Chemical Poisoning and Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS) - how to reduce your daily exposures

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The underlying principles of treating chemical toxicity and chemical sensitivity are as follows:

Reducing your daily chemical exposures

We live in an increasingly polluted world containing an increasing number of toxic chemicals which are toxic to our genes, to our brains, to our internal metabolism and to our immune system. These nasty chemicals almost certainly account for our ever-increasing incidence of cancer and birth defects and our declining fertility due to life time exposure. I believe they also make us more susceptible to chronic fatigue syndrome because they are toxic to the immune system, to the brain, to our hormonal control and our internal metabolism. Overall they have the effect of accelerating the normal ageing process. We might expect to lose our fertility in our fifties, but not in our twenties!

It is impossible to completely avoid every chemical - if I did blood, fat or sweat tests I would find a wide range of pesticides, volatile organic compounds and heavy metals in virtually everybody. However, anything which can be done to reduce the chemical load will be helpful in allowing our bodies to recover.

The following issues need to be addressed to reduce your chemical and toxic exposure:


  • Choose foods grown as naturally as possible:
  • If organic food is available, go for it.
  • Eat foods as unprocessed as possible - most foods in tins or packages have preservatives or have been irradiated.
  • Eat foods which have not been plastic wrapped - the plasticiser gets into food.
  • Avoid foods wrapped in aluminium foil, or in aluminium cans.
  • Eat fresh foods - if they have to be stored, deep freezing is probably the least harmful.
  • Contact the Soil Association or Henry Doubleday Research Association for further information.


A great many toxins are produced by the fermenting gut. See Fermentation in the gut and CFS.


A clean water supply is essential. The water companies are only interested in bacterial counts. They will not measure pesticide levels, heavy metals, hormone residues, volatile organic compounds or fluoride in your tap water. Bottled or filtered water I consider an essential.

Clean Air

If you can smell it, it can make you ill!

  • The obvious offenders are air fresheners, sprays, perfumes, cleaning agents, but there is a host of other chemicals in everyday use. People with MCS will detect one part per million of a chemical in contrast to the normal threshold of smell, which is about 50 parts per million.
  • New paints and carpets (especially rubber backed, stuck down) out-gas toxic fumes for months after being laid down) - use water based paints wherever possible.
  • Pesticides - dog and cat flea treatments, fly repellents, house fumigations, timber treatments all contain toxic pesticides which persist for months and years. Some pesticides cannot be smelt.
  • Gas central heating and gas cookers are a common problem for MCS sufferers.
  • Carbon monoxide poisoning can present with CFS.
  • Soft furnishings - chairs, sofas, curtains etc are routinely treated with poly brominated biphenyls (PBBs), which are nasty toxic compounds. When I do fat biopsies, I almost always find PBBs.


Nearly all deodorants contain aluminium, which when applied to warm, sweaty areas is readily absorbed. Aluminium is extremely toxic and has a known association with Alzheimer's disease.Perfumes and smellies can be a real problem, especially with multiple chemical sensitivity. Almost all MCS sufferers are intolerant of perfume. Hair dyes are known carcinogens - indeed it is commons to find hair dyes stuck onto DNA.

Jewellery and piercings

Permits direct access of metals into the body. The worst offender is nickel. Contact sensitivity to nickel is common. Acumen Laboratory often finds nickel stuck on to DNA - nickel is a known carcinogen.


Wash powders and fabric conditioners on clothes are possibly the commonest cause of skin itching that I see! Modern wash powders contain powerful whiteners such as perchlorates and perborates and these can cause many symptoms! Some people can only tolerate organic cotton clothes.


Mercury amalgam (so called silver) fillings - get rid of the wretched things! Even if they are not causing your CFS now, they will cause Alzheimer's disease later! Dentists use many different chemicals and metals in dental restoration work. Sensitivity to many of these materials can be demonstrated by lymphocyte sensitivity testing.

Garden Chemicals

Many are extremely toxic - children should not be allowed to play on treated lawns for at least 6 weeks after spraying. Children with leukaemia have twice the chance of coming from homes where pesticides are used on the lawn.


Most CFSs know that alcohol makes them feel awful and have to avoid it strictly. This is also true of many prescription drugs such as beta blockers, antidepressants, cholesterol drugs (especially statins), diuretics, hypnotics etc. If prescribed, each one should be tried with great caution. They are all capable of triggering a relapse.The Pill and HRT are particular problems. I believe that taking the Pill or HRT or other such hormones such as those for infertility (clomiphene and other gonadotrophins) or other pituitary suppressing drugs (bromocriptine, danazol) are major risk factors for CFS and partly explain why this problem is more common in women than men.

Head lice

Head lice treatments contain pesticides and should not be used at all. Lice can be easily controlled with wet combing or electric "zappers".

Outdoor Air Pollution

Many industries discharge pollutants directly into the local air, water and soil. The worst offenders are power stations which burn toxic waste, manufacturing industry, nuclear power stations leaking radiation and the drug and chemical industry. Busy roads create traffic fumes. Nasty chemicals are dumped at toxic waste sites where they pollute ground water and soil. Look specifically for:

  • Heavy metals - arsenic, cadmium, nickel, copper, lead, aluminium etc
  • Radioactive waste
  • Pesticide residues - organochlorines and dioxins, organophosphates, pyrethroids etc
  • Small particulate matter (down to PMs 2.5 - don't settle for PMs 10)
  • Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) - solvents, benzene compounds, formaldehydes
  • Polluting gasses (SOx, NOx, COx - sulphur, nitrogen and carbon compounds)


Jet airplanes with pressurised cabins receive air that has been used to cool the engine and may be contaminated with exhaust fumes which contain TCP (tricresyl phosphate - an organophosphate). See Aerotoxic syndrome

Train stations - no escape from the diesel exhaust fumes in closed stations. Paddington is one of the most polluted places to be! See Cambridge University - Air quality concerns inside London’s Paddington Station

Occupational exposures

  • Farming and veterinary industry
    • Aerotoxic syndrome
    • 9/11 firemen - poisoned by fumes from burning fire retardants and plastics
    • Sick building syndrome - soft furnishings, new decoration, poor ventilation all conspire to result in high levels of VOCs.
    • Building industry

Weight loss

Losing weight means losing fat which results in toxins that have been tucked away in fat being mobilised into the blood stream resulting in an acute poisoning. Levels of toxins in fat are 1,000 fold higher than in blood.


Good nutrition is highly protective against toxic stress, so this is a further reason to take nutritional supplements. We all have nasty toxins on board which cause on-going damage to the body. Good levels of antioxidants (vitamins A,C,E and selenium) help protect, good levels of B vitamins help detoxify, good levels of protein, essential fatty acids and other minerals help to repair the damage.

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