Recently, there was a naming bill introduced into the Ohio Senate to officially name a month of the year the “Multiple Chemical Sensitivity Syndrome Awareness Month.” Fortunately through some legislative legerdemain that I don’t understand, this bill was put on hold. However, as I understand it was done in such a way that may allow for it to come up again. As a result, I think it worthwhile to explore the whole concept of Multiple Chemical Sensitivity Syndrome (MCS).
When someone is diagnosed with “Multiple chemical sensitivities syndrome,” life changes radically. Dr Ronald E. Gots, executive director of Environmental Sensitivities Research Institute in Rockville, Maryland, a clearinghouse for scientific data, notes that “the diagnosis of MCS begins a downward spiral of fruitless treatments, culminating in withdrawal from society and condemning the sufferer to a life of misery and disability. This is a phenomenon in which the diagnosis is far more disabling than the symptoms.”
• One woman “hangs her mail on a clothesline for weeks before reading it, to allow the toxins in the ink to dissipate.”What exactly are the symptoms? According to one MCS supporter, “the illness can cause all the symptoms of every disease or disorder known [in] psychology, psychiatry, and the general medical profession.” One group studying the claims made by those who support the existence of this affliction listed the following symptoms:
• Another woman tried living in a six-by-nine-foot porcelain hut, but now just spends almost all her time on her porch, no matter how cold it gets.
• Yet another wears a protective mask while shopping but still develops breathlessness, palpitations, and vomiting when she smells gasoline fumes.
sneezing, itching, twitching, numbness, difficulty swallowing, hoarseness, earache, chest pain, easy bruising, high or low blood pressure, sore muscles, cramps, eczema, heavy eyes, blurred vision, dyslexia, frequent urination, genital itching, PMS, backache, nausea, belching, constipation, hunger, thirst, headaches, apathy, forgetfulness, insomnia, IQ drop, depression, bitter or sweet slime in mouth, heat sensitivity, cold sensitivity, stiffness, swelling, neck pain, anxiety attacks, agitation, liver pain, hair loss, premature gray hair, brain fog, and genital sweating.The paper went on to say, “Unfortunately this is not a complete list of symptoms.” If you haven’t suffered at least a dozen of the listed symptoms in the past year, you’re probably an android.
Apparently, there is no limit to the number of symptoms. If the number of symptoms are unlimited; what about the causes? The sky is the limit for causes also! Virtually anything and everything is claimed to be sources of causation.
“formaldehyde (found in furniture glue, particle board, and synthetic carpeting, pesticides, solvents, acrylic resins, mercury compounds, polyester, latex, gasoline, glues, paints, detergents and other cleaners, tobacco smoke, perfumes, newspaper print, hair cream, oral contraceptives, dry-cleaning solvents, and bleach. But the etiology of MCS goes beyond synthetic agents. It is claimed that MCS can be caused by viruses, molds, bacteria, and pollens.”According to Herman Staudenmayer, a Denver psychologist and MCS skeptic, “There’s no chemical that is safe. There’s no food that is safe.” Gots went on to explain how MCS can become ‘trendy'. “Support groups are contagious. They tell everybody what all the things are that give them symptoms, and that’s a contagious thing to do.”
This is an incurable affliction because it cannot be defined by the treatment. Let me explain. If I claim to have a sore throat and the doctor gives me an antibiotic, and the antibiotic works, then I had a sore throat. And the “cure” proves it is a sore throat because it works. “MCS is not considered a curable disease, and the treatments are as diverse as the symptoms and causes.” Those who claim to have MCS are probably more afflicted by the cures than the symptoms. There are about 400 believing practitioners providing services…unending services…to those who claim to be afflicted with this ailment. What do they do?
• One Maryland physician “prescribes a combination of the drugs phentermine and fenfluramine for MCS, which are actually weight loss drugs in the amphetamine family.
• One doctor prescribes a “macrobiotic diet – based on grains and vegetables, free of wheat and dairy products,” making the claim that “it works by detoxifying the body, especially critical in today’s toxin-ridden world.”
• “Another clinical ecologist reportedly agrees with the macrobiotic diet but also recommends avoiding tap water, caffeine, and alcohol. He tells MCS sufferers to rid their homes of toxic chemicals such as cleaners and pesticides, improve the ventilation system, and avoid all drugs, whether prescription or over the counter.”
• Saunas supposedly ‘sweat out toxins.’ “But you can’t sweat out a toxin, because the sweat glands aren’t connected to any of the organs that process toxins.”
• “Other treatments include coffee enemas, something called ‘salt-neutralization therapy,’ gamma globulin, interferon, vitamins, ginseng, and the patient’s urine (as a beverage or injection).”
• This is the one I find most fascinating! “A Sacramento-area specialist treats many of his patients with injections of ‘the north wind.’ He bubbles air through water, then injects the water as a ‘neutralizer.’ Why the north wind? Because many of his patients complain they feel worse when the wind blows from that direction.Does this give the impression of “witch doctoring,” versus real doctoring? Impossible to prove, yes, but also impossible to disprove. However, the most commonly used test for MCS is something called provocation-neutralization. When this test was subjected to real science in a double blind study it was found that “the subjects reported the same number of symptoms whether they received test agents or saline solution.” As one former believer in MCS, and a designer of the study noted; MCS “is not science.
So what is the problem with just having a naming bill? The American Medical Association (AMA) does not recognize this as a disease. In short the AMA believes that it doesn’t exist! But when the state decides that it wants to make society “aware” of this affliction; they are in point of fact saying it exists. If the state says it exists then it exists, science or lack there-in notwithstanding. So then if it exists, there must be a cause. If there is a cause, then the cause must be addressed. This really is the slippery slope that would ultimately be used by the activists to attempt to ban a host of things; especially pesticides. This bill could have become a nightmare for Ohio’s industry and economy as a whole.
It is unusual for a bill to be set aside in some fashion once it has hit the legislative floor. Fortunately the board of directors Ohio Applicator for Responsible Regulations (OPARR) became aware of the introduction of this bill and along with members of the OPMA board acted on this information. We can thank all those involved for their commitment and activism in behalf of our industry. We also need to recognize just how important OPARR is to our association and all of the application industries.
For source material and additional reading please go to;
Multiple Chemical Sensitivity: A Spurious Diagnosis
Multiple Chemical Sensitivity Syndrome, American Family Physician, September 1, 1998
Senseless Scent Patrol
Scents and Senselessness
Sick of It All
Nocebo Effect: Think Sick and You’ll Be Sick
NEW SYNDROME? OR MORE SILLINESS?
"Safety advocates who say that we shouldn't take chances, but should ban things that might be unsafe, don't seem to understand that if we banned every food to which somebody had an allergy we could all starve to death." - Thomas Sowell