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Multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS) is a chronic condition affecting an increasing number of people of all ages.

People with multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS) often report adverse effects from exposure to everyday amounts of every day common chemicals, such as:

  • perfume, cologne, aftershave
  • hairspray, hair styling products
  • cosmetics
  • standard laundry products
  • car exhaust
  • paint

MCS must be distinguished from acute chemical toxicity, which is where a given amount of a chemical produces illness in all who are exposed to it.

Symptoms of MCS

Some symptoms of MCS are:

  • disorientation, confusion
  • rash
  • hyperactivity
  • headaches, migraine
  • chest pains
  • breathing problems
  • muscle pain, weakness
  • loss of balance, clumsiness

The reactions vary in severity and can occur immediately or several hours later. Severe symptoms often interfere with daily life and work.

Symptoms of MCS vary from person to person and can affect any part of the body; many suffer from depression, anxiety, dizziness and migraines

Identifying the causes

The condition often develops after exposure to a large amount of a single chemical, such as solvents and pesticides, but can also follow prolonged, low-level exposure to single or multiple agents. When an MCS sufferer’s sensitivity to chemicals is heightened, normal levels of pollution can provoke illness. After single chemical exposure, sensitivity to the original chemical is followed by spreading sensitivity to other, unrelated chemicals.  This is known as the spreading phenomenon.

As the condition continues to develop, affected people often suffer adverse reactions to foods and inhaled particles, such as pollen and dust, in addition to other chemicals. The clinical picture may be complicated by the fact that the body has an inherent, but variable, capacity to adapt to its environment. For example, the first cigarette ever smoked may cause irritation and nausea but, with repeated exposure to the smoke, these symptoms disappear. This is an example of adaptation.

However, when the body adapts, the true, toxic nature of the provoking substance is concealed and this is called masking. To complicate matters further, the symptoms may not be produced until a personal threshold is exceeded, and a combination of different substances and influences may have an additive effect, which is called the load phenomenon. An example of the load phenomenon is when the symptoms of hay fever, caused by pollen allergy, may not be noticed until simultaneous exposure to car exhaust occurs. The increased load of the two substances causes the noticeable reaction.


The underlying mechanism of MCS is not fully understood, though there are several important components. We believe that a heightened reactivity of the usual pathway for allergy is responsible.
At Breakspear Medical, we have shown that patients with MCS have defective ability to detoxify certain chemicals, specific patterns of deficiency of vitamins and minerals, changes in the gastrointestinal tract, and alterations in the immune system.

I suffer with MCS. It affects every single area of my life and has made my life a nightmare… I am a patient at Breakspear and have received knowledgeable and professional advice, which has helped me so much.

~ MCS patient,

A specialised brain scan shows alteration in brain blood flow in MCS patients. Associated conditions include food allergies and chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS). Treating these conditions may help ease the chemical sensitivities.

After we perform various laboratory investigations to show the MCS sufferer’s current status, we then correct the nutritional and gastrointestinal abnormalities, advise on how to reduce exposure to, and body burden of, chemicals and use low-dose immunotherapy (LDI) for chemicals, foods and inhalants.

Our environmental advice will help MCS sufferers reduce the burden on their immune system in their own home and place of work. Unfortunately it is out of everyone’s control that our indoor and outdoor environments are becoming increasingly polluted. The outdoor air is becoming more and more polluted as a result of fossil fuel combustion and the indoor air because of the chemicals introduced on carpets, furnishings, chipboards and in cleaning agents, paints, varnishes and pest treatments.

However, there are numerous lifestyle adjustments, including eating organic food, that will reduce the load on the body and provide relief for MCS sufferers.

As part of your treatment programme, there will be recommendations for changes in lifestyle, diet, supplementation, detoxification regime and allergy/sensitivity treatment programme.


The symptoms and severity of MCS varies greatly between people. Breakspear Medical treats each patient individually, which means that there is no standard treatment programme for MCS at a set price.  After your first appointment, you will be given a detailed estimate, with your recommended treatment programme in detail with all the costs, which will be explained to you by your Patient Liaison Officer.

On the day of your appointment or anytime afterward, if you have any specific questions regarding prices, estimates and treatment programmes, please contact a Patient Liaison Officer, by phone 01442 261 333 ext 604, or email:


I have MCS and worry about visiting your clinic because I’m so sensitive. Is it safe for me?

Breakspear Medical is proud to be scent-free.  We require all our staff to adhere to our no scent policy, which is enforced 24-hours per day. Only scent-free cleaning products are used around the buildings, including only scent-free laundry powder for hospital bed sheets, towels and robes.   You may have noticed in our literature that we will ask anyone wearing scented products to wash or shower and change into a hospital gown during their visit to reduce the impact. For more our information, please see our leaflet “Your guide to becoming scent-free”, which is given to new patients prior to their visit and explains how to become scent-free.  We try our best to accommodate the needs of our MCS patients.

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