Impact of self-reported multiple chemical sensitivity on everyday life: a qualitative study

Scand J Public Health. 2009 Aug;37(6):621-6. doi: 10.1177/1403494809105430. Epub 2009 May 1.

Abstract

Background: Multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS) is a descriptive term covering symptoms attributed to exposure to common airborne chemicals. There are no internationally accepted criteria, but it has been suggested that MCS is a chronic and disabling condition. However, details of the impact of MCS on everyday life are limited.

Objective: To describe the impact of MCS on everyday life, strategies for managing the condition, and experiences with healthcare management.

Methods: A focus group study was conducted, including two interviews with a sample of six women and six men between 27 and 78 years of age, a duration of MCS of at least 1 year, and with different occupational conditions.

Results: MCS may severely influence different aspects of everyday life, including lifestyle, social relations, and occupational conditions. Avoiding common airborne chemicals was the most prevalent coping strategy, which implied creating a chemical-free living space and limiting social activities. Experiences with healthcare management were overall reported as negative in terms of not receiving acknowledgement of the reported symptoms.

Conclusions: MCS may have serious implications for daily functioning. Further research on individual consequences and the social and psychological factors that may be associated with MCS is needed in order to add to our understanding of this condition and to the provision of more satisfactory healthcare.

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Chronic Disease
  • Environmental Exposure / prevention & control
  • Female
  • Focus Groups
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations
  • Life Style
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Multiple Chemical Sensitivity / prevention & control
  • Multiple Chemical Sensitivity / psychology*
  • Perfume / adverse effects
  • Quality of Life
  • Self Concept
  • Social Isolation
  • Workplace / psychology

Substances

  • Perfume