Multiple chemical sensitivity (“MCS”) is a descriptive diagnosis that is used when patients have nonspecific re-activity to chemical irritants such as chemical odors and fumes. The nature of the irritant/trigger is not related to particulate matter. It is, however, related to the chemical nature, i.e. fumes or odor of the trigger itself. Individuals with MCS can have symptoms from chemical exposures at concentrations far below the levels tolerated by most people. Symptoms are generally reproducible with repeated exposures but not quantifiable. Symptoms of MCS may include:
- Asthma or other breathing problems
- Bloating or other intestinal problems
- Chronic exhaustion
- Fatigue and depression
- Food allergies and intolerances
- Shortness of breath
- Pruritus (either generalized or in areas of contact with the skin)
Common MCS triggers include anesthesia, detergents, perfumes, fragrances, prescribed medications, smoke from tobacco products, solvents from dry cleaning, pesticides, building materials, new carpets, cleaning products, and artificial colors, flavors, and preservatives in foods, drinks and drugs.
Diagnosis of MCS relies entirely on the patient’s report, unfortunately, as there are no valid objective tests available for this syndrome. MCS may be defined according to six criteria including: (1) The symptoms are reproducible with repeated [chemical] exposure; (2) The condition is chronic; (3) Low levels of exposure [lower than previously or commonly tolerated] result in manifestations of the syndrome; (4) The symptoms improve or resolve when the incitants are removed; (5) Responses occur to multiple chemically unrelated substances; and (6) Symptoms involve multiple organ systems.
There is no specific treatment for MCS – the only effective measure is to avoid exposure to each patient’s triggers. This often involves strict avoidance of perfumes and colognes in the workplace. The nature of environmental sensitivities makes it difficult to reliably predict which specific chemicals may be triggers. There is an observable phenomenon, known as “spreading,” which implies that the symptoms are likely to be triggered by a growing number of environmental triggers over time. In terms of environmental control, separation from the triggers is ideal. Avoiding exposures that may trigger reactions is essential, and may permit dramatic improvement. Yet the large numbers of new and untested synthetic chemicals we encounter in our daily lives makes this extremely difficult. Individuals affected by MCS have created “sanctuaries” relatively free from chemical emissions. People often spend as much time at home as possible and often cannot participate fully in society. There is no cure for MCS.
Like other subjective conditions involving pain or fatigue, an application for LTD benefits regarding MCS is often denied for lack of objective evidence. However, with proper documentation of the claimant’s functionality such claims can be successful. Contact our Milwaukee Chemical Sensitivity Disability Lawyers for Free Consultation.