MCS–Possible Causes and Problem Chemicals

From my study of MCS, particularly the well-researched book Amputated Lives, a number of possible causes–or at least “last straw events”–of Toxic Injury/Multiple Chemical Sensitivity stand out. They include:

  • pesticides, particularly when they are misused
  • a “sick building” (build-up of chemicals from accidents or hazardous materials including workplace chemicals used in manufacturing products, gas or propane leak)
  • indoor mold, especially stachybotrys (toxic “black mold”)
  • building or home renovations with products which off-gas a tremendous amount of Volatile Organic Compounds, implicated in many health problems
  • Gulf War Syndrome (chemicals/environmental problems encountered during the Gulf War)
  • Valdez Oil Spill clean-up (direct contact with oil)
  • 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center  (The burning of all kinds of man-made materials created a huge amount of air-borne chemicals in one place. If you look at the Material Safety Data Sheets, almost all of them list a higher toxicity if the material is burned.)

Some people do not know how they got MCS.  There is evidence that lower amounts of chemicals over a long period of time can trigger it, although I suspect in these cases, hidden mold is probably a factor. Some of the worst molds are the kind that like to hide within walls.

For me, the simplest way to put it is that there are only five “man-made/harnessed” substances I seem to do really well with: glass, ceramic, organic cotton, wool, and metals (aluminum NOT for food or clothes or touching, though). Of course I can tolerate smaller amounts of synthetics (or I wouldn’t be typing on this plastic computer!  LOL)

Castile soap is the only soap I have found to be truly chemical-free.  There is a shampoo that looks good, too, that I have not tried yet.

This is a list of chemicals/substances commonly reported to cause symptoms once a person has developed MCS (with some alternatives listed as well for your convenience):

  • perfume
  • cologne
  • scented candles
  • paraffin–This is wax from petroleum. Really icky when you think about it.
  • air fresheners-“air  poisoners” I call them
  • other scents
  • fabric softeners
  • laundry detergents (We alternate vinegar & baking soda.)
  • lotions, hand cream, sunscreen, etc.  (A friend made us some wonderful beeswax-based lotion.  We use hats, umbrellas, shade, long sleeves, etc. instead of sunscreen.)
  • shampoos  (We use castile soap and sometimes vinegar rinse.)
  • soaps  (We use castile soap.)
  • hand sanitizers
  • tar, asphalt shingles, & related products
  • sealants, caulk  (Safer products can be found.)
  • carpet, carpet pads (Ceramic tile apparently is by FAR the best and the most inert flooring.  But avoid Microban, lead, and other toxic glazes.)
  • laminate flooring
  • paneling
  • paint (Plain plaster with no additives is better.)
  • stain
  • varnish
  • particle board, pressed wood products–largely because of the glues used
  • insulation
  • foam
  • flame retardant chemicals–in furniture, etc.
  • stain-resistant chemicals–in furniture, carpet, etc.
  • solvents
  • vinyl
  • plastics of all types  (You can imagine how many products this affects!!!  We found a washing machine with a metal tub, but it had a “new plastic” smell that made me sick if I went into the room with it running.  It did not seem to negatively affect our clothes, though.  We still use plastic bags, though we are trying to move more and more to glass jars.  For trash, we hardly use bags in the house anymore. Zip top bags seem to be better than garbage bags.)
  • inks, particularly newspaper ink and colored inks in books
  • synthetic fabrics
  • propane, natural gas, burning oil
  • charcoal, wood, leaf, or other burning
  • cigarette smoke
  • household cleaners and other household chemicals
  • bleach  (We use a filter on our shower which helps some with the city’s “bleach” treatment in the water.  Obviously, one can’t drink bacteria-contaminated water!  🙂 )
  • all kinds of pesticides, herbicides, and insecticides (sadly sometimes even “natural” pesticides)
  • antimicrobials, including Microban, antibacterial soap, Norwex-type microfiber with antimicrobials in it, antifungals in paint and other products
  • mold, both indoor and outdoor, all kinds (not just the most toxic kinds)

Some people with MCS also have electromagnetic field (EMF) sensitivities. 

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