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What is MCS? (Multiple Chemical Sensivity)

Multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS) is also called "environmental illness" or "sick building syndrome." It refers to a variety of non-specific symptoms reported by some people after possible exposure to chemical, biologic, or physical agents. 

The symptoms people report are wide-ranging. They include:

  • headache
  • fatigue
  • dizziness
  • nausea
  • congestion
  • itching
  • sneezing
  • sore throat
  • chest pain
  • changes in heart rhythm
  • breathing problems
  • muscle pain or stiffness
  • skin rash
  • diarrhea
  • bloating
  • gas
  • confusion
  • trouble concentrating
  • memory problems
  • mood changes.

There is no question that high doses of some chemicals make people sick and that irritants such as pollution and cigarette smoke worsen conditions such as asthma. How very low levels of chemical exposure affect people isn't clear.
Studies show that women between the ages of 30 and 50 are more likely to develop the symptoms. The reason for that isn't known.
Some experts suggest that it is an immune response similar to allergies. Others say that the symptoms stem from an extreme sensitivity to certain smells. It's possible that conditions such as depression and anxiety play a role, too.

How Is MCS Diagnosed and Treated?

There are no reliable tests to help diagnose MCS, and there are no effective or proven treatments. However we can test for multiple chemicals in the home or work places that may help the patient figure out where the problem is coming from.