Isolated Illness: Characteristics and Issues of Multiple Chemical Sensitivity

Tuesday, 12 July 2016: 11:15
Location: Hörsaal BIG 2 (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Kazuko UDA, Fukuoka Institute of Technology, Japan
This paper discuss the social characteristics and issues associated with multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS), an environment-related illness that has become a chemical risk problem in Europe, the United States, and parts of East Asia over the last 30 years. The reported cause of MCS is exposure to large quantities or high concentrations of chemicals, such as volatile organic compounds used for making furniture or pesticides spread over fields. Once people are sensitized by this exposure, they hyper-react to diverse chemicals in their daily lives and develop various symptoms. As a result, they cannot attend their schools or workplaces, or even live in their own homes. Even though the estimated number of patients with MCS in Japan is about one million, MCS is not well known and patients who suffer from it have been neglected.

      The social damage from MCS is basically similar to that from other environmental-pollutant-related diseases, as indicated by previous studies:  loss of income, strain on family relationships, and forced life changes. However, in our research conducted by Prof. Ryoichi Terada, extreme damage from MCS was observed; this was related to the impossibility of identifying and avoiding the causative substances, being diagnosed by doctor, defining the patients’ situation, pursuing the company and persons responsible, and uniting patients and their supporters. These characteristics are brought about by the medical ambiguity and extensiveness of MCS. In short, patients are isolated both socially and medically.

 In conclusion, recovery from MCS is defined as not only chemical detoxification and the ability to live in a clean environment, but also restoration of the patient’s social life and ability to live with others. In the broader context, it is essential to establish transboundary research cooperation and to share chemical regulation throughout East Asia, because chemicals are transferred to, and pollute, environments across borders.