemical Sensitivity, Chemical Injury, and Sick Building Syndrome. Chicago: Lynnword Press, 1993.
- McCormick, G. Living with Multiple Chemical Sensitivities: Narratives of Coping (working title). Jefferson, NC: MacFarland & Co., 2000.
- Randolph, T.G. and R.W. Moss. An Alternative Approach to Allergies. NY: Harper Collins, 1990.
- Rogers, S.A. The EI Syndrome: An Rx for Environmental Illness. Syracuse, NY: Prestige Publishers, 1986.
- Temple, T. Healthier Hospitals: A Comprehensive Guide to Assist in the Medical Care of the Patient with Multiple Chemical Sensitivity. Parma, OH: Toni Temple and the Ohio Network for the Chemically Injured (ONFCI), 1996. Available from PO Box 29290, Parma OH 44129, USA.
- Westrom, Nancy. The Safer Travel Directory: A Guide for the Chemically Sensitive Person. Updated frequently, published by the author, 1501 Schooner Ln, Sebastian FL 32958, USA. Tel: 561-388-9042. Email: [email protected]
- Wilson, C. Chemical Exposure and Human Health. Jefferson, NC: MacFarland & Co., 1993.
- Zwillinger, R. The Dispossessed: Living with Multiple Chemical Sensitivities. Paulden, AZ: The Dispossessed Project, 1997. Available from Rhonda Zwillinger, The Dispossessed Project, PO Box 402, Paulden AZ 86334, USA. Tel: 520-636-2802. Photographs with descriptive text.
- Molloy, Susan. ‘Best of the Reactor.’ A compilation culled from 11 years of the ‘Reactor’ newsletter, of the best articles, bills, legislation, political efforts, and treatment protocols. Available as spiral bound or on disk, from the Environmental Health Network of California, PO Box 1155, Larkspur CA 94977, USA. Tel: 415-541-5075.
- Montague, P. ‘Rachel’s Environment and Health Weekly.’ Weekly environmental newsletter, available online at http://www.rachel.org/
Susan Molloy lives in the high desert east of Snowflake, Ari-zona, in a community of 10 households built by and for people with chemical- and electromagnetic-fieldÐtriggered disabilities. This remote, overgrazed former ranch land is affordable enough that each household secures between 20 and 80 acres, a barrier of space for protection from careless or casual use of common chemicals by ‘normal’ people. She has a master’s degree in Disability Policy from the Department of Public Administration, San Francisco State University, and works on state and national disability advocacy issues. Email her at [email protected]