Chemical intolerance is also called Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS), sick building syndrome, toxic injury and other names. This has been a controversial topic within the medical community. There is no definitive diagnosis or treatment, leaving sufferers frustrated.What Is It?Chemical intolerance is a chronic condition involving a variety of symptoms after prolonged chemical exposure. Symptoms can be mild headache, rash or respiratory irritation. More severe forms include fatigue, seizures, immune system disorder, and many more. Because many of these symptoms resemble other illnesses, chemical sensitivity is often misdiagnosed. Since many suffering from chemical sensitivity also present symptoms of depression and anxiety, these patients are diagnosed and treated for these psychological disorders.Research EvidenceOver the years, the medical community has been divided on the recognition of chemical intolerance as a true medical condition. Some believe it’s a mere hypersensitivity to chemicals, other attribute it to psychological disorders. However, a recent research study may offer some redemption for the misunderstood. Annals of Family Medicine recently published a study that offered more insight into this controversial condition. The study was conducted in two busy family practice clinics in Texas. Out of 400 participants, over 20% actually suffered from chemical intolerance. This is more than sensitivity to chemicals. The sufferers also had co-morbidities such as allergies, depression, anxiety, alcoholism, etc. Overall, they are less functional than those without chemical sensitivity. They also visit doctors and emergency rooms more often for co-morbid conditions, thus incurs significantly higher medical cost.TreatmentWhile there’s no specific treatment for chemical sensitivity, certain lifestyle changes may help to improve or resolve symptoms. First of all, it’s essential to identify and avoid the chemicals that are causing symptoms. These will be different for each individual and sometimes it’s a process of elimination before identifying the culprit(s). Secondly, reducing or eliminating caffeine and alcohol in one’s diet may help to reduce the severity and frequency of symptoms. Third of all, certain medications could trigger side effects similar to chemical sensitivity symptoms. Be sure to discuss your medications with your physician to avoid unpleasant side effects or interactions.ImplicationsThe above study may be the first step in validating chemical sensitivity as a true medical condition. Currently the illness isn’t recognized by major healthcare organizations because of limited evidence. As researchers gain more insights into the illness, then perhaps more effective and targeted treatments will be available to alleviate symptoms.The new information also proves that environmental chemicals do, indeed, affect our health. And it’s happening more often than we recognize. If one fifth of those who visit a primary care physicians office are intolerant to chemicals, then a significant percentage of the population suffer from the condition also. This should be a wake-up call to those turning a blind eye to chemical over-usage. In modern society, people routinely encounter hundreds of chemicals in personal use products, furniture, cleaning products, office supplies, construction, etc. Many of these chemicals are known to be toxic to human and environmental health. Some are carcinogenic. Many have not been tested thoroughly. It shouldn’t be a surprise to see evidence of how chronic exposure to these chemicals affects our health. It should prompt people to take action against chemical usage and opt for more natural products.ConclusionChemical intolerance or sensitivity may be more often than previously thought. The medical community long believed that symptoms from the condition are caused by psychosocial factors. As new research evidence shine light on the prevalence of chemical sensitivity, we hope to see more actions in terms of medical treatment and reimbursement as well as environmental changes to prevent future occurrence.
A Brief History Of The REACH ProgramREACH stands for the Registration Evaluation Authorization and Restriction of Chemical substances. It is a European Community program that began in 2007 in hopes of reducing human health issues and environmental issues that arise through the use of chemicals. Toxic chemicals can have major impacts on communities. The development of certain cancers has been linked to some of the chemicals used by plants, and REACH has made it their goal to prevent such devastating reactions from occurring. The efforts of REACH, however, should not be viewed as mere road blocks for the chemicals industry. REACH promotes competitive chemical research for companies to develop innovative and alternative methods of running a chemical plant. The development of such alternative methods could greatly benefit the future of the chemicals industry for all who are involved.REACH ChemicalsChemical substitution is enforced by the REACH movement whenever a reasonable alternative emerges. Companies will be required to use every alternative within reason. Companies are also encouraged to conduct research of their own to hopefully uncover even safer options for dangerous chemicals that do not have any previously existing alternatives. Environment and human safety are the key concerns for REACH, and such regulations should not be seen as negative in any way.The Effects Of REACH Chemicals On The IndustryREACH holds each chemical plant individually responsible for any damage caused by operations. They consider it the duty of each agency to seek out safe solutions for such a risky industry. Every chemical used by a plant needs to be researched, and information must be provided to prove the safety of that chemical. The European Chemicals Agency runs a database for all the information provided by the chemicals industry. This allows strict supervision over the chemicals industry with the hope of guiding it towards more beneficial and environmentally friendly methods of operation.ECHA and REACH work together to ensure the safety of Europeans and prevent effects that may even spread beyond continental borders. The research that is expected to emerge from these efforts will hopefully pave the way for a greener and more long term future for the chemicals industry. ECHA is more than willing to provide information to any chemical plant that is unsure of the effects and expectations of the REACH program on their business. There is a guidance document available to every company which offers detailed requirements of REACH. Understanding this new program is crucial to the future of a chemical plant, and the entire industry is urged to cooperate with these regulations.