MULTIPLE CHEMICAL SENSITIVITY:
Government and Medical Science Finally Recognize
Crippling Effects of MCS
Continued from Page 1
October 3, 2003
BY HELKE FERRIE
Matthew insists, however, that this systemic injustice can be overcome successfully. "Don't ever think it's useless to fight!" Generally, judges fully understand the difference between an "expert" from the insurance industry and the informed opinion of the regular, treating physician. "Judges understand that the GP has nothing to gain by stating the truth about a person's disability, while the insurance doctor certainly does stand to gain by denying that disability." As long as your own doctor stands by you, the applicable legislation, especially the Ontario Human Rights Code and current employment laws, will generally support your claim. Of course, most people in this situation are close to destitute as well as browbeaten, so Matthew often handles them on a contingency basis, an approach that is almost always successful for all concerned.
What is it about MCS that brings out the best and the worst in people? Simply put, MCS challenges the way we run our world. It challenges the chemical industry the way cancer did the tobacco industry. Both brought their products to market before their safety was established and both have to face the fact that these products are not and never will be safe.
In the early 1950's allergist Dr. Theron Randolph had a patient who had severe allergic symptoms unrelated to the usual suspect triggers. Careful observation showed that her symptoms were present only when certain wind patterns brought high concentrations of petrochemical particles into the Chicago area. This was the first recorded case of environmental hypersensitivity, as Dr. Randolph called her untypical allergy. In 1965 he founded the American Academy for Environmental Medicine which, to this day, teaches doctors from all over the world how to diagnose and treat illness caused by many environmental toxins, fossil fuel products, pesticides, organic industrial solvents and carbon monoxide poisoning being chief among them.
Today, the illness is called Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS); it consist of a whole family of diseases of which the best-known ones are Fibromyalgia, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Gulf War Syndrome and Cacosmia (the MCS variant in which people lose all tolerance for scents, toxic or otherwise). The international consensus statement on MCS syndromes was published in June 1999 (Archives of Environmental Health vol. 54/3). The definition states that symptoms are reproducible with repeated exposure, that the condition can be chronic, low levels of exposure cause symptoms which improve when the offending chemical is removed, many substances can cause reactions, and many organ systems are involved in the MCS patient.
The most common complaints include acute intolerance to light, noise, and chemical smells of all kinds, extreme fatigue, muscle pain, swollen joints, muscle weakness, shortness of breath evolving frequently into asthma, anemia, chronic urinary tract infections, nausea, diarrhea, migraines lasting days, tingling in hands and feet, irregular heart beat, watery and itchy eyes, generalized itching and more. Harvard University's environmental medicine publication, Environmental Health Perspectives, published a survey in September of this year showing that about one third of MCS patients became ill from pesticides, another third from solvent exposure. Similar results were obtained in a study done by the University of Toronto and submitted to the Hon. Jane Stewart by Dr. Lynn Marshall, the director of the Environmental Health Clinic at Sunnybrook & Women's College Hospital.
Rachel Carson's research in the 1960's into the health effects of the pesticide DDT, a declassified biological warfare chemical from World War II, showed that small, frequent exposures to a toxic chemical can cause permanently disabling illness or cancer. This finding turned upside down the traditional notion that the amount of a poison determined how sick one became. In 1960 approximately 10 billion pounds of toxic chemicals were released into soil, air and water. Currently, about 35 billion pounds of pesticides, organic solvents and other products containing heavy metals are released annually. Most have never been tested for their health effects. However, as more and more people are affected, scientific investigation has increased rapidly: in the 1950's the world medical literature had 5 articles on the subject; in 1997 only 120 research studies existed; today more than 10,000 are listed.
In 2001 the Ottawa based Environmental Illness Society of Canada commissioned the first socio-economic study of MCS. This showed that about 4 million Canadians are chemically sensitive, about 500,000 severely so, some 5,000 are relatively disabled as a result, and roughly 50 to 60 people are forced to seek assistance, such as federal pension benefits. Among the most severe cases about 60% attempt suicide. This illness costs $ 10 billion in lost productivity, about $ 1 billion in lost taxes and another $ 1 billion in avoidable health costs.
The subject of medical research worldwide, MCS now has many clearly defined biomarkers and sophisticated as well as very simple and inexpensive tests are available to establish a clear diagnosis for each of the different MCS syndromes. In 2000 the Canadian government published a report urging reform of the pesticide legislation (which was been done), and recommending that MCS be officially recognized and its treatment covered by Medicare (not yet done). But now that the Canadian Medical Association Journal published a whole series of research papers (April through June 2002) on the health effects of the environment and the Ontario College of Family Physicians is hosting its first conference on the subject this October, maybe MCS will become fully recognized at last. The Ontario Human Rights Commission already instructed the Ministry of Health on April 9th, that people sensitive to pesticides must be protected from any spraying for west Nile virus.
While justice for the severely disabled MCS patient is now within their reach and the recognition of this condition fully recognized by medical science, the battle is not over. Consider the fact that the same month when the international consensus on MCS was published (June 1999) the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario found environmental medicine expert Dr. Jozef Krop "guilty" of diagnosing MCS and reprimanded him for it in September of this year - when simultaneously the federal government began to remove the systemic bias against MCS disability pension applicants.
So who else is still opposing the fact of MCS? One powerful group is the Environmental Sensitivities Research Institute established in 1995; it accepts only corporate members (I tried to join and was refused!) and its board of directors consists of the major pesticide producers of North America such as DowElanco, Monsanto, Proctor & Gamble, and the Cosmetics, Toiletry and Fragrance Association. The chairman is the CEO of the pesticide industry association called RISE.
Indeed, the chemical industry's worries about its future are justified - and encouraging. However, we may take comfort in the fact that humanity has been through such ethical crises before and society always emerged much improved by the experience. The last and most brutal example being the end of slavery which was an equally unavoidable economic earthquake for society. Facing the truth of MCS has started the process making the world cleaner and healthier, and it is nice to have one's government lend a hand.
Sources and Resources:
- American Academy of Environmental Medicine, tel 316-684-5500 helps you find a doctor trained to diagnose MCS in Canada
- RAINET P.O. Box 943, Uxbridge, ON, L9P 1N3, tel. 905-852-2676
- Matthew Wilton Law Office, specializes in disability issues; 127 John Street, Toronto, M5V 2E2, tel. 416-860-9889
- Environmental Hypersensitivity Association of Ontario, Box 1250, Station K, Toronto, M4P 3E4
- Environmental Health Clinic, Women's College Hospital, 76 Grenville Street, Toronto, M5S 1B2
- Ontario Medical Association's Section on Complementary Medicine, call 613-432-3240
- http://www.mcsrr.org is the most comprehensive and helpful web site with information on everything you want to know about MCS Alternative Medicine Guide, Chronic Fatigue, Fibromyalgia & Environmental Illness, Future Medicine Publications, 1998
- P.R. Gibson, Multiple Chemical Sensitivity: A Survival Guide, New Harbinger, 2000
- K. Glenn, I'm Sorry But Your Perfume Makes Me Sick: And So Does Almost Everything Else That Smells, Bluebird Books, 1997
- T. Kerns, Environmentally Induced Illness: Ethics, Risk Assessment and Human Rights, McFarland, 2001
- J. Krop, MD, Healing The Planet One Patient at A Time: A Primer in Environmental Medicine, Kos Publishing, 2002 (call 519-927-1049 to order)
- L. Lawson, Staying Well In A Toxic World, Lynnword Press, 1993 T.G. Randolph MD, An Alternative Approach to Allergies, rev. ed. Harper Collins, 1990
- Dr. Sherry Rogers, Detox or Die, Sandkey Co., 2002
For a copy of Helke Ferrie's report on MCS to the Government of Canada's Minister of Human Resources send $ 20.00 to 1997 Beechgrove Rd., Alton, ON, L)N 1A0 to cover copying and postage.
Click here for Helke Ferrie's Website
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