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Chronic Neuroimmune Diseases
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Last updated January 1, 2014

Chemical Sensivities


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Telling a person with MCS that there is "only a little fragrance" is like telling someone in a wheel chair that "there are only a few steps."

Any barrier that prevents access - or precludes the ability to choose to access - is a barrier.

Forcibly exposing a chemically sensitive person to the fragrances and chemicals they are reactive to is no different than physically assaulting them.

Chemical sensitivities is also known as multiple chemical sensitivities (MCS), chemical injury or illness (CI) and environmental illness (EI).

"...Agents whose exposures are associated with symptoms and suspected of causing onset of chemical sensitivity with chronic illness include gasoline, kerosene, natural gas, pesticides (especially chlordane and chlorpyrifos), solvents, new carpet and other renovation materials, adhesives/glues, fiberglass, carbonless copy paper, fabric softener, formaldehyde and glutaraldehyde, carpet shampoos (lauryl sulfate) and other cleaning agents, isocyanates, combustion products (poorly vented gas heaters, overheated batteries), and medications (dinitrochlorobenzene for warts, intranasally packed neosynephrine, prolonged antibiotics, and general anesthesia with petrochemicals). Multiple mechanisms of chemical injury that magnify response to exposures in chemically sensitive patients can include neurogenic inflammation (respiratory, gastrointestinal, genitourinary), kindling and time-dependent sensitization (neurologic), impaired porphyrin metabolism (multiple organs), and immune activation. "

From the abstract of Profile of Patients with Chemical Injury and Sensitivity, Environmental Health Perspectives, 1997, volume 105 (Suppl 2), pages 417-436. Based on a paper presented at the Conference on Experimental Approaches to Chemical Sensitivity held 20-22 September 1995 in Princeton, New Jersey. Grace Ziem MD, Baltimore MD.


Page Index:
Anesthesia and Surgery
Cosmetics and Personal Care Products
Fragrances and Health
Latex and Vinyl Allergy
Multiple Chemical Sensitivity
Occupational and Environmental Illness
Sick Building Syndrome
Federal Agencies on MCS/SBS
Additional Information
MCS & Travel
Housing and Healthy Building Resources


In the News
May 2003: Wife Arrested in Aroma Assault
February 2000: Court barred for allergy evidence

Journal Articles

"The conclusion is that symptoms suggesting hyperreactivity of the respiratory tract and asthma can be provoked by perfume without the presence of bronchial obstruction, and that using a carbon filter mask has no preventive effect. The symptoms are not transmitted via the olfactory nerve, since the patients could not smell the perfume, but they may have been induced by a trigeminal reflex via the respiratory tract or by the eyes." - excerpt from the Placebo-controlled... study published in Allergy in 1996

Chloroatranol, an extremely potent allergen hidden in perfumes: a dose-response elicitation study. Contact Dermatitis 2003
Occupational acute anaphylactic reaction to assault by perfume spray in the face. J Am Board Fam Prac 2001
**Intradermal testing for food and chemical sensitivities: a double-blind controlled study. J Allergy Clin Immunol 1999
Placebo-controlled challenges with perfume in patients with asthma-like symptoms. Allergy 1996
Inhalation challenge effects of perfume scent strips in patients with asthma. Ann Allergy Asthma Immunol 1995
Rhinolaryngoscopic examination of patients with the multiple chemical sensitivity syndrome. Arch Environ Health 1993
Chemical sensitivity in physicians. Bol Asoc Med P R. 1991
Confirmation of chemical sensitivity by means of double-blind inhalant challenge of toxic volatile chemicals. Bol Asoc Med P R. 1991

** Note: I had a wheal from the saline control scratch when allergy tested in the 1980s and again in the 1990s. The latter allergist called his staff in to see the wheals all over my forearms from all the tests done. He said I was highly dermatographic - Dermatographia urticaria, afflicting only 3-4% of the population, results in raised reddened welts in response to the skin being rubbed even with dull objects. I found my dermatographia lessened considerably after the first round of treatments for Borrelia (Lyme disease) in 2000. My sensitivity--adverse reactions to exposures to fragrances and other chemicals--lessened as well, something reported by most people who have been sick for years with chronic borreliosis who are finally properly diagnosed and apporpriately treated.

 Cosmetics and Personal Care Products
Cosmetic Labeling
Cosmetic Products and Ingredients
Products Generally Tolerated by Most Persons with MCS
Skin Deep Integrated Cosmetics Database


Fragrances and Health
Chemicals in Air Fresheners May Reduce Lung Function
Dying For That New Car Smell?
Essential Oils
Fragrances and Health
Fragranced Products Information Network (FPIN)
Is A Fragrance Free Workplace Right For You?
Is Your Workplace Fragrance-Free?
Smelling Good May Cost Too Much

The following organizations may be useful in finding out more about how to convert your workplace to fragrance free:
Chemical Injury Information Network (CIIN)
Human Ecology Action League (HEAL)
MCS Referral & Resources (MCSRR)
National Safety Council


Latex Allergy Articles and Resources
Allergies To Rubber Affect 12.5 Percent Of Health Care Workers
Every Office Urged to Prevent Latex Allergy
Latex-Safe Emergency Cart Products List
MEDLINEplus Latex Allergy
Perioperative Management of the Latex-Allergic Patient
Not Necessarily Latex

Health Without Harm Phthalates
Phthalates: Your Soap May Be Hurting You
Common Pollutant Undermine Masculinity
National Toxicology Program Confirms Health Care Without Harm's Assertions About Vinyl Medical Products


Chemical Sensitivity: It's a serious problem more often than you think
Chemical Sensitivity in Patients with Fibromyalgia
Chemical Susceptibility, Injury, And Reactivity: Mechanisms and Measurement
Defining Multiple Chemical Sensitivity
Disrupting the Truth
Environmental Control Plan for Chemically Sensitive Patients (G. Ziem MD)
Management of Chemical Sensitivities in CFIDS
MCS: Center for Emergent Disability
MCS: Journal Abstracts
MCS: Potential Role for Neural Sensitization
MCS: What it is, what it is not and how it is manifested
Neuropsychological Approaches for the Detection and Evaluation of Toxic Symptoms
Pesticide Exposures: Symptoms, First Aid, Evidence, Legal
Potential Biomarker Found For MCS
Profile of Patients with Chemical Injury and Sensitivity
Sensitization as a mechanism for multiple chemical sensitivity
Testing the Neural Sensitization and Kindling Hypothesis for Illness from Low Levels of Environmental Chemicals
Toxicant-induced Loss of Tolerance--An Emerging Theory of Disease?
Under Seige


Occupational & Environmental Illness
Carbonless Copy Paper: A Major Cause of Work-Related Illness
Clinical and Immunological Responses in Subjects Sensitive to Solvents
Companies Dump Toxic Goods on U.S. Consumers
Disrupting the Truth
Environmental Health Perspectives
Heart Rate Variability Associated with Particulate Air Pollution
Household Products Database
Indoor Air Pollution: A Guide for Health Professionals
Pesticide Exposures: Symptoms, First Aid, Evidence, Legal
Proposed EPA Air Pollution Index Sends Mixed Message About Health Hazards
Study: Tiny Components of SoCal Haze Invade Human Cells
The Indoor Air We Breathe: Health Problem of the 90s (PDF)
Trade Secrets
Wheezing at Work


Burning Wood is a Stinky Idea
Why is Woodburning an Air Pollution Problem?
Wood Burners Could Be Banned (Sebastopol CA)
County limits new rural fireplaces

NOTICE: Bay Area Air Quality Management District is holding public hearings and workshops throughout the region for changes to the regulations regarding wood burning devices. You can attend in person, or send your comments in writing. Visit the BAAQMD site for information on dates and locations, report draft, etc., for November 7-26, 2007


Sick Building Syndrome
Remember: schools and homes are buildings, too
A Question of Access...
Are You a Victim of Sick Building Syndrome?
California Indoor Air Quality Program Infosheets
Chemical Translations
Chronic Neurotoxins: A Primer in Sick Building Syndrome
Companies Dump Toxic Goods on U.S. Consumers
EPA: Healthy Buildings, Health People, 21st Century
Housework Could Be Making Women Sick
Is your office killing you?
No Breathing in the Aisles: School Bus Exhaust
On the Carpet
Sick Building Syndrome: It's not the building that gets sick
Sick Building Syndrome: Victims of mysterial illness suffer from public ignorance
Source of Sick Buildings
Toxic Carpeting
Toxins in Burning Candles, Candle Wicks, and Incense


Federal Agencies on MCS and SBS
A Report on Multiple Chemical Sensitivity
Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry
CDC National Report on Human Exposure to Environmental Chemicals
Crabby Kathy
EPA Indoor Air Quality Publications At home, school, and work
MCS: A 1999 Consensus
MCS: Addendum to Biological Markers in Immunotoxicology

NIH Environmental Toxicology Program


Additional Information
American Bar Association Commission on Mental and Physical Disability Law
Chemical Body Burden (
Chemical Injury Awareness Ribbon
Chemical Injury Information Network
Chemicals That Can Cause Reactions
Chemical Translations
Dept of Justice/ADA Ruling on MCS-Related Cases
East Bay Pesticide Alert
Environmental Health Center (W. Rea MD)
Environmental Health Network
Global Recognition Campaign for Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (Great MCS brochure & signs)
Health and Environment Resource Center (HERC)
Injuries from Chemicals
Job Accommodation Network (JAN)
Mary's MCS Help Site
MCS Survivors
National Coalition for the Chemically Injured
State Codes Related To Wearing Masks
Testing Labs
Organizations for MCS


MCS & Travel
Remember that natural and green do not necessarily mean fragrance free, so be sure to ask questions before making reservations.

The Safer Directory
Green Hotels Association
Atlanta's Travel


Housing & Healthy Building Information
Building Materials
Chemical-Illnet Message Board
Creating an Environmentally-Friendly Building
EcoBuilding Resources
EcoHome Building
EPA Environmentally Preferable Purchasing
Healthy Housing Coalition
Housing Resources for MCS
Housing (CIIN)
Natural Home Products
Natural Pest Control
Environmental Scorecard
Tad Taylor's Healthy Homes


Judy Sanderson, a chemically sensitive biology teacher at Culver High School (Culver City CA), reported having been the victim of "fragrance assaults" by some of her students on more than 90 occasions from 1993-1997. In November 1997, she won some precedent-setting accommodations after a collective bargaining agreement was issued by arbitrator, Ronald Hoh (California State Mediation and Conciliation Service Case # 96-3-740). In this landmark decision, student pranksters caught dousing the teacher or her classroom with fragrance-based products will be punished as they would be for any other physical assault on an instructor. Further, the school was directed to install oscillating surveillance cameras both inside and outside of Ms. Sanderson's classroom to deter students from engaging in further assaults. - Irene Wilkenfeld, Safe Schools.


Graphic by Lynn Harrington.   

Look for additional information at Pubmed, MEDLINEplus, Medscape, Scirus, and Findarticles.

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