For Immediate Release
9 September 1998

CONTACT: Albert Donnay, MHS
MCS Referral & Resources

Deceptive Draft Report on Multiple Chemical Sensitivity Released For Public Comment by U.S. Federal Interagency Workgroup on MCS: Workgroup Provides Only Limited Information on 8 Federal Agencies and Fails to Correct Numerous Errors & Omissions Reported in Prior Review


Dr. Grace Ziem, medical director of MCS Referral & Resources, a Baltimore-based non-profit organization, and Albert Donnay, executive director, today called for Congressional hearings into the federal government's recently released "Draft Report on Multiple Chemical Sensitivity," which they described as grossly deceptive.

Dr. Ziem was one of 12 "MCS experts" whose comments were sought by the Interagency Workgroup in an earlier round of external peer review, but few of the errors, misrepresentations, and omissions that she documented have been corrected. "This confirms my suspicion that the authors of this report are covering up both the medical literature on MCS and the federal government's own extensive experience with this disorder," said Dr. Ziem, who has personally treated dozens of federal employees from many different agencies who developed MCS while working in "sick" government office buildings. Among the Draft Report's most telling omissions are:

  1. The MCS policies of at least 14 other federal authorities that were not represented by the 8-agency Workgroup, including the Departments of Justice, Education, Health and Human Services, and Housing and Urban Development; the Agency for Health Care Policy and Research; Equal Employment Opportunity Commission; National Council on Disability; National Park Service; and the Social Security Administration.

  2. Research reported in 1998 by the US Dept of Veterans Affairs (NJ Environmental Hazards Research Center) finding MCS in 35.7% of over 1000 veterans randomly selected from the Gulf War Registry. The Workgroup mentions this study but not its results, even though a preliminary finding of 26% with MCS was published in 1996.

  3. Research reported in 1997 by the US EPA (Office of Prevention, Pesticides & Toxic Substances) identifying MCS as the most commonly reported chronic health effect from exposure to the pesticide chlorpyrifos, aka Dursban. The Workgroup mentions only other unpublished EPA research on MCS and policy papers without any data.

  4. Research funded since 1988 by the US National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders on chemosensory perception, including olfactory (smell) and trigeminal nerve disorders (over $29 million in FY97).

  5. Reports published in 1983 and 1985 by Dr. Philip Landrigan of the US National Institute on Occupational Safety and Health linking toluene and other solvent exposures to a severe MCS-like "neuarsthenic syndrome."

  6. The Draft Report makes numerous references to an MCS Workshop hosted by the International Program on Chemical Safety (IPCS) in 1996--even listing its still unpublished report in a section entitled "Organizational Statements on MCS"--but it never includes the disclaimer required by IPCS specifying that the workshop's conclusions and recommendations are only those of the 17 workshop participants and not those of either the IPCS or its sponsoring agencies: the World Health Organization, the International Labor Organization, and the United Nations Environmental Program. The report also fails to note that two of the participants, including the chair, Dr. Howard Kipen, were among 80 scientists who published a letter criticizing the IPCS and this workshop in particular for its chemical industry bias.

The Draft Report also fails to disclose the obvious conflict of interest posed by the Workgroup's hiring a member of the board of directors of the Environmental Sensitivities Research Institute (Dr. Frank Mitchell, now chair of ESRI's Scientific Advisory Board) for more than a year to write and edit the first several drafts of its report. ESRI is an anti-MCS front group funded by the chemical industry that has not actually done or funded any MCS research. Other ESRI board members include representatives of Amway, Bayer, Colgate-Palmolive, DowElanco (now Dow AgroSciences, manufacturer of Dursban), Procter & Gamble, Rh\364ne-Poulenc, the Chemical Specialty Manufacturers Association, the Cosmetic, Toiletry and Fragrance Association, and Responsible Industry for a Sound Environment, a pesticide industry association.

MCS Referral & Resources first learned about and complained to the Workgroup about Dr. Mitchell's ESRI affiliation in July 1996, after which his contract was not renewed. Despite a formal request that Mitchell's ESRI affiliation and key role as the report's primary author be disclosed, the Workgroup denies any conflict of interest and still lists him only as a "consultant." Dr. Mitchell was not hired as a consultant, however. He had recently retired as Chief Medical Officer of the Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry (ATSDR) and his old boss, Workgroup co-chair Dr. Barry Johnson, arranged for him to be rehired through a Postgraduate Research Program normally reserved for "academic" scientists.

The letter awarding Dr. Mitchell this appointment specifically states that any work to which he contributes should carry an acknowledgement that "This research was supported in part by an appointment to the Postgraduate Research Program at the ATSDR administered by the Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education through an interagency agreement between the US Department of Energy and the ATSDR" -- but the Workgroup's Draft Report fails to mention any of this.

"No one should be lulled into a false sense of complacency by this report's extremely narrow and misleading view of MCS," said Donnay. "In commenting on this draft, Congress and the American public need to be aware of the many government policies and research findings on MCS that, like Mitchell's ESRI and ATSDR affiliations, are not disclosed."


Copies of the Draft Report are available free from 1-800-447-1544 (or via email request to Dr. Lester Smith, the Workgroup's executive secretary, at and public comments may be submitted until 30 October 1998.



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