Multiple chemical sensitivities (also known as MCS, and sometimes as “idiopathic environmental intolerance” or sometimes “sick building syndrome”) is a condition in which a person has a negative reaction to exposure to environmental factors, such as electromagnetic forces, chemicals, or other synthetic or natural substances.

While no one can deny the symptoms of this condition, there is little agreement or understanding of what MCS is or how it should be handled. For instance, the American Medical Association (AMA) doesn’t consider multiple chemical sensitivity to be an illness.

MCS can be short term or long term. Symptoms have often arisen after exposure to various synthetic or natural substances, including though vehicle exhaust, paint fumes, plastics, fragrances, insecticides, and tobacco smoke, among other sources. Once multiple chemical sensitivity has been triggered, it is believed that less strong chemicals or lower levels of exposure will then also produce a reaction. Some experts believe this is a result of the immune system reacting in a way that is similar to an allergic reaction. Some believe there may also be some correlation, in part, to depression or anxiety.

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Multiple Chemical Sensitivities Symptoms and Treatments

At this time, there are no known reliable tests to medically diagnose multiple chemical sensitivity, and there are no known medically effective or proven treatments for MCS, but there are many ways to address the symptoms experienced by those who suffer from this condition.

Symptoms of multiple chemical sensitivities will vary in each person. Many people will feel similar effects, such as bloating, difficulty breathing, chest pain, congestion, diarrhea, dizziness, headache, itching, joint pain, memory loss, muscle pain, nausea, skin rash, sneezing or a sore throat. Each person will have different symptoms based on their source of irritation.

Treatment for multiple chemical sensitivities will be dependent upon whether or not you were exposed to chemicals or other substances, which substances you had contact with and if it may be caused in part by a mental health-related trigger. Some people must remove themselves from the environment that caused the irritations. For most people to improve, they must surround themselves in a healthy environment at work and at home and make healthy food, personal care product, and lifestyle choices. Each person’s treatment may be different, and it is important to see your doctor and follow your doctor’s orders, which will be specific to your case.

Does Multiple Chemical Sensitivities (MCS) Qualify Me for Disability Benefits?

MCS is not currently listed in the Social Security Administration’s Blue Book, but if you have reactions due to your chemical sensitivity triggers, you could still possibly qualify for SSDI benefits.

Because multiple chemical sensitivities can present complex medical issues, it is important that you get medical documentation of all your signs and symptoms from your doctor, and present your symptoms and claim in a highly specific manner. As such, you may want to work with a Social Security Disability advocate to determine the best way to apply and present your symptoms.

Remember, you don’t need to meet a Blue Book listed impairment to qualify for disability benefits. Because, at the end of the day, what the SSA generally cares about most is whether or not your Multiple Chemical Sensitivity meets certain requirements, including:

  • That it rises to the level of a “severe impairment”,” meaning it impacts your ability to do work;
  • That it, combined with any other impairments you may have, prevent you from sustaining work;
  • That it has affected you, or is expected to affect you, for at least one year (or to result in death).

If that is the case, then you may very well qualify for monthly disability benefits.

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Next Steps

If you or a loved one have Multiple Chemical Sensitivities and are considering a claim for disability benefits, we recommend you read our articles about the process of applying for SSDI and the way the Social Security Administration uses their Sequential Evaluation Process to determine disability.

This article is presented for general information purposes only. Nothing in this article should be taken as medical advice. Medical decisions (including whether to start, stop, or modify any treatment plan) are extremely important and should always be made with the advice and counsel of a qualified medical professional.

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