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Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS)

Multiple Chemical Sensitivity




IT WAS MID-SUMMER and Rhonda had gloves on. "I have to wear gloves whenever I read," she explained. "The problem is, I'm a librarian."


A librarian with multiple chemical sensitivity; talk about a handicap.


"Newsprint is especially bad. The ink on the paper gives me rashes. Even the smell of an open book sets me off gasping, in hives, with a sore throat. And I can't wear gloves for the odors," she added. "And then there's the air conditioning; the smell of the carpet and cleaners; the water from the water fountain that I can't drink; foods in the cafeteria that I can't eat; the unending weakness and fatigue; the depression about it all. What can I do? Aside from live in a bubble, I mean."


Rhonda, a prematurely gray woman in her forties, had been unhappily coping for years. She did indeed wear gloves at work. She'd probably have worn a respirator if they'd let her. She was a mess and, of the very few doctors willing to consider her plight, none had helped her.


Multiple chemical sensitivity probably affects millions of Americans, but the medical profession is not doing any counting. MCS has been pretty much rejected as a legitimate illness. That's because "It may be the only ailment in existence in which the patient defines both the cause and the manifestations of his own condition." (Gots RE. Multiple chemical sensitivities: public policy [Editorial]. J Toxicol Clin Toxicol 1995; 33:111-3.)


Orthodox medicine generally regards people with MCS as sensitive, all right: sensitive in their heads. The stress, anxiety and depression that doctors equate with MCS may all be results of MCS. Certainly Rhonda fit the description.


But this was not all in her head. It was in her whole body. You had only to look at her, or listen, to appreciate her misery. She was able to function, but only with the greatest of daily efforts.


It shouldn't have to be that hard. And, I do not think it has to be. But then, I am not a physician.


So let's ask some.


At their website, the American Academy of Family Physicians offers polite, lukewarm compassion, but essentially regards MCS as a non-entity. (Multiple chemical sensitivity syndrome. Magill MK and Suruda A. American Family Physician, Sept 1, 1998 )


As evidence, the AAFP refers to statements such this one by the American Medical Association in 1992:


"No evidence based on well-controlled clinical trials is available that supports a cause-and-effect relationship between exposure to very low levels of substances and the myriad symptoms reported by clinical ecologists to result from such exposure."


The American Academy of Allergy and Immunology made a similar statement in 1986, and the American College of Physicians likewise in 1989.


But the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine's 1993 statement must really irk MCS suffers: "The science is indeterminate about MCS as a specific entity and the cause and effect relationships have not been clearly established."


So, as you might expect, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency concluded, in 1996, that "There is at present no medical consensus concerning the definition or nature of this disorder."


Interestingly enough, according to a 1995 statement by Sheila Bastien, Ph.D., a neuropsychologist who has served on the environmental illness advisory panels for the State of California and the U.S. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR):


"In 1988 workers of the EPA headquarters became ill when new carpets were installed and other remodeling took place. Some of the employees developed MCS. Some of these employees are still working at home, and many of them still have MCS or continuing illness. Some have not been able to go back to work." ( )


You have to love the irony there, don't you?


Actually, the American Academy of Family Physicians' website is probably the most supportive "official" medical website an MCS sufferer will come across. For instance, it lists some 30 common chemical exposures from air fresheners and asphalt to tile cleaners and varnish, all of which may "precipitate" MCS symptoms. But then, AAFP goes so far as to advise alleged MCS sufferers to avoid "unproven therapies" including "rotating diets" and "extreme avoidance of chemicals." In my opinion, behind this one may sense unwritten industry-friendly assumptions that chemicals are our friends, whether in your food or in your environment.


Does AAFP share mottoes with Alfred E. Newman? Chemicals? What, we worry? "Don't worry; be happy" was a hit popular song. Adorable. But "Strength through joy" was the motto of the Nazis, the least environmentally conscious administration imaginable.


I do not think anxiety or depression causes MCS; MCS may certainly cause anxiety or depression. Either way, I am quite certain that "putting on a happy face" is not the cure.


Instead, I suggest that you look at ducks.


Ducks don't get wet. They don't, you know, even though they wade and swim and dive in water. Sure, the duck's feathers will feel wet to the touch. But that's not the real ducky part. The duck's skin and body stays nice and dry. When they preen themselves, ducks keep their feathers oiled, and the oily feathers trap a layer of insulating air between them and the duck's skin. This also serves to keep the duck warm, even during their extended swims in Titanic-temperature freezing waters that would kill humans from hypothermia in a matter of minutes. Winter after winter, I've watched pairs of Mallards happily paddling around in the not-quite-completely-frozen waters of the Erie canal that flows near my home in upstate New York.


The duck can't change its environment, so it fortifies itself against it. Whether it is fur on a polar bear or blubber on a walrus, animals are remarkably tolerant of their surroundings. I mean, what choice have they?


In my opinion, people with multiple chemical sensitivity have no practical choice, either. Certainly, reducing environmental pollution and ones exposure to known irritants has my complete support. But we live in a strikingly imperfect world, not in a bubble, and that is the way it is likely to stay until we make our governments change it. We, like ducks, do well when we strengthen our personal defenses against a hostile environment.


I am no friend of the toxic chemical industry, as those who have been following my involvement with the battle against the Diaz Chemical Corporation will instantly bear witness to. ( ; scroll down the page for the background information on this issue. Incidentally, I was sued for libel by the chemical company; they dropped the case as soon as it got to a judge. Then the U.S. Department of Justice, which includes the FBI, went after them.)


But I digress.


My take on multiple chemical sensitivity is, in essence, not of chemical isolation but of nutritional insulation. Until we have cleaned up the world, you had better toughen up your body. Here's a fast-working approach that is worth a fair therapeutic trial: saturation of vitamin C.


At least that's what Rhonda did. She was in a real hurry to feel better, and got to bowel-tolerance saturation in a day. In fact, in a single morning. After taking nearly 50,000 mg of vitamin C in the hours before noon, she left the library and went out for a lunchtime walk. Saturation hit at that very moment. Into a nearby rest room . . .


Look, my job is to tell you what works. Why does mega-C dosing work? Several reasons come to mind.


One: Vitamin C is an antitoxin. ( 

and )


Two: Vitamin C is an antihistamine.

(  and )


Three: Vitamin C is an antidepressant.

( )


After this episode, Rhonda was a new woman.


"The very moment I reached bowel tolerance of vitamin C," Rhonda told me afterwards, "I had a rush of energy and a huge upswing in my mood. It was as if I'd turned on a light in a dark room. It was amazing, truly like night and day."


You should have heard her "new Rhonda" voice. It was light and bubbly and filled with vitality. The woman was a changed person. She had drive. She had confidence. Most of all, she had bare hands.


"Nuts to the gloves," Rhonda said. "From now on, I'm taking my C, and plenty of it."



Copyright  C  2009, 2004 and prior years Andrew W. Saul. 

Andrew Saul is the author of the books FIRE YOUR DOCTOR! How to be Independently Healthy (reader reviews at ) and DOCTOR YOURSELF: Natural Healing that Works. (reviewed at )

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Andrew W. Saul


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