Sensitivity to Common Chemicals Rising: Study

Sensitivity to Common Chemicals Rising: Study


As many as one in four Americans are sensitive to everyday chemicals according to new research, with nearly half of this group diagnosed with Multiple Chemical Sensitivities (MCS) and at risk of suffering health problems after exposure.

Carried out by the University of Melbourne, Australia, the study used an online survey to question a national random sample of 1,137 American adults.

The responses showed that 25.9 percent of participants reported chemical sensitivity, and 12.8 percent reported medically diagnosed MCS.

Of those with MCS, 86.2 percent experience health problems, including migraine headaches, dizziness, breathing difficulties, and heart problems, when exposed to fragranced consumer products such as air fresheners, scented laundry products, cleaning supplies, fragranced candles, perfume and personal care products. For 76 percent, such effects can be severe.

Results also showed that 71.0 percent of those with MCS are asthmatic.

Of survey respondents with MCS, 70.3 percent reported that they are unable to go to places that use fragranced products such as air fresheners, and 60.7 percent lost workdays or a job in the past year due to fragranced products being present in the workplace.

“MCS is a serious and potentially disabling disease that is widespread and increasing in the US population,” commented Professor Anne Steinemann, the study’s lead author and an international expert on environmental pollutants, air quality, and health effects.

“People with MCS are like human canaries. They react earlier and more severely to chemical pollutants, even at low levels.” 

Professor Steinemann also reported that the rates of those self-reporting chemical sensitivity has increased more than 200 percent among American adults in the past decade. Rates of diagnosed MCS has increased more than 300 percent.

To reduce the potential negative health effects Professor Steinemann recommends choosing products without any fragrance for the home, and suggests that fragrance-free policies should be implemented in workplaces, health care facilities, schools and other indoor environments.

The findings can be found published online in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine.