Symptomatology and etiology of multiple chemical sensitivities in the southeastern United States

Arch Environ Health. Sep-Oct 2002;57(5):429-36. doi: 10.1080/00039890209601433.


A questionnaire was administered to individuals who had reported a hypersensitivity to common chemical products in an earlier epidemiological study in the Atlanta, Georgia, metropolitan area. The questionnaire investigated the nature of the symptoms and factors that potentially initiated hypersensitivity and subsequently triggered reactions. Also examined were associated lifestyle modifications and the relationships of hypersensitivity with other illnesses. The authors found that a majority of hypersensitive individuals (52.2%) experienced either "severe" or "somewhat severe" symptoms. The most common triggers of symptoms were cleaning products (88.4%), tobacco smoke (82.6%), perfume (81.2%), pesticides (81.2%), and car exhaust (72.5%). Only 1.4% of the subjects had a prior history of emotional problems, whereas 37.7% developed such problems after the emergence of their hypersensitivity. Lifestyle modifications varied; 76.8% changed their household cleaning/personal hygiene products, 47.8% began using water and/or air filtration systems, and 13% found it necessary to change residence. Although hypersensitivity was more common in females than males, the condition affects individuals in all categories of race/ethnicity, age, household income, and educational level.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Causality
  • Continental Population Groups
  • Educational Status
  • Ethnic Groups
  • Female
  • Georgia / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Income
  • Life Style
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Multiple Chemical Sensitivity / diagnosis
  • Multiple Chemical Sensitivity / epidemiology
  • Multiple Chemical Sensitivity / etiology*
  • Multiple Chemical Sensitivity / therapy
  • Population Surveillance
  • Prevalence
  • Self Care / methods
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Sex Distribution
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Urban Health / statistics & numerical data