Multiple chemical sensitivity: discriminant validity of case definitions

Arch Environ Health. 2001 Sep-Oct;56(5):406-12. doi: 10.1080/00039890109604475.


In this study, the authors used the University of Toronto's Health Survey self-administered questionnaire to determine discriminant validity of multiple chemical sensitivity definitions. The authors distributed a total of 4,126 questionnaires to adults who attended general, allergy, occupational, and environmental health practices. The authors then matched responses to features selected from existing case definitions posited by Thomson et al.; the National Research Council; Cullen; Ashford and Miller; Randolph; Nethercott et al.; and the 1999 Consensus (references 4-7, 2, 9, and 10, respectively, herein). The overall response rate was 61.7%. The prevalence of reported symptoms was lowest in general practices, was intermediate in occupational health and allergy practices, and was highest in environmental health practices. Features from the definitions presented by Nethercott et al. and the 1999 Consensus (references 9 and 10, respectively, herein) correctly identified more than 80% of environmental health practice patients and more than 70% of general practice patients. Combinations of 4 symptoms (i.e., having a stronger sense of smell than others, feeling dull/groggy, feeling "spacey," and having difficulty concentrating) also discriminated successfully. In summary, features from 2 of 7 case definitions assessed by the University of Toronto Health Survey achieved good discrimination and identified patients with an increased likelihood of multiple chemical sensitivity.

Publication types

  • Validation Study

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Attention
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Epidemiologic Studies
  • Female
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Medicine*
  • Middle Aged
  • Multiple Chemical Sensitivity / diagnosis*
  • Multiple Chemical Sensitivity / epidemiology*
  • Prevalence
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Smell
  • Specialization*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires