- Health Effects Of Woodsmoke
- About Fragrances: Did you know.. Fragrances can make you ill.
- Food, Mood And Behaviour
- Impacts Of Environmental Toxins On The Health Of Children
- Outdoor Air Pollution: A toxic soup
- Indoor Air Pollution: Is your place a safe place?
- Is It Really Migraine?
- Need to take a medication: some things you may need to consider.
- Pesticides They're Everywhere
- MCS Visitors Guidelines 2008
- Chemical Sensitivity: Is there a problem? : A Consumer Point of View
- Chemical Injury
- Multiple Chemical Sensitivity: A 1999 Consensus
- Multiple Chemical Sensitivity: 2006 Review of the Evidence
- Disability Rights
- Disability Job Access in Australia
- Information on Applying For Low Allergy Housing
- Template Letter Applying For Low Allergy Housing
- Location, Housing Material and Design Guidelines
- Australian Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission
- Where To Find a Medical Practitioner
- Dealing with Hospitalisation and Emergency Surgery when Allergy, Food and Chemical Sensitivity are Complicating Factors.
- Health Information Template
- Australian Government Review of MCS 2006 -
- Why Are Children More Vulnerable to Chemical Pollutants
- Information on Chemical Burden and Injury in Children
- Fragrance, Perfume, Scent Information
- Formaldehyde in Clothing
- Consumer Products
- Medication Information
- Chemically sensitive! Dog got fleas!
- Medications for use with a Low Phenolic Diet
- MCS News
- Lifting The Lid on the Allergy Epidemic
- A Guide to Living with MCS
Chemical Sensitivity Leaflet
|ASEHA Leaflet Series - MCS and Environmental Toxins|
THE PROBLEM WITH CHEMICALS
Chemical sensitivity can occur after exposure to some chemicals. While it is generally thought that this only happens in the workplace following exposure to high levels of a chemical, sensitivity can also occur from low level exposure over a long period of time. Once sensitised, reactions can occur to extremely minute amounts of chemicals, while reactions can also occur from molecules of similar structure.
Substances that cause chemical sensitivity are now common in our environment. Some of these include phenolic compounds, sulphur dioxide and hydrocarbons. They are found in:
- the air we breathe, our food, water, medications, homes, workplace,schools, public building, public transport
Outdoor air contains many chemicals. In cities, motor vehicle and industrial emissions are major sources of chemicals such as, sulphur dioxide, hydrocarbons, toluene diisocyanate, dioxins, furans, particulates, ozone and even heavy metals. In rural areas high usage of agricultural chemicals is a major source of airborne chemicals. While not all chemicals are sensitisers, some have other methods of action that cause health problems e.g. some are respiratory irritants, nerve poisons and carcinogens.
The food we eat can contain agricultural chemical residues left over from best practice use, food additives, sulphur dioxide. Packaging materials can leach into food and contribute to adverse reactions. Food also contains naturally occurring chemicals such as salicylates, amines and nitrates that can contribute to sensitivity reactions.
Water can contain agricultural chemical runoff, chlorine, other water disinfectant treatments, heavy metals.
The same chemicals that are found outside are also found indoors. However, indoor air can be further contaminated by chemicals such as pesticides, plasticisers, or formaldehyde that is found in building products, furnishings, carpet, detergents, disinfectants, toiletries and many others. This is known as sick building syndrome.
Public buildings and schools also suffer with sick building syndrome. Sometimes chemically sensitive children cannot attend school due to indoor air contaminants. These children often have to learn by correspondence at home. They miss out on social skills, craft, sport and other activities. Many materials commonly used in schools are toxic e.g. art materials, pesticides.
The workplace can be a major source of chemical exposure. Standards are set for chemical exposures in the workplace by Worksafe, our occupational health and safety authority.
While medications are designed to be therapeutic, they contain active and inert ingredients that are capable of provoking adverse reactions in sensitive persons. Sometimes the main ingredient may be the cause of an adverse reaction, but medications, like food, can contain additives such as fillers, colourings, preservatives and other ingredients that may affect a chemically sensitive person.
Chemicals are so prevalent in our society that not only have they caused environmental damage, but they have also contributed to human health problems. While these levels are considered to be low, we are exposed to an ever increasing mixture of chemicals which could greatly magnify any harmful effects. It is unrealistic not to acknowledge background levels of chemicals and the likelihood of health problems as a result.The nature and intensity of injuries arising from chemical sensitisation varies depending on individual susceptibility to chemicals and predisposing factors such as:
- inherited genetic characteristics;
- the ability of the body to eliminate chemicals;
- the ability of the body to prevent chemical damage;
- nutritional status;
- variations in metabolic rates e.g. male, female, children, the elderly, the chronically ill.
Chemical sensitivity is poorly researched and understood. Some problems that arise are:
- difficulty getting an accurate diagnosis and treatment;
- difficulty finding the appropriate place to complain about chemicals that cause ill health;
- no cooperation from government or industry to resolve problems with chemicals;
- no adverse chemicals reactions register;
- no environmental ombudsman.
The chemically sensitivity are like the canaries miners used to take into mine pits to test air safety. They are signalling to the world that all is not well with the current levels of chemical usage.
THE PRACTICAL CONSEQUENCES OF CHEMICAL SENSITIVITY.
Many chemically sensitive people:
- live in modified homes to reduce exposure;
- can’t leave their homes;
- can’t go shopping or use public transport;
- can’t drive their cars;
- can’t enjoy a walk on the beach or park;
- aren’t able to go to the gym or play sport;
- can’t eat food from the commercial market;
- can’t have a social life or normal family interaction;
- are income disadvantaged as they can’t go to work;
- can’t afford treatments that have proven useful to them;
- children can’t attend schools;
- they miss out on friendships and social interaction;
- some can’t sit for external exams;
- can’t get on with their lives.
CHEMICAL SENSITIVITY - SOME SYMPTOMS*
CNS/Neurological: Migraine, headache, mental confusion, memory impairment, emotional lability, sudden acute fatigue, chronic fatigue, dizziness, loss of
balance, poor coordination, poor concentration, depression, speech impairment, insomnia, ADHD, neuralgia, paraesthesia.
Neuromuscular: Tic, seizures, tremors, muscle cramps, muscle spasms.
Sensory: Extreme sensitivity to odours
Ears: Tinnitus, itchy ears, ear ache; blocked ears. Eyes - dry, itchy eyes, eye pain, weepy eyes, sore eyes, lumps in eyes.
Vision: Visual disturbances, blurred vision
Integumentary: Rashes, eczema, skin irritation, dark circles under eyes, spontaneous bruising, flushing.
Inflammatory/mucosal: Throat swelling, laryngitis, dry & sore throat, mouth ulceration, tongue swelling, bloodshot eyes, swollen gums.
Respiratory: Sneezing, coughing, asthma, wheezing, shortness of breath, breathing difficulty, respiratory irritation, rhinitis, sinusitis.
Gastrointestinal: Stomach cramps, constipation, diarrhoea, incontinence (anal leakage), vomiting, nausea, decreased liver function, jaundice, hepatomegaly, splenomegaly.
Skeletal/Articular: Joint pain, reactive arthritis.
Metabolic disorders: Toxic acidity, food intolerance, chronic food addiction, intolerance to medications, inability to tolerate heat or cold, ‘universal reactor’, low grade fever.
Genitourinary: Incontinence, kidney pain, increased frequency of urination, urgency of urination, painful urination, nocturnal urination, bedwetting.
Cardiovascular/circulatory: Toxic poisoning shock (coldness), mitral valve prolapse, palpitations, chest pain of no known origin, anaphylactic shock, localised swelling.
Endocrine: Thyroid imbalance, PMT symptoms.
*Symptoms taken from ASEHA workshop respondents June 1995.
Casarett & Doull’s Toxicology: A basic science of poisons. 4th Ed. 1991
US EPA Introduction to Indoor Air Quality. July, 1991.
Worksafe. Exposure standards for Atmospheric Contaminants in
the Occupational Environment. 1995.
Cullen, Mark. The Worker with Multiple Chemical Sensitivities. In Occupational Medicine: State of the Art Reviews. 2(4):655-661, 1987.
ASEHA Qld Inc. Supported by Gaming Machine Community Benefit Fund
PO Box 96 Margate Qld 4019
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Last Updated (Monday, 16 November 2009 02:17)