MCS/ES (multiple chemical sensitivities / environmental sensitivities) is a disability recognized by the Canadian and Ontario Human Rights Codes. There are over a million people with doctor diagnosed MCS in Canada, and so many more all around the world.
In the US, the latest prevalence study found that “among the population, 12.8% report medically diagnosed MCS and 25.9% report chemical sensitivity.”
The term ‘sensitivities’ seems to trivialize the condition in many people’s minds.
You may wonder what’s it really like then, if it’s not trivial?
Here’s how Laura J Mac describes it:
Having MCS means never knowing when you can manage something as simple as making toast.
• Can’t stand up due to pain.
• Can’t figure out all the steps involved to make toast. #execfun
• Can’t muster the strength required to pull 2 pieces of bread off the frozen loaf.
• Could make toast but accidentally bought more butter instead of bread because all you could remember while you were at the grocery store was the PIN for your ATM card… so you have butter, frozen peas, shortbread cookies, and oatmeal. But no bread for toast.
• Did make toast… found it stone cold, 4 hours later.
• Would love some toast but guts are violently ejecting all food and drink after a lil run in with an air “freshener”.
• Could physically make toast but am literally gasping for breath, so really no appetite.
• Too. Exhausted. To. Chew.
• Migraine. Barfing. Please don’t even mention food.
This isn’t even all the toast run-ins we could and do encounter in a day.
There’s also a lot more to life than toast. I don’t even have a toaster because finding safe consumer goods (and affording them, ha!) is a full time job.
Imagine having the flu, for forever.
How good does your brain work? How jovial do you feel? How many groceries can you carry home in a knapsack? You gettin’ lots done at work while in your delirious stupor on the couch? Can you even follow this episode of Parks & Rec?
Oh you feel a lil better today? Gonna finally do some dishes and eat something other than soup? Sure, sure! Maybe tackle some of that mountain of sweaty flu laundry?
All well and good for 22 minutes. Then your heart rate skyrockets, the fever comes back full force, and you can barely make it to a horizontal surface before you collapse into a lump of passed out human.
The term “Sensitivities” trivializes indeed.
I think most people would lose their minds coping with this, especially while experiencing this relentless violence from “friends” and “family” and strangers alike, when we have the audacity to mention that an exposure that will create Toast Chaos is happening.
National Prevalence and Effects of Multiple Chemical Sensitivities
“Multiple chemical sensitivities (MCS) is a medical condition characterized by adverse health effects from exposure to common chemicals and pollutants, from products such as pesticides, new carpet and paint, renovation materials, diesel exhaust, cleaning supplies, perfume, scented laundry products, and air fresheners.1,2
MCS can cause a range of acute, chronic, multiorgan, and disabling health effects, such as headaches, dizziness, cognitive impairment, breathing difficulties, heart palpitations, nausea, mucous membrane irritation, and asthma attacks.3
Individuals with MCS may not receive a diagnosis but nonetheless exhibit the condition of chemical sensitivity.
While MCS is perhaps the most common term, the condition is also known by other terms, such as chemical intolerance or environmental illness (specific to chemical exposures).3″