Chemical overload: What’s behind the rise in multiple chemical sensitivities in U.S. adults

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chemical-sensitivities(NaturalHealth365)  Could exposure to everyday chemicals in modern life be triggering a rise in chemical sensitivities in U.S. adults?  No doubt, this is a serious health issue for millions of people suffering with brain fog, chronic fatigue, anxiety plus many other chronic disease symptoms.

In fact, a new study, currently available in preprint only, affirms this theory – and its co-authors are urging policymakers to take serious action to reduce exposure.

New study reveals disturbing reality about why at least 20 percent of U.S. adults have chemical sensitivities

Prior research – such as a 2018 study published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine – indicates that the prevalence of self-reported multiple chemical sensitivities has increased over 200 percent in the past decade – and that the prevalence of officially diagnosed multiple chemical sensitivities has risen by a staggering 300 percent!

Why the sharp rise?

This new study, titled “What Initiates Chemical Intolerance?  Findings from a Large Population-Based Survey of U.S. Adults,” and made available online via ResearchSquare in mid-June of this year, set out to answer this question.

To conduct their study, a team of researchers from the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio gathered and analyzed data from a population-based sample of 10,981 U.S. adults who responded to a SurveyMonkey survey between June 1–2, 2020; these nearly 11,000 adults were randomly pulled from nearly 3 million online users of the platform.  Information gathered and assessed from the survey responders included information pertaining to “medical diagnoses, personal exposures, antibiotic use, and several possible initiators of Chemical Intolerance (CI).”

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The researchers assessed chemical intolerance using an internationally validated tool known as the Quick Environmental Exposure and Sensitivity Inventory (QEESI).  Participants who were then identified as chemically intolerant “were asked to recall when their intolerances began and what they felt had initiated their condition.”

And their results, based on survey data, were stunning:

  • At least 20 percent of U.S. adults meet the criteria for having a chemical intolerance
  • Chemical intolerance was strongly associated with a lifetime history of protracted (long) courses of antibiotics use, particularly antibiotics “use for infections involving the prostate, skin, tonsils, gastrointestinal tract, and sinuses”
  • Sources of exposures most frequently reported to be associated with chemical intolerances included “mold, remodeling/new construction, medical/surgical procedures, and pesticides”
  • Women tended to score higher on the QEESI (i.e., were more likely to report chemical intolerances) than men

It’s important to note that this study does have several limitations, such as the issue of recall bias and known reliability problems related to self-reported survey data.  Another potential concern was the survey dropout or abandonment rate, with just over 10 percent of respondents failing to complete the survey – which, according to the researchers, “took an average of approximately 5 minutes to complete.”

However, the researchers did weigh the data based on several factors to help improve the accuracy of their assessment, including the population sizes of all 50 states, as well as gender, age, race, and education within each census region to match the established targets determined by the U.S. Census Bureau.  (In other words, the researchers did their best to ensure that the cohort of Americans they studied was a fairly representative sample of the U.S. population at large.)

Drawing from their analysis, the researchers conclude that there “is concomitant need for policies and practices that reduce initiating exposures as well as ubiquitous and often unavoidable triggers such as fragranced personal care, cleaning, and laundry products in multi-occupant housing, workplaces, medical settings, schools, places of worship, and all public buildings – literally anywhere air is shared.”

The authors make another important point: given that one in four primary care patients experience medically unexplained symptoms (MUS), healthcare providers “in primary care, neurology, psychiatry, psychology, occupational medicine, and allergy/immunology would be well-advised to include TILT in their differential diagnosis of patients with so-called MUS.”

Now to answer your question:

What is TILT?

Researchers outline a 2-part process of developing toxicant-induced loss of tolerance (TILT)

The researchers of this study point to a globally observed “theory of disease” known as Toxicant-Induced Loss of Tolerance (TILT), which is essentially a collection of symptoms associated with chemical exposures and intolerances.

Based on prior research from the study’s authors, the development of TILT involves two stages:

  • Stage I, or initiation, in which “acute high-level or repeated lower-level chemical exposures” to toxins trigger mast cell (immune cell) reactions in the body
  • Stage II, or triggering, in which a person develops “multisystem symptoms by previously tolerated, structurally diverse chemical inhalants, foods/food additives and drugs” due to the way the reactive mast cells release inflammatory molecules (in other words, because of acute or repeated low-level exposure to toxins, a person can become chemically sensitive to substances in the environment that didn’t use to bother them)

Think of TILT as a form of chemical intolerance that involves a cascade of immune-mediated responses that can make a person quite miserable – with symptoms including fatigue, headaches, weakness, rash, mood changes, musculoskeletal pain, gastrointestinal, respiratory problems, and brain fog.

With the preponderance of chemicals in our environment today, we must wonder whether policymakers will indeed recognize these exposures’ potential role in human suffering.  We, at NaturalHealth365, would suggest a simple solution … don’t wait for government “health” agencies to help you.  Replace all toxic personal care and household products with natural alternatives; start using a high quality air purification system; bring more plants into your indoor air space and, of course, minimize your exposure to chemicals by purchasing organic food – as much as possible.

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