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Accommodating Fragrance Sensitivity In The Workplace

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in Human Resources

Severe allergies may be considered disabilities under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), particularly since the definition of disability has been significantly expanded under the ADA Amendments Act.  Employers have a legal duty to reasonably accommodate affected employees who request accommodation.


The city of Detroit found this out the hard way when a city employee with multiple chemical sensitivity sued the city under the ADA for refusing to accommodate her disability.


A co-worker who wore heavy perfume and used a plug-in room deodorizer had transferred into the department in close proximity to the employee, causing the employee to become ill.  The employee asked the co-worker to refrain from using these fragrances; the co-worker stopped using the room deodorizer but continued wearing the perfume.  The employee complained to her supervisor, and although the possibility of relocating either the emplo...(register to read more)

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{ 29 comments… read them below or add one }

S July 31, 2015 at 6:02 pm

Lucy – in hindsight as I and many others went through this as well (I ended up almost dead)…

You need to find a doctor, and a lawyer as quick as possible. You need to write each incident, date, people involved, so on in a diary. These will be sited later by a good doctor such as Ziem. Exposures so on. Names, dialogue. If you are in a state with the “law of unreliable ear” (allows tape recordings – great, find out). As well no amount of talking will mean anything. Write a proper letter to your supervision, and send it certified, cc to your state representative (find which helps with labor issues). That sort of detail. Find the hireachy in the company, do they have an HRA? so on.

This is medical negligence, chemical assault and now bullying but it must be documented and you NEED outside authority to assist. The police can do nothing.

Have you put your request in writing to your supervision – CREATE a PAPER TRAIL! If nothing helps, do again with medical attached, and cc to his boss, or HRA (others may have ideas, any legal people on this board).

Such as Dr. Grace Ziem (or many such as myself went to her traveling longer distances as her expertise in many areas is the best. For me only found through Art’s Doctor (artist beware) after I collapsed at work. It is a medical condition now greatly recognized by many government agencies and you as an employee are protected under many laws, especially retaliation for a medical condition.


She can do the medical write up, then find a lawyer, she sites all legal, government issues in her reports (whether anyone pays attention or not is another case – my building, illegal renovations and not one thing done, by management (she got cancer later hmmm) Government agencies of NYC (EPA, so on) but the fire department did come out one day and make them stop tarring activity.

She does exacting tests (I had chemically induced Porphyria (red/brown urine indicating no red blood cells were being produced) but by the time I found her, the tests would not indicate that.

She wrote a 22 page report for my SSDI.

As well she can write a STRONGLY worded report to whom ever it may concern, and siting all relevant laws, labor board so on, and that she if need be can act on behalf of her patient.

This is now called “chemical assault”. And if once informed of the medical condition and the consequence especially of deliberate exposure then it becomes medical negligence. (do you have a camera video or phone camera) is it legal in your state?

I kept daily notes, and later sued my company for not allowing me to work normal hours and sexual harassment. If it had more employees (under 50) I would have been taken care of financially. I am on indigent ssdi, and lost 20 years of work so on. Can not even find housing… My point is do as much as you can now to document this.

Letters from her to your supervisor, HRA so on. (the police can’t do a thing have to see if they understand it at all).

Sometimes a well worded letter from a doctor, such as when I had smoking banned (overnight in fact- a lawyer told me to get a medical letter, and he told me how to write it (cheaper then if he did it) and I gave it to manager on a Friday. Monday memo to all, smoking banned and this was in NYC went it was still allowed!

Sorry you and others are going through this – a real nightmare, I know.


Lucy July 31, 2015 at 3:51 pm

I am having a difficult time since co-workers have been deliberately spraying perfume in my direction and behind my back while I sit at my workstation. They giggle walking by. I’ve documented every time they do it and told the supervisor. He said the only thing he could do is change my seat. But then, things got interesting. At my new seat, ‘friends’ of the original sprayers got in on the game and they spray me also. Of course they all lie that they do it and they all support each other in their lies. The boss said he can change my seat again but I said what good would that do if they’re having a ‘tag-team’ approach to this issue? That’s all the company will do. So now more are spraying me than ever. I purchased a personal space air-purifier and put it on my desk, and they even had the ‘audacity’ to complain that the breeze the purifier makes, makes the office too cold. (I was never told by management to stop using it) But now, more and more women are getting in on the action and people that I’ve never had more than two words with are gossiping about me and disliking me for what? Not being able to breathe? I just don’t know what to do anymore? Has anyone ever gone to the police to make an harassment complaint?


S July 31, 2015 at 6:08 pm

PS. No one can make you remove what you medically need to survive these chemical assaults. I got a private room, had 8 filters, (Heppa so on) and an ozone machine. And that was prior to any medical/lega letter! I passed out cold day one when after they told me no smoking the bosses smoked cigars! Alas, I still had to go out and about the office and fumes leaks in through the vent from renovation below. But when boss said can’t I said can with medical letter backing me up.

You need to put this in writing and use the term chemical assault. I carried Dr. Ziems shorter accommodation letter (22 pages!) with me.

Again, as well it is medical negligence and once notified if they have a good lawyer will know exactly what that means if such behavior continues- esp if deliberate!


kathy July 21, 2015 at 1:46 pm

I live in the great state of SC. The people who wear perfume and cologne wear more and more of it down here. I work for the state. They allow my coworkers to spray scented lysol, glade, and febreeze around the office like it was their home. There was one single stall bathroom I could use on the other side of the building for a time (no cans of stinky stuff to spray or potpourri burners). I hobbled there several times a day with my cane, and then it was found out why I use that bathroom. Employees would spray it down just for fun. I have had asthma attacks and blistered all over my skin. My supervisor does not care and neither does HR. I am left with drinking very little and running out at lunch to use the bathroom. Even a thick carbon lined mask is little help when people saturate the place with scented material. They must be addicted to the stuff. I saw one woman spraying glade on herself.


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s November 22, 2014 at 9:37 pm

LAC – one thing I find that helps others to understand better (and most are in stage two themselves) is that “sensitivity” is not being sensitive. It is an actual phenomenon of the cell. These toxic chemicals are often (OSHA and other books that name “trade” name and what the components in them are) and human physiology (cells so on) both “sensitizers and anesthetizers” .

So my way of helping others to understand is that if you are hit hard once, you can handle it – rinse & repeat, the body muscle, tissue is bruised, bleeding and NOW just a TINY touch causes pain. The various systems (enzyme, molecules, cells, tissues, organs onward) are damaged and now only a “hint” of the toxic substance can cause great “reaction” (poison symptoms).

And this is why a smoker who quits has what is called an “allergic response” (old term) in that they are healing and now their body reacts as it should properly to the poisons in smoke. (buffering response – immune systems tries to rally and protect, but still toxins doing damage).


suzanne November 19, 2014 at 6:08 pm

Hi there, I live and work in Melbourne Victoria Australia… we are so behind the times with MCS. My colleague and I have both been diagnosed with MCS and have provided our workplace with a letter from our specialist stating this fact, but all they are prepared to do is set up a scent free desk for us to share. People are still wearing strong perfume, walking around us and spreading the scent around, it lingers in the air and we become ill, this happens everyday, we have desk top air purifiers and fans which we provided for ourselves but they just don’t help that much. We have run out of sick leave so if we have to go home we don’t get paid so we try and put up with it as long as possible. They seem to think it’s some sort of joke here and do not understand… there is one lady that comes in here smelling like the perfume counter at a major shopping centre and she mocks us by saying things like ‘oh, am I too close’ or ‘it’s ok I have an expensive one (perfume) on today’ she hangs her coat near us on the coat stand and we had to move that. It’s just getting out of control and we are not young so looking for another job is not an option. Does anyone have any suggestions as to what we can do or say to these people to make them aware and understand? Kind Regards Suzanne


s November 22, 2014 at 9:44 pm

Susanne, you have to know your countries laws. Accommodation laws, (in my case separate room but gas/renovation fumes at last job came up through vents)… Start with that.

As well I got smoking banned before it was banned with a medical letter under the “medical negligence” laws here in America. I had a pre existing heart condition (Rheumatic fever) and got my MD from early ages to write a letter x can not be around cigg smoke. It had nothing to do with cigarette laws. (a lawyer told me about this and wrote it up for me but said to put it in “my words”) He said they are a law firm they will “get it” and did.

So if you have medical doctor and supportive, then find legal laws that say, if company continues to x (not provide you with at least your own room) then one can technically sue. In my case that letter was provided to office manager on a Friday – and when I came in on Monday smoking was totally banned!. (many still did so – ongoing battle)


Lynne May 4, 2014 at 12:15 pm

Have any of you filed a complaint with the EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Comm’n)? MCS is a recognized disability under the ADA and EEOC. If you ask your employer for a reasonable accommodation of your MCS and are denied such, you can file a complaint with the EEOC and once the complaint is investigated, if the EEOC feels you have a case, they issue a right to sue letter and you can then sue your employer. I was fired by an employer because I refused to return to an environment that was making me sick (formaldehyde offgassing from new carpet) and they would not transfer me to another office that did not make me sick. They did not participate in the interactive process with me, they just fired me. I hired an atty who took my case on a contingency and the law firm settled with me for a six figure amount. You have a right to work in a safe environment and you also have a right to request such. Make sure to put everything in writing, keep a journal during that time, and if you have been diagnosed with MCS, be prepared to present your doctor’s letter.


s May 4, 2014 at 1:34 pm

Lynne – I am impressed! I minored in City Government (NYC) new most all applicable laws or could do the research to find them and got nowhere (thousands of violations in our building prior to the fire and thousands after, as well at many work forces. I even met one of the woman lawyers whose firm and she helped to draft that law and who assisted me- (met at Doctors office). Maybe it was NYC but for me it was another nightmare on top of the illness. At college where people smoked (everywhere) laws were ignored and believe me I knew how to document and send to proper authorities – to no avail (save to say eventually everywhere I went eventually smoking got banned due to my efforts – but as a “temporary” worker I was NOT protected by any law! Pretty amazing isn’t it. (2 thousands cigg were smoked at one bank with big C, in a 20 minute period)

At one time as I was a “temp” while in night college, I was NOT considered covered by the (in this case) no smoking laws. Under the ADA (Senator Clinton’s office was to handle that Title 3 of the ADA – which having worked for legal firms I typed out carefully for staff – and when I called for a follow – up, I was told the “ADA is only for working people”. At the time I was recovering from an end stage and wanted smoking stopped at the entrance to a major (nearby) grocery store. She tossed my work out and obviously did not understand the law in it’s scope (ingress egress).

That said I did receive a letter from ADA stating that while MCS did not constitute a disability (I was by then on it and sent in hundreds of pages of medical stating all that needed to be – and as well laws – Government is only as good as the individual who gets your case and having worked at NYC health department saw this first hand) they did send letter the the major grocery (with no enforcement). (I found out later the building owner not the grocery is responsible and they sent a letter still no enforcement). I was very sick and each “battle” was very time consuming.

The LAWS are only as good as the enforcement there of.

This was only ONE case and eventually a new manager got it stopped (8 years later). Ditto for all issues and this was “on the way up”. On the way down (to total collapse) it was just as bad or worse. Renovations during work time, and I did file with the EEOC for sexual harassment (and was given a packet of information) as I and 11 other women (well too unmentionable to mention what went on).

They DID accommodate me (as best they could) but the building was so permeable smoke (cigar) from other floors and their private offices would filter through ALL of the vents. Even diesel from the street (when front doors were opened for deliveries) would filter up. When they found me pased out, paralytic and blood all over – I took sick leave, and could not work the overtime I had prior (trying to hang on but realized later just as well, I was way to sick to do anything but heal and AVOID). I had ONE great laywer – smoking laws but a GREAT Docter – who is in the forefront of MCS (won’t mention her name) charged him a fee for their phone consult (not knowing how such things work in NYC) and he dumped me. That was that.

By then I was nearly dead and all my friend could do to take care of me – I could not think, cognate so on and it was three years just to get Foodstamps, and welfare (later ssd another three years). This was in 1995 so maybe things have improved by now. Then even CFIDS had no name or code let alone MCS (the judge even wrote up my “conclusion” as MSC!

But good for you – mine was a Wall Street Law firm as well and just could not find any help and all positions prior to help, nor any agency or save for Councelwoman Grietzer, any representatives.

This last job was my first full “real position” after years of temping (full time and advanced on many positions while finishing up degrees and starting Masters). Maybe that was a reason.

Like AIDS (I took care of many as I was in health care early on) there was NO support from Government – maybe over time things will change for this toxic exposures and as well, many are more aware as they are noticing sickness in themselves as well.

Because they were under 50 employees I won (I typed out my own legal issues and originally only wanted my vacation pay when a lawyer said I had a good sexual harassment case). All was documented and in this case voice recordings as NYC had “law of the unreliable ear”. It was a teeny amount (25K) and of course never amounted to the millions I lost in wages.

As well, even though NYS had a on paper good worker’s compensation law – it I found out later was not much enforced (unless one was part of a union). the judge tossed the case based on the other side mentioning a Jesse Stoffel sp show on 60 minutes discrediting MCS! I normally do my own legal but I was in Oregon with my mom as my building was renovating all over with highly toxic chemicals and yes I tried every agency, legal so on to stop it or sue. Nada. (that goes under different laws, and there are many, I knew of some living in their cars and doing all they could as well to no avail. No enforcement at all! EPA would say “call the fire department” who is NOT at all responsible. It was a real nightmare…

My ssd was 500 a month so believe me I fought the good fight until I just collapsed and I certainly hope for many others things have improved!


LAC May 31, 2014 at 7:14 pm

What kills me is how we have to bear the brunt of this, apologizing, etc, for our sensitivity. Then – you cannot list the experience on your resume, even though you were a stellar employee during the short time there, for fear of the next employer being afraid to hire you. It’s just not fair.


LAC May 31, 2014 at 7:09 pm

I’ve had to leave at least 2 jobs, and a 3rd (fortunately) ended before I had to make that decision. Harsh hospital disinfectants that burned my skin, throat eyes and after several days exposure caused tremors, dizziness. I can’t understand how others are unaffected, unless they will develop some other form of disease several years later. The 3rd job, in a high rise with recirculated air/very little fresh air left me with a red/irritated face, that took 5-6 months to go away after the contract ended. I don’t understand how people are allowed to bring in all types of scented candles, and whatever else they want! Next time I will go to the ADA.


s June 1, 2014 at 12:16 am

LAC – I went to the ADA they are just as ignorant. Essentially people working a “job” and making decisions based on priorities from the “top” (ie cut back so on) and their understanding of the issue.

I as my above posted notes – ended up with a worst case scenario – almost dead and spending hundreds of thousands out of pocket (entirely holistic care) to only find out that one then lives in isolation.

I would say if any one can to find or create jobs off the chemical grid. Eventually, maybe like second hand smoke – it will be “banned” (chemicals that cause injury) but since the MAJOR companies are also the pharma’s (think Bayor Aspirin Bayor Pesticide and other major companies) it will be a long haul and it’s corporate America.

Most people are in stage two – the chemicals do harm them but perhaps different manifestations. (cancer for one). I am now in a state WA – where doctors lose their license for doing some of the theapies I did (oxygen when at end stage) or as one woman mentioned to me just today when I was shopping. Her daughter when a child had “terminal” cancer. She did holistic therapies including she mentioned homeopathic therapies. The cancer doctor told her he could file a complaint and she could be jailed! (and that has happened many a time in NON medical freedom states – in 1995 when I “crashed” there were only 11! He told her he would just “look the other way”…. (and if he did make medical notes he could lose his liscense).

We are in a “police” state – don’t think so – do your own program (as I did) in a state where there is no Medical Freedom act.

The entire thing is a nightmare – I am sorry you are going through (what I already did) and sorry for the entire planet… it is being poisoned and has been for a long time.

BTW – just say I think it is chemical injury/poisoning. Sensitivity is a cell phenomenon and not at all understood. People think one is “sensitive” as in an allergy (even that AMA has it wrong). I tell people if I punched you arm once really hard – you might hurt but not much. Repeat again and again and when it’s bruised, bleeding and black and blue it only takes a breath of air to hurt it. That is what occurs with cells (and most of these chemicals are both anesthizers AND sensitizers – to the cells (from OSHA book on trade names, molecular properties of products).

Then people “get it”. More and more I run into people who note they get “dizzy” in the soap (et al) isle. Then I explain why.

Hospitals are NIGHTMARES – I had to go to emergency once and beg for the guy to not mop my area (he was actually pretty agreeable). It was the doctors and nurses that were crude. They sent a social worker (while I was obtaining iv’s and had to tell them what to do – tachycardia from exposure to perfume – passing out so on). she asked me if I was “sure” it was real or in my head (one of my degrees is in psychology) and I said, stick your head in an oven, and when someone takes you out after you pass out and are nearly dead – then tell me how you would feel if someone asked are you sure the toxic chemicals made you almost die or “is it in your head”. LOL she just scribbled in her note pad. I myself have had it!


kathy July 21, 2015 at 1:56 pm

SC will not allow you to file an EEOC complaint. They make you file a complaint with SC Health and Human Services. Do you think one state agency will investigate another state agency? State workers have no way to defend themselves. If they complain, they are harassed. Meanwhile the exposures cost a great deal in time missed from work and medical bills.


Dan September 25, 2016 at 12:22 am

Lynne, what state do you live in?
I live in California. I am very glad to hear of your triumphant outcome.


Mariah May 1, 2014 at 11:39 am

I’m Trying to train staff about MCS because I found than a lot individuals don’t know about this and it’s real, any type of fragrances, perfumes, colognes, tobacco, cigarettes smell can disable me for who knows how many days, can be weeks limiting my ability to work, some co workers are aware of that they not use fragrances but others looks like they just don’t care. And for all of that we get to have our employer in our site because the employer is the only one can make the work place “fragrance free” and it should be one of the company’s policy. Some of the Employer are willing to remove you somewhere else, isolate you instead talk or make the rest of the employees aware and not to use fragrances, some employers don’t know how to handle the situation living a ground for a law suit. So I urge people with MSC like me, to organize and joint a force and advocate strongly throughout all USA and to set a National Day for MCS if we don’t have one, so that way we will spread the word among individuals who don’t know anything about it and the ones just don’t care, yes because they are some that they know about your MCS and they just keep using the loud fragrances or smoking in your face it is awful and makes me sick to my stomach because you feel that they just doing it on purpose and that is nasty and rude.


Wanda December 7, 2012 at 5:00 pm

Well, this is the second time I have lost a job this year. The first time, despite explaining in writing as well as having a severe response to co workers perfume wearing in a tiny room I was “laid off”. The second time, I got fed up and quit because not only did I write on my application my sensitivity to perfumes and air fresheners but my boss knowing full well my condition had a brand new electric air freshener installed a few feet from me that pumps fragrance into the air every time someone moves. To add to the insult, I was informed that 6 more of them would be installed in the one room we were in. I told her I could not work in that kind of environment and I told her she knew and had in writing that I was allergic to fragrances. Her response was that there were smelly men in the room (there were not). Then she happily crowed “look” it’s working as it pumped sickening poison into the air as I walked by. Not willing to put up with that I waited outside for my check. I was not willing to get ill and be embarrassed by the severe reaction I have to perfume. Broke for Christmas but at least I might have a chance to find a job working for people who are decent human beings.


s September 4, 2012 at 2:32 am

From CIIN (see also below on Cindy Duehring)


(having a different view point – ie holistic and studied many other modalities – I don’t agree with some of the “experts” (ama based thinking) but this is a great resource for research and doing what one needs to do to get accommodation ssd so on (I had two paths one for the above and the other for true healing).

As she states near the end “you have to become your own expert”… and I quote another author – (sorry forget who) the Body does not lie.

An Overview of MCS

by Cynthia Wilson

Back when doctors believed their patients and before psychosomatic illness and stress became a catch-all for illnesses doctors couldn’t diagnose, there is evidence to suggest that doctors were diagnosing chemical sensitivities as vapors. Vapors were described as an exhalation of bodily organs held to affect the physical and/or mental condition or as a depressed or hysterical nervous condition. Then in the early 1950’s, Theron Randolph, M.D., recognized that people were getting sick from their environment, hence the original name Environmental Illness.

In the 1960’s, it finally became evident to the government that pollution was causing adverse health affects. Dr. Randolph attended that first conference on outdoor air quality. He was the only one to question the effects of indoor air pollution, and his concerns where ignored and/or ridiculed by the medical profession as well as the government. In 1992, EPA conservatively estimated that poor indoor air quality costs the U.S. $1 billion annually in lost productivity. That same year, the National Academy of Sciences estimated indoor air pollution contributes $15 to $100 billion annually to health care costs.

The energy crisis of the 1970’s exacerbated the problem of chemical sensitivities but did nothing to add to the understanding of the illness itself. To conserve energy, the government encouraged weatherization and energy efficient construction that included reducing the ventilation requirements of bringing outdoor air into new buildings. It is this air reduction together with the increases in volatile chemicals in new, synthetic materials and products since World War II that is being blamed for the ever increasing number of people who are being adversely impacted by chemicals.

Then in 1981, in response to the poisoning of thousands of people by urea formaldehyde foam insulation, the National Research Council commissioned a study called Formaldehyde And Other Aldehydes. The report estimated that 10 to 20% of the population was at risk from low level exposure to aldehydes. Though the report’s major focus was the cancer risk, it did recommend an extensive study be done on chemical sensitivities. Nothing was done.

Unfortunately, the medical/biologic understanding of chemical injuries breaks down because of a lack of knowledge created by a lack of basic research. The lack of research is further hampered by a lack of a case definition for the illness. There are several theories as to how these low level exposures are poisoning people, and research into detoxification enzymes found in veterans suffering from Gulf War Syndrome have provided some clues into how the body’s inability to process toxics may be playing a critical role in the initial sensitization process as well as other long-term health problems.

Chemical sensitivity was once thought to be an immune system dysfunction or related to allergies. The latest research strongly suggests that chemical sensitivity is most probably some combination of central nervous system and blood-brain barrier damage, low-level porphyrin abnormalities, and detoxification enzyme deficiencies. Chemical sensitivity is more often than not characterized by real, verifiable damage to the body, though the implications of these anomalies are poorly understood and need research. MCS is also usually accompanied by other diagnosable types of chemically-induced injuries.

The government has been woefully slow to respond with research money, not only for chemical sensitivities, but to study many of the adverse, non-cancer health affects being associated with toxic chemicals in general. The chemical companies have a vested interest in promoting the belief that chemically induced health problems are more psychiatric in nature than a physical response to their products. It is the Chemical Manufacturer’s Association that stated in its 1991 briefing paper, “The primary impact on society would be the huge cost associated with legitimization of environmental illness.” However, with 15% of the population now suffering from some form of chemical intolerance, we may be fast approaching the time when the government will not be able to support the cost of those suffering the health effects caused by poorly regulated consumer products.

Two other factors help complicate the process of unraveling chemical sensitivity. They are masking (adaptation) and spreading (cross sensitization). A very simplistic explanation of the very complicated process of masking is that the body forms an addiction to a chemical so that if a person doesn’t get a regular dose of the chemical, the body will go into withdrawal much like that associated with drug or alcohol addiction. While overt symptoms are being controlled by the masking, internal damage continues unchecked. Spreading can turn chemical sensitivity into a progressive condition. Once a person is sensitized to one chemical, the sensitivity can spread to include other unrelated compounds. Once that happens, repeat exposures reduce the body’s tolerance level by an as yet unknown mechanism so the body becomes more easily reactive to more and more chemicals at lower and lower levels until it finally reaches the point where the person is sick all the time. If this illness reaches that point, the person can kiss a life of casual convenience good-bye.

While most MCS research has focused on an immune system mechanism, MCS critics have repeatedly pointed out that much of what MCS sufferers claim simply cannot be immune system mediated. Especially controversial has been immediate reactions to chemicals or upon the cessation of an exposure. With the exception of a histamine response and some IgE-mediated responses such as anaphylactic shock, the immune system is not generally capable of reacting as fast as the symptoms appear. This has led some researchers to look at the central nervous system because it can and does have the capacity to respond within the time-frame most patients’ experience. The best hypothesis for these fast responses comes from triggering research into neurogenic inflammation. Reactions such as nausea or vomiting are being neurologically mediated unless the patients also have indigestion.

Neurologic testing is finally proving subtle nervous system dysfunction and damage. While it may be years before the full implications of these tests are understood, at least they are available to objectively show abnormalities. With the use of challenge QEEG evoked potentials, SPECT scans, and PET scans, great strides are being made in documenting the effects of chemicals on the nervous system. However, the lack of controlled blind studies on the central nervous system effects of MCS patients is problematic.

The neurological phenomenon known as time-dependent sensitization (TDS), which has been primarily studied in animals for the last 20 years, has an amazing and uncanny similarity to MCS and not only helps to explain how the brain becomes sensitized to low-level chemical exposures in the first place, but the role that stress plays in adverse reactions. It also provides a mechanism for cross sensitization to unrelated chemicals. Until TDS was discovered and applied to MCS, this cross sensitization phenomenon was thought to be impossible by MCS adversaries because no immune system mechanism has even been established for it. Because classical toxicology makes no allowances for cross sensitization either, the impossibility of cross sensitization became a critical element in most theories of why MCS had to be a psychological rather than a physiological disorder.

In 1963, research conducted by Eloise Kailin, M.D., strongly suggested that MCS was a metabolic (enzyme deficiency) disorder. Dr. Kailin’s findings were rejected by both clinical ecologists and MCS adversaries because both sides maintained that to exist at all, MCS had to be immune system mediated. Follow-up research on metabolic problems in MCS sufferers was not conducted for 31 years.

Then in 1994, testing showed that over 90% of MCS sufferers have developed a condition known as Disorders of Porphyrinopathy (an acquired form of the porphyrias). The porphyrias are a group of rare metabolic, enzyme deficiency disorders involving the production of heme (a component of blood) and liver and/or bone marrow damage and have many symptoms in common with MCS. The most significant symptom MCS shares with the porphyrias are chemical intolerance/sensitivity and any estrogen mimicking chemical or drug can trigger an attack.

Disorders of Porphyrinopathy are also showing up in people with chronic fatigue, fibromylagia, amalgam problems, and silicone implants.

Estrogen load may be one reason females (human and animals) are more susceptible than males to metabolic disorders, time-dependent sensitization, and MCS. In addition, a study on Gulf War veterans discovered the plasma butyrylcholinesterase deficiencies may play a significant role in how people get poisoned. A Danish study found that women in their 30s and 40s are at an all time low for the production of this scavenger detoxification enzyme that protects the central nervous system.

Autoimmune disorders are also a major problem for the chemically sensitive. Autoimmunity is not suspected as the triggering mechanism for MCS, but rather it is a consequence of the body’s inability to convert toxins in to harmless by-products fast enough. Toxic exposures can and do trigger autoimmune responses which MCS sufferers must deal with on a regular basis. Being chemically sensitive makes a person more vulnerable to all the possible health consequences associated with chemical exposures — only for MCS sufferers these toxic responses are occurring at extremely low (thought to be safe) levels.

In spite of these medical advances, product warning labels that advise of adverse reactions such as headaches, nausea, blurred vision, etc., mounting animal research that links specific reactions to specific chemicals, and numerous double-blind clinical studies with humans that demonstrate a direct connection between exposure and symptoms; our subjective symptoms still remain highly controversial. Double-blind studies are routinely discounted by critics because there is no way to verify if a patient is nauseous. In science, humans are still not considered reliable indicators. With TDS and enzyme deficiencies, animal models are now available to study MCS, however, lack of funding for basic research is still a major problem and getting what research is available into an established medical journal is even more difficult. For example, the Journal for Occupational Medicine is controlled by doctors employed by Dow Chemical Company, Eastman-Kodak, General Motors, and ITT Corporation.

While things are changing, chemical injuries resulting in chemical sensitivities are still controversial. So given the controversial nature of this illness, the best advice I can offer you is the same advice I got from one of my doctors. He told me I had to become the expert on me. And you need to become the expert on you.

Two books to consider in looking for information on explaining chemical injuries and protecting yourself:

The Human Consequences of the Chemical Problem by Cindy Duehring and Cynthia Wilson, $7.20, TT Publishing, PO Box T, White Sulphur Springs MT 59645

Human Exposure and Human Health by Cynthia Wilson, $55.00 plus shipping, McFarland & Co., PO Box 611, Jefferson NC 28640 (800) 253-2187

About Cindy Duehring
Researcher, Activist and Pesticide Victim

Cindy Duehring, 36, internationally known researcher, activist, and pesticide victim, died at her home in Epping, ND, on June 29, 1999, from injuries and complications sustained from severe pesticide poisoning in 1985.

Over the years, Cindy received numerous awards for her outstanding contributions to Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS) health issues. Cindy’s achievements culminated in her winning the Right Livelihood Award in 1997. (The RLA is considered the alternative Nobel Prize.) At that time, Dr. Gunnar Heuser wrote, “As her physical boundaries and freedom of movement have narrowed the limits of her living, her spirit has taken wings and expanded across the nation and beyond. She has become a resource for interested professionals as well as for the chemically injured and patients with MCS throughout the world.”

Her work continues through the Chemical Injury Information Network (CIIN), which she founded in 1990 with Cynthia Wilson as a way to deal with her chemical poisoning. CIIN is a 501(c)(3), tax-exempt, non-profit, support and advocacy organization run by the chemically injured primarily for the benefit of the chemically injured. It focuses on education, credible research into Multiple Chemical Sensitivities (MCS), and the empowerment of the chemically injured. CIIN publishes the monthly newsletter Our Toxic Times, and its readership has reached over 5,000 members in 35 countries.

Cindy Duehring and Cynthia Wilson, CIIN’s executive director, were commissioned in 1994 by the Chemical Impact Project to write a “white paper” on the health problems posed by chemicals. The 65-page report, The Human Consequences of the Chemical Problem, was presented to Vice-President Al Gore, First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton, Secretary of the National Institutes of Health Donna Shalala, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The CDC had the paper peer reviewed and found it to have “merit,” and a conference was convened to discuss the health issues raised by the paper. The ATSDR called it “powerful and well researched.” The Special Assistant to the President requested extra copies to distribute, and Senator Conrad Burns (R-MT), requested an extra copy to present to the Senate Committee on Labor and Human Resources.


Wanda May 4, 2014 at 11:39 am

To Cynthia Wilson,
Thank you for the valuable information. For all the time spent searching for reasons, causes and cures the information you provided is the most valuable. A long time ago I had come across the Porphyrin explanation and asked my Doctor for the test but he was unwilling for some reason. I had forgotten about it until I saw your post. I am going to ask a different Doctor this time and thank you for taking the time to provide this information. Whatever the result or cause it still comes down to avoidance. I don’t think a lot of people realize that fragrances and products with fragrances contain estrogen mimics or bind to hormones. Fragrance ingredients can also raise or lower blood pressure. Because they don’t have to state what the ingredients are, the resulting fragrance product can become a loaded gun to those who are chemically sensitive or chemically injured. http://safecosmetics.org/article.php?id=222 I know it is to me. After so many years of dealing with this and actually having a reaction in the Doctor’s office to a perfume wearing Nurse, we discovered that the fragrance exposure raised my blood pressure up to 200/100 with a resulting hemiplegic migraine attack. So little is known about either of these things that even going to the Doctor can be dangerous. I probably have a more severe reaction than others but if it does this to me, imagine what it is silently doing to others. Avoidance of perfume/chemical offenders is my only recourse to safety. Finding a safe workplace is nearly impossible. Even when I do it never lasts because sooner or later….someone replaces someone else and you never know when the new co-worker is a perfume offender. It makes me sad because I love working and feel I have a lot of skills but find myself isolated from the world unable to participate or be gainfully employed like others.


s June 1, 2014 at 12:46 am

Cynthia Wilson passed a while back. She was either (memory does NOT serve, lol) in Pre med or some such and lived in a “bubble” but provided “service” in in the form of translation complicated medical research to terms doctors and lay people could understand.

I had a wall of research (and background to do it, including statistics so on) as at an early age I woke up and diverged from traditional medicine (mother in medicine I would RUN from doctors – who way back when would come to the house to give us shots!) It was just a knowingness of sorts (that said I use traditional for instance cut toe almost all when sculpture and off to emergency).

sherryazure@yahoo.com if you wish more information. Even if I have tossed the original raw data I know where to find it on a computer. This would include various laws (only as good as enforced which is rare).

Much is known but not to traditional AMA docs… They are forced by the major pharma’s (starting at med school) to do as they are told or else (kicked out of med school). Think Monsanto, Bayor, Psfier – J&J “the family company” NOT (I just read the label on a soap for babies and did not know whether to laugh or cry as they said “babies are our future, use this product” yet it was full of toxic chemicals!) So Psfier bought the patent for H2O2 and banned books on oxygen therapies! To eliminate a cheap and amazing therapy for most all dis ease states) (meaning NO one can buy 33% food grade H2O2 which I discovered information on (while in downward spiral) in AIDS book whereby individuals were using it (and my NYC doctor – great man Dr. Majid Ali who post all of his info on web site) (gave up traditional medicine when he realized it was false).

I read these and other web forums I am a member of – knowing full well many who have passed, many who are living in tents or cars – on the fringe and many like me living with family who use “Avon” (as a proxy – and Avon just told to eliminate two out of all their toxic chemicals in their products”. I often despair but pick myself up to go forward one day at a time.

I wish somehow this “community” could join forces – but properties (I am finding churches in PA for example going for as low as 39K) and start businesses (I am creative artist biochemisty type but not the best business person). Create products or sell, tiny houses from recycled stuff, so on. Somehow unlike the AIDS coalition, cancer pink (puke) ribbon bull we can not seem to form a group effort.

I was in NYC when AIDS first struck (and was working on NYC health department – nightmare hotline went no where and I realized no one cared.) So I would copy info and give it to major groups fighting back. Ditto for us.

One of Dr. Majid Ali’s books was “The Canary and Chronic Fatigue” (he has to use AMA names but it is the cells interior systems and “organelles” breaking down ie no battery. I said Dr. Ali, the Canaries are dropping and flopping and people are just kicking us “aside”.

In the end (not help for now) as Shakespeare states “the truth will out”.

Best of luck to all of you.

PS my mother was nurse and more in traditional medicine (her neurosurgeons – 3 of 4 smoked in their private practice and SHE died of cancer – starting in the lungs and going all over! I have her old Merck manual (wonderful and no drugs) and she told me in the past perfumes were banned at work and hospitals as they knew it made patients sick.

And now they are made from left over petrolieum sludge (save for countries like France which ban our products). (and you have to buy it their as the same product made here is made from toxic chemicals).

Even if not – one who studies plant based oils – knows they must be rotated. Plants have toxins in them as well to protect themselves from insects. If one uses an oil even if natural it can cause problems down the line (and cats can be killed as they have no liver detox systems for any sort of fragrance natural or synthetic – having a genetic line very old – like ferns – which are as well not able to tolerate chemicals).

We can all thank Coco Channel who brought the wearing of perfumes round the clock (used to be lightly for special occasions) formerly only by “women of the night”.


s June 1, 2014 at 12:50 am

Forgive my typos please. (I am nervous lately sis having her long term friends come to stay and I can’t mention “perfumes” so on- I get PANICKY but decided even if broke – going to rent a car and travel to coast. Take some “control” back in the life. (right?)


s September 4, 2012 at 2:02 am

To all of the above… having been at a nadir (almost dead after a bld fire and years of illegal renovations (floor stripping and no open windows or any other legal standards) (illegal renovations during work in skyscrapers of NYC so on), and having a background in art’s chemistry, biochemistry and WAS obtaining my Masters) I can say this.

I eventually found a lawyer who told me this when smoking was still allowed in the work place (schools et al) (one, a back office of a gigantic bank beginning with a C – eventually put in a smoking room after city officials (and that took 8 months with a city councilwomen as the other agencies did nothing) counted 2 thousand ciggs a minute!!!).

We got smoking banned (one simple letter) with a medical letter stating that said person (me) could not be exposed to said product (in this case cigg smoke) and the following Monday (letter given to mgmt Friday) it was banned! Why – , medical negligence. It over rode all other laws (and if laws did not exist it didn’t matter). Ie the company could be sued for not providing a “safe” work place under medical negligence.

So that is one possibility. One can sue for any amount if the condition causing the problem continues and there is no “reasonable accommodation” as it states under the ADA. After this firm banned smoking – one women continued to smoke in the bathroom telling me to do my business in the plant outside! She was fired that day (or again, this company knew – being a legal firm for wall street, that they could thus be sued).

Knowing other laws can be helpful. Ingress/Egress (entry exit for banning products at an entrance in my case smokers smoking within a certain range of my apt building door ways)

OSHA and NIOSH standards. But in this case of “personal” care products – a strong letter from an MD and medical negligence might be worth looking into. (I was eventually given a room with a roommate who did not use fragrance cologne (he was a male) so on, and I was allowed to bring in (eventually 8 air filters). I collapsed anyway as the building was permeable – if renovation was done below, or smokers, or cleaning late at night (I worked a shift and half late into evenings) with toxic industrial cleaning products – it would come up through the office vents! I was found collapsed and semi conscious at my nadir with blood coming out my skins pores (this took a long time of exposures).

Meaning these products cause great harm. (I – a friend when at nadir – did all holistic approaches – intensive and Gerson as a core – mother in medicine so I great up reading medical books but went to holistic methods early on or I would not be here to write this – great great harm to all cells of the body are done by these toxic products).

Re ADA – (I tried to use that for entry into a food store where smokers would smoke at the entrance – horrific response – as clearly the people reading my complaint were stupid at best. (22 pages of medical information and they said ‘allergy” when it clearly stated life threatening response to small amounts of (medical test) chemicals found in side stream tobacco smoke – one of which is hydrogen cyanide!. (Sorry get fed up with civil “servants” most of whom have little education in the issues they are entitled to make major life decisions for their constituents they represent.)

And being now on SSD the ADA is not all that great – it is only as good as the clerk reading your complaint – and I minored in city government)/


MCS is best understood by realizing that most “flagrance” products today is made from petroleum products (left overs)… and sensitivity is a phenomenon of all cells… so mis understood term… think in terms of toxicity or poisoning…slowly (but equally harmful – a small amount of cyanide in one’s tea over time produces death eventually). Cells become “sensitized” ie reactive due to ever increasing damage to them – so less amount of stress creates more reaction. Think of someone punching your arm – at first , no big deal. Later with damage and much bruising, it takes very little to cause a reaction – in this case – pain!

Many of these synthetic products are extremely toxic – most fragrance products today are not at all plant derived but left over by products from the refinery of oil (and even natural chemicals, plants produce toxins to ward of insects for example – so even “citrus” can be harmful if one has damaged immune system.

It is highly complex – the human physiology, and one reason why many do not understand why these products cause great harm – even to those wearing them (see masking phenomenon and spreading phenomenon).

An easy way to understand this is thus: most know of smokers who when they quite become “sensitive” to other’s smoke where as before (while they smoked) they did not. They were still causing harm to themselves and others (even worse actually) but their immune system being damaged could no longer react ie respond to the damage. (this is all highly simplified).

When they quite – their immune system (in all it’s aspects which is great and varied) starts to heal and “react” saying – get away from this product it is harming you. Regular doctors might give you an “allergy” shot series – masking once again the harm… the chemicals still do damage to many aspects of the body.

So many people who seemingly can wear these products without reactions – (the chemicals do damage to all – it may manifest as cancer, or this or that) are actually in a further stage of damage… just masked and the spreading issue means other pathways of the body are trying to compensate. Damage still is done.

Some resources:

Dr. Grace Ziem (22 page medical write up with science and test provided)

(she has a research arm – Albert Donnelly ??? long ago so boxes of research tossed).

See Dr. Max Gerson (long dead but a true Genius)

CIIN Chemically injured information network.

Dr. Majid Ali (my doc in NYC who allowed me to do my approach and brilliant researcher. Went holistic but highly professional MD.)

Dr. Sherry Rogers

Many more – think chemical injury rather then “sensitivity”.

Poisons in fabric softener, perfumes, second hadn cigg smoke so on for research…(household prducts so on) Dr. Ziem has a great reserach and list of toxins and what harm they cause and alternatives… she can also provide letters and test to back up but as well and outline for your own doctor.

Remember or know this… AMA was formed by Rockefeller to squash natural approaches (he was part of a consortium that owned chemical companies). Think Bayer Aspirin Bayer pesticides to see the alliance of many companies. Meaning your doctor might tell you “it’s all in your mind” – their funding comes in part from said companies (schools, pharma’s so on).

Best to all – it is truly a horrific situation – many including me, end up on indigent SSD and a life outside of society (as well so called Chronic Fatigue, FM – all damaged cells, immune systems)


Jo August 17, 2012 at 6:30 pm

I was diagnosed within the past few weeks as having allergic reactions to touching substances used in adding fragrances to products. I blister even before I sense the smell, turn bright red and swell up like a blow fish. I discussed with my boss that I needed to take a few hours off for 4 appointments to get tested for allergies and she said it was fine. When I completed the testing, she asked me in front of others what the diagnosis was and I told her that my problem was touching things that contained fragrances.
The next day, the young girl sitting in the next cube decided to “cure” my illness by sensitizing me to fragrance. After seeing that I was at work, she went into the ladies’ room and doused herself heavily with a strong perfume. I went to my boss and said that even if I wasn’t currently having problems, the scent was way too overwhelming. She said that she would speak to the employee and ask her to tone it down.
The employee responded to the request by waiting until I had left for the day and then sprayed all surfaces in my assigned work area with the same scent. Not realizing this, I of course sat down the next day to start work and got perfume all over my clothes, purse and personal items that I brought into work.
I sent an email to my boss and complained that spraying her fragrance in my work area was not acceptable and that I would like to find a solution to accomodate everyone. I said that I did not wish to stop her from using fragranced products, just to stop intentionally spraying them directly on my work surface. My boss replied hours later and told me that HR would be contacting me with forms that I was to take to my physician so that they could verify my condition. The forms include an authorization for release of medical information.
Really? I need to forego my right to keep my medical information private so that this child can play dress-up at work and spray her perfume all over everyone? Do I really need to give up my privacy (I have a much larger, unrelated issue that does not impair my ability to perform work)? I am a cube dwelling computer programmer for goodness sake. This is outrageous! I stink like I’ve been sleeping with a ***** all day, not sitting in an office in a cube glued to a computer monitor.
So my choices are to pay a doctor to fill out this 9 question form and forego my rights to medical privacy, let my skin blister, itch and burn and just suck it up to get through, or find a new situation.
Anybody know who’s hiring computer programmers? Good luck to everyone who suffers with this. You are not alone and there has to be a solution. Thank you.


s June 1, 2014 at 1:00 am

I have not read your entire brief as tired now. But I got smoking banned at last position, as a lawyer told me about “medical negligence”.

It was a NYC legal Wall street firm – I was scared to “assert” myself, but gave the office manager my note (legal guy said copy what he said but in my own writing – they will get that a lawyer advised me – (and this was a “first” step) and I had a doctors note – from a cardiologist who stated I could not be around second hand smoke.

Come Monday it was BANNED (as these lawyers knew if not I could sue with said lawyers assistance for medical negligence).

So IF you can find a sympathetic MD who can say you have “allergies” (not a true allergy but poisons) to fragrance, then give that to HR. Make sure you document all. If they fire you go the next step ( as mentioned in others messages) NOT easy but worth the good “fight”.

In NY their is a research library which includes legal texts. Anyway it would go under Medical Negligence.

You have a medical condition, they do not accomodate you, you can sue. I was put in a private office after that. but by then I was too sick, people smoked (the bosses included) anyway and chemicals from other floors would come up through vents (renovation chemicals and cigar smoke)… but it might be worth a try.

Much (as your message informs) has changed uder Obumma care (not and now Medicare pays NOTHING) including your rights to privacy.

So Tell HR you have a note from your doctor under Medical Negligence- there is NO privacy anymore – make sure (as I learned the very hard way) that you put on the forms only what SERVES YOU!

(and that’s why my Facebook page has a Orange Betta and fake name not mine).


willbilly April 10, 2012 at 11:48 am

So, how does one go about finding a doctor practicing environmental medicine? I have been to my MD due to migraines increasing in frequency due to exposure to fragrances. So, he treats me the first visit for a sinus infection. The follow-up visit then prompts a MRI for my brain (normal results) and allergy testing. Allergy tests prove various grasses, dust mites, etc but the Allergy MD states fragrance sensitivity is not an allergy. Both verbally state: Avoid what you know triggers your migraines.

I am working to obtain some type of diagnosis as I have verbally discussed this with our VP and two HR managers (retiring and trainee). The VP has requested a formal diagnosis. Unfortunately, now I will have to follow up with written request for accommodation and not sure how to handle that either. E-mail? If e-mail then CC the VP?

Any suggestions are welcomed as I am beyond frustrated.


s June 1, 2014 at 1:07 am

What state are you in. I don’t have the books anymore but they have list (including holistic vets, dentists) that have a list.

If (and I did it and not easy then) you can go to Dr. Grace Ziem in MA (but many holistic mds now she is just so thorough, including laws AMA and others in her research reports for legal, medical) (and patients I met would come from many states to docs in NYC and MA) she wrote a 22 page ssd report (stellar and all backed by medical test not known at all by mainstream docs) Then your local doc can incorporate that info into their report.

Search words – (state) holistic, environmental, complimentary Doctors… See what comes up.

read book “allergies disease in disguise” (which shows most are beginning of dis ease)… Again it depends in what state. NO medical freedom act hard to do. One learns to “play the game” (give them what they need to ban this or that at work place). so then you find a holistic doc in disguise who knows the medical codes you can use. Amazing nightmare isn’t it.


Carol April 7, 2012 at 1:23 pm

Dear MR –

I, too, suffer with MCS and my former employer, a large, well-known international law firm, refused to discuss any accommodation for this disability and fired me instead. Like the Detroit woman who sued her employer (the City of Detroit) and won, I too, sued my employer and won. These are the steps I would take if in your position. No one helped me in my fight to keep my job and have a safe environment, so I am hopeful my advice helps you:

1. If you complain about the situation, put it in writing and try to obtain written responses. Always leave a paper trail.

2. Go to a dr. who practices environmental medicine or at least is aware of MCS and have him write a letter to the principal and perhaps the town’s school administrator in which he describes MCS and requests the town accommodate your disability.

3. Do NOT resign because then you will not be able to receive unemployment benefits.

4. Purchase a charcoal filter face mask from a company called “I Can Breathe.” And wear the facemask to school. I guarantee your principal will not ignore that.

5. Find yourself a good employment law attorney who understands MCS. My former employer, with its huge employment law department, was totally ignorant of MCS and left themselves wide open for a lawsuit.

6. Approach your union, if you are in one, and discuss this matter with the head of the union.

To summarize, keep a detailed log of all your efforts to receive accommodation and do not resign if at all possible. The face mask will help you a great deal. Get a letter from a doctor which will have more persuasive powers than you asking for accommodation alone.

Good luck and let me know what happens.



Marjorie Rose March 18, 2012 at 11:18 am

I have multiple chemical sensitivities and am currently being repeatedly exposed to perfume/cologne throughout the day at my school where I teach. The exposure is occurring in the hallway outside my room on the second floor of my school and caused by my students. My principal approved my plan to ban all perfume from school and take away some privileges given to students at lunch until perfume use at school stopped. The next day, without my knowledge, he called all my students to the auditorium while I was on lunch duty and told them they needed to stop spraying near me, but could bring perfume to school and could have all privileges at lunch. I have continued to have exposures since then. When I talked with the principal, he told me that he would not take away any privileges from students and did not want to deal with calls from parents who would say their child had a right to bring cologne/perfume to school. He suggested I use my sick days by taking a Friday and Monday off, therefore, giving me a long weekend to recover. I asked him about the other four days I would be exposed. I reminded him that I am covered under the ADA and have had an accomodation in a previous school system. I was very upfront about this when I was hired. This is only my second year in this system, so I do not have tenure. He is willing to have me resign/leave rather than deal with these students. Isn’t he breaking the law?


liz October 8, 2014 at 7:49 pm

Marjorie, what happened at your school?


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