Can healthcare do better for people with multiple chemical sensitivities?

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  1. Arthur Leznoff MD. FRCP(C)

    The existing “Taskforce ” on MCS, fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue is flawed. The Canadian society of allergy &clinical Immunology has sent letters about this “taskforce” If a new panel will be considering MCS, I am willing to serve on the panel.I am considered (by orthodox,evidence based medicine) to be expert in “MCS”
    Arthur Leznoff MD, FRCP(C)

  2. Varda Burstyn

    I really welcome this article, and its encouragement of healthy debate on the broad but incredibly neglected issue of MCS. Many thanks to the authors.

    Unfortunately, the historic failure of allergy and immunology to understand and develop treatment modalities to assist patients with MCS has been a big part of the problem, especially here in Canada. Dr. Leznoff’s reference to ‘orthodox, evidence based medicine’ may have right with respect to ‘orthodoxy’ but not to ‘evidence based.’ That discussion will need a longer space than is available here.

    In the United States, a significant number of allergists have added more effective approaches to their practices by becoming expert in the field of environmental medicine, about which more can be learned from the American Academy of Environmental Medicine Denial of real disorders and refusal to expand knowledge has left hundreds of thousands of Canadians and their families without help.

    To see the types of diagnostic and treatment modalities that are available south of the border, and that should be made available here, visit a clinic that has helped 40,000 patients over many years (including me, 9/11 first responders, Exxon Valdes and Deepwater Horizon victims and many others):

    The same attitude of denial also sustains the general use (and the non-regulation) of many toxic ‘everyday chemicals’ that are harming everyone’s health in serious ways over time. There is a huge literature on this subject by now, but those not yet familiar with this reality can certainly get a good start by visiting

    We need to develop strong public health standards for chemicals in daily use – from building materials to baby toys, from furniture to cosmetics – that protect everyone’s health. This will create a much safer environment for those with MCS too, reducing their disability by improving air quality and creating safe spaces for all. And we need to modernize the practice of medicine here, not retrench and look backwards.

    As far as CBT is concerned, MCS refers to symptoms – but not to cause or severity. In case of low toxicity, absence of pernicious infections and other biophysicial problems, some form of ‘amygdala retraining’ may be helpful. And it should be provided where it can help. But it cannot – and does not – resolve MCS when other important biophysical factors are part of the clinical picture. So it cannot responsibly be advanced as a cure for all, or even most, people with MCS.

  3. Varda Burstyn

    Just clicking on the links here and noticed that the research cited is out of date, unrepresentative and limited. Instead, check out

    Chronic, Complex Conditions: Academic and Clinical Perspectives, John Molot, MD, FRCFP, 2013. This document presents current thinking by physicians and researchers, and recommendations for clinical services.


  4. Tina

    All I can say is that I have FM and MCS and a handful of autoimmune syndromes. When you are disabled by a migraine like headache and can’t function with vomiting all you can do is curl up in a ball waiting in the ER for half a day for treatment, I know it isn’t in my head or can be cured with therapy. I work hard and succeed in spite of my disability and because it is invisible suffer stigma from others that think it is in my head or I am a malingerer. If either of those were true I wouldn’t have put myself through university 3 times.


    Lack of adequate coverage makes it difficult for people to get the health care they need and, when they do get care, burdens them with large medical bills. Current policy efforts focus on the provision of insurance coverage as the principal means of ensuring access to health care among the general population. Other factors, described below, may be equally important to removing barriers to access and utilization of services.

  6. julie mellum

    One cause of multiple chemical sensitivities is the liver’s losing its detoxifying function–and this is due to overexposure to scented products and wood smoke. Either chronic exposure or short term intense exposures are the culprits that can cause the immune system to malfunction.
    It is essential for public schools to restrict fragrance use, because chemical sensitivities, asthma and other environment-based disabilities such as autism are skyrocketing.
    See Facebook page, “Go Fragrance Free” for more information.

  7. HR Lightbown

    This article is highly biassed, error-filled and dated. I’m surprised that such supposedly skilled & experienced staff writers would stoop to such slapdash methods.

    1) When there’s an official government body in the story, you give the full official name — and its mandate. At the very least, a token quote from the Chair. But, here — the reader gets nothing. We see the word “panel” and, later, “taskforce” in the comments — clearly, none of the writers bothered to check. A rookie move.

    2) Some of the basic medical jargon is wrong. MCS is a condition — not “a disorder” which was used in this article, a term that is overused in the mental health field. The word “disorder” signals the subtext for the entire article: MCS patients are crazy. Why else would the ONLY treatment option discussed be anti-anxiety drugs? Not-so-subtle bias.

    3) With the focus on allergists and their narrow perspective, the bias becomes more obvious. MCS can have a constellation of symptons — NONE of which is uncontrolled sneezing or runny nose and eyes, the core signal for an allergic reaction. Uncontrolled coughing, yes; sneezing, no. Only in those patients who ALSO have conventional allergies. The S in MCS is for sensitivity, because it’s not allergy. Which begs the question, then, who decided that allergy would be the thrust of the article? Wrong-headed from the outset.

    4) More bias shows in the way the writers cherry-picked through current research to find a psychological “review” from 10 years ago. Biassed and out of date.

  8. TINA

    I have currently been having these symptoms and talked with my doctor about it. Along with what had always bothered me in the past and how my body reacted.
    It has become overwhelming now and has made it very difficult for me.
    I have to watch what triggers my symptoms and keep track of them now.
    Found out in all this. That my cousin has been battling with MCS.
    So here I am researching and looking for help with all this.
    This MCS is not fun at all!!!!!

  9. KSpencer

    There are chemicals in our water that are worsening the symptoms of MCS, and first among them is fluoride. Fluoride also causes or worsens the symptoms of arthritis, Crohn’s disease, fibromyalgia, eczema, etc. yet because it gets into our food through both water and fluoridated pesticides, not to mention dental products and medicines, essentially every American consumes it daily…… See

  10. Sharon Nordick

    I suffer from MCS in Saskatchewan and work for the Health Region. I cannot find trained medical personnel to help me. I am once again jumping through hoops to try to stay employed with the Health Region. WCB and Disability insist on medical but without a doctor who understands MCS it is a constant cyclical problem.

  11. Monique Hebert

    OMG please help me! I’m suffering so much because I am multiple chemical sensitive with severe fibromyalgia and it feels like I’m being poisoned! Help!

  12. Ian Hodgson PhD

    Genetic studies of people with MCS show key SNPs involved. They are not specific to the condition but any intelligent physician can see from these that this person must be physiologically unwell. To think that the illness is psychogenic is malpractice or at very least not evidence based medicine. Medicine has developed a very very bad habit of psychologizing when clear singular markers are not available. It is iatrogenic to label such cases psychogenic. The damage done by this inexcusable act must be avoided but habits, medical habits are indeed strong and hard to break.

  13. Douglas Burns

    In May 2017 I lost for the fifth and final time to the Workers’ Compensation Board. It went on for eight years before the Tribunal (one person) decided against my claim for compensation. I was told by the Workers Advisory Lawyer that neither WCB or the Tribunal don’t recognize MCS. I was a janitor for 25 years and I became very sensitive to the cleaning products that I was using at my work. In 2005 I was diagnosed with MCS at the ICCS in Fall River in Nova Scotia. I had to leave my job in 2009 due to this illness. When it comes right down to the it, a person loses their income, medical coverage, family and more importantly their health. MCS makes it hard to live because you have to be aware of your surroundings all the time. Thank you for all you do.

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