Task Force Seeking Definition for Multiple Chemical Sensitivity

A delegation from the Chemical Injury Information Network (CIIN) is in Washington this week, meeting with Congressional representatives in an effort to create a definitive definition of multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS).

Cynthia Wilson, who is executive director of CIIN, and John Wilson, its president, are meeting with representatives for senators Christopher Bond (R-Mo.), Max Baucus (D-Mont.), Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) and Zell Miller (D-Ga.), all of whom serve on relevant committees. According to CIIN, MCS affects approximately 15 percent of the population, 3 to 4 percent so severely that lifestyle changes are mandatory for survival, and thousands have been placed on permanent or long-term disability.

"Since 1991, government agencies have maintained that a case definition must be issued for MCS before any serious research can be undertaken," said Wilson. "Three case definitions have been proposed, yet none have met with government acceptance."

According to experts, MCS can arise from long-term, low-level exposure, or short significant exposure. Symptoms, involving multiple organ systems, flare up with re-exposure and subside when exposure ceases. What begins as a reaction to one substance may soon include many and diverse chemicals, including personal products (perfume, hair spray, after-shave, deodorant, cologne, detergent and fabric softener), and environmental chemicals (air freshener, insecticide, paint and paint thinner, off-gasses from carpet, particle-board, furniture and construction supplies).

For a person with MCS, even low-level exposure can cause severe symptoms in multiple organ systems. Asthma, sinus and other respiratory problems, digestive disturbances, skin rashes, blood diseases, endocrine system disorders, neurological disorders and brain damage, reproductive problems, singly and in combination are among the documented symptoms.

"The report issued four years ago in 1998 by the government's own Interagency Workgroup on Multiple Chemical Sensitivity noted more than six times that MCS research and treatment are hampered by a lack of a case definition," Wilson continued. "They have five different surveys on MCS, conducted by reputable institutions, in Arizona, North Carolina, California, Georgia and New Mexico, which report consistent findings on chemical intolerance, including the percentages of people affected and the degree to which they are affected."

For information on the Chemical Injury Information Network or Multiple Chemical Sensitivity, call (406) 547-2255, e-mail [email protected] or visit //ciin.org.

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