One in four Americans suffer when exposed to common chemicals

March 14, 2018, University of Melbourne

University of Melbourne research reveals that one in four Americans report chemical sensitivity, with nearly half this group medically diagnosed with Multiple Chemical Sensitivities (MCS), suffering health problems from exposure to common chemical products and pollutants such as insect spray, paint, cleaning supplies, fragrances and petrochemical fumes.

The research was conducted by Anne Steinemann, Professor of Civil Engineering and Chair of Sustainable Cities from the University of Melbourne School of Engineering, and published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine. Professor Steinemann is an international expert on environmental pollutants, air quality, and effects.

Professor Steinemann found the prevalence of sensitivity has increased more than 200 per cent and diagnosed MCS has increased more than 300 per cent among American adults in the past decade. Across America, an estimated 55 million adults have chemical sensitivity or MCS.

"MCS is a serious and potentially disabling disease that is widespread and increasing in the US population," Professor Steinemann said.

The study used an online survey with a national random sample of 1,137 people, representative of age, gender and region, from a large web-based panel held by Survey Sampling International (SSI).

The study found that, when exposed to problematic sources, people with MCS experience a range of , from migraines and dizziness to breathing difficulties and heart problems. For 76 per cent of people, the severity of effects can be disabling.

"People with MCS are like human canaries. They react earlier and more severely to chemical pollutants, even at low levels," Professor Steinemann said.

The study also found that 71 per cent of people with MCS are asthmatic, and 86.2 per cent with MCS report from fragranced consumer products, such as air fresheners, scented laundry products, cleaning supplies, fragranced candles, perfume and personal care products.

In addition, an estimated 22 million Americans with MCS have lost work days or a job in the past year due to illness from exposure to fragranced consumer products in the workplace.

To reduce health risks and costs, Professor Steinemann recommends choosing products without any fragrance, and implementing fragrance-free policies in workplaces, health care facilities, schools and other indoor environments.

Explore further: One in three Australians report health problems from fragranced consumer products

More information: Anne Steinemann, National Prevalence and Effects of Multiple Chemical Sensitivities, Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (2018). DOI: 10.1097/JOM.0000000000001272

Related Stories

One in three Australians report health problems from fragranced consumer products

March 6, 2017
A University of Melbourne researcher has found that one-third of Australians report health problems—ranging from migraine headaches to asthma attacks—when exposed to common fragranced consumer products such as air fresheners, ...

Fragranced products: Risks for people and profits?

October 24, 2016
A University of Melbourne researcher has found that over one-third of Americans report health problems—from asthma attacks to migraine headaches—when exposed to common fragranced consumer products such as air fresheners, ...

Hidden hazards found in green products

March 4, 2015
A University of Melbourne researcher has found that common consumer products, including those marketed as 'green', 'all-natural', 'non-toxic', and 'organic', emit a range of compounds that could harm human health and air ...

Recommended for you

Crunched for time? High-intensity exercise = same cell benefits in fewer minutes

September 20, 2018
A few minutes of high-intensity interval or sprinting exercise may be as effective as much longer exercise sessions in spurring beneficial improvements in mitochondrial function, according to new research. The small study ...

China's doctor shortage prompts rush for AI health care

September 20, 2018
Qu Jianguo, 64, had a futuristic medical visit in Shanghai as he put his wrist through an automated pulse-taking machine and received the result within two minutes on a mobile phone—without a doctor present.

Time to ban the sale of energy drinks to children, says senior doctor

September 19, 2018
It's time to bring in laws to ban the sale of caffeinated energy drinks to children and young people in England to tackle the twin epidemics of obesity and mental health problems, argues Professor Russell Viner, President ...

For-profit hospitals correlated with higher readmission rates

September 19, 2018
Patients who receive care in a for-profit hospital are more likely to be readmitted than those who receive care in nonprofit or public hospitals, according to a new study published by University of Illinois at Chicago researchers.

Sugar content of most supermarket yogurts well above recommended threshold

September 18, 2018
A comprehensive survey of ingredients in yogurts highlights high sugar levels in many—particularly organic yogurts and those marketed towards children.

Research confronts 'yucky' attitudes about genetically engineered foods

September 18, 2018
Is a non-browning apple less "natural" than non-fat milk? In one case, people have injected something into apple DNA to prevent it from turning brown after it's cut. In the other, people used technology to remove something ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.