Multiple Chemical Sensitivity

Examples of Recognition of Multiple Chemical Sensitivity by US Federal Government Authorities That Were Not Disclosed in the Draft Report of the Interagency Workgroup on MCS


Adapted from Recognition of MCS by Albert Donnay, August 1998 edition. [The "R" numbers in parentheses refer to original reference documents available upon request from MCS Referral & Resources, 410-889-6666]

U.S. Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry

... in a unanimously adopted recommendation of the ATSDR's Board of Scientific Counsellors, which calls on the ATSDR to "take a leadership role in the investigation of MCS" [1994, R-1].

U.S. Army, Medical Evaluation Board

... on US Army Form 3947 of the U.S. Army Surgeon General, the U.S. Army Medical Evaluation Board certified a diagnosis of "Multiple Chemical Sensitivities Syndrome" for a Persian Gulf veteran on 14 April 1993 [1 page, R-3]. MCS is defined on this form as "manifested by headache, shortness of breath, congestion, rhinorrhea, transient rash, and incoordination associated with exposure to a variety of chemicals." The Board's report further recognizes that this patient's particular MCS condition began approximately in April 1991 (while the patient was serving in the Gulf and entitled to base pay), that the condition did not exist prior to service, and that it has been permanently aggravated by service. At least five other active duty Persian Gulf veterans have been diagnosed by the Army with MCS, as reported by the Persian Gulf Veterans Coordinating Board in "Summary of the Issues Impacting Upon the Health of Persian Gulf Veterans," [3 March 1994, 4 page excerpt, R-4]. The Army Medical Department also has requested funding for a research facility to study MCS (reported in an Army information paper on "Post Persian Gulf War Health Issues," 16 November 1993).

U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service

... in its Final Environmental Impact Statement on "Gypsy Moth Management in the United States: a cooperative approach", people with MCS are mentioned as a "potential high risk group" who should be given advance notification of insecticide treatment projects via "organizations, groups and agencies that consist of or work with people who are chemically sensitive or immunocompromised." MCS also is discussed in an appendix on Human Health Risk Assessment (Appendix F, Volume III of V) under both "Hazard Identification" and "Groups at Special Risk" [1995, 11 page excerpt and 1 page cover letter from John Hazel, the USDA’s EIS Team Leader, to Dr. Grace Ziem of MCS Referral & Resources, R-130].

U.S. Department of Education

... in the enforcement by its Office of Civil Rights of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 which requires accommodation of persons with "MCS Syndrome" via modification of their educational environment, as evidenced by several "agency letters of finding" (including San Diego (Calif) Unified School District, 1 National Disability Law Reporter, para. 61, p. 311, 24 May 1990; Montville (Conn.) Board of Education, 1 National Disability Law Reporter, para. 123, p. 515, 6 July 1990; and four letters (along with an individualized environment management program) in the case of the Arminger children of Baltimore County, MD [in 1991, 1992, 1993 and 1994; 20 pages total, R-7]. These accommodations also are required under the terms of Public Law 94-142, now known as the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (CFR34 Part 300).

U.S. Dept. of HHS, National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders

... in the funding of MCS-related olfactory research by its Chemical Senses Branch since NIDCD's creation in 1988; including $29,583,000 in fiscal year 1998. The Chemical Senses Branch supports both basic and applied research, with most of its funds going to just five "chemosensory research centers" : the Connecticut Chemosensory Clinical Research Center (860-679-2459), Monell Chemical Senses Center (215-898-6666), Rocky Mountain Taste and Smell Center (303-315-5650), State University of New York Clinical Olfactory Research Center (315-464-5588), and University of Pennsylvania Smell and Taste Center (215-662-6580). Free information is available from NIDCD Information Clearinghouse, 800-241-1044, and at [NIDCD Publications List, April 1998, 2 pages, R-169].

U.S. Dept. of HHS, National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences

... in "Issues and Challenges in Environmental Health," a publication about the work of NIEHS, research priorities are proposed for "hypersensitivity diseases resulting from allergic reactions to environmental substances" [NIH 87-861, 1987, 45 pages, R-8]. It is not clear from the context if this statement was meant to include or exclude MCS, since the condition was still thought by some at the time to be an allergic-type reaction. In 1992, then director Dr. Bernadine Healy responded in detail to an inquiry from Congressman Pete Stark about the scope of NIEHS research into MCS: "It is hoped that research conducted at NIEHS will lead to methods to identify individuals who may be predisposed to chemical hypersensitivities. ... NIH research is directed toward the understanding of the effect of chemical sensitivities on multiple parts of the body, including the immune system." [1992, 3 pages, R-9]. In 1996, director Dr. Kenneth Olden wrote US Senator Bob Graham that "NIEHS has provided research support to study MCS. ... NIEHS has also supported a number of workshops and meetings on the subject." [15 April 1996, 2 pages, R-101]. Dr. Olden also states that "Pesticides and solvents are the two major classes of chemicals most frequently reported by patients reporting low level sensitivities as having their initiated their problems."

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office for Civil Rights (OCR)

... in the final report by the Regional Director (of Region VI) regarding OCR’s investigation of an ADA-related discrimination complaint filed by a patient with MCS against the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center for failing to accommodate her disability and thereby forcing her to go elsewhere for surgery. Prior to completion of the investigation and the issuance of any formal "findings," the OCR accepted a proposal from the Univ. of Texas to resolve this complaint by creating a joint subcommittee of the cancer center’s Safety and Risk Management committees. This subcommittee’s three tasks (as approved by the OCR) are to "identify a rapid response mechanism which could be triggered by any patient registering a complaint or presenting a special need which is environment related; develop a ‘protocol’ outlining steps to be taken to resolve environmental complaints by patients ...; and inform the medical staff through its newsletter of the mechanism and the protocol so that they will better understand how to address such questions or concerns." The OCR has placed the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center "in monitoring" pending completion and documentation of these changes, but it may initiate further investigation if M.D. Anderson fails to complete this process within the 13 months allowed. [27 March 1996, 11 pages, R-99]

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Social Security Administration

... in enforcement of the Social Security Disability Act (see Recognition of MCS by Federal Courts, below), and in the SSA's Program Operations Manual System (POMS), which includes a section on the "Medical Evaluation of Specific Issues -- Environmental Illness" stating that "evaluation should be made on an individual case by case basis to determine if the impairment prevents substantial gainful activity" [SSA publication 68-0424500, Part 04, Chapter 245, Section 24515.065, transmittal #12, 1988, 1 page excerpt, R-11]. In 1997, the U.S. District Court in Massachusetts required Acting SSA Commissioner John Callahan to spell out the agency’s position on MCS in a formal memo to the court (31 October 1997, 2 pages, R-164; see Creamer v. Callahan below, under Recognition of MCS by US Federal Court Decisions). With this memo, SSA now offically recognizes MCS ‘as a medically determinable impairment’ on an agency wide basis. MCS is also recognized in several "fully favorable" decisions of the SSA's Office of Hearing and Appeals: in case #538-48-7517, in which the administrative law judge, David J. Delaittre, ruled that "the claimant has an anxiety disorder and multiple chemical sensitivity," with the latter based in part on the fact that "objective [qEEG] evidence showed abnormal brain function when exposed to chemicals" [1995, 7 pages, R-12]; in case #264-65-5308, in which the administrative law judge, Martha Lanphear, ruled that the claimant suffered severe reactive airways disease secondary to chemical sensitivity and that this impairment prevented her from performing more than a limited range of light work [1996, 8 pages, R-120]; in case #239-54-6581, in which the administrative law judge, D. Kevin Dugan, ruled that the claimant suffered severe impairments as a result of pesticide poisoning, including "marked sensitivity to airborne chemicals," which prevent her from "performing any substantial gainful activity on a sustained basis [1996, 4 pages, R-135]; in case #024-40-2499, in which the administrative law judge, Lynette Diehl Lang, recognized that the claimant suffered from severe MCS and could not tolerate chemical fumes at work (as a result of overexposure to formaldehyde in a state office building), as a result of which he was awarded awarded both disability benefits and supplemental security income [1995, 8 pages, R-140]; in case #184-34-4849, in which administrative law judge Robert Sears ruled that the claimant suffered from "extreme environmental sensitivities," and particularly "severe intolerance to any amount of exposure to pulmonary irritants" [11 June 1996, 7 pages, R-156]; and in case #246-98-4768, in which the administrative law judge, Frank Armstrong, classified the claimant’s "dysautonomia triggered by multiple chemical sensitivities" as severe and said it "prevents the claimant from engaging in substantial gainful activity on a sustained basis" [18 March 1997, 8 pages, R-157]. [Since ALJ rulings favorable to claimants with MCS are becoming common, we will no longer list them here but the documentation remain available from MCS R&R upon request]

U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development

... in a letter from HUD Assistant Secretary Timothy Coyle to Senator Frank Lautenberg, confirming HUD recognition of "MCS as a disability entitling those with chemical sensitivities to reasonable accommodation under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973" and also "under Title VIII of the Fair Housing Amendments Act of 1988" [26 October 1990, 2 pages, R-13]. This was followed by a formal guidance memorandum from HUD Deputy General Counsel G.L. Weidenfeller to all regional counsel, detailing HUD's position that MCS and environmental illness "can be handicaps" within the meaning of section 802(h) of the Fair Housing Act and its implementing regulations [1992, 20 pages, R-14]. Also recognized in a HUD Section 811 grant of $837,000 to develop an EI/MCS-accessible housing complex known as "Ecology House" in San Rafael, CA, consisting of eleven one-bedroom apartments in a two-story complex. This grant was pledged in 1991 and paid in 1993. [2 pages, R-15]

U.S. Department of the Interior, National Park Service

... in response to a disability rights complaint filed against the Baltimore County Parks and Recreation Department (BCPRD) by Marian Arminger on behalf of her three children, which the National Park Service (NPS) accepted for review pursuant to both Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act. The Acting Equal Opportunity Program Manager of the NPS ruled that "the BCPRD must accept the determination of disability by the Baltimore County Public Schools [BCPS, see US Department of Education, above] regarding the children and their disability of MCSS [MCS Syndrome]. This will eliminate possible retaliation with a different conclusion by the same public entity." [Case #P4217(2652), 1996, 4 pages, R-102]. The NPS further ruled that "With the determination that these children are individuals with a disability (MCSS), it is necessary to make reasonable modifications to program facilities. It appears that discontinuing, temporarily or permanently, the use of outside or inside pesticide application and toxic cleaning chemicals is the basic reasonable modification necessary in this case. ... Therefore we believe that steps should be taken by the BCPRD to provide the necessary communication with other affected agencies such as the BCPS and develop, in consultation with the parents and others deemed appropriate, a plan for the reasonable modification of the program environment for these children."

U.S. Department of Justice

... in its enforcement of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, under the terms of which MCS may be considered as a disability on a case-by-case basis, depending--as with most other medical conditions--on whether the impairment substantially limits one or more major life activities. The Office of the Attorney General specifically cites "environmental illness (also known as multiple chemical sensitivity)" in its Final Rules on "Non-Discrimination on the Basis of Disability in State and Local Government Services" (28CFR35) and "Non-Discrimination on the Basis of Disability by Public Accommodations and in Commercial Facilities" (28CFR36), as published in the Federal Register, Vol.56, No.144, pages 35699 and 35549 respectively [26 July 1991, 2 pages, R-16]. "Environmental illness," also is discussed in the ADA Handbook, EEOC-BK-19, 1991, p.III-21 [14 page excerpt, R-17], jointly published by the Department and the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The ADA Handbook describes environmental illness as "sensitivity to environmental elements" and, although it "declines to state categorically that these types of allergies or sensitivities are disabilities," it specifically asserts that they may be: "Sometimes respiratory or neurological functioning is so severely affected that an individual will satisfy the requirements to be disabled under the regulations. Such an individual would be entitled to all the protections afforded by the Act..."

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

When the NJ EHRC published its first report on this study, however, in an abstract entitled "Preliminary prevalence data on Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Multiple Chemical Sensitivity," it said 26% of 104 veterans randomly selected from the VA Gulf War Registry "were especially sensitive to certain chemicals, and 4% reported that this sensitivity produced at least 3 of 4 lifestyle changes … suggesting that something about serving in the Gulf substantially increased the risk of developing CFS and MCS" [1996, Journal of CFS, 2(2/3):136-137; R-177]. In an update presented on 26 August 1998 at an MCS Symposium sponsored by the American Chemical Society, Dr. Nancy Fielder of the NJ EHRC reported that the same study had now questionned 1004 randomly selected veterans from the VA Registry and found 35.9% with MCS. On 10 October 1998, the VA's chief epidemiologist, Dr. Han Kang, reported on a much larger nationwide survey of random-selected Gulf War era veterans that found 14.9 with chemical sensitivity among those deployed to the Gulf compared to 4.6% among those who were not deployed.

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Pollution, Prevention and Toxics, Health Effects Division, Occupational and Residential Exposure Branch, Special Review and Registration Section

... in a peer-reviewed memorandum entitled "Review of Chlorpyrifos Poisoning Data" from EPA’s Jerome Blondell, PhD, MPH, and Virginia Dobozy, VMD, MPH, to Linda Propst, Section Head, Reregistration Branch. The memo discusses data from several sources on acute and chronic health effects, including MCS, associated with exposure to Dursban and other chlorpyrifos-containing pesticides, and recommends many changes (subsequently agreed to by DowElanco, the manufacturer) in the use and marketing of these products, including the phase out of all indoor sprays and foggers, consumer concentrates, and all pet care products except flea collars. Most significantly, the memo documents that of 101 cases of unambiguous chlorpyrifos poisoning reportedly directly to EPA in 1995, 38 had chronic neurobehavioral effects (including 4 who also had peripheral neuropathy), while 59 "reported symptoms consistent with multiple chemical sensitivity" [1997, 70 pages, R-145].

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Research & Development

... describes "chemical sensitivity" as an "ill-defined condition marked by progressively more debilitating severe reactions to various consumer products such as perfumes, soaps, tobacco smoke, plastics, etc." in The Total Exposure Assessment Methodology (TEAM) Study, Summary and Analysis: Volume 1, by L. Wallace, Project Officer, Environmental Monitoring Systems Division, EPA Office of Research and Development [1987, 2 page excerpt, R-20]. The Office of Research and Development (ORD) began conducting human subjects chamber research at its Health Effects Research Branch in Chapel Hill (NC) in 1992 to identify possible diagnostic markers of MCS. (See also joint entry under U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, above.) In the justification for its fiscal year 1998 budget, ORD devotes one paragraph to MCS in the section on Air Toxics, saying that it plans to release "information comparing individuals who identify themselves as belonging to a particular subgroup (multiple chemical sensitivity) against established norms for a variety of health-related endpoints," and will make "recommendations for follow up to evaluate the potential relationship between the signs/symptoms reported by these individuals and objective/quantitative health endpoints" [1997, 3 page excerpt, R-160].

U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

... in the ADA Handbook EEOC-BK-19 [1991, 14 page excerpt, R-17], jointly published by the EEOC and the Department of Justice (see above) and in a Determination Letter signed by Issie L. Jenkins, the director of the Baltimore District Office, recognizing MCS as a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act requiring workplace accommodation, consisting in this case of a private office with an air filter, Mary Helinski v. Bell Atlantic, No 120 93 0152, 17 May 1994 [2 pages, R-22].

Federal Coordinating Council for Science, Engineering, and Technology, Subcommittee on Risk Assessment, Working Party on Neurotoxicology

... in its Final Report: Principles of Neurotoxicology Risk Assessment, published in the Federal Register by the US EPA’s Office of Health Research [17 August 1994, 45 pages for entire report, R-161, or 3 page excerpt, R-162], which says in Section 2.5.1 on "Susceptible Populations" that: "Although controversial [Waddell 1993], recent evidence suggests that there may be a subpopulation of people who have become sensitive to chemicals and experience adverse reactions to low-level exposures to environmental chemicals [Bell et al 1992]." The report is "the result of the combined efforts of 13 Federal agencies comprising the ad hoc Interagency Committee on Neurotoxicology," including ATSDR, the Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, Consumer Product Safety Commission, Dept. of Agriculture, Dept. of Defense, Environmental Protection Agency, National Center for Toxicological Research, National Institutes of Health, National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health, and the National Toxicology Program.

National Council on Disability (an independent federal agency)

... in ADA Watch--Year One, its "Report to the President and Congress on Progress in Implementing the Americans with Disabilities Act," which recommends that Congress and the Administration "should consider legislation to address the needs of people with "emerging disabilities," such as those ... "with environmental illness who are severely adversely affected by secondary smoke or other pollutants in public places" [5 April 1993, 8 pages, R-23].

President's Committee on Employment of People With Disabilities

... in its report to the President, entitled Operation People First: Toward a National Disability Policy, which recommends that the federal government "develop, refine and better communicate methods of 'reasonable accommodation,' in particular, the accommodation needs of people with ... chronic fatigue syndrome and multiple chemical sensitivity" [1994, 5 pages, R-24].



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Last Modified: 12/10/98