I'm not a big fan of the term "multiple chemical sensitivity." It sounds like we get our feelings hurt easily. Or we overreact to people and places. As if it's all in our heads. Recently Chris took a trip to West Virginia. It took him 3 hotel rooms and 2 rental cars to be able to function. This is far from an imagined illness.
Dr. Mark Donohoe, an Australian doctor specializing in environmental medicine, offers the following definition in his article Multiple Chemical Sensitivity: A Medical Perspective:
"Multiple Chemical Sensitivities (MCS) is an acquired condition in which the sufferer becomes sensitised or abnormally reactive to volatile chemicals following prolonged, recurrent or high dose exposure to volatile chemicals. The most distinctive symptom is 'cacosmia,' or a heightened sensitivity and lowered threshold to odours that most of the population find inoffensive or would not notice."
(It's important to note that toxic mold gives off volatile organic compounds. These constitute the "musty" smell.)
Dr. Donohoe goes on to say, "Specific tests such as Auditory Evoked Response Potential (AERP) testing and SPECT brain scans have shown significant changes in people suffering Multiple chemical sensitivities, and these changes are consistent with neurotoxic brain damage."
This is why I might prefer the term NBI or Neurotoxic Brain Injury rather than MCS.
A friend of mine recently sent me the following list of accommodations an organization might make in order to help those of us with MCS (NBI). As one who struggles with church attendance largely due to fragrances, a church that adopted these policies would be a breath of fresh air.
· Choose personal products that are fragrance-free. Be aware that there are hidden, long-lasting fragrances in detergents, fabric softeners, new clothing, deodorants, tissues, toilet paper, potpourris, scented candles, hair sprays, magazines, hand lotions, disposable diapers, and dishwashing liquids.
· Use only unscented soap in restrooms, and carefully wrap and dispose of chemical air "fresheners."
· Designate fragrance-free seating sections for church and community events.
· Designate smoking areas away from buildings so people don't have to pass through smoke when entering, or have smoke waft in through doorways or windows.
· Adopt a policy of using fragrance-free cleaning products.
· Provide adequate ventilation; clean furnace filters frequently.
· Make sure toxic substances are labeled, tightly sealed, and stored in a separate safe area.
· Post herbicide or insecticide application schedule in your newsletter. Post signs of treatment dates prominently. Use integrated pest management practices.
· Avoid wearing scented personal care products in public places. Improve indoor air quality simply by not wearing fragrance. Fragrance, like second-hand smoke, affects the health of those around you.
· Unscented beeswax candles are often well-tolerated by people with sensitivities. Use them as an alternative to scented or paraffin candles.
· Learn what an individual is sensitive/allergic to and make accommodations respectfully.