Since the 1940s, multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS) has been characterized under many titles. It is often referred to as “environmental illness,” “sick building syndrome,” or “MCS.” Your doctor might refer to it as “idiopathic environmental intolerance.”

The term “chemical” refers to a wide range of natural and man-made chemical agents, some containing many chemical ingredients. Multiple chemical sensitivity can cause various symptoms that some people attribute to their environment. MCS syndrome is distinguished by the patient’s assumption that their symptoms are caused by very low-level ambient chemical exposure.

MCS syndrome has sparked intense debate among physicians, researchers, patients, lawyers, politicians, and regulatory bodies. The lack of scientific consensus on MCS has aided in forming emotionally charged, radical, and entrenched opinions. Healthcare workers who specialize in MCS are frequently referred to as practising “clinical ecology.”

MCS is a contentious condition, with medical professionals still debating its diagnosis and management. Despite this, it has earned credibility in workers’ compensation claims, tort responsibility, and regulatory proceedings. To avoid exposure to triggering chemicals, some people with MCS may need to undertake considerable lifestyle modifications.

Multiple Chemical Sensitivity Symptoms 

These symptoms can be moderate to severe, affecting many organ systems in the body.

Fever, fatigue, joint discomfort, skin rash, muscular aches, and respiratory issues such as cough and shortness of breath are common symptoms/effects of this illness. In extreme cases, it can cause pneumonia, acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), organ failure, life-threatening conditions, and death.

What Causes Multiple Chemical Sensitivity? 

Allergy, immune system malfunction, neurological sensitivity, and numerous psychological explanations have been proposed to explain the cause of MCS. Insufficient scientific evidence supports any of these putative causes and symptoms. Because there is no definitive information, an evaluation must be performed by a physician familiar with this disorder’s symptoms.

Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS) can be caused by exposure to various environmental factors. Additionally, genetic factors and pre-existing medical conditions may also contribute to the development of MCS.

Toxic Substance Exposure

Toxic substance exposure is one of the most common causes of MCS, and it can come from various sources, including pesticides, cleaning products, and industrial chemicals. Limit exposure to these substances to avoid developing or exacerbating MCS symptoms.


Genetic factors may play a role in MCS development, although more research is needed to understand the link between genetics and environmental triggers thoroughly.

Stressful Events

 Stressful events can significantly impact the developing MCS, increasing the risk of depression, anxiety, and other health problems.


 Allergies can be triggered by various substances, such as pollen, dust mites, certain foods, and medications, and they can occur at any age. To avoid difficulties, it is critical to identify and manage those allergies.

How to Diagnose Multiple Chemical Sensitivity

The controversy surrounding multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS) stems from the lack of a definitive diagnostic test and the subjective nature of patient symptoms.

There is no specific diagnostic test for MCS, and its existence as a medical condition is debated among healthcare professionals. While some medical professionals recognize MCS as a legitimate condition, others argue it is a psychosomatic disorder and caution against overdiagnosis and overtreatment.

Diagnostic Criteria 

Despite the controversy surrounding multiple chemical sensitivity, there is still no consensus on specific diagnostic criteria for the condition. A regular follow-up appointment with your healthcare professional will help to monitor and adjust your management plan as needed.


Testing is also an important aspect of managing a health condition, as it can provide valuable information about the effectiveness of the treatment plan and any necessary adjustments that may need to be made. It is important to follow the recommended testing schedule and communicate any concerns or changes in symptoms with your healthcare provider. However, no widely accepted diagnostic blood test for multiple chemical sensitivity is available.

Can Multiple Chemical Sensitivities Be Cured?

There is no known cure for multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS). Still, various treatment options are available depending on the type and stage of the condition, including avoiding triggers, using air filters and purifiers, and taking medications to manage symptoms such as headaches and nausea. 

Some people also find relief through alternative therapies like acupuncture or cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). Your healthcare provider can help determine the best course of action for your individual needs. 

Living with Multiple Chemical Sensitivity 

Living with Multiple Chemical Sensitivities can be challenging, but there are steps you can take to manage your symptoms and improve your quality of life. These may include controlling the exposure to triggers, using air filters and purifiers, and seeking support from mental health professionals and support groups.

Controlled exposure to triggers

Avoiding chemicals that trigger can be difficult, but it is an important step in managing your condition and its symptoms. It involves identifying them and avoiding those situations and things that can negatively influence your body. Once you have this information, you can expose yourself to triggers with increasing difficulty to gain some tolerance for them. 

Developing a Support System 

Developing a support system is also crucial for maintaining a good quality of life. This can include your family, friends, therapists, support groups or online communities that provide encouragement and understanding during difficult times to you.

Managing Symptoms 

Managing symptoms can involve a variety of strategies such as medication, therapy, exercise, mindfulness practices, and lifestyle changes to improve overall health and well-being. Working closely with your healthcare professionals to find the best approach for your needs is important.

Making Lifestyle Changes 

Individuals with multiple chemical sensitivities may need to make significant lifestyle changes, such as avoiding exposure to common household and personal care products, reducing stress levels, and incorporating a healthy diet and exercise routine. They must work closely with a healthcare provider to develop a personalized plan that meets their needs. 

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy

CBT is a type of psychotherapy that focuses on changing negative patterns of thought and behaviour. It effectively treats various mental health conditions, including anxiety and depression.

Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) has been suggested as a potential treatment option for MCS, focusing on changing negative thought patterns and behaviours that may contribute to symptom severity. Negative emotions and thoughts worsen the experience of exposure to chemicals. 

Neurofeedback Brain Training

Neurofeedback brain training may be a potential treatment option for individuals with MCS by targeting specific brain regions and improving their ability to regulate responses to chemical triggers. It focuses on retraining the amygdala, the fear centre close to olfactory receptors. However, more research is needed to understand this treatment approach’s mechanisms fully. 


Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS) is a chronic medical condition characterized by symptoms triggered by exposure to low levels of various chemicals, including pesticides, fragrances, and cleaning products.

The controversy surrounding multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS) stems from the need for more consensus on diagnostic criteria and the absence of objective biomarkers. Some experts argue that MCS is a legitimate medical condition, while others believe it is a psychological disorder.

Numerous resources are available on our website for those interested in learning more about Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) or Neurofeedback Brain Training. Please visit CBT, Neurofeedback and Our Blog pages. Or contact us to schedule an appointment.

Multiple Chemical Sensitivity

Getting Help at The Insight Clinic

Getting Help at The Insight Clinic

Getting Help at The Insight Clinic