Health and Environmental Illness

Resources about environmental illness and non-drug treatments

Multiple Chemical Sensitivity

Multiple chemical sensitivity, or chemical sensitivity, is a hypersensitivity to chemicals, generally organic solvents, pesticides, and combustion products. Typically it develops after chemical injury. It is not rare.
Epidemiologic research conducted in Atlanta in 1999 revealed that:

  • 1.8% of the general public had lost a job due to chemical hypersensitivity
  • 3.1% of the general public had been diagnosed with either environmental illness or multiple chemical sensitivity

A Review of a Two-Phase Population Study of Multiple Chemical Sensitivities
by Stanley M. Caress and Anne C. Steinemann, Environmental Health Perspectives
This study and others have found a rate of unusual sensitivity to chemicals similar to the National Academy of Sciences estimate of 15% of the general public.

Response to Errors Prevalent in the Understanding of Environmental Illness
by Dr. Gerald H. Ross, MD
Prevalence studies, as well as evidence for neurological and respiratory damage in MCS patients, are discussed.

Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS) - What Is It?
by Dr. Sarah Myhill, MD
This is a brief description of chemical sensitivity and its symptoms, how the body's ability to identify chemicals escalates to chemical sensitivity, and who gets MCS.

Multiple Chemical Sensitivities: Addendum to Biologic Markers in Immunotoxicology
National Research Council, 1992
"At the request of the Environmental Protection Agency, the National Research Council conducted a workshop to develop a research agenda to study the phenomenon of multiple chemical sensitivity. The workshop was convened with the overall objective of addressing the gaps in the scientific evidence on multiple chemical sensitivity. Workshop participants were multidisciplinary and included clinicians, immunologists, toxicologists, epidemiologists. psychiatrists, psychologists, and other involved in research or clinical activity relevant to the problem. "

Diagnosis and Treatment

Considerations for the Diagnosis of Chemical Sensitivity
by Dr. William J. Rea, MD

Biomarkers of MCS and MUSES Syndrome
"Abnormal Medical Tests and Physical Signs Associated with Chemical Sensitivity"
by MCS Referral & Resources

Pamphlet: Chemical Sensitivity
by Dr. Sherry A. Rogers, MD

Treatment Options in Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (paywall) Abstract)
by Dr. Gerald H. Ross, MD

Book: Chemical Sensitivity: Tools, Diagnosis and Method of Treatment, Volume IV
by Dr. William J. Rea, MD

Chemical Avoidance

Neural Sensitization Protocol

Biological Cause

Toxicant-induced Loss of Tolerance--An Emerging Theory of Disease?
by Dr. Claudia S. Miller, MD, Environmental Health Perspectives, Vol. 105, Suppl. 2, March 1997
This essential article analyzes the process of acquiring chemical sensitivity and suggests how theories about the mechanism could be experimentally demonstrated. The article clearly explains important concepts related to chemical sensitivity, such as stimulatory and withdrawal symptoms; masking; and habituation.

Book: Chemical Exposures: Low Levels and High Stakes, 2nd Edition
by Nicholas A. Ashford and Claudia S. Miller

Response to Errors Prevalent in the Understanding of Environmental Illness
by Dr. Gerald H. Ross, MD
Here Dr. Gerald H. Ross, MD, reviews the evidence of neurological damage in the chemically sensitive, who have "neurocognitive and intellectual impairment, or emotional instability, upon certain chemical exposures." Evidence includes:

  • Brain scans of MCS patients show a "neurotoxic pattern of metabolic abnormalities in the brain"
  • Brain scans show a worsening of the abnormalities on challenge with low-dose chemicals
  • Nasal inflammation causes increased chemical absorption on inhalation
  • SPECT scans demonstrate a corresponding increased nasal uptake of tracer

Airway Inflammation

Hypothesis for Induction and Propagation of Chemical Sensitivity Based on Biopsy Studies
by William J. Meggs, Environmental Health Perspectives, Vol. 105, Suppl. 2, March 1997

Nitric Oxide / Peroxynitrite Cycle

See Neural Sensitization Protocol on this site

Book: Explaining 'Unexplained Illnesses': Disease Paradigm for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Multiple Chemical Sensitivity, Fibromyalgia, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, and Gulf War Syndrome
by Martin L. Pall, PhD

Journal Articles:

NMDA Sensitization and Stimulation by Peroxynitrite, Nitric Oxide, and Organic Solvents as the Mechanism of Chemical Sensitivity in Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (abstract)
by Martin L. Pall, The FASEB Journal, 2002

Elevated Nitric Oxide/Peroxynitrite Theory of Multiple Chemical Sensitivity: Central Role of N-Methyl-D-Aspartate Receptors in the Sensitivity Mechanism
by Martin L. Pall, Environmental Health Perspectives, September 2003

The Vanilloid Receptor as a Putative Target of Diverse Chemicals in Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (abstract)
by Julius H. Anderson and Martin L. Pall, Archives of Environmental Health, 2004


Book: Casualties of Progress : Personal Histories from the Chemically Sensitive
by Alison Johnson, ed.

The personal stories collected by Alison Johnson demonstrate the course of chemical injury: exposures to solvents or pesticides, subsequent neurological problems, and increasing impairment with repeated exposures.

Environmental illness or MCS is often labeled "complex" and "mysterious" for purposes of obfuscation. Bruce and Barbara Small point out that it is the "simplest disease around," "subject to simple and often dramatic experiment." They add that chemical sensitivity is a natural consequence of society's overuse of synthetic chemicals, an overuse difficult to explain except in terms of addiction.

Sunnyhill: The Health Story of the 80's
by Bruce and Barbara Small


The Chemical Sensitivity Foundation
"The primary goal of the Chemical Sensitivity Foundation, a 501(c)3 nonprofit corporation, is to raise public awareness about multiple chemical sensitivity."

Environmental Illness Network Minnesota
"Environmental Illness Network Minnesota is a community where environmentally sensitive Minnesotans, and those who care about them, can come together to find less-toxic and less immunologically stressful alternatives."

The Environmental Illness Resource
"Information and community resources for sufferers of CFS, fibromyalgia, multiple chemical sensitivity, allergies, Candida, and related conditions. Includes regular news, research updates, doctor-authored articles, forums, book and product reviews and much more."

Environmental Health Association of Nova Scotia
"Information about environmental illness, multiple chemical sensitivity and less toxic living. The Environmental Health Association of Nova Scotia is a volunteer, non-profit organization founded in 1985."

HEAL of Southern Arizona
"Chemical Sensitivity Support Group. HEALSoAZ has been helping members learn how to cope with MCS since 1983, in addition to educating the public about MCS and the health effects of chemicals. We are a chapter of the Human Ecology Action League and welcome new members."

MCS Friends
"MCS Friends Mission Statement:
1. Provide social support and helpful information about MCS (multiple chemical sensitivities)
2. Educate others about MCS
3. Help people find ways to cope with the problems caused by MCS"

Rocky Mountain Environmental Health Association
"The Rocky Mountain Environmental Health Association is a support group for people with chemical sensitivities. We provide a starting point for information and resources about Environmental Illness (EI), Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS), Environmental Medicine, Sick Building Syndrome (SBS), Gulf War Syndrome (GWS), and other related environmentally aggravated health conditions."

Updated 11/12/2018