By and large, it would be true and fair to say that multiple chemical sensitivity, however caused, is inextricably linked to the prevalence of modern, synthetic TOXIC chemicals. These toxic chemicals are all around us. Even if a Physical initialization or one due to a Natural material (eg. wood dust ), was the origin of the problem, cross-reactions (generalization), as discussed previously will usually or often mean that the multiple chemical sensitivity sufferer will become sensitive to a breadth of toxic synthetic chemicals which are difficult if not impossible to avoid in a modern setting. It is often the case that for the average “healthy” individual , the toxic chemical in question poses no significant health risk but that to the multiple chemical sensitivity sufferer, that same “dose” of chemical can cause all manner of unpleasant or even dangerous symptoms.
The healthy individual is not affected because –
they are not allergic or sensitized to that toxin
the toxin is present at a sufficiently low level so as not to cause the normal toxic reaction that would be experienced by all.
they are exposed to the toxin for a period of time which is so short as not to produce any symptoms.
The multiple chemical sensitivity sufferer, by contrast, will often react severely to a very brief exposure of an extremely low level of excitant (trigger) – [ parts per million / pp billion]. As well as a predisposition to allergy and multiple chemical sensitivity on the part of the sufferer, there is also the nature of the toxin itself to be taken into account, as some chemicals and materials have an inherent tendency to sensitize, whilst others are essentially inert.
Relatively inert materials include, for example, Sand, silica, gold, titanium, water, chalk, etc.
Those with a moderate tendency to cause allergy / sensitization may include, for example, Soya products, wood dust, nickel, latex, strawberries,etc.
Those which show a pronounced tendency to sensitize include: Formaldehyde, isocyanates, epoxy resins, peanuts, shellfish, sulphur dioxide, etc.
Even this last group of materials will not cause problems for everyone, but for those who ARE sensitized, exposure – in whatever form – could be very serious or even fatal. Some of these toxic or highly toxic chemicals are very useful from a commercial viewpoint to many diverse industries because of some unique or unusual properties that they may possess – some are cheap, some are easy to use, etc. One such chemical is formaldehyde, which has very many uses & is present to some extent in virtually every modern day built setting ( home, office, hospital, school, etc) – and in the car / motor vehicle. This is because formaldehyde is cheap & has very many uses including – cavity wall insulation, MDF, (medium density fibreboard), plywood, fabric & carpet treatments, bodycare products ( shampoo, toothpaste, etc), glues, paints, plastic mouldings, electrical appliances & components etc. Once a sufferer is sensitized to an excitant such as formaldehyde, subsequent exposure to even Parts Per Billion can bring about severe symptoms, typically breathlessness, flushing, stinging eyes & throat, rashes etc. Although a number of remedies & treatments may be appropriate & effective, for the multiple chemical sensitivity sufferer, the most important issue is avoidance of that trigger. Very often, the process of trying to pin down exactly which materials are problematic for you is difficult due to the previously discussed feature of multiple chemical sensitivity of “spreading”. For this reason, it is important for the multiple chemical sensitivity sufferer to avoid as much pollution & toxic exposure as possible – in the home, in the car, in the office or place of work & throughout their daily lives.
At work: you can –
explain your problems to your employer
tactfully request that colleagues be aware of your problems & if at all possible, avoid smoking & the use of perfumes whilst around you
you can request that your workstation / office is sited well away from common sources of pollution, such as photocopiers, fax, printers, etc
if you have access to opening windows, make use of these when practicable to ensure fresh air.
At home: you can do much more and should aim to rid your home as far as is reasonably possible of all pollutants.
Remember – avoidance is the key.
In many ways, this is not too difficult to achieve – for example, buying different consumer products with lower pollutants or no pollutant levels – ( see our links for suppliers) – will help considerably. Other aspects of pollutant reduction are much more difficult – though not impossible – to achieve ( such as the removal of all MDF, melamine, ply, chipboard, fabric treatments, etc). The best advice that the multiple chemical sensitivity sufferer can be given & which is repeated here, is that if you cannot completely eradicate pollutants from your entire home, then to create a clean “oasis” within your home : although ideally this would include the entire home, if this is not practicable, then the next best option is to create one or two “clean” rooms within the home – ideally, those rooms where you spend most of your time – probably your bedroom and living room. The fact that you have the ability, in times of difficulty, to retire to your own special “haven” of cleanliness & purity has benefits both physical & psychological – a genuinely safe area to spend time & recuperate – a retreat from the polluted world outside.